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Let's learn Turkish

Discuss about language(s) in English

How well can you speak Turkish?

A) None
B) A little
C) Fair well
D) Very well
Total votes : 13

PostAuthor: Diri » Sun Dec 31, 2006 12:24 am

Xoshewist wrote:sorani :wink:

and yeah, i think its realy hard ton understand it for people who speak kirmanci or another dialect.

No... Not "realy hard"...

Just: not as easy as if you speak Soranî Kurdish...

And if you speak Soranî Kurdish of Sine and Mihabad, it's even easier to understand Persian...

And if you speak Kurmancî Kurdish of Ûrmiye (like myself) it's easier to understand Persian...

That's basically, because it has to do with mixing and inter-acting with Persians... So naturally - Kurds from Qamishlo (Kurmancî speaking) will have problems understanding a Persian speaker - because they are not used to it... But a Kurmancî Kurdî speaker from Ûrmiye will find it less hard - because they engage more and influence eachother more...
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PostAuthor: cazyun » Sun Dec 31, 2006 4:24 pm

kurdish has borowe a lot from iranies and theirhistoric force asimilation to other peoples including azeris its their plans to make non iranic people iranic´...kurds has been caught in the trap..

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PostAuthor: schoolmaster1954 » Mon Jan 01, 2007 5:47 pm

Parsi wrote:
cazyun wrote:maybe in a friednly way it can work...but kurdish has borowed alot from persian dont forget it its kind of assimilation

Kurdish and Persian are in the same family - they have the same roots so there is no "borrowing" per say - just sharing.

And Turkish has borrowed a lot from Aryan and Semitic languages too, especially Istanbuli, Azeri, and Ozbek. :roll:

Borrowed English
Dan Tilque

English is known as a great borrowing language. Among words in the dictionary, roughly 25 percent are native English words, the rest derived from other languages. But how many languages has English borrowed from? The way to find out is to compile a list of words derived from as many different languages as possible.

Before counting, there were a number of issues to resolve. Different references have different etymologies for the same word. Should equal consideration be given to all of them? What exactly constitutes a language? How should language families, creoles, dialects, etc. be handled?

After much consideration, I settled on the following ground rules:

Only one dictionary is to be used as reference. I chose Merriam Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, Tenth Edition.
All words with etymologies are to be considered except the names of monetary units, ethnic groups, and languages.
Any language in the direct history of a word is allowed. However, only one language per word will be counted.
Languages of cognate words (indicated in etymologies by the phrase 'akin to') are not allowed.
English dialects are out, dialects of other languages are in.
Creoles, pidgins, and trade languages are to be counted.
Language families are included only where there is no word borrowed from any of the languages in that family. Excluded examples are Scandinavian, Algonquian, and Bantu.
Languages that have the same name as another language but with a chronological modifier in its name are considered part of that language. Examples are Old High German, Middle French, and New Greek.
It turned out that the exception for English dialects was almost a nonissue. Except for words from Scots and one other word, English dialects are not identified by Merriam-Webster. That other word is limbo (the dance) which comes from the English of Trinidad and Barbados.

The rule allowing any language in a word's history leads to an unusual result. Gothic, an East Germanic language, is mentioned in several etymologies, but in all but one it was as a cognate. The exception is czar, a word normally associated with Russian. However, the history of this word starts with Caesar which is borrowed via Greek into Gothic as kaiser and thence into Russian. So why is Gothic not in the etymology of kaiser? According to Merriam-Webster, kaiser comes from a "prehistoric Germanic word" that was borrowed from Latin and Gothic does not appear there.

The restriction of only one language per word meant that four languages did not make it into my list. Parka is the only word for Aleut as well as for Nenets, vindaloo is from both Indo-Portuguese and Konkani, punkie from New York Dutch and the Munsee dialect of Delaware, and voodoo from Louisiana Creole and Ewe.

After I was well underway in researching this project, a book was published on exactly the same subject. That book was The World in So Many Words by Allan Metcalf (1999, Houghton Mifflin). This article is not going to review that book, nor is it going to have a detailed comparison of the two lists. However, some points of comparison may be interesting to the reader.

Metcalf includes a number of words that come from English dialects, although he limits them to national level dialects. That is, he has words from American English, Australian English, etc. but not from, say, Cockney or Brooklynese. On the other hand, Merriam-Webster frequently identifies the dialects of many non-English languages where most other dictionaries do not.

Metcalf's research led him to disagree about a number of words with Merriam-Webster. For instance, Metcalf has mojo as coming from Fula, a language spoken in Cameroon; M-W merely says it's an African word and gives the Fulani word as a cognate. There are quite a few differences of this type, especially among words from African languages.

A different sort of disagreement is represented by bora, a downslope wind in either the Adriatic Sea or Black Sea areas. Webster's derives it from the Trieste dialect of Italian which in turn gets it from Latin boreas, north wind. Metcalf acknowledges this as possible, but thinks it more likely that the source is Bulgarian.

Another difference is that Metcalf has several eponyms such as cashmere, sequoia, bikini, and hooch. Merriam-Webster generally does not mention languages in the etymologies of eponyms so they don't appear in the list below.

In light of the significant number of differences between the two lists, it is surprising that they have almost exactly the same length! Metcalf has 212 languages, this list has 216. But since they do have differences, it's possible to make a longer list by merging the two. Doing so gives about 240 languages, not counting English dialects or eponyms, and perhaps 255 with them.

In the list below, languages are the same as they are in 10C, except that abbreviations have been spelled out. Dialects appear in parentheses immediately after the language name.

Anglo-French: elope
Basque: chapparal
Breton: dolmen
Catalan: barracks
Cornish: wrasse
Crimean Tartar: shashlik
Czech: pistol
Danish: skoal
Dutch: coleslaw
Etruscan: mantissa
Faeroese: skua
Finnish: sauna
Flemish: hunk
French: vehicle
French (Lorraine): quiche
French (Marseilles): pastis
French (Picardy): gavage
French (Savoy): moraine
French (Swiss): névé
French (Walloon): rabbit
Galician: frijole
Gascon: cadet
Gaulish: beak
German: dirndl
German (Swabia): hoodlum
German (Swiss): muesli
Gothic: czar
Greek: zeugma
Hungarian: goulash
Icelandic: eider
Irish: smithereens
Italian: soprano
Italian (Lombardy): mascarpone
Italian (Neapolitan): fumerole
Italian (Sicily): caponata
Italian (Trieste): bora
Italian (Venetian): ghetto
Italian (Veneto): gnocchi
Lappish: tundra
Latin: quota
Lingua Franca: gam
Lithuanian: eland
Norwegian: lemming
Old Norse: get
Polish: kielbasa
Portuguese: emu
Provencal: troubadour
Romanian: pastrami
Romany: pal
Russian: mammoth
Scottish Gaelic: ptarmigan
SerboCroatian: vampire
Shelta: moniker
Spanish: bananza
Swedish: ombudsman
Ukranian: hetman
Welsh: cwm
Yiddish: bagel

Afrikaans: aardvark
Amharic: teff
Arabic (Sudan): hegari
Bambara: shea tree
Berber: Zouave
Coptic: adobe
Egyptian: ibis
Ewe: voodoo
Ga: kwashiorkor
Ge'ez: negus
Ibo: opah
Kele: bongo [antelope]
Khoikhoi: gnu
Kongo: chimpanzee
Lingala: basenji
Malagasy: raffia
Malinke: kola nut
Mvu'ba: okapi
Sesotho: lechwe
Shona: mbira
Somali: gerenuk
Swahili: bwana
Tswana: tsetse
Twi: harmattan
Wolof: galago
Yoruba: dashiki
Zulu: impala

Akkadian: ziggurat
Ambonese: ailanthus
Arabic: xebec
Aramaic: abbot
Avestan: satem
Balti: polo
Bazaar Malay: orangutan
Bengali: dinghy
Bisayan: cogon
Chinese (Beijing): ginseng
Chinese (Fujian): bohea
Chinese (Guangdong): kumquat
Chinese (Xiamen): tea
Chinese Pidgin English: chowchow
Deccan Hindi: ragi
Divehi: atoll
Evenki: shaman
Georgian: zelkova
Gujarati: banyan
Hebrew: behemoth
Hindi: bungalow
Indonesian Malay: upas
Japanese: haiku
Japanese (Okinawa): nunchaku
Javanese: lahar
Kannada: dhole
Kazakh: barchan
Khmer: kouprey
Konkani: vindaloo
Korean: kimchi
Lepcha: serow
Malay: bamboo
Malay (Java): gourami
Malayalam: teak
Marathi: mongoose
Mishmi: takin
Mongolian: argali
Nenets: parka
Nepali: tahr
Pali: ginger
Panjabi: urial
Persian: bazaar
Philippine Spanish: bolo
Sanskrit: avatar
Sinhalese: beriberi
Sundanese: muntjac
Syriac: arsenic
Tagalog: boondocks
Tamil: betel
Telugu: bandicoot
Thai: bong [waterpipe]
Tibetan: yak
Turkish: yogurt
Urdu: nabob
Vietnamese: Tet

Adnyamadhanha: euro [wallaroo]
Dharuk: wombat
Fore: kuru
Guugu Yimidhirr: kangaroo
Hawaiian: luau
Jagara: dilly bag
Maori: kiwi
Marquesan: tiki
Nyungar: jarrah
Samoan: lavalava
Tahitian: tattoo
Tongan: taboo
Wik Munkan: taipan [venomous snake]
Wiradhuri: kookaburra
Wuywurung: yabber
Yolngu: didgeridoo (see note below)
Yuwaalaraay: budgerigar

American Yiddish: boychick
Araucanian: poncho
Arawak: iguana
Arawak of the Lesser Antilles: anole
Aymara: alpaca
Brazilian Portuguese: maxixe
Cahuilla: chuckwalla
Canadian French: lacrosse
Carib: caiman
Catawba: yaupon
Chinook Jargon: camas
Choctaw: bayou
Cree: pemmican
Creek: tupelo
Creek (Florida): coontie
Cumanagoto: divi-divi
Cuna: guan
Dakota: tepee
Delaware (Munsee): punkie
Delaware (Unami): shoepac
Eastern Abenaki: wigwam
Fox: wickiup
Guarani: jaguarundi
Gullah: tabby [cement made of shells]
Haitian Creole: merengue
Halkomelem: coho
Hopi: piki
Inuit: igloo
Inuit (Greenland): anorak
Louisiana French: etouffee
Lower Chehalis: chinook [salmon]
Lower Chinook: salal
Lushootseed: geoduck
Massachuset: wampum
Mexican Spanish: saguaro
Micmac: caribou
Miskito: dory
Nahuatl: atlatl
Narraganset: quahog
Navajo: hogan
Nootka: potlatch
North Carolina Algonquian: pocosin
Northern Straits: sockeye
Ojibwa: totem
Pennsylvania German: dunk
Quechua: puma
Rumsen: abalone
Shawnee: wapiti
Shoshone: pogonip
Shuswap: kokanee
Southern Paiute: sego liliy
Taino: hammock
Tarascan: huarache
Tupi: tapioca
Unquachog: sea puss
Virginia Algonquian: raccoon
Western Abenaki: hackmatack
Yucatec: cenote
Yupic: mukluk


Addenda and Subtrahenda
The on-line Merriam-Webster Dictionary has a different etymology for didgeridoo that does not include Yolngu. Instead the word is now thought to be imitative of the sound of the instrument. To my recollection, there were no other words from Yolngu, so this decreases my language count by one.

Frisian: cop (to get ahold of or steal) -- most dictionaries trace this verb back to Latin capere, to take, but Merriam-Webster says the word possibly comes from Frisian kapia, to take away, by way of Dutch kapen, to steal.


Copyright 2000, 2001, 2003 by Dan Tilque
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PostAuthor: Diri » Mon Jan 01, 2007 5:55 pm

Let me add a word from KURDISH to your list...

Akkadian: ziggurat
Ambonese: ailanthus
Arabic: xebec
Aramaic: abbot
Avestan: satem
Balti: polo
Bazaar Malay: orangutan
Bengali: dinghy
Bisayan: cogon
Chinese (Beijing): ginseng
Chinese (Fujian): bohea
Chinese (Guangdong): kumquat
Chinese (Xiamen): tea
Chinese Pidgin English: chowchow
Deccan Hindi: ragi
Divehi: atoll
Evenki: shaman
Georgian: zelkova
Gujarati: banyan
Hebrew: behemoth
Hindi: bungalow
Indonesian Malay: upas
Japanese: haiku
Japanese (Okinawa): nunchaku
Javanese: lahar
Kannada: dhole
Kazakh: barchan
Khmer: kouprey
Konkani: vindaloo
Korean: kimchi
Kurdish: Caravan
Lepcha: serow
Malay: bamboo
Malay (Java): gourami
Malayalam: teak
Marathi: mongoose
Mishmi: takin
Mongolian: argali
Nenets: parka
Nepali: tahr
Pali: ginger
Panjabi: urial
Persian: bazaar
Philippine Spanish: bolo
Sanskrit: avatar
Sinhalese: beriberi
Sundanese: muntjac
Syriac: arsenic
Tagalog: boondocks
Tamil: betel
Telugu: bandicoot
Thai: bong [waterpipe]
Tibetan: yak
Turkish: yogurt
Urdu: nabob
Vietnamese: Tet
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PostAuthor: schoolmaster1954 » Mon Jan 01, 2007 5:58 pm

Borrowers and Lenders
Languages enriching each other

Did you ever have occasion to read Sir Walter Scott's novel Ivanhoe? It's set in England a couple generations after the Norman conquest of 1066, when the French spoken by the new masters was beginning to flood the English language. As it opens, two Saxon peasants - one of them a swineherd - are complaining about the way plain English names of things suddenly switch to fancy French names before they reach the tables of their new Norman overlords: swine becomes pork, ox becomes beef, and calf becomes veal (French porc 'pig', bœuf 'ox' and veau 'calf').

We're witnessing speakers of English borrowing large numbers of words from French, called loanwords.
(Actually 'borrow' or 'loan' is an odd thing to call it, because it implies that languages give back what they've received from another language. If the terms weren't traditional, maybe 'copying' would be more appropriate).
As a glance at the dictionary will convince you, people who use English have borrowed from dozens of other languages all through history, but to keep this simple we'll limit our view to French, with a side glance at its predecessor Latin.

Did you realize that all the words in the following list were borrowed from Latin at a very early date, before and just after the Christianization of England?
anchor, angel, butter, candle, cap, cheese, circle, copper, cup, dish, kettle, master, mint, noon, offer, pear, rule, school, seal, sock, tile ...
and hundreds more. These words have been so thoroughly assimilated into the language that it's hard to realize that they were once aliens.

Now look at a few of the thousands of words borrowed from French in the generations just after the Norman conquest, and note how they too have been pretty thoroughly anglicized:
adorn, boil, boot, coat, collar, cover, crown, curfew, dinner, feast, fry, govern, jail, just, peace, peasant, plead, prison, raisin, state, stew, story, treasurer, treaty ...

English has continued to borrow words from French for all of the nine centuries since then. But let's skip over all those intervening years and look at a few that have been borrowed in recent times, say not longer ago than the last century or so. Notice how much easier they are to identify as French (like how many accent marks there are), in other words they're not nearly as far along in the assimilation process.
baguette, beige, café, camouflage, chauffeur, chiffon, consommé, croissant, déjà vu, entrepreneur, garage, limousine, maître d', rendezvous, resumé, tête-à-tête, touché, voilà, ...

A curiosity here is the way for centuries French speakers have reached back to their language's own ancestor Latin to borrow words matching their native inherited words (the same thing has happened in the other Romance languages). The result is pairs of words, one historically developed French and the other Latin (the latter recognizable in not having the historically-evolved French form):

historically later borrowing
developed from Latin
from Latin

chef 'head' (metaph.) capital 'capital'
chien 'dog' canin 'canine'
livre 'free' liberté 'liberty'
maison 'house' mansion 'mansion'
mère 'mother' matricide 'matricide'
noël 'Christmas' natal 'native'
nombre 'number' numéral 'numeral'
nuit 'night' nocturne 'nocturnal'
oreille 'ear' auriculé 'auriculate'
voix 'voice' vocalique 'vocal'
English has not been able to reach back to its own (unwritten) ancestor in the same way, but what speakers of English have done is borrow a word from French and the 'same' word from its ancestor Latin, almost always at a later time:

early borrowing later borrowing
from French from Latin

crown coronation
heir inherit
navy navigate
peace pacify
royal regal
rule regulate
It is not common, but there are examples of a language borrowing the same word from the same language TWICE, normally many centuries apart. In a few instances English has borrowed a word from Latin back in the time of the first contact between Latin and Germanic speakers or in the early pre-Christian era, and once again in recent times:

early borrowing relatively recent
from Latin borrowing

bishop episcopal
cheese casein
dish disk
mint monetary
wine viniculture
and there are even a few examples of borrowing twice from French, such as

aid aide
false faux [pas]
feast fête
suspicion soupçon
view [déjà] vu
Occasionally we find a word that has been shuttled busily back and forth between two languages for centuries. The Germanic word that became our ward (as in ward off) was borrowed into French a very long time ago as garder, and later this same word was borrowed back into English as guard. In recent times we have borrowed it once again in the phrase [en] garde !
English has borrowed from French for centuries, but today is loaning to French on such a scale that the French some years ago coined the derisive term franglais.

A language can borrow not only content words like all of the above, but also function words such as pronouns and prepositions, inflections of words, ways of phrasing things (our expression it goes without saying is a word-for-word translation of French ça va sans dire) and meanings of words (French fin de semaine 'end of the week' has added the modern English sense of 'weekend') - all on far too grand a scale to illustrate here.

ALL languages borrow from each other (and always have), usually in several of these ways. The notion of a 'pure language' is nothing but a myth.
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PostAuthor: schoolmaster1954 » Mon Jan 01, 2007 6:02 pm

By Dominique Anderson
Complete knowledge
of French grammar,
like sainthood, is a
quest that can be
pursued with various
degrees of intensity --
or success; yet it is
one that can never be
achieved. Virtually
nobody knows French
grammar thoroughly.
We’ve all had a
headache or two
because of a
grammatical error that
eluded us.
With this humbling
thought as a preface, I
would like to welcome
you to the FLD
grammar column where
I’ll share some of my
favorites difficulties —
past and present. I’ll
also attempt to provide
an explanation of the
corresponding rules.
As an opener, I’d like to
dispel any notion that I
am a grammar expert.
(Continued on page 5)
Volume VII, Nº 1
Spring 2003
Le mot de
Borrowing Words: a Two-
Way Street
Oops 1
Le mot de la rédactrice 4
Volunteer Translators
Needed for Translators
Without Borders
Un peu d'humour : les
perles de la presse
Losing Your Latin? 8
Inside this issue:
Borrowing Words: A Two-Way Street
By Polly Haas
Much has been written
about the invasion of
French by the English
language, and the
pitfalls of transferring
anglicismes into our
"en bloc,"
knowing well
that when
words are
borrowed, they
often change
form or meaning. Un
gadget in French may
be, not a gadget, but a
gimmick. Un snack is
face-lift), and un
smoking (a tuxedo) to
this list of –ing words
that are "at once
remove" from the
original. We could add
many others, in that
vein of truncated
words, such as un
basket (at two
removes, I'd say), un
sweat (again, what
you wear when you do
it), and (at least for
the boat-making
industry) un lobster
(the boat you use to
(Continued on page 3)
not the bread and
chocolate French
children devour after
school, but a "snack
bar" – just as un
dancing, un dressing or
un pressing are places
where you do
those things.
A recent
article in The
(21 Dec.
2002–3 Jan.
2003) devoted to the
English invasion adds
un living (a living
room), un lifting (a
Spring is sprung
the grass is riz
I wonder where
the flowers is?
(Anyone care to
translate that?)
Although the grass
outside my window is
just greening up, ATA
and FLD
thoughts have turned
to autumn already,
and this year’s
conference. We are in
(Continued on page 2)
Le mot de
(Continued from page 1) Le mot de l'administratrice
the process of putting together a terrific slate of
presentations, thanks in no small way to the efforts of
our assistant administrator, Roxana Huhulea. If you’ve
been considering offering a presentation, it’s not too
late! Contact Roxana or me (or ATA directly) and we’ll
guide you through the submission process.
Our much-anticipated “eduvacances” trip to France is
still on this year’s agenda but has been postponed until
fall. French American Exchange is working with the
Société Française des Traducteurs (SFT) to provide us
with an educational and entertaining week. See our
website for the proposed general outline of events. If
you are interested in participating, please send me an
e-mail at so I can come
up with a rough estimate of the number of participants.
Many translators and interpreters are suffering the ill
effects of the downturn in the economy. Why not use
that free time to polish your skills, to be even better
prepared for when business picks up?
Please feel free to contact me anytime with your
comments and suggestions. Mylène Vialard is always
interested in columns or articles for the newsletter, and
David Heath has been extremely responsive in posting
material on our website. The FLD is, after all, a vehicle
for its members―your participation makes us what we
are. Make yourself heard!
In these difficult times, I wish you all peace.
Michèle Hansen
✠ need more info?
✠ have a topic of interest?
✠ need to react to one
of our articles?
✠ have a comment about
an article?
WRItE us!
À propos
Contributors for this issue:
Polly Haas
Dominique Anderson
Lori Thicke
Michèle Hansen
Mylène Vialard
Proofreaders for this issue:
Hélène des Rosiers
Michèle Hansen
Kimberley Plaxton-Drobot
FLD Administrator:
Michèle Hansen
FLD Assistant Administrator
Roxana Huhulea
FLD Webmaster:
G. David Heath
Newsletter Editor:
Mylène Vialard
French Language Division
Web Site:
The American Translators Association
Contact Information:
225 Reinekers Lane, Suite 590
Alexandria, VA 22314
Tel: (703) 683-6100
Fax: (703) 683-6122
Dear À propos readers,
Spring is here in Colorado and
with the last snow storms, the
drought seems to have moved
back a little. I hope this
newsletter finds you all in good
health and happy in your life.
We're glad to propose this new
issue of À propos to you and
we hope you'll enjoy reading it
as much as we enjoyed putting
it together.
Thank you to the people who
have given us positive
feedback on the previous issue
of the newsletter. It allows us
to know we're on the right
Thank you also to the people
who have sent us articles, that
made this new issue possible.
As a matter of fact, we cannot
exist without you, so please
take the time to write us and
to contribute to your
professional community. You
expect a certain level of quality
and interest from À propos, but
we cannot come up with
articles out of thin air. So
talk to us, write to us,
communicate! We'll be more
than happy to be used as a
springboard for your ideas.
Mylène Vialard
countries is called avoirdupois
is a question one should….well,
Most French words,
however, are
borrowed intact—
raconteur, dossier,
fait accompli, amusebouche
(easier to pronounce
than "amuse-gueule"?), cul de
sac, bête noire—or only slightly
altered—maitre d'. They can
become so much a part of
English that they are
conjugated. ("Did you RSVP
that invitation?" "The military
debuted its first cruise missile
in 1991." "The fish should be
filleted and fried in butter.")
But some have met the same
fate as their English fellows
and have been somewhat
altered as they slipped into the
other language. Many French
words retain only part
of their meanings
once adopted into
English. Provenance,
for example, can be
used in various
contexts as an
alternative to "origin" or
"source," but as a visit to any
museum will confirm, it has no
substitute when it comes to art
or archaeological specimens.
Sortie becomes a strictly
military term in English: the
rapid movement of troops from
a besieged position, or the
flying of an airplane on a
combat mission: "(...) The
Pentagon makes no secret of
the fact that since the mid-
1990s the U.S. military has
(Continued on page 4)
(Continued from page 1) Borrowing Words
catch them). Youth group
leaders or marketers will do un
phoning or un listing. But none
of this comes as news to my
Nor is the fact that many
French words have crept into
the English language—even
when they are not used in
French. In French, you refer to
the very best of the lot as le
gratin, not the "crème de la
crème"; it's not that far off the
mark gastronomically, but
French it's not—no more than
"double entendre" is, but
perhaps making it sound
French adds a certain risqué
(see below) connotation. And
why the system of weights
based on pounds and ounces
used in many English-speaking
Many French words
retain only part of their
meanings once adopted
into English.
Le mot de la rédactrice
(Continued from page 3)
been bombing targets in
southern Iraq. But the number
of sorties is "rising..."
(Newsweek). Also restricted to
a military context is matériel:
"So far only one Army division
is on the move, fewer than half
the Marines to be deployed
have begun to sail… Fuel is
being stockpiled…. But not
matériel" (Newsweek).
Triage, too, has undergone
restriction; while it retains the
French meaning of "sorting," it
has been narrowed down to
the medical context and refers
in English to the process of
sorting victims of a disaster or
battle, or patients in an
emergency ward, in order of
medical priority for treatment.
And be careful not to use
tranche when speaking of
income, age,
bacon, or cake; in
English the words'
semantic field has
been pared down,
so to speak, to the
financial context,
referring to a loan or share
And if a joke or film is risqué,
the only risk it runs is
offending someone's sense of
propriety or decency, as does
"'Jalla!Jalla!', a risqué comedy
of manners set in Sweden." If
we stay in the realm of
cinema, we will surely
encounter many a film noir as
well: "'I Can't Sleep' is a noir
exploration of Parisian racism
is held.
A panier usually refers only to
those types of baskets or bags
that are slung over the back of
a beast of burden or the rear
wheel of a bicycle. A foyer is
neither a hearth nor a home as
in French, but only the lobby
or anteroom of a hotel or
theatre (UK) or the vestibule
or entrance hall of a private
home (US). On the U.S. side of
the Atlantic, a résumé is not a
summary but a curriculum
vitae and à la mode has
nothing to do with haute
couture, but rather with that
other area of French genius—
cuisine. Order apple pie à la
mode in the U.S. and your
dessert will be served with a
scoop of vanilla ice cream on
top. And while looking at the
menu, remember that an
entrée is not an entrée but
rather un plat principal—until
you cross over to England…
where you should be sure to
book a hotel room with en
suite bathroom if you don't
want to traipse down the hall
to find it.
So there seems to be two-way
traffic on the road between our
two languages, and although
"accidents" can happen along
the way, they haven't killed
either language yet.
towards immigrants (Quotations
from Newsweek). An upperclass
woman making her first
appearance in high society,
usually at a formal ball, is a
debutante, which, according to
Le Robert, can have the same
meaning in French. The twist is
that the origin of this particular
meaning is given as: "de
l'anglais, lui-même du français."
Other words, such as billet and
canard, are almost
unrecognizable in English. In a
military context, billeting
officers are in
charge of getting
billets for their
soldiers (i.e.,
accommodation in
civilian lodgings: "The captain
billeted his men on the town.")
A canard is un canard only in
the archaic sense (archaic in
French) of a false or
baseless, usually
derogatory, report. It
also retains the French
meaning of a duck—
but only when used
for food; unlike in
French, however, it also refers
to a type of aircraft whose
tailplane, or horizontal
stabilizer, is mounted in front of
the wing. The word venue, too,
has changed along the way into
English—from the "fact of
coming" or "arrival," to a
designated locale—the place of
a crime or the place or
jurisdiction fixed for the trial,
and, more generally, the place
any organized gathering, like a
rock concert or public meeting,
The twist is that the origin
of this particular meaning
is given as: "de l'anglais,
lui-même du français."
(Continued from page 1) Oops!
My daughter usually apologizes
about me to her
friends with this
line: “She takes the
dictionary to bed."
She always gets a
laugh; I get the
looks. I do willingly
admit, though, that I need help
and that I may appear to be
somewhat infatuated with the
Grevisse, even if it is not a
Time to share favorites now.
I’ll show you mine, if you show
me yours. I’ll start with these:
· Accord des adjectifs de
couleur: des reflets jaunes/
des reflets jaune doré; une
tenture grise/une tenture
gris-bleu; des chaussures
jaune abricot
· Quelque/quel que: adjectif
ou pronom, singulier ou
· Tout/tous: adjectif ou
pronom, singulier ou pluriel
· Pluriel ou singulier des
compléments déterminatifs,
par exemple : des toiles
d’araignée(s?), de la gelée
de groseille(s?)
Do they seem to
qualify as true
difficulties? Can
you top any of
them with
your own? If
so, send them to
my attention at:
They’ll fit perfectly in this
I may need help with
grammar, but I've been
tempted lately to relegate
Grevisse back to the office
shelf where he belongs.
Looking forward to your
To add some fun to this
otherwise serious subject, I
would like to start a
translation contest.
We all know that
translation is an
exercise in writing,
not just in
comprehension, and
that some sentences can be
colorfully challenging. This
contest will be called “Exercice
de style,” as a tribute to
Raymond Queneau, one of the
most creative French authors.
My job, the easy one, will be to
supply the original sentences
to be translated, which you will
then artistically translate.
French and English will
alternate, so that everybody
can participate. You may, of
course, send as many versions
as you want. The winner will be
published in the next issue.
To add some fun to this
otherwise serious subject, I
would like to start a
translation contest.
Today’s Exercice de
Moi, ma soeur, sa
bicyclette, elle est cassée.
Finally, I would like to
close this column with a
quote that I discovered
recently in Le bon usage,
by Maurice Grevisse.
Under the heading mots
germaniques, he writes:
[…] L’anglais, à partir du
XVe siècle, a fait entrer
dans le français un notable
contingent de termes, qui
s'est accru singulièrement
au XIXe siècle et à
l'époque actuelle, surtout
par le fait des « snobs » et
des « sportsmen », dont
l'anglomanie a fait trop
bon marché de la pureté
de la langue française.
Volunteer Translators Needed for
Translators Without Borders
By Lori Thicke
A man in Chechnya says, “A
ground-to-ground missile killed
my two sons in the market in
Grozny. They weren’t
fighters—they were just there
to buy jeans”. On a forced
march to the border, a mother
in Kosovo cries as the soldier
takes aim, “Not him, he’s only
14!” An Iraqi girl whispers, “I
don’t think we’re going to
come out of this alive.”
If there’s no money for
translations, who will tell their
Translators Without Borders is
telling their stories, or at least
some of them. But there are
many more stories that need
Translators Without Borders or
Traducteurs sans frontières as
we’re known in France, is a
non-profit association started
by Eurotexte to provide free
translations to humanitarian
groups. The core of TWB is a
group of amazing freelance
translators who give of their
time to help make the world a
better place.
Translators Without Borders
began when my Eurotexte
partner, Ros Smith-Thomas,
and I were offered paid
sleeping sickness in Burundi or
an AIDS treatment center in
South Africa, they’re there and
we’re behind them.
Recently we have begun to
expand our activities to other
NGOs, such as Handicap
International, Surgeons for
Africa and AIDES Organisation.
But this still represents just a
handful of organizations. One
of the reasons we work for
such a small group of
organizations is the nature of
humanitarian groups. Most of
these organizations have
large, ongoing needs for
translations because they see
their missions as informing the
world of populations and
individuals in danger, as well
as educating and training.
The types of translations taken
on by the dedicated volunteers
of Translators Without Borders
help raise money and heighten
awareness, and mobilize the
public and governments on
behalf of people in danger.
They will also make important
technical and medical
information available. But
there is a pressing need for
many more professional
translators for all types of
(Continued on page 7)
translation work by the
organization that became our
namesake, Doctors Without
Borders—or Médecins sans
frontières as they’re known in
France. Doctors Without Borders
is the world’s largest medical and
humanitarian relief organization
and in fact, they won the Nobel
Peace Prize in 1999.
But back in 1992, they were
already doing good work. So
when they asked us to do paid
translation work, our first
question was: “If we don’t
charge you anything, will you put
the money to good use?” They
immediately reassured us that
the money would go into other
important Doctors Without
Borders activities, and
Translators Without Borders was
born. Since that day, Translators
Without Borders has provided
thousands of pages of pro bono
translations to document and
assist virtually every major
humanitarian intervention by
Doctors Without Borders.
Whether it’s war in Afghanistan,
(Continued from page 6) Volunteer Translators
The truth is, our one office
can’t possibly handle all the
humanitarian translations
needed in the
world today. In
fact, most of the
organizations we
work for, although
global in scope,
are almost all
within a 2-km
radius of our offices in Paris.
That’s how local our work is,
and also how great the need
is: basically, we are only
satisfying the humanitarian
organizations in our own
worldwide organization with
many helping hands, where
translators work in their own
countries with NGOs in their
own communities.
If you are interested in setting
up your own branch of
Translators Without Borders or
want to volunteer to work for
Traducteurs sans frontières in
France, you can contact us in
Lori Thicke is General Manager
of Eurotexte and co-founder of
Translators Without Borders.
Since there is so much to be
done by professional translators,
we’ve decided to make
Translators Without
Borders an umbrella
organization, independent
of Eurotexte. This
organization will have as
many sections as there are
translation companies and
translators who want to do
good by doing what they do best.
We have decided to make the
TWB logo available to those
organizations and individuals
who respect the principles of
TWB. What we envision is a
Un peu d'humour : les perles de la presse française
nouveau permis de conduire est
arrivé. (l'Yonne Républicaine)
Deux conducteurs étaient interpellés
par les gendarmes en état d'ivresse.
(Var Matin)
Quand vous doublez un cycliste,
laissez-lui toujours la place de
tomber. (Le Républicain Lorrain)
Les mosquées sont très nombreuses
car les musulmans sont très
La conférence sur la constipation sera
suivie d'un pot amical. (Ouest-France)
Il remue la queue en cadence comme
un soldat à la parade.
C'est un chasseur, qui ne voulant pas
rentrer bredouille, s'est tué...
Tombola de la Société Bayonnaise des
Amis des Oiseaux : le numéro 5963
gagne un fusil de chasse. (Sud-Ouest)
Il s'agit de financer les réparations du
presbytère qui a brûlé le jour de la
fête des Cendres.
Le syndicat des inséminateurs fait
appel à la vigueur de ses membres.
Les brasseurs sont sous pression.
Tampax: le nouveau coup de sang
de la CGT. (La Nouvelle République
de Tours)
Les kinés se sont massés contre les
grilles de la préfecture.
C'est la foire des veaux et des
porcs: venez nombreux ! (La Vie
Journée du sang : s'inscrire à la
Parmi les nombreux lots : un chariot
élévateur, un cric hydraulique,
500 kg de briques, une portée de
Véritable Pub anglais : spécialité
Cette attaque frappe les hommes
politiques mais aussi les honnêtes
Ses dernières paroles furent un
silence farouche.
L'église étant en travaux, ses
obsèques ont été célébrées à la salle
des fêtes.
Tous portaient une crèpe à la
Vers 18h30, la brigade canine arrive.
Tout le monde est sur les dents.
(La Voix du Nord)
Le monte-en-l'air a finalement été
appréhendé par une patrouille de
L'arrestation s'est opérée sans
infusion de sang.
Comme il s'agissait d'un sourd, la
police dut pour l'interroger avoir
recours à l'alphabet braille.
Cet ancien haltérophile est accusé de
vols à l'arraché.
Ayant débuté comme simple
fossoyeur, il a, depuis, fait son trou.
Plus solide et moins infalsifiable, le
Losing Your Latin?
someone whose exact name
we don't know or prefer not to
mention is a quidam, whereas
English hasn't much of an
alternative to "fellow" or
Per se, on the
other hand, is
used in English,
but not in
French, as in:
shows that it is
not divorce per
se that harms
children, but
the continuing
conflict between parents." "It is
not teenage pregnancy per se
which government ministers
are concerned about, but the
financial dependency on the
state which it creates."
Other Latin words are used in
both languages, but with
different frequency or in
different registers. While the
English-French dictionary entry
for a priori gives only a priori,
indicating that it is a scholarly
word used mainly in logic and
statistics, the French-English
entry gives not only a priori in
the philosophical sense, but
also some more colloquial
translations: "in principle," "on
the face of it;" and "bias,"
"preconceived idea," indicating
that it is used more commonly
in French than in English.
Other Latin words are used in
both languages but unequally:
in French there are
alternatives, but not in English.
De facto and de jure are used
in French, for example, but are
just as apt to be rendered "en
fait" and "en droit." On the
other hand, in English not only
is the Latin retained in legal
contexts ("The country has de
facto independence now, and
will soon be recognized de jure
by the world's governments."
"The President aims to create a
de jure one-party state.") but
it's used in general contexts as
well. You wouldn't be surprised
to hear someone say: "The city
is rapidly becoming the de
facto centre of the financial
world" or "English is de facto
the common language of the
world today." In Australian
English, a de facto is a person
with whom someone lives as a
wife or husband, although they
are not married, as in:
"They've invited Joanne and
her de facto for lunch on
Ad hoc is another Latinism the
two languages use differently.
In French one says "c'est
l'homme ad hoc," meaning
"parfaitement qualifié". Or "il
faut un instrument ad hoc,"
meaning "adéquat," "destiné
expressément à cet usage." In
English one says "We deal with
(Continued on page 9)
By Polly Haas
Have you ever waited six
months for an appointment
with your physician only to find
not your trusted
health provider but a
locum tenens in the
examining room?
Have you ever been
subpoenaed and
after hours of
preparation ended up
ad-libbing because
you couldn't
remember the
version you'd
planned to repeat verbatim?
Not that either question makes
sense per se….
It's nonsense of course—I
daresay it's a non-sequitur….
but think about how you would
translate this nonsense into
French, and you'll realize that
many Latin terms don't overlap
between French and English.
Or if they do, how much more
common they are in one
language than in the other,
usually in English.
On second thought, though, I
doubt that many Englishspeaking
children throw Latin
words around as casually as
pint-sized French kids do when
their tournament, race or class
ranking ends in a tie ("Maman,
Mathieu et moi on était ex
æquo au tournoi!"). In French
(Continued from page 8) Losing Your Latin
problems on an ad hoc basis"
or "The group met ad hoc,
whenever the need
arose." French
translations: "ponctuel,"
"à l'improviste," "au cas par
cas," "adapté aux
circonstances." But in both
languages, one can have an ad
hoc committee, one which is
created for a particular purpose
Another English Latinism is quid
pro quo—not to be confused
with the French quiproquo! In
English it is used
conversationally to mean
"récompense" or "contrepartie",
as in: "What did she get as a
quid pro quo for her silence?"
or: "The government has
promised food as a quid pro quo
for the stopping of violence." It
sounds a lot like the French
quiproquo, which is also about
"something for something"—only
a different kind: a
misunderstanding or mistaken
identity, as in: "Il y a quiproquo,
nous ne parlons pas du même
Below is a non-exhaustive list of
some other Latin terms used in
English that would not be left in
Latin when translating into
French. A few are fairly formal
or specialized, mainly for legal
contexts (though I spare you the
list of legal terms such as
quantum meruit, respondeat
superior, revocable ad nutum,
and iura novit curia). But most
are almost as common as…
the musca domestica!
Ad infinitum: à n'en
plus finir
Ad-lib: improviser
Affidavit: déclaration
écrite sous serment
Bona fide: authentique,
valable, sérieux; (legal) de
bonne foi
Caveat: avertissement, mise
en garde; (legal field)
notification d'opposition
Cum laude,: (Univ) avec
distinction, Magna cum
laude, summa cum laude:
mention très bien, mention
très honorable
e.g. (exempli gratia): par
et al.: et autres
et. seq.: et suivants
in camera: (legal field) à huis
i.e. (id est): à savoir
In flagrante delicto: (legal
field) en flagrant délit
Locum tenens: remplaçant
(de médecin, dentiste)
Non sequitur: illogisme;
propos incohérent, qui
manque de suite
Per annum: par an
Per capita: par habitant
Per diem: par jour
Per se: en tant que tel, en soi
Postmortem: autopsie
Prima facie: à première vue, de
prime abord, a priori (legal
field: "to make a prima facie
case": produire des éléments
Pro bono: à titre gracieux
(used for legal work or other
Quidnunc: (introuvable dans
les dictionnaires bilingues!):
person eager to learn the latest
news and scandal, a busybody,
a gossipmonger
Re: au sujet de; (in letter
heading:) objet
Subpoena: (legal field) citer/
citation à comparaître en
qualité de témoin
Verbatim: textuellement, mot
pour mot
Versus: contre, par rapport à,
en contrepartie de
It's enough to make you "lose
your Latin"!
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PostAuthor: schoolmaster1954 » Mon Jan 01, 2007 6:09 pm

The Turkish Language Reform: A Catastrophic Success
The Jarring Lecture, 11th February 2002 by Prof. Geoffrey Lewis.


When first I opened a grammar of Chaghatay Turkish and learned that the Chaghatay for it will be was bolğay, whereas the corresponding word in the Turkish of Turkey was ola, how feeble ola seemed in comparison with the vigorous bolğay. Central Asia, I thought, was the place to be. Gunnar Jarring's books opened the door to the fascinating world through which that many-talented man had journeyed. But while I was avidly reading them and dreaming of going where he had gone, I never dreamed that I would share with Gunnar Jarring the distinction of being elected to Corresponding Membership of the Turkish Language Society in the early 1950s, much less that one day I might have the honour of being invited to give the Jarring Lecture. I am fully aware of the magnitude of the contribution made to Turkic studies by Swedish scholars, not least the members of the Swedish Research Institute in Istanbul, and I am proud to dedicate this lecture to one of the greatest scholars of them all.


I am an ivory-tower scholar, not a field researcher. In spite of the fascination of Eastern Turkestan, my kismet has been that for most of my career my chief interest has been the language of Turkey. I did occasionally teach Chaghatay, in one year to a class including a student who wanted to read the Baburname in the original because it was written by Babur, the first Moghul emperor, who was one of his ancestors.

My subject this evening is the Turkish language reform. I gave my book about it the subtitle ""A Catastrophic Success". Though the reform has not been so drastic in its effect on the spoken language, it has made everything written before the early 1930s, and much that has been written since, increasingly obscure to each new generation. It has undeniably been a success, in that the reformers succeeded in their purpose of ethnic cleansing; getting rid of the non-Turkish elements in their language, so that it has changed as much in the last century as in the preceding seven hundred. I hope to show you why I call that success catastrophic.


The Ottoman Empire came to an end in 1922, but its administrative and literary language, Ottoman Turkish, the only language that ever came close to English in the vastness of its vocabulary, did not become a dead language until the middle of the twentieth century. At heart it was Turkish; that is to say, its accidence and syntax were Turkish, yet Hagopian felt obliged to devote 40% of his Ottoman- Turkish Conversation-Grammar, published in 1907, to the grammar of Arabic and Persian. The reason was that the Ottomans had borrowed several features of those two languages. They borrowed Persian and Arabic plurals. From Arabic they borrowed the disease of language known as grammatical gender. Further, Turkish adjectives precede their nouns, but Arabic and Persian adjectives follow them. Persian interposes an i between noun and qualifier, and both conventions were adopted. The Ottoman name for the Sublime Porte, the central offices of the Sultan's government, was therefore Bâb -i- âlî, two Arabic words meaning gate and high, joined by a Persian i.

The Turks were a pastoral people in what is now Outer Mongolia. In the eighth century, defeated by their Mongol neighbours in the competition for pasturage, they left their home and began to migrate towards the south and west. By the beginning of the eleventh century most of them who had reached the Middle East became Muslim, and the literate among them adopted the Arabo-Persian alphabet. Their own language was rich in words necessary for nomadic life, but it was deficient in terms for philosophical, theological, and artistic concepts. For these they resorted to Arabic and Persian.

But they did not stop there; they did not just borrow words for new concepts. Even so basic a word as ôd - fire, fell out of use; it survived in poetry until the early twentieth century but had hardly been used in prose for four hundred years, its place having been taken by the Persian ateş. The Turkish sin or sinle, meaning tomb, found in popular poetry from the thirteenth to the twentieth century and still widely used in Anatolia, was supplanted in prose long ago by the Arabic mezar. The Gami' al-Faris, a seventeenth-century dictionary, says that some people applied sinle only to the grave of a kâfir, a non-Muslim; a Muslim would be buried in a mezar.

In classical Turkish poetry you find lines where the only indication that they were written by a Turk is the appearance of a -dir - is or an idi - was. The same is true of classical prose. This mixture of Turkish, Arabic, and Persian was not understood by the great majority of the subjects of the Ottoman dynasty, not only the Arabs and Greeks and many other peoples, but also the Turks.


With the rise of journalism in the second half of the nineteenth century, writers, editors, and publishers realized that if they were to win readers for the new magazines and newspapers they had to simplify the written language by abandoning Arabic and Persian grammatical constructions. People who had been accustomed to calling the natural sciences ulüm-i tabiiye began to see that there was no harm in using the Turkish plural ilimler instead of the Arabic plural ulûm, dropping the Persian i and the Arabic feminine ending of the adjective, and putting the adjective first: tabiî ilimler. The words were still Arabic, because they were the only words in the working vocabularies of most of those who produced and read newspapers and magazines.

The poet Mehmet Akif wrote this in 1910: "The crime reports in the newspapers are couched in language so abstruse that ordinary people listen to them as if they were religious formulae. It is ridiculous to write - Depredators who nocturnally effected an opportunist entry into Mehmet Bey's domicile purloined costly tapis eight in number - when what you mean is - Burglars broke into Mehmet Bey's house by night and stole eight valuable rugs. Concepts for ordinary people to understand should be expressed in the language used by ordinary people."
But years were to pass before that happened.

Although Mehmet Akif was not alone in his opinion, it took the boundless energy of Kemal Atatürk, as well as his authority as President of the Republic, to initiate the ethnic cleansing of the language. In 1928 he brought about the change of the alphabet from Arabo-Persian to Latin. Two years later, he wrote a short preface to a book on the history and potential of the language, in which he included these fateful words: "The Turkish Nation, which knows how to protect its territory and its sublime independence, must also liberate its language from the yoke of foreign languages". That sentence has been quoted in every book ever written about the language reform. Unfortunately, little attention was paid to his previous sentence: "Turkish is one of the richest of languages; it needs only to be used with discrimination". He thought it would be possible to find or to construct Turkish equivalents of all Arabic and Persian words, and he practised what he preached. He dictated a list of topics, which he wanted historians to address. One of them was Beşeriyet menşe ye mebdei - The source and origin of human kind, all four words being of Arabic origin. When the typescript was brought to him he amended this to insanların nereden ye nasıl geldikleri - Where humans came from and how they came, three of the five words and all the grammar being Turkish. The other two words, insan - human and ve - and, had long been naturalized and have survived the language reform.


To understand the course of the reform, you must know that language was the first of Atatürk's two hobbies; the other being history. His passion for etymology, however, was more enthusiastic than scientific. Among his offerings was his ingenious derivation of asker - soldier (actually via Arabic from the Latin exercitus)from the Turkish aşık - profit and er - man, i.e. a man who is an asset to his country. Attributed to him, probably unfairly, were Turkish etymologies for two American place-names, Niagara being explained as from Ne yaygara! - What tumult! and Amazon as from Ama uzun! - But it's long! It was unfortunate that although he liked nothing better than a good argument, none of his intimates ever said "Very amusing as an after-dinner game, Pasha, but we mustn't take it too seriously, must we?". On the contrary, they played the same game. This being long before the age of political correctness, the President of the Language Society, which Atatürk founded in 1932, declared the origin of the Western word academy to be the Turkish ak adam: - ak - white and adam - man (an Arabic word). An anonymous article in the Society's journal explained - "the old word okan" as the name of a deity, meaning majestic, glorious. There was, however, no such word as okan - the word the writer must have had in mind was ugan and its meaning was neither majestic nor glorious but almighty. But worse, he went on to say that okan was the etymon of okyanus - ocean, which was a borrowing from Greek via Arabic.

The Society prescribed three methods for producing the words required to make Turkish independent of foreign vocabulary: to explore the resources of the spoken language, to collect words found in old texts, and, if necessary, to create new words from existing roots and suffixes.


In October 1932 the word collecting began. Every provincial Governor presided over a collection committee, with the duty of organizing the collecting of words in use among the people. Within a year, over 35,000 such words were recorded. Meanwhile, scholars had been combing through dictionaries of Turkic Languages and more than 150 old texts in search of words that had fallen out of use or had never been in use in Turkey - these totalled close on 90,000. In 1934 the results of both activities were published in a book called Tarama Dergisi - Combing Compendium. Although the compilers had conscientiously put question-marks against some words of which they were not certain, enthusiasts did not feel inhibited about using any word found in it, and for a while the result was chaos. If you wanted to express pen without using the ordinary word kalem, an Arabic borrowing, you looked up kalem and made your choice from among yağuş oryazgaç or çizgiç or kavrı or kamış or yuvuş. For akıl - intelligence there were 26 equivalents, from an to zerey. For hediye - gift you could pick your favorite from a list of 77 words. The one that was eventually chosen was armağan, not in fact Turkish but an old borrowing from Persian.

Journalists wrote their articles in Ottoman, then passed them on to an ikameci, a who would make the correct substitution. The ikameci opened his copy of Tarama Dergisi and substituted for the Ottoman words whatever equivalents he chose from that book. At the same time, in the office of another newspaper another ikameci might be choosing different equivalents for the same Ottoman words.


At this point Atatürk decided that the reform had entered a dead end and that the sensible course was to retain in the language all the foreign words that were in general use and for which no Turkish synonym could be found, so long as they could be provided with a Turkish etymology. Encouraged by this, everyone had a go.

Those who instead of inventing etymologies for all the doomed Arabic and Persian words honestly tried to find pure Turkish replacements for them, made some terrible mistakes. For example, there was no Turkish equivalent of the Arabic maarif - education. The reformers produced eğitim which they said was a noun derived from an ancient verb eğitimek - to educate. Well, there never was a verb eğitimek and, if you will pardon the paradox, it did not mean - to educate: it was a misreading of an ancient verb igidimek - to feed (people or animals), but that did not prevent eğitim from becoming the modern Turkish word for education. For millet - nation the researchers had found eight possibilities, among them uluş and ulus - and they chose the wrong one ulus. Uluş was a genuine Turkish word, though it meant not nation but country. The Mongols borrowed it, gave it the Mongolian pronunciation ulus and also gave it a new meaning, empire or people. By the fourteenth century the Turks had borrowed it back in its Mongolian form ulus which they used until the seventeenth century and use again today. The reformers could not find a Turkish suffix to replace the Arabic adjective-suffix -î as in millî - national so they borrowed the French suffix -el or -al as in culturel and principal, and they replaced millî - national by ulusal. Having chosen for national a word half Mongolian and half French, the reformers could at least claim that they were not chauvinists.

Yet the name of the National Library of Turkey is still Millî Kütüphane, which is part Arabic and part Persian. I once asked the Director of the Library how it had escaped being called Ulusal Kitaplık. With a happy smile she explained that the name Millî Kütüphane was written into the law establishing the library - the reformers had not noticed it and, inşallah, deo volente, nobody ever would.

Many of the neologisms were correctly constructed from Turkish roots and suffixes, for example altyapı - under-building which has replaced the French enfrastrüktür and kazı - excavation and çağrışım - association of ideas which have replaced the Arabic hafriyat and tedai respectively. Far too many neologisms however, were not correctly constructed.


You may say that this is no reason to call the reform a catastrophe. After all, every language is a set of conventions, and most people everywhere neither know nor care about the origins of the words they use. They are not interested in whether a word has always been part of their language or was recently created by a Language Society or an Academy. But I am thinking of the educated Turks who know the exact word they want but hesitate to use it because it is too old- fashioned and has not been replaced with a neologism. Or it has been replaced by one of the many neologisms that were arbitrarily invented. So they use a French or English word instead. A Turk however does not have to be a professional scholar to find at least some of the inventions excruciating and cannot bear to hear them, much less to say them.

An example: the reformers made neden, the ablative of ne? - what? into a noun meaning cause replacing the Arabic sebep. This new noun is unique in having an ablative case which no Turk with any feeling for the language will use. The old expression for because of this was bu sebepten literally from this cause. Few Turks can bring themselves to say bu nedenden literally from this from-what. Nor do they like the alternative bu neden nedeniyle - by this from-what's from-what so they continue to use the Ottoman bu sebepten.

The assumption behind the change of vocabulary was that the meaning of neologisms constructed from Turkish roots and suffixes, unlike Ottoman words would be readily intelligible to everybody. While a Turk might not know the Arabic mefhum - concept he could at once understand kavram manufactured from kavramak - to grasp. Well he might, unless he was from one of the many regions of Anatolia where it means handful. And when the suffix was itself a neologism he would be even worse off, especially if it coincided in form with a familiar word. Among Atatürk's coinages for the language of geometry, of which I shall be saying a little more, were replacements for the Arabic names of the plain figures - triangle, pentagon and so on. He added to the appropriate numeral a newly invented suffix -gen. The more committed reformers will tell you its origin was Turkish but in fact it was the suffix -gon of pentagon and hexagon, altered to -gen because as a rule the vowel o does not occur in final syllables. Anyway, the word for triangle became üçgen. In theory, anyone could understand that it had something to do with three and would soon realize from the context that it meant triangle. But the reformers should have known that -gen was part of the vocabulary of every farmer in Anatolia to whom üçgen could mean only three fallow fields. Consider the neologism özek the official replacement for the Arabic merkez - center. A villager from the neighbourhood of Isparta would have no difficulty with it because it was there that the word-collectors had found it. To most other Anatolians, however, it would mean only the pole of an ox-cart. A town-dweller, knowing öz - own and ek - patch, additions could never guess its new meaning.


Those are typical of the mistakes that the reformers made. Another was that they impoverished the language by eliminating a great many Arabic and Persian words for which there were no Turkish equivalents, nor did they take the trouble to construct them from Turkish roots and suffixes. The enormous resources of Ottoman Turkish were at their disposal. They did not have to perpetuate the whole exuberant vocabulary as they were free to pick and choose, but they deliberately elected to throw away their heritage.

Ottoman had individual words that expressed the concepts of declaring, asserting. remarking, hinting and more of similar meaning. To express all these senses, modern Turks have to make do with anlatmak - to tell and söylemek - to say and bildirmek - to inform together with adverbs to supply the nuances. So for to hint if they wish to avoid or don't know the old word ima they have to say üstü kapalı söylemek - to say covertly or dolaylı anlatmak - to tell indirectly.

I have mentioned another of the reformers sins that when they could not find or construct a real Turkish equivalent for a foreign word that they wanted to expel from the language then they invented one. There was an incident at the Sixth Language Congress, in 1949, which does not appear in the published proceedings. Someone asked what principles had governed the formation of new technical terms. An embarrassed silence was eventually broken by the chairman of the Linguistics and Etymology Commission, who said: "My friends! We had no principle or anything resembling a principle. We've been making them up as we went along!"

That was no more than the truth. As the pure Turkish replacement for the Arabic hayal - image they produced imge its alleged origin being the Old Turkic im - password with the addition of the suffix seen in çekirge - grasshopper and süpurge - broom. The connection between password and image may seem tenuous but one only has to spell out imge and the French or English image to see the true etymology.

The old word for civilization was medeniyet. It was of Arabic derivation, though it was a nineteenth-century Turk who did the deriving and the Arabs borrowed it from the Turks. The replacement found for it was uygarlık an arbitrary coinage based on the name of the Uyghur a people who established an advanced civilization in Eastern Turkestan in the tenth to twelfth centuries. So it has far less claim to being pure Turkish than medeniyet which still holds its ground.


I once conducted a small experiment about those two words. On the northern approaches to Izmir one sees notices reading Yayaya Saygi Uygarlıktır - Respect for the Pedestrian is Civilization. I asked two affable taxi-drivers the meaning of uygarlık and after briefly conferring they agreed that uygar meant the same as modern or çağdaş - contemporary. It emerged that they did not associate uygarlık with medeniyet which they both knew - though I did not try their patience by asking them to define it. I am sure that Gunnar Jarring would have had the courage to pursue the enquiry to its very end. But my small experiment lends support to the view of a Turkish friend whom I told about it - that nuances of meaning are emerging between old words and their replacements. He himself did not feel uygarlık and medeniyet to be synonymous. If he was talking about a particular civilization or the history of civilization, he would use medeniyet. Uygarlık on the other hand conveyed to him something more dynamic - civilized and vigorous and progressive.


There are two questions we should ask about the reform. The first is - "Has it liberated the language from the yoke of foreign languages?" The answer is yes, most of the vocabulary of younger writers is that of the new Turkish. The second question is - "Has it eliminated the gap between the language of the intellectuals and the language of the people?" The answer is no. It is natural that there should be a gap between the language of intellectuals and the language of the people because intellectuals need more words than non-intellectuals. No one ever expected intellectuals to stop talking about literary criticism or bacteriology or whatever their particular interest might be. The hope was that they would give up the use of Ottoman words for everyday concepts. They would not, so to speak, say domicile when they meant house or I shall exercise cogitation on this topic rather than I'll think about it. And they don't. The language of the intellectuals is no longer full of Ottoman words but it is full of so-called pure Turkish neologisms - very few of which have entered the language of the people, the majority of whom are not great readers. The language of the people though not full of Ottoman words retains many that the intellectuals have abandoned. The reform has hardly changed the speech-habits of non-intellectuals. The language spoken today by the farmer, the shopkeeper, and the small craftsman is not very different from that spoken by their grandparents.


For a change, let me say a word about one aspect of the reform that I see as totally admirable: the technical terms of the sciences. Until 1937, Turkish school children were still being taught geometry with the Ottoman technical terms. Right angle was zaviye-i kaime two Arabic words joined by the Persian i. It is now dik açı a straight translation of the Arabic. The change began in the winter of 1936/7, when Atatürk wrote a little book on the elements of geometry, which was published anonymously. In it he employed most of the geometrical terms now in regular use, many of his own invention.

We all remember the formula we learned at school: The area of a triangle is equal to the length of the base multiplied by half the height...

In pre-reform Turkish it was:
Bir müsellesin mesaha-i sathiyesi, kaidesinin irtifaına hâsıl-ı zarbinin nısfına müsavidir.
Now it is:
Bir üçgenin yüzölçü tabanının yüksekliğine çarpımının yansına eşittir.

Really two languages - all they have in common is the indefinite article bir at the beginning and the suffix -dir at the end. But only a fanatical conservative would persist in calling interior opposite angles by the 16 syllables of zaviyetan-ı matekabiletan-ı dahiletan rather than the five syllables of içters açılar.


New technical terms have been devised for the other branches of science, although not all their practitioners use them. Certainly medical doctors seem to prefer English or French.
To revert to non-technical words, the sad truth is that very many of them were created by people with no qualifications for the job, a category that included not a few of the Society's experts. Rut the individual who produced the largest number of new words did not claim to be an expert on language. He was Nurullah Ataç - a popular writer on literature who cheerfully admitted, "My ignorance is endless and at my age it cannot be eradicated". Whenever he introduced a neologism into one of his articles, he added in parentheses the word it was intended to replace, but without trying to explain or to justify his invention. His contributions to the new Turkish number many hundreds, most of them now in regular use, such as yanıt - answer, örneğin - for example and sorun - problem.

Some devotees of the reform will look you in the eye and swear that such obvious adaptations of Western words as okul for school - genel for general - and terim for technical term are of purely Turkish origin. They make the same claim for süre - duration, a Frankenstein monster whose father was the Turkish sürmek - to continue and whose mother was durée - the French for duration.


Let me sum up my four reasons for calling the reform catastrophic. (1) The reformers did not close the language gap between intellectuals and non-intellectuals - what they did was to create a new gap. (2) They impoverished the language by failing to produce Turkish replacements for all the Arabic and Persian words they consigned to oblivion. This loss affects every Turk who now, in speaking or writing, looks for the word that expresses his feelings but does not find it, because it is as dead as Etruscan and has not been replaced. (3) Many of the replacements that were produced are far from being pure Turkish. (4) Most Turks below the age of 50 are cut off from the writings of the 1920s and 1930s, one of the greatest periods of their modern literature. The "Translations into Modern Turkish" that you will see in bookshops are no substitute for the real thing.


Here is an extract from a reader's letter to the newspaper Cumhuriyet in 1995: "I was looking for one of Yakup Kadri's books, It was nowhere to be found. I asked the publisher who had reprinted many of his books why he hadn't reprinted that one. He replied, We haven't been able to find anyone to put it into Turkish." Apparently a book printed in the 1930s, which I read as a schoolboy, today has to be put into Turkish! Did Yakup Kadri write it in Chinese, I wonder? Further, no one can be found to understand that Turkish and turn it into the new garbage The writer of that letter was not alone - all but one of the many Turkish friends who supplied me with material for my book said that if I criticized the reform too unkindly they would not mind a bit. Most of them were no older than the one friend who did not say that.

In general, conservative-minded people were against the reform, while progressives were for it. A man named Tekin Erer wrote this in 1973: "There is a simple method of distinguishing the leftists in our country. To ascertain how far to the left a person is, look at the words he uses in writing and speech. If the fake words he employs are too numerous for you to be able to understand, you may unhesitatingly call him a communist."

He was wrong. Extremists at both ends of the political spectrum were bitterly opposed to the reform. The communists saw it as a bourgeois movement aimed at widening the gulf between the official and literary language and the language of the people. The poet and playwright Nazım Hikmet (1902 - 63), the most distinguished of all Turkish communists, did not use "pure Turkish" but followed Atatürk in making full use of the language as it stood. Extremists of the right regarded the Language Society as a subversive organization whose mission was to decrease mutual understanding between the Turks of Turkey and the Turks of the then Soviet Union, whom they hoped some day to liberate.


Atatürk's devotion to the reform which he had initiated suffered a shock on 3 October 1934. He had already gone a long way in the use of the new language; he took it to the limit in the speech he made that day at a banquet in honour of the Crown Prince and Princess of Sweden. He had composed the speech in the language he had spoken all his life, and every Arabic or Persian word was then replaced with a neologism, presumably by a "substitutor". It is recorded that he delivered the speech "like a schoolboy who has just begun to read". One can see why this embarrassing experience made him think that the reform had gone too far.

He had another shock two years later, at the Language Society's Third Congress, which was dominated by the Sun-Language Theory, for which he was responsible. Uriel Heyd, in his 1954 book on the language reform, calls it "this amazing theory". So does Remt Brendemoen, writing in 1990, who in addition calls it "infamous". It was inspired by a Dr Kvergic of Vienna, who sent Atatürk an unpublished paper entitled "La Psychologie de quelques éléments des Langues Turque", which did not mention the sun. The sun was part of Atatürk's contribution. Kvergic asserted, among other things, that Turkish was the first language in the world. Atatürk's theory taught that language began when primitive man looked up at the sun and said Aa! - in Turkish spelling ağ - which became the first-degree radical of the Turkish languages Its meanings were numerous, ranging from sun and God to water and time.

Dr Kvergic was invited to the Congress and he applied the Sun-Language Theory to produce the following etymology of unutmak - to forget:"Its earliest form was uğ+un+ut+um+ak. Uğ - discriminating spirit is the mother-root. The n of un shows that the significance of the mother-root emerges into exterior space. The t of ut is always a dynamic factor - its role here is to shift the discriminating spirit into exterior space. The m of um is the element which embodies the concept of un-un-ut, while ak completes the meaning of the word. After phonetic coalescence, the word takes its final morphological shape, unutmak which expresses the transference of the discriminating spirit out of the head into the exterior field surrounding the head". Every word of that was pure invention. One wonders how a man who talked such rubbish in public ever obtained a doctorate.

Ibrahim Dilmen, the Secretary-General of the Society used the theory to prove that the Western word electric was derived from the Uyghur yaltrik - gleam, shining. One is reminded of Müller's dictum "The change of a consonant is a mere trifle, for in etymology vowels are worth but little, and consonants almost nothing". In case you do not believe that Müller could have said that, I should explain that this was not the great nineteenth-century Oxford philologist Max Müller but his cousin George.

There were a number of foreign guests at the Congress, besides Dr Kvergic. Atatürk's faith in his theory was shaken by the reactions of all of them except Dr Kvergic. Some of them politely said the theory was interesting. Others wanted more time to think about it. Four of them did not mention it at all. Atatürk was a man of high intelligence and he knew what they thought of his Sun-LanguageTheory.

His interest in technical terms continued after the Congress. Already by the end of 1936, however, he had lost interest in creating neologisms for everyday words, and had reverted to his mother-tongue..

After Atatürk's death, in November 1938, Dilmen cancelled the course of lectures on the Sun-Language Theory which he had been giving at Ankara University. When his students asked him why, he replied - "After the sun has died, does his theory survive?"

The Language Society felt secure in the knowledge that it was not a State institution but a private body founded by Atatürk, so that it could never be abolished. Nor was it. When the conservatives thought the time was ripe it was simply nationalized. A law passed on 11 August 1983 reconstituted it as part of a new Atatürk Cultural, Linguistic, and Historical Institute dependent on the Prime Minister's office. Since then the new Society has ceased to propose replacements for Ottoman words.


The importation of French words began in the nineteenth century and continues. The Higher Education Council has recently prepared draft regulations for higher education based on the internet. They contain two words not to be found in any Turkish dictionary: akreditasyon and akredite. The most grotesque example of French borrowing I have so far met is the notice outside the places where you can have the exhaust emission of your vehicle tested. It reads Ezgoz emisyonu ölçüm istasyonu - exhaust emission measuring station. Only the third word is Turkish.

As long ago as 1974, Ozcan Başkan, one of the first generation of Turkish linguisticians, combined Türkçe - Turkish and İngilizce - English to make a Turkish counterpart of the French franglais: Türkilizce. Since the 1960s, French has been largely replaced by English as the source of Western words. The Turkish for balloon is balon - plural balonlar, but a company organizing flights over Göreme, in the ancient Cappadocia, calls itself "Kapadokya Balloons". The switch from French borrowings to English borrowings is the subject of a shrewd Turkish witticism: "I'm really getting tired of Turks who talk English instead of Turkish. Most people now say opereyşın instead of operasyon, and spekülasyşın instead of spekülasyon."

The new Language Society regularly suggests Turkish replacements for such Western words, though nobody seems to take much notice of its suggestions. In these proposed replacements "pure Turkish" is far from predominating. Some of them are what I think of as proper Turkish and what the old Language Society would have called Ottoman, In the pages of any newspaper or magazine, Ottomanisms may now be seen which twenty years ago one would have thought obsolete. One example: in a newspaper report on a terrorist raid last April, the terrorists were called teroristler. The headline, however, was Otelde Dehşet Terror at Hotel. Dehşet of Arabic origin, being the Ottoman for terror. On 15 October 2001, the newspaper Akşam reported that the Turkish Army had moved to kısmi teyakkuz - partial alert both words being Arabic.


Pleasant though it may be for lovers of the old language to see and hear some of it coming back into use, they must not deceive themselves into assuming that the language reform is over and done with. Hardly any neologisms are being created nowadays (why bother to create them if you know French or English?). But the effects of fifty years of indoctrination are not so easily eradicated. Let me finish with a word about two neologisms. The established replacements for the Arabic istiklâl - independence and hürriyet - freedom are başımsızlık and özgürlük. The -ım of başımsızlık is a deverbal suffix, but as baş is not a verb-root, the root has to be the noun bond, impediment. The best one can say for başımsızlık is that its meaning is not so unguessable as that of its partner özgürlük. Öz means pure, and gürlük means abundance, so özgürlük can only mean pure abundance - it cannot mean freedom. But it does. The objection most critics have raised to these two words, however, is not the obvious one that the first violates the rules of the language, while the second makes no sense, but that they have no emotional content.

Untold thousands of Turks, they say, fought and died for hürriyet and istiklâl how many would be ready to fight and die for özgürlük and başımsızlık? The answer to this rhetorical question is that you do not miss what you have never known. To those Turks who have grown up since the 195Os, Hürriyet is the name of a daily newspaper and a square in Beyazit, while İstiklâl is the name of a street in Beyoğlu. To them, özgürlük and başımsızlık mean what hürriyet and istiklâl meant to their grandparents and what freedom and independence mean to English-speakers, and yes, they are ready to fight and die for them if necessary. The language they have spoken all their lives is their language.

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PostAuthor: Diri » Mon Jan 01, 2007 7:04 pm

I moved your articles about Kurdish language to a new thread in this sam sub-forum: Language (Zimanê Kurdî)...

Please if you have new information/articles - with a new subject - post them in a new thread...

That way, it will be easier for people to find the articles they may be interested in reading... :wink:

And thank you for contributing...
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