Learning Modern Turkish

By Revolinski, Kevin | Verbatim, Spring 2008 | Go to article overview

Learning Modern Turkish


Revolinski, Kevin, Verbatim


We called it the Grammar Wall. It started with a single piece of paper taped to the center of the wall in the study. Written in green magic marker, the basic suffixes of simple present tense were held up for passing scrutiny and a sort of constant review lesson. From that first sheet, the rest followed in a growing system of charts and lists that mapped out the basics of Turkish grammar and vocabulary.

It was 1997, in Ankara, Turkey, and I had just moved in with two fellow English teachers, Chad and Bob. We were excited like children in a surprising wonderland of culture, history, and a very strange language. Though we had been told that Turkish wasn't necessary in our jobs, we had committed to learn as much as we could. Armed only with a couple of phrasebooks and an optimistic Turkish in Three Months guide, we began the Grammar Wall and thus embarked on a tongue-twisting journey into a revolutionized language.

Often when I speak to people about my time in Turkey, I am asked--with a bit of a chuckle as though a new word were being made up--"So what do they speak there? Turkish?" "Well, actually, yes." On several occasions that fact has been met with surprise. Though I had heard of Turkish before, I was, in fact, surprised to find that over 200 million people share the tongue. Brought to Anatolia (what is now Turkey) by the Seljuk Turks in the 11th century, it later became the language of the Ottoman Empire. Over the centuries it has appeared in many text forms, but from the 11th century forward, the Arabic script was used. If that were still true today, I fear I would have been completely lost. However, Modern Turkish is one of the beneficiaries of the revolution of a republic not even 100 years old.

Mustafa Kemal, most commonly known as Ataturk (Father Turk), is still the national hero of the Turkish Republic. He led the Ottoman soldiers who made their brutal stand at Gallipoli in 1915 when the Allied troops attempted to take the peninsula and march all the way to Istanbul. When the Ottoman Empire lay in ruin just after the Great War, he united the Turks--men and women--to rise against the Allied partitioning and Greek military forces that had marched almost all the way to the present-day capital, Ankara. The Turks prevailed thus establishing Turkey's present-day boundaries. Kemal, in turn, abolished the sultanate and soon after became the first president of the Republic of Turkey in 1923. His vision was to keep pace with the Western world while retaining national pride and unity. Part of his revolution included the abolishment of a state religion and the public display of Islamic dress, no small accomplishment in a nation 99.9% Muslim. Though the veil has returned to public life in Turkey, the government has remained a secular one since its inception.

But what is perhaps just as remarkable was the Dil Devrimi, the Language Revolution. He sought to purify the language of the foreign influences that had inevitably permeated the vocabulary during the reign of the Ottomans. A veil or a fez can be removed in an instant; what would you do if your alphabet were abolished? In May 1928, the Latin alphabet was introduced with a few extra letters adapted slightly for some Turkish sounds. It was predicted the change would take at least five years. Ataturk demanded three months, and starting with the daily newspapers, he insisted everything be written using the new Latin alphabet. Then followed language courses with the President and Prime Minister themselves among the teachers. Finally, all school textbooks were changed. On November 1, 1928 the Turkish Parliament passed the new alphabet into law. Then Ataturk established The Turkish Language Society (later the Turkish Linguistic Association) which produced language studies with the goal of identifying authentic Turkish words which in turn were compiled into new dictionaries. Students were encouraged to use the purely Turkish words. The role of the teachers became paramount. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Learning Modern Turkish
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.