Turkish often extends words to add more detail to their meaning, or to change it, as happens in English when possible is modified to impossible. The result is that a typical Turkish word is often significantly longer than its English counterpart – but its English counterpart might really be multiple words. For example, masmavi doesn’t just mean blue, it specifically means bright blue, and is a compound of the word for bright and the word for blue.
However, the length of a Turkish word to which this process has been applied can be markedly longer than that, with a choice example coming in the sentence Dilde birlik, ulusal birliğin vazgeçilemezlerindendir.
This sentence as a whole says that a united language is required for a united culture; the final word, around half the total number of characters, would roughly mean ‘impossible to do without’, not what you would expect to see at the end of an English sentence with the same overall meaning.
Interesting facts about the Turkish language
- There is no definite article in Turkish. The word ‘the’ is instead implied within the ending of the relevant noun.
- Turkish is a gender-neutral language. When gender distinction is necessary within the context, Turkish uses simple locutions such as ‘man’, ‘woman’, ‘boy’ or ‘girl’ in front of the noun. For example, brother becomes ‘boy sibling’ (erkek kardeş) and sister becomes ‘girl sibling’ (kız kardeş).
- The Turkish practice of combining words to enrich and add meaning has led to some word constructions we would find curious entering the language. For example, their word for Monday is Pazartes, which actually means ‘after Sunday’.
- Turkish has only used the alphabet we’re familiar with since 1928, when Atatürk did away with the Ottoman Turkish alphabet. One result of this is that spelling in Turkish is much more standardised than in a language like English which has seen many more words evolve since their first introduction to the written form.
- You can compare modern spellings of Turkish words to those set down by visitors going back to 1635 at least, though often these slightly contradict the nature of the words the listener is hearing, with compound words rendered as two words instead.
- To encourage non-native speakers to engage with their language, the Turkish Language Olympiads have been held yearly since 2003, with 150 countries in attendance at the 2014 event. The competitions encourage entrants to show their skills in grammar, poetry, the language’s connection to its culture, singing, theatre, and many more.
- Turkish literary traditions span the last 1300 years, with the folk tradition dominant in shaping the culture until the Ottoman Empire’s sponsorship of written poetry began to change this, as well as to bring the two streams together in a way that had never been the case before. The folk tales of Keloğlan are some of the best loved early stories in this tradition.