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Ottoman History
Ottoman History

Ottoman Turkish language

Ottoman Turkish /ˈɒtəmən/, or the Ottoman language (لسان عثمانى‎‎Lisân-ı Osmânî) (also known as تركجه‎ Türkçe or تركی‎ Türkî, "Turkish"), is the variety of the Turkish language that was used in the Ottoman Empire. It borrows, in all aspects, extensively from Arabic and Persian, and it was written in the Ottoman Turkish alphabet. During the peak of Ottoman power, Persian and Arabic vocabulary accounted for up to 88% of its vocabulary,[2] while words of Arabic origins heavily outnumbered native Turkish words.[3]
Consequently, Ottoman Turkish was largely unintelligible to the less-educated lower-class and rural Turks, who continued to use kaba Türkçe("raw Turkish"), which used far fewer foreign loanwords and is the basis of the modern Turkish language.[4] The Tanzimât era saw the application of the term "Ottoman" when referring to the language (لسان عثمانی‎ lisân-ı Osmânî or عثمانليجه‎ Osmanlıca) and the same distinction is made in Modern Turkish (Osmanlıca and Osmanlı Türkçesi).
• Nominative case: كول‎ göl ("the lake", "a lake"), چوربه‎ çorba ("Chorba"), گجه‎gece ("night").[5]
• Accusative case (indefinite): طاوشان گترمش‎ ṭavşan getirmiş ("he brought a rabbit").
• Genitive case: answers the question كمڭ‎ kimiñ ("whose?"), formed with the suffix ڭ‎ –ıñ, –iñ, –uñ, –üñ. E.g. پاشانڭ‎ paşanıñ ("the pasha's") from پاشا‎ paşa("pasha").
• Accusative case (definite): answers the question كمى‎ kimi ("whom?") and نه يى‎neyi ("what?"), formed with the suffix ى‎ –ı, -i: طاوشانى گترمش‎ ṭavşanı getürmiş("he brought the rabbit"). The variant suffix –u, –ü does not occur in Ottoman Turkish unlike in Modern Turkish because of the lack of labialvowel harmony. Thus, كولى‎ göli ("the lake".ACC), but Modern Turkish hasgölü.
• Locative case: answers the question نره ده‎ nerede ("where?"), formed with the suffix ده‎ –de, –da: مكتبده‎ mektebde ("at school"), قفصده‎ ḳafeṣde ("in a cage"), باشده‎ başda ("at the start"), شهرده‎ şehirde ("in town"). As with the indefinite accusative case, the variant suffix –te, –ta does not occur unlike in Modern Turkish.
• Ablative case: answers the questions نره دن‎ nereden ("from where?") and ندن‎ neden ("why?").
• Instrumental case: answers the question نه ايله‎ ne ile ("with what?").
The conjugation for the aorist tense is as follows:
Person Singular Plural
1 -irim -iriz
2 -irsiŋ -irsiŋiz
3 -ir -irler
Ottoman Turkish was highly influenced by Persian and Arabic. Arabic and Persian words in the language amounted for up to 88% of its vocabulary.[2] As in most other Turkic and other foreign languages of Islamic communities, the Arabicborrowings were not originally the result of a direct exposure of Ottoman Turkish to Arabic, a fact that is evidenced by the typically Persian phonological mutation of the words of Arabic origin.[6][7][8]
The conservation of archaic phonological features of the Arabic borrowings furthermore suggests that Arabic-incorporated Persian was absorbed into pre-Ottoman Turkic at an early stage, when the speakers were still located to the northeast of Persia, prior to the westward migration of the Islamic Turkic tribes. An additional argument for this is that Ottoman Turkish shares the Persian character of its Arabic borrowings with other Turkic languages that had even less interaction with Arabic, such as Tatar and Uyghur. From the early ages of the Ottoman Empire, borrowings from Arabic and Persian were so abundant that original Turkish words were hard to find.[9] In Ottoman, one may find whole passages in Arabic and Persian incorporated into the text.[9] It was however not only extensive loaning of words, but along with them much of the grammatical systems of Persian and Arabic.[9]
In a social and pragmatic sense, there were (at least) three variants of Ottoman Turkish:
• Fasih Türkçe (Eloquent Turkish): the language of poetry and administration, Ottoman Turkish in its strict sense;
• Orta Türkçe (Middle Turkish): the language of higher classes and trade;
• Kaba Türkçe (Rough Turkish): the language of lower classes.
A person would use each of the varieties above for different purposes, with the fasih variant being the most heavily suffused with Arabic and Persian words and kaba the least. For example, a scribe would use the Arabic asel (عسل) to refer to honey when writing a document but would use the native Turkish word bal when buying it.
Historically, Ottoman Turkish was transformed in three eras:
• Eski Osmanlı Türkçesi (Old Ottoman Turkish): the version of Ottoman Turkish used until the 16th century. It was almost identical with the Turkish used by Seljuks[clarification needed] and Anatolian beyliks and was often regarded as part of Eski Anadolu Türkçesi (Old Anatolian Turkish).
• Orta Osmanlı Türkçesi (Middle Ottoman Turkish) or Klasik Osmanlıca (Classical Ottoman Turkish): the language of poetry and administration from the 16th century until Tanzimat. It is the version of Ottoman Turkish that comes to most people's minds.
• Yeni Osmanlı Türkçesi (New Ottoman Turkish): the version shaped from the 1850s to the 20th century under the influence of journalism and Western-oriented literature.
Language reform
For more details on this topic, see Turkish language.
In 1928, following the fall of the Ottoman Empire after World War I and the establishment of Republic of Turkey, widespread language reforms (a part in the greater framework of Atatürk's Reforms) instituted by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk saw the replacement of many Persian and Arabic origin loanwords in the language with their Turkish equivalents. It also saw the replacement of the Perso-Arabic script with the extended Latin alphabet. The changes were meant to encourage the growth of a new variety of written Turkish that more closely reflected the spoken vernacular and to foster a new variety of spoken Turkish that Turkey's new national identity as being a post-Ottoman state.
See the list of replaced loanwords in Turkish for more examples on Ottoman Turkish words and their modern Turkish counterparts. Two examples of Arabic and two of Persian loanwords are found below.
Ottoman Modern Turkish

obligatory واجب vâcib zorunlu
hardship مشكل müşkül güçlük
city شهر şehir şehir il IL
war حرب harb savaş
Historically speaking, Ottoman Turkish is not the predecessor of modern Turkish. Rather, the standard Turkish of today is essentially Türkiye Türkçesi (Turkish of Turkey) as written in the Latin alphabet and with an abundance ofneologisms added, which means there are now far fewer loan words from other languages. However, Ottoman was not instantly transformed into the Turkish of today. At first, it was only the script that was changed (many households, however, continued to use the Arabic system in private), but then, loan words were taken out, and new words fitting the growing amount of technology were introduced. Until the 1960s, Ottoman Turkish was at least partially intelligible with the Turkish of that day. One major difference between modern Turkish and Ottoman Turkish is the former's abandonment of compound word formation according to Arabic and Persian grammar rules. The usage of such phrases still exists in modern Turkish but only to a very limited extent and usually in specialist contexts; for example, the Persiangenitive construction takdîr-i ilâhî (which reads literally as "the preordaining of the divine" and translates as "divine dispensation" or "destiny") is used, as opposed to the normative modern Turkish construction, ilâhî takdîr (literally, "divine preordaining").
Writing system
Main article: Ottoman Turkish alphabet

Calendar in Thessaloniki1896, a cosmopolitan city; the first three lines in Ottoman script
Most Ottoman Turkish was written in the Ottoman Turkish alphabet (elifbâ الفبا), a variant of the Perso-Arabic script. The Armenian, Greek and Rashi script of Hebrewwere sometimes used by Armenians, Greeks and Jews.
1 بر bir
2 ایكی iki
3 اوچ üç
4 درت dört
5 بش beş
6 آلتی altı
7 یدی yedi
8 سكز sekiz
9 طقوز dokuz
10 اون on
11 اون بر on bir
12 اون ایکی on iki
The transliteration system of the İslâm Ansiklopedisi has become a de facto standard in Oriental studies for the transliteration of Ottoman Turkish texts.[11] Concerning transcription the New Redhouse, Karl Steuerwald and Ferit Develioğlu dictionaries have become standard.[12] Another transliteration system is the Deutsche Morgenländische Gesellschaft (DMG), which provides a transliteration system for any Turkic language written in Arabic script.[13] There are not many differences between the İA and the DMG transliteration systems.

ا‎ ب‎ پ‎ ت‎ ث‎ ج‎ چ‎ ح‎ خ‎ د‎ ذ‎ ر‎ ز‎ ژ‎ س‎ ش‎ ص‎ ض‎ ط‎ ظ‎ ع‎ غ‎ ف‎ ق‎ ك‎ گ‎ ڭ‎ ل‎ م‎ ن‎ و‎ ه‎ ی‎
ʾ a b p t s̱ c ç ḥ ḫ d ẕ r z j s ş ṣ ż ṭ ẓ ʿ ġ f q k g ñ ğ g ñ l m n v h y
Ottoman Turkish alphabet
The Ottoman Turkish alphabet (Ottoman Turkish: الفبا‎ elifbâ) is a version of the Perso-Arabic alphabet used to write Ottoman Turkish until 1928, when it was replaced by the Latin-based modern Turkish alphabet.
Though Ottoman Turkish was primarily written in this script, non-Muslim Ottoman subjects sometimes wrote it in other scripts, including theArmenian, Greek, Latin and Hebrew alphabets.
The earliest known Turkic alphabet is the Orkhon script. The variousTurkic languages have been written in a number of different alphabets, including Cyrillic, Arabic, Greek, Latin, and some other Asiatic writing systems.
The Ottoman Turkish alphabet is a Turkish form of the Perso-Arabic script. Well suited to writing Arabic and Persian borrowings, it was poorly suited to native Turkish words. When it came to consonants, Arabic has several consonants that do not exist in Turkish (or Persian), making several Arabic letters superfluous except for Arabic loanwords; conversely, a few letters had to be invented to write letters in Persian and Turkish that Arabic did not have (such as gor p). In the case of vowels, Turkish contains eight different short vowels and no long ones, whereas Arabic (and Persian) have three short and three long vowels; further complicating matters was that in the Arabic script, only long vowels are usually expressed, making the Arabic script poorly suited for writing Turkish. The Arabic script had been designed to write Arabic, and while it was serviceable for Persian, it is quite inadequate at representing Turkish phonemes, especially the vowels.[citation needed] Still, Turkic languages such as Azerbaijani and Uzbek continue to be written using Arabic script in Iran, Afghanistan, and Iraq.
The introduction of the telegraph and the printing press in the 19th century exposed further weaknesses in the Arabic script.[1]

A calendar page for November 1, 1895 (October 20 OS) in cosmopolitan Thessaloniki. The first 3 lines in Ottoman Turkish Arabic script give the date in theRumi, 20 Teşrin-i Evvel 1311, andIslamic, 14 Jumādā al-Ūlā 1313, calendars; the Julian and Gregorian (in French) dates appear below.
Some Turkish reformers promoted the Latin script well before Atatürk's reforms. In 1862, during an earlier period of reform, the statesman Münuf Pasha advocated a reform of the alphabet. At the start of the 20th century, similar proposals were made by several writers associated with the Young Turk movement, including Hüseyin Cahit, Abdullah Cevdet and Celâl Nuri.[1]
The issue was raised again in 1923 during the İzmir Economic Congress of the newTurkish Republic, sparking a public debate that was to continue for several years. A move away from the Arabic script was strongly opposed by conservative and religious elements. It was argued that Romanization of the script would detach Turkey from the wider Islamic world, substituting a foreign (European) concept of national identity for the confessional community.
Others opposed Romanization on practical grounds, as was no suitable adaptation of the Latin script that could be used for Turkish phonemes. Some suggested that a better alternative might be to modify the Arabic script to introduce extra characters for better representing Turkish vowels.[2]
In 1926, the Turkic republics of the Soviet Union adopted the Latin script, giving a major boost to reformers in Turkey.[1]

Atatürk introducing the new Turkish alphabet to the people of Kayseri, September 20, 1928
Ottoman Turkish script was replaced by theLatin-based new Turkish alphabet. Its use became compulsory in all public communications in 1929.[3][4] The change was formalized by the Law on the Adoption and Implementation of the Turkish Alphabet,[5] passed on November 1, 1928, and effective on January 1, 1929.[6]
As with Arabic and Persian, texts in the Ottoman Turkish alphabet are written right to left. The appearance of a letter changes depending on its position in a word:
• isolated (in a one-letter word);
• final (in which case it is joined on the right to the preceding letter);
• medial (joined on both sides); and
• initial (joined on the left to the following letter).
Some letters cannot be joined to the left and so do not possess separate medial and initial forms. In medial position, the final form is used. In initial position, the isolated form is used.
Isolated Final Medial Initial Name Modern Turkish

ا‎ ـا‎ — elif a, e —, ā, ' æ, e, —, (ʔ)

ء‎ — hemze —, ' —, ' —, (ʔ)

ب‎ ـب‎ ـبـ‎ بـ‎ be b (p) b b (p)

پ‎ ـپ‎ ـپـ‎ پـ‎ pe p p p

ت‎ ـت‎ ـتـ‎ تـ‎ te t t t

ث‎ ـث‎ ـثـ‎ ثـ‎ se s s s

ج‎ ـج‎ ـجـ‎ جـ‎ cim c c d͡ʒ

چ‎ ـچ‎ ـچـ‎ چـ‎ çim ç ç t͡ʃ

ح‎ ـح‎ ـحـ‎ حـ‎ ha h ḥ h

خ‎ ـخ‎ ـخـ‎ خـ‎ hı h ḫ h

د‎ ـد‎ — dal d d d

ذ‎ ـذ‎ — zel z z z

ر‎ ـر‎ — re r r ɾ

ز‎ ـز‎ — ze z z z

ژ‎ ـژ‎ — je j j ʒ

س‎ ـس‎ ـسـ‎ سـ‎ sin s s s

ش‎ ـش‎ ـشـ‎ شـ‎ şın ş ș ʃ

ص‎ ـص‎ ـصـ‎ صـ‎ sad s ṣ s

ض‎ ـض‎ ـضـ‎ ضـ‎ dad d, z ż z (d)

ط‎ ـط‎ ـطـ‎ طـ‎ tı t ṭ t d

ظ‎ ـظ‎ ـظـ‎ ظـ‎ zı z ẓ z

ع‎ ـع‎ ـعـ‎ عـ‎ ayn ', — ‘ —, ʔ

غ‎ ـغ‎ ـغـ‎ غـ‎ gayn g, ğ, v ġ ɡ, ɣ, v, ː

ف‎ ـف‎ ـفـ‎ فـ‎ fe f f f

ق‎ ـق‎ ـقـ‎ قـ‎ kaf k ḳ k

ك‎ ـك‎ ـكـ‎ كـ‎ kef k, g, ğ, n, y k k, g, n, (j), —

گ‎ ـگ‎ ـگـ‎ گـ‎ gef (1) g, ğ g ɡ, —

ڭ‎ ـڭ‎ ـڭـ‎ ڭـ‎ nef, sağır kef (1) n ñ ŋ

ل‎ ـل‎ ـلـ‎ لـ‎ lam l l l

م‎ ـم‎ ـمـ‎ مـ‎ mim m m m

ن‎ ـن‎ ـنـ‎ نـ‎ nun n n n

و‎ ـو‎ — vav v, o, ö, u, ü v, ū, aw, avv, ūv v, o, œ, u, y

ه‎ ـه‎ ـهـ‎ هـ‎ he h, e, a h (2) h, æ, e, (t)

ی‎ ـی‎ ـیـ‎ یـ‎ ye y, ı, i y, ī, ay, á, īy j, ɯ, i

In most texts, kef, gef, and sağır kef are written identically[8] although one Ottoman variant of gef has a "mini-kaf" of ﻙ as well as the doubled upper stroke of گ.
1. The Library of Congress recommends for he (هـ‎) in a word in the construct state to be romanised t and when a word ending in he is used adverbially, it should be romanised tan.
Sound–letter correspondence
The orthography of Ottoman Turkish is complex, as many Turkish sounds can be written with several different letters. For example, the phoneme /s/ can be written as ⟨ث⟩, ⟨س⟩, or ⟨ص⟩. Conversely, some letters have more than one value: ⟨ك⟩ k may be /k/, /g/, /n/, /j/, or /ː/ (lengthening the preceding vowel; modern ğ), and vowels are written ambiguously or not at all. For example, the text ⟨كورك⟩ kwrk can be read as /gevrek/ 'biscuit', /kyrk/ 'fur', /kyrek/ 'shovel', /kœryk/ 'bellows', /gœrek/ 'view', which in modern orthography are written gevrek, kürk, kürek, körük, görek.[8][9]
Arabic and Persian borrowings are written in their original orthography: saːbit 'firm' is written as ⟨ثابت⟩ s̱’bt, with ⟨ث⟩ s̱representing /s/ (in Arabic /θ/), and ⟨ا⟩ ’ representing /aː/ as in Arabic but with no indication of the short /i/. The letters ث ح ذ ض ظ ع are found only in borrowings from Arabic; ژ is only in borrowings from Persian and French. Although theArabic vowel points (harakat) can be used ⟨ثَابِت⟩ s̱a’bit, they are generally found only in dictionaries and didactic works, as in Arabic and Persian,[8] and they still do not identify vowel sounds unambiguously.
Consonant letters are classified in three series, based on vowel harmony: soft, hard, and neutral. The soft consonant letters, ت س ك گ ه, are found in front vowel contexts; the hard, ح خ ص ض ط ظ ع غ ق, in back vowel contexts; and the neutral, ب پ ث ج چ د ذ ر ز ژ ش ف ل م ن, in either. In Perso-Arabic borrowings, the vowel used in Turkish depends on the softness of the consonant. Thus, ⟨كلب⟩ klb 'dog' (Arabic /kalb/) is /kelb/, while ⟨قلب⟩ ḳlb 'heart' (Arabic /qalb/) is /kalb/. Conversely, in Turkish words, the choice of consonant reflects the native vowel.[8]
Phoneme /t/ /d/ /s/ /z/ /k/, /g/ /h/
Soft (front) ت س ك گ ه
Hard (back) ط ط ض ص ض ظ غ ق ح خ
Neutral د ث ذ ز
(All other sounds are only written with neutral consonant letters.)
In Turkish words, vowels are sometimes written using the vowel letters as the second letter of a syllable: elif ⟨ا⟩ for /a/;ye ⟨ی⟩ for /i/, /ɯ/; vav ⟨و⟩ for /o/, /œ/, /u/, /y/; he ⟨ه⟩ for /a/, /e/. The corresponding harakat are there: ustun ⟨َ○⟩ (Arabicfatḥah) for /a/, /e/; esre ⟨ِ○⟩ (Arabic kasrah) for /ɯ/, /i/; ötre ⟨ُ○⟩ (Arabic ḍammah) for /o/, /œ/, /u/, /y/. The names of theharakat are also used for the corresponding vowels.[8]
Name Arabic name Point Letter Front reading Back reading
ustun fatḥah
َ○ ا elif
ه he /e/ /a/
esre kasrah
ِ○ ی ye /i/ /ɯ/
ötre ḍammah
ُ○ و vav /œ/, /y/ /o/, /u/
Other scripts
Other scripts were sometimes used by non-Muslims to write Ottoman Turkish since the Arabic alphabet was identified with Islam.
The first novel to be written in the Ottoman Empire was Akabi (1851), which was written in the Armenian script by Vartan Pasha. Similarly, when the Armenian Duzian family managed the Ottoman mint during the reign of Sultan Abdülmecid I(r. 1839–61), they kept records in Ottoman Turkish but used the Armenian script.[10]
The Greek alphabet and the Rashi script of Hebrew were used by Greeks and Jews for Ottoman. Greek-speaking Muslims would write Greek using the Ottoman Turkish script.
Ottoman Turkish used Eastern Arabic numerals. The following is the list of basic cardinal numerals with the spelling in the modern Turkish alphabet:
Arabic form Number Ottoman Turkish[11]
Modern Turkish
٠‎ 0 صفر sıfır
۱‎ 1 بر bir
۲‎ 2 ایكی iki
٣‎ 3 اوچ üç
٤‎ 4 درت dört
۵‎ 5 بش beş
٦‎ 6 آلتی altı
٧‎ 7 یدی yedi
٨‎ 8 سكز sekiz
٩‎ 9 طقوز dokuz
۱٠‎ 10 اون on


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