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What languages are spoken in Turkey?
Thread poster: Marion Schimmelpfennig

Marion Schimmelpfennig  Identity Verified
Local time: 05:26
Member (2003)
English to German
Jul 28, 2005

Dear all,

I am asked to conduct a naming consultation which includes Turkey - can you tell me which languages, besides Turkish are spoken there? Is Kurdish a main language, for example?

Many thanks for your quick reply!


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Tim Drayton  Identity Verified
Cyprus
Local time: 06:26
Turkish to English
+ ...
Many minority languages are spoken in Turkey Jul 28, 2005

First you should be aware that this is a very delicate question in Turkey, a country that fought for its own independence after the major imperialist powers had decided to carve up Anatolia amongst themselves after the second world war. Turkish as the sole official language is seen as a crucial unifying factor behind the modern Turkish state, and minority languages have been kept very much in the background, especially until the last fifteen years or so. It is certainly virtually impossible to find anyone resident in the Turkish republic who is not fluent in Turkish, whatever other languages they may speak, so that Turkish is the national language of the country in a very real sense. Interest by foreigners in minority languages is unfortunately liable to arouse suspicion amongst Turks. It is often felt that outside forces wishing to divide and weaken the Turkish state exploit the issue of minority languages for their own ends.
Having started with this warning, let me provide a summary of my own knowledge of the language spoken in Turkey based on a lengthy period of residence there. Tukey until very recently was a rural, village-based country with widely scattered isolated villages. This means that most of Turkey is a mosaic as far as ethnic origin is concerned. Different peoples at different times moved in and settled in isolated villages and maintained their own languages and tradidions. People in one village may speak a different language from people in the neighbouring village 10 or so kilometres away. In the melting pot environment of the large cities, of course, minority languages tend to be lost within three generations.
The largest minority language is Kurdish, whose speakers are concentrated in the south east of the country, but clusters of Kurdish-speaking villages can be found starting from east of Ankara. Kurdish is an Indo-European language related to Farsi. Kurdish is divided into two main dialects, Kurmanji and Sorani. Some people suggest that these are actually two distinct languages that are not easily mutually intelligible. I do not have enough knowledge to be able to comment. Most speakers in Turkey speak Kurmnanji. A form of writing has been developed based on the Latin script used for writing modern Turkish. There is a dialect known as Zazaki which some people claim is a dialect of Kurdish and some people claim is a separate language.
There are also quite a lot of Arabic speakers concentrated in the Mersin, Adana and Mardin provinces, and particularly in Antakya which joined the Turkish Republic at a later date.
Then there are the Balkan languages which were brought to Turkey by people who migrated to the Turkish Republic in its early years from former Ottomon territories and brought Rumanian, Serbian, Bosnian, Albanian and Bulgarian with them. Many Greek-speaking Muslims were sent to Turkey, particularly from the island of Crete, under the exchange of populations that took place under the Lausanne treaty and were settled in towns and villages formerly inhabited by Greeks. I know for a fact that elderly people who migrated there from Crete still sit in coffee houses in the town of Darica not far from Istanbul and speak Greek among themselves. Generally speaking, though, subsequent generations of migrants from the Balkans have become fully integrated into mainstream society and become monolingual Turkish speakers.
Another group of languages strongly represented in Turkey are Caucasian languages. There was a lot of migration to Anatolia from the Caucusus in Ottoman times and these migrants brough languages such as Georgian, Laz, Abkhaz and Circassian with them. Many people of Caucasian origin are fiercely proud of their identity and these language have generally been kept alive and passed on from generation to generation, although most speakers are much more fluent in Turkish than these Caucasian languages.
I would say that these groups make up the majority of non-Turkish languages spoken in the Turkish Republic, although there are others - I have heard for example that a number of Russian-speaking villages exist or existed in the past.
I hope this essentially personal anecdotal account is of some use to you.


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Selcuk Akyuz  Identity Verified
Turkey
Local time: 06:26
Member (2006)
English to Turkish
+ ...
Langues spoken in Turkey Jul 28, 2005

Turkish is the official language which is spoken by 70-90 % of the population (according to different statistics). Kurdish is spoken by 10-30 %; and Arabic, Laz Language, Armenian and Greek are some other minor languages.



[Edited at 2005-07-28 11:42]


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Marion Schimmelpfennig  Identity Verified
Local time: 05:26
Member (2003)
English to German
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you! Jul 28, 2005

Thank you both so much for your insight!

Have a great day

Marion


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Sara Freitas
France
Local time: 05:26
French to English
Don't forget Ladino Jul 28, 2005

When I lived in Izmir, I was surprised at how many Jewish families were still speaking this language (and not just the old folks, either).

Interesting topic, by the way.

Just found this interesting page (in French, though) that gives a list of ethnic groups, languages, and statistics.

http://www.tlfq.ulaval.ca/axl/asie/turquie_1general.htm

Regards,

Sara

[Edited at 2005-07-28 12:28]


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Nizamettin Yigit  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 05:26
Dutch to Turkish
+ ...
Languages in Turkey Jul 28, 2005

Hi,

Tim Drayton has provided more information. I wanted to ad a few more. I gues it is clear that Turkish is only official language and it is also a unifiying power.

But if we are to list langugages that are spoken (not dialects definateley) the list is not short, too.

For "Zazaki" I wanted to add a comment.
Zaza: "Some people say it is a dialect of Kurdsih but I think it is a seperate language". Kurdish speaking man can not understand Zaza at all , unles he has learned.

Uzbek / Afghani: during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan Turkey has received a good number of refugees. Majority of them are northern (by the Uzbek border) but there are Afghani people as well. They were placed initially in 5-6 cities later Tokat, Muº and Van became home to these people.


Çerkezce (cherkhez) there are at least one village in Göksu, Kahramanmaraº.

Uzbekh,
Azeri,
Kazak
Daghistan,
Chechen (Chechnia)
etc are some other languages that Turkey has received population via population exchange programs or Turkey became home for the refugees of many of these lands.

Assyrian is also a language that are represented in Turkey. There are people in or surrounding Mardin (by Iraqi border).

I think this short list may help to the list of languages that are spoken in Turkey.

I hope it helps.

regards,

N. Yigit

Edited to add this note:

Unfortunately, I forget to ad Hebrew. Turkey has a good number of Jewish people. We do not have information if there are any who does not speak Hebrew. My assumption is all of them can speak Hebrew.

[Edited at 2005-07-28 20:23]


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Özden Arıkan  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 05:26
Member
English to Turkish
To draw the picture you might need Jul 28, 2005

Hi Marion,

Nice to see you around here.


Marion Schimmelpfennig wrote:

Dear all,

I am asked to conduct a naming consultation which includes Turkey - can you tell me which languages, besides Turkish are spoken there? Is Kurdish a main language, for example?

Many thanks for your quick reply!



I doubt, however, what you need exactly is an ethnolinguistic map of Turkey. If the 'naming consultation' you mention is kind of brand-naming for marketing purposes, I don't think such a map would be of any help to you. If you could disclose a bit more on what this information is needed for, we would be able to provide a more accurate guidance. Assuming that this is a marketing task, my best guess is you wouldn't actually need any language other than Turkish.

So, as they keep saying here, more context is needed

Özden


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Marion Schimmelpfennig  Identity Verified
Local time: 05:26
Member (2003)
English to German
TOPIC STARTER
Classic marketing survey Jul 29, 2005

Hi Xola, thanks!

Here's what's needed: The company is going to launch a European-wide airline and wants to know the aptitude in those countries, meaning whether the name of the airline would have any negative connotations, pronunciation problems etc.

I think we should cover the main languages in each country - what do you think?


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Özden Arıkan  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 05:26
Member
English to Turkish
Give it a German name... Jul 29, 2005

... and my daughter will certainly have a pronounciation problem - with MY pronounciation, that is


If it's a European-wide airline service, I think it's a good idea to make an assessment for Kurdish, as well. A considerable section of the people living in Europe with origins -thus, relatives, connections- in Turkey are Kurdish, so this is a linguistic group with a great mobility throughout the whole geography. As for the other languages, well, you can hear all languages of Eurasia in Turkey, just as you can in Germany. This doesn't necessarily imply a need for a linguistic assessment for every and each one of them, as they hardly make up specific consumer groups. But, as I said, it would be better than not to have this assessment made for Kurdish in the case of an airline company.

The question remains, though, how they will manage to find a name that could be pronounced -connotations issue aside- in all the hundreds of languages spoken throughout Europe! Tough task, indeed.

Good luck, and best wishes.

Özden




Marion Schimmelpfennig wrote:

Hi Xola, thanks!

Here's what's needed: The company is going to launch a European-wide airline and wants to know the aptitude in those countries, meaning whether the name of the airline would have any negative connotations, pronunciation problems etc.

I think we should cover the main languages in each country - what do you think?


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Csaba Ban  Identity Verified
Hungary
Local time: 05:26
Member (2002)
English to Hungarian
+ ...
incorrect date Aug 6, 2005

Tim Drayton wrote:

... Turkey, a country that fought for its own independence after the major imperialist powers had decided to carve up Anatolia amongst themselves after the second world war.


I am sorry but I have to disagree: Ottoman Turkey (or what remained of it by 1918) was carved up after the FIRST world war.

The borders of modern Turkey as we know it today are the results of the military campaigns of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk.

all the best,
Csaba (Macaristan)


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(r) Duran, MBA
Local time: 06:26
English to Turkish
+ ...
Turkish is the official language Aug 11, 2005

Turkish is the official language in Turkey. Other languages are spoken by the minorities. Some minorities cannot speak Turkish at all.

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