History of the Turkish Language

A very ancient language, Turkish belongs to the Altaic group of the Ural-Altaic family of languages. It is a widely spoken language with almost 70 million speakers in Turkey and other parts of the world, including Germany, Bulgaria, Cyprus and other parts of Eastern Europe. Turkish also holds an official status in the Prizren District of Kosovo and several municipalities of the Republic of Macedonia.

The Evolution of Turkish

Turkish as a language has its roots in Central Asia, with the first written records dating back to about 1,200 years ago. The language spread across boundaries with the rise of the Ottoman Empire, covering a massive geographical region extending from Siberia to Europe and the Mediterranean. Following the fall of the Ottoman Empire and World War I in 1928, the Turkish leader Ataturk initiated a number of reforms which included the alteration of the Turkish alphabet by the adoption of a phonetic variant using the Latin alphabet.

The Turkish Language Association was then established and it attempted to further reform the Turkish language by removing Persian and Arabic borrowings in favor of adopting native variations from Turkish roots. The past few decades have seen many new Turkish words coined by the Turkish Language Association to express new concepts and technologies. Many of these new words are information technology jargons and have received widespread acceptance, though the association is often criticized for coining words that sound unnatural and contrived.

Among some of the old words that were replaced are terms in geometry, cardinal directions, names of some months and many nouns and adjectives. All these linguistic changes, including the revised Turkish alphabet, chiseled and shaped the language as it is known today. Today, Istanbul Turkish is the official language of the Turkis.

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