Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Learning (a little) Turkish

For our trip to Turkey, we learnt a little Turkish. Maureen Freely, Orhan Pamuk's translator describes some features of the language:

Turkish has no verb "to be" and no verb "to have." It prefers the passive to the active voice and has one word for "he," "she" and "it." It is an agglutinative language, which means that root nouns often carry a string of 10 or more suffixes. Turkish also likes verbal nouns (the "doing of," the "having been done unto") and because you do not know the verb until the end of the sentence, you often read four, five or six clauses without knowing how they are connected.

A Turkish word starts with a short root (such as git-, 'go'). One or more suffixes are added to modify the root (gitti, 's/he went'). You can make whole sentences in Turkish out of one little word root and a lot of suffixes. Suffixes are sometimes preceded by a 'buffer letter' such as 'y' or 'n' for smooth pronunciation.

Noun Suffixes

Plural: -lar, -ler
Bankalar, banks
Oteller, hotels

To, Toward: -a, -e (or -ya, -ye)
Bankaya, to the bank
Otele, to the hotel

From: -dan, -den
Bankadan, from the bank
Otelden, from the hotel

Possessive: -ın, -in, -nın, or -nin
Bankanın, the bank's
Otelin, the hotel's

With: -lı, -li, -lu, -lü
Et, meat; etli, with meat
Süt, milk; sütlü, with milk

Without: -sız,-siz,-suz, -süz
Et, meat; etsiz, without meat, meatless
Süt, milk; sütsüz, without milk

You may see -ı, -i, -u or -ü, -sı, -si, -su or -sü added to any noun. An ev is a house; but the ev that Mehmet lives in is Mehmet'in evi.


Infinitive: -mak, -mek
Almak, to take or buy
Gitmek, to go

Simple present: -ar, -er, -ır, -ir, -ur, -ür
Alır, he/she/it takes or buys
Gider, he/she/it goes

Future: -acak, -ecek, -acağ-, -eceğ-
Alacak, he/she/it will take, buy
, he/she/it will go

Simple past: -dı, -di, -du, -dü
Aldı, he/she/it took, bought
Gitti, he/she/it went

Continuous: -ıyor-, -iyor- (like English '-ing')
Alıyor, he/she/it is taking, buying
Gidiyor, he/she/it is going

Question: -mı, -mi, -mu, -mü
Alıyor mu? Is he/she/it taking (it)?
Gidecek mi? Will he/she/it go?

First Person Singular (I):-ım, -im, -um, -üm
Alırım, I take

Second Person Singular (you-informal): -sın, -sin, -sun, -sün
Alırsın, You take

Third Person Singular (he/she/it): (no suffix)
Alır, he/she/it takes

First Person Plural (we): -ız, -iz, -uz,-üz
Alırız, we take

Second Person Plural (you-formal): -sınız, -siniz, -sunuz,-sünüz
Alırsınız, You (plural) take; or You (singular-formal) take

Third Person Plural (they): -lar, -ler
Alırlar, They take.

Nouns and adjectives usually come first, followed by the verb. The subject of the sentence is often the final suffix (unless the sentence is a question):

İstanbul'a gidecegim, I'm going to Istanbul.

Halı almak istiyorum, I want to buy (take) a carpet (literally 'Carpet to buy want I')

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