Turkish language, member of the Turkic subdivision of the Altaic subfamily of the Ural-Altaic family of languages (see Uralic and Altaic languages). Turkish is the official language of Turkey and one of the official languages of Cyprus. It is spoken by about 55 million people in Turkey and another million in Bulgaria, Greece, Cyprus, and Macedonia. The speech of educated people in İstanbul is the standard form of the language. Like the other Uralic and Altaic languages, Turkish is characterized by vowel harmony and agglutination. Thus suffixes added to the stem of the verb may indicate passive, reflexive, causative, and other meanings. Postpositions are used instead of prepositions. Both the definite article and grammatical gender are lacking. Turkish was written in the Arabic script following the conversion of the Turks to Islam, but in 1928 the Turkish president, Kemal Atatürk, ordered a change to a modified version of the Roman alphabet. The reform was designed to introduce an alphabet better suited to Turkish than the Arabic script and also to lessen the hold of Islam on Turkey. In the 1930s the Turks attempted to purify their language by eliminating words of foreign, especially Persian and Arabic, origin and to simplify the literary style of the language, making it more similar to colloquial Turkish.
See U. Heyd, Language Reform in Modern Turkey (1954); G. L. Lewis, Turkish Grammar (1967); H. I. Sebüktekin, Turkish-English Contrastive Analysis (1971); E. E. Erguvanli, The Function of Word Order in Turkish Grammar (1984).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.