Friday, January 21, 2011

Türkçe - Languages of Turkey

In one of my recent YouTube videos, The Problem with Tunisia, some of my linguist friends suggested that many Turks resent Mustafa Ataturk. For those of you know do not already know this, Ataturk overthrow the Ottomans and forced the Turkish people to become more Western. He created a separation between Religion and State. The new president lead sweeping cultural, socio-political and linguistic changes. He initiated a program for economic development in Turkey, which consisted of great industrial and technological advances. He also forced the people to change their alphabet from the Arabic script to the Latin script. I remember reading somewhere that teachers went into small villages to teach the people the new writing system. Ataturk also made primary education compulsory. 


One of my viewers said that there are many Turks who have a different view of Ataturk. He said they resent him for changing the script from Arabic to Latin. They feel wronged because they cannot read Turkish literature in the original text. 


I had to ask myself, if the Turks resent Ataturk because they can no longer read Turkish literature in the original Arabic script, it would then follow that there must have been Turkish people before that who resented the Ottomans. After all, there surely must have been some great Turkish writers who wrote with the Greek alphabet? 


Turkey has a long history with many inhabitants, a few religions, and many languages both spoken and written.  People who live there also tend to produce some literature in their native tongue. So, how do we know which language or script is more valuable? If people are angry at Ataturk, then there must have been a lot of people throughout history who were angry at some Turkish ruler for imposing their language or alphabet. 


This brings us to an important question - are there some who feel certain scripts are simply more valuable than others? Is it determined by the number of speakers? Linguists, especially those who learn and value rare languages, would agree that just because a lot of books were written with the Arabic script one hundred years ago does not make it more valuable that works written by Turks in other Turkic languages. This is not my call to make. However, I would like my readers to look at the chart below. 


This chart shows all the languages spoken in Turkey by native, immigrants, and ancient people. You will see the language family, number of Turkish speakers and comments about these languages. 


For more information about dead Turkish languages, watch the videos posted at the end of this blog. The first video is in French, the second linked video is in Italian. 






46,300,000 (1987)
Numbers are certainly higher now
3,950,000 (1980)
also known as Kurmanji
1,000,000 (1998/1999)
Indo-European (Indo-Iranian, Iranian, Western)
one of the Zaza languages
1,000,000 (2005)
 It has 47 or 48 consonant phonemes of which 22 or 23 are fricatives, depending upon whether one counts [h] as phonemic, but this is contrasted with just two phonemic vowels.
530,000
Turkic (Oghuz)
South Azeri (also known as South Azerbaijani) is a variety of the Azerbaijani language spoken in northwestern Iran and neighboring regions of Iraq and Turkey. 
400,000 (1992)
North Mesopotamian Arabic (also known as Maslawi meaning from Mosul)
327,000 (1993)
Turkic (Oghuz)

300,000 (2001)
Indo-European (Slavic)

278,000 (2000)
North Caucasian languages

140,000
Indo-European (Indo-Iranian, Iranian, Western)
one of the Zaza languages
40,000 (1980)
Indo-European (Armenian languages)

40,000 (1980)

30,000 (1980)
South Caucasian languages

28,500 (2000)
Indo-European (Indo-Iranian, Indo-Aryan)
Domari was once thought to be the "sister language" of Romani, the two languages having split after the departure from the Indian subcontinent, but more recent research suggests that the differences between them are significant enough to treat them as two separate languages within the Central zone (Hindustani) group of languages. 
25,000
Indo-European (Indo-Iranian, Indo-Aryan)

20,000 (1980)
Indo-European (Slavic)

15,000 (1980)
Indo-European (Albanian)

10,000 (1995)
North Caucasian languages

8,000 (1976)
Indo-European (Romance)
spoken by the descendants of Jewish refugees from Spain
4,540 (1965)
Indo-European (Greek)
spoken on the shores of the Black Sea, most speakers were moved to Greece in the 1920s
4,000 (1993)
Indo-European (Greek)
most speakers were moved to Greece in the 1920s
4,000 (1980)
North Caucasian languages

3,000 (1994)
Semitic languages (Aramaic)

2,000
Turkic (Oghuz)
actual number is unknown
1,980 (1982)
Turkic (Uyghuric)

1,140 (1982)
Turkic (Western)
(aka Kirghiz)
less than 1,000 (1999)
Semitic languages (Aramaic)

920 (1982)
Turkic (Oghuz)

600 (1982)
Turkic (Western)

500 (1981)
Turkic (Eastern)

few villages
Turkic (Western)

handful
Turkic (Western)

 ??
Indo-European (Indo-Iranian, Iranian, Eastern)

 ?
Numbers are unknown though likely to number in the thousands
extinct
Aramaic
liturgical language
extinct
North Caucasian
became extinct in the 1990s
handful
Turkic (Western)

 ??
Indo-European (Indo-Iranian, Iranian, Eastern)




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