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Elementary Turkish

Elementary Turkish

3.6 6
by Lewis Thomas, Norman Itzkowitz (Editor)

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Turkish is the primary language of some thirty million people. Anyone concerned with current social, political, and cultural developments in Turkey knows that a practical understanding of the basic patterns of modern Turkish is an invaluable skill that until now has been difficult to attain without extensive training.
This superb grammar and exercise text, used


Turkish is the primary language of some thirty million people. Anyone concerned with current social, political, and cultural developments in Turkey knows that a practical understanding of the basic patterns of modern Turkish is an invaluable skill that until now has been difficult to attain without extensive training.
This superb grammar and exercise text, used successfully for years in Princeton University, enables English-speaking students — in and out of the classroom — to gain a quick and thorough understanding of modern Turkish. In a carefully arranged sequence of 23 lessons, Lewis V. Thomas, late Professor of Oriental Studies at Princeton, presents thorough coverage that allows the student to begin to use the basic patterns of modern Turkish without time-consuming and expensive private instruction.
The method of instruction was devised after an extensive analysis of results in Princeton classrooms, and relies on exercises at the end of each lesson to test the student's grasp of the material. Beginning with the alphabet and numbers, Professor Thomas offers clear, concise coverage of articles, adjectives and nouns, common infinitives, personal pronouns, and elementary verbs. As the student's comprehension of basic elements develops, further lessons deal with more complicated subjects such as the possessive construction, past general verbs, postpositions, the partitive, progressive verb forms, and abbreviating verb forms. A complete Turkish-English glossary translates new vocabulary occurring in the exercises.
Norman Itzkowitz, Professor of Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University, has skillfully made the necessary revisions and additions to complete Professor Thomas' work. For anyone who needs to communicate in this important and influential language, Professor Thomas' proven course, now in an inexpensive paperback edition, is the most effective method available.

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Elementary Turkish

By Lewis V. Thomas, Norman Itzkowitz

Dover Publications, Inc.

Copyright © 1967 Norman Itzkowitz and Mrs. Ethel Thomas
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-486-12175-8


The Alphabet. 'Soft g.' Doubled Consonants.

The Circumflex Accent. Spelling.

Syllabification. Punctuation

I. The alphabet

The Turkish alphabet contains 29 letters. Q, w, and x do not occur. Six Turkish letters are unfamiliar to the American student's eye. They are the three consonants ç, g, and s, and the three vowels i, ö, and ü. The capital forms of these letters are ç, Ç, g, G, s, S, i, I, ö, Ö, and ü, Ü. Note that the capital form of i (called the 'undotted i') is I; that of i (the 'dotted i') is I.

In general, stress tends to be placed on the last syllable in a word.

2. 'Soft g'

G, g (yumusak ge 'soft g'). This letter never begins a word. When it immediately follows a back vowel, a vowel formed in the back of the mouth (a, i, o, u: see Lesson 4, section 4), its sound resembles the glide one hears between the words 'go on' or between the words 'go over' when either of these pairs of words is slurred (as in agaç 'tree'). When yumusak ge immediately follows a front vowel, a vowel formed in the front of the mouth (e, i, ö, ü: see Lesson 4), its sound is approximately that of y in 'yet' (as in diger 'other').

3. Doubled consonants

The sound of a doubled consonant is prolonged well beyond that of the same consonant when single.

elli fifty eli the hand (objective)

4. The circumflex accent

The circumflex accent (^) may stand over the vowels a, i, and u (â, î, û). It has two distinct functions.

a. Standing over the letter a which is preceded by g, k, or l (gâ, kâ, lâ), the circumflex indicates that a y sound is to be pronounced between the consonant and the following a. In the syllable lâ, the y sound is fainter than in the syllables and kâ.

gâvur heathen

kâr profit (compare kar 'snow')

lâle tulip

b. Except in the syllables gâ, kâ, and lâ, the circumflex indicates that the vowel sound is to be prolonged. This is the case in the many (originally Arabic) adjectives ending in î.

Samî Damascene (Sam 'Damascus')

Lübnanî Lebanese (Lübnan 'the Lebanon')

millî national

edebî literary

iktisadî economic, economical

Sometimes the circumflex is used to distinguish between two words which, without it, would be spelled and pronounced identically.

Ali proper name (of a man) âli lofty, sublime

Occasionally a word beginning with ga, ka, or la has a long vowel in the first syllable but does not have in that syllable the y sound which the use of a circumflex (gâ, kâ, lâ) would indicate. This may be shown by doubling the a, e.g. kaatil 'murderer.' Compare katil 'murder.'

5. Spelling

Turkish spelling is phonetic, the same letter always indicating the same sound. Words borrowed from other languages are frequently spelled out phonetically.

Note: Any sequence of vowel immediately followed by vowel is to be pronounced with a full stop between the two vowels. (The use of aa to indicate long a in a word like kaatil 'murderer' [see above, section 4b] is the sole exception to this rule.) Words containing the sequence vowel-vowel are always of non-Turkish origin. Some Turkish writers and presses use an apostrophe to show the full stop between the two vowels, but this is now very rare. The stop is always to be made, whether an apostrophe is used or not.

saat or sa'at hour, time: watch, clock

Sait or Sa'it proper name (of a man)

(For other uses of the apostrophe, see Lesson 4.)

6. Syllabification

Turkish admits six syllable patterns (V=vowel; C=consonant).

V o he, she, it;
that (demonstrative)
VC ak white
CV ve and
CVC dag mountain
VCC üst top
CVCC genç young

Each syllable begins with a single vowel or with a single consonant. Borrowed words which begin with two consonants may undergo one of two changes.

a. A vowel is inserted between the two initial consonants

kiral king

b. A vowel is prefixed to the first consonant.

ispirto spirits, alcohol

c. With some borrowings, however, this does not occur.

kredi credit

7. Punctuation

Turkey's authors, editors, and publishers have not yet standardized punctuation. The period and question mark are ordinarily used as they are in English. A comma often indicates the end of the subject. Direct quotations may be shown by single or double quotation marks, by continental quotation marks, by dashes, or even by parentheses. Frequently, only the beginning of a quotation is shown. Often, a quotation is not indicated at all.


A. Practice aloud.

B. Practice the following words aloud.

1. Counting

2. Pronouns

3. Demonstratives

4. Interrogatives

5. Proper Names

Note 1: Mehmet is the Turkish form of the Arabic name Muhammad. The full form (Muhammed) is used in Turkish only to indicate the prophet of Islam.

Note 2: In modern usage, Bay, placed before a man's full name, represents English 'Mr.'

Bay Mehmet Timuroglu Mr. Mehmet Timuroglu

For the names of women, Bayan indicates either 'Mrs.' or 'Miss.'

Bayan Selma Timuroglu Mrs. Selma Timuroglu (or) Miss Selma Timuroglu

In addition to this modern and official usage, there remains in everyday currency an older usage, dating from the time when Turks had not yet adopted last names. In this style of address, the word Bey placed after a man's given name represents English 'Mr.'

Mehmet Bey (Mr.) Mehmet

Ismail Hakki (Mr.) Ismail Hakki (ismail Hakki is a double given name, not a first and last name in the Western sense. Today this man might also appear as

Bey Bay I. H. Agaoglu.)

In the older usage the word Hamm placed after the given name (or names) represents English 'Mrs.' or 'Miss.'

Mihri Hamm Mrs. Mihri (or) Miss Mihri

Persons who continue to use the older forms regard them as being no less formal than the new forms.

6. Modifiers

7. Time

8. Family

9. The Body

10. The City

11. Eating

C. Practice saying the names of these Turkish cities and geographical features. Write them, dividing them into syllables.

1. Cities

2. Geographical Features


Cardinal Numbers. 'One Half.'

Kaç, Çok, and Az. Parça and Tane

1. Cardinal numbers

bir ev one house, a house
bir kere one time, one occurrence, once
bir defa one time, one occurrence, once
iki ev two houses, the two houses

Note: Turkish has no separate word for 'the' (the definite article). Hence every 'absolute' noun (i.e., the simple noun form with no suffix attached) may mean 'X' or 'the X.'

Cardinal numbers are followed by singular nouns.

The cardinal numbers are:

2. 'One half'

There are two common words for 'one half.'

yarim, used when no other number is mentioned in the expression

yarim kilo ½ kilogram
bes yüz gram 500 grams
yarim kilometre ½ kilometer
bes yüz metre 500 meters
yarim saat ½ hour
otuz dakika 30 minutes

buçuk, used with numerals

bir buçuk saat 1 ½ hours
on buçuk kilometre 10 ½ kilometers
iki buçuk kilo 2 ½ kilos

3. Kaç, çok, and az

Like the cardinal numbers, the 'counting words' kaç 'how much?' 'how many?' çok 'much,' 'many,' and az 'few, 'a little' are followed by singular nouns.

4. Parça and tane

These two 'counting words' are to be distinguished from each other:

parça 'piece' (one part, section, segment, etc., of a whole);

tane 'piece' (the meaningless pidgin English counting word 'piece' as in 'one piece man,' 'one piece house,' i.e., 'one man,' 'one house')

Tane may be used or omitted after the cardinal numbers.

kaç parça ekmek? how many pieces of bread? (For 'slice' use dilim.)

kaç tane ekmek? how many 'breads?' how many loaves of bread?

kaç ev? how many houses?

kaç tane ev? how many houses?

bes ev five houses

bes tane ev five houses

bes tane five (of whatever is being counted)


A. Count aloud to 100, from 100 to 200 by 5's, from 200 to 300 by 10's, from 300 to 500 by 20's.

B. Practice aloud. Translate.

1. Kaç kilo et?

2. ½ kilo kahve

3. az su

4. 1½ kilo seker

5. birkaç kere

6. birkaç kilo elma

7. 250 gram tereyag

8. 5 fincan çay

9. çok az limon

10. 12 tane portakal

11. 1½ saat

12. 30 cadde

13. 1½ lira

14. Kaç tane elma?

15. Kaç kurus?

16. 1½ elma

17. 60 saniye

18. 60 dakika

19. 24 saat

20. I gün

21. 7 gün

22. 4 hafta

23. 12 ay

24. 365 gün

25. 100 yil

26. 2 agaç

27. 3 ogul

28. Kaç kilo seker?

29. ½ kilo seker

30. 100 defa

31. Kaç para?

32. az para

33. Kaç tane limon?

34. çok elma

35. 1 bas

36. 2 el

37. 2 ayak

38. 2 göz

39. çok az limon

40. 2 bardak su

41. az su

42. biraz süt

43. çok az süt

44. 10,000 kilometre

45. 8 gazete

46. ½ bardak su

47. 7 ½ saat

48. 2dilim ekmek

49. 3 kasik seker

50. 3 tane ekmek

C. Write in Turkish. Practice aloud. Spell out all numbers.

1. one half kilo of tea

2. three kilos of sugar

3. two hundred grams of meat

4. a slice of bread

5. two cups of coffee

6. eight apples

7. How many houses?

8. two minarets

9. one mosque

10. three years

11. four days

12. two weeks

13. six months

14. much milk

15. a little water

16. two loaves of bread

17. two slices of bread

18. very little sugar

19. many trees

20. three rivers

21. seventy-seven lakes

22. three cities

23. sixty-four boys

24. one hundred children

25. one eye

26. two eyes

27. two feet

28. thirty-two teeth

29. one head

30. five hundred and fifty-five days

31. fifteen years

32. twelve girls

33. nineteen times

34. sixteen gardens

35. thirty-five nights

36. thirty-six days

37. fifty-seven and a half grams

38. one hundred liras

39. two and a half liras

40. two thousand kilowatts

41. many mosques

42. How many mosques?

43. a good many streets

44. much water

45. little water

46. How many glasses of water?

47. a little water

48. four times

49. much fruit

50. many apples


Position of Adjectives. Indefinite Article with Adjectives. Predicate Modifiers

1. Position of adjectives

büyük kiz (the) big girl

küçük kiz (the) little girl

genç adam (the) young man

yasli kadin (the) old woman (yasli 'old,' of humans; otherwise use eski)

When an adjective precedes a noun, it modifies that noun, as in English.

2. Indefinite article with adjectives

bir köpek a dog; one dog
bir gün a day; one day
bir elma an apple; one apple
bir bardak su a glass of water; one glass of water
büyük bir kiz a big girl
küçük bir kiz a little girl
çok küçük bir kiz a very little girl
iki çok küçük kiz two very little girls
küçük güzel kiz (the) little, pretty girl
küçük güzel bir kiz a little, pretty girl
küçük ve güzel bir kiz a little and pretty girl

The word bir serves as the number 'one' and as the indefinite article 'a,' 'an.' When the indefinite article and one or more other adjectives modify one noun, Turkish reverses the English order. The adjective or adjectives come first, and the indefinite article immediately precedes the noun. When the word bir means 'one,' however, it precedes the adjective (or adjectives), as in English, e.g., büyük bir kiz 'a big girl,' bir büyük kiz 'one big girl.'

Note 1: Turkish sometimes uses bir with a plural noun. (See Lesson 4, section 5.)

Note 2: Bir may be omitted from a Turkish sentence in which the English would require the indefinite article. (See Lesson 14, section 1.)

3. Predicate modifiers

O kiz uzun.
That girl is tall.
Bu kiz kisa.
This girl is short.
Küçük kiz güzel.
The little girl is pretty.
Güzel kiz küçük.
The pretty girl is little.
Bu küçük kiz çok güzel.
This little girl is very pretty.
Bu çok küçük kiz güzel.
This very small girl is beautiful.
Bu kiz çok küçük ve çok güzel. This girl is very tiny and very pretty.
Bir kiz uzun, bir kiz kisa.
One girl is tall, (and) one girl is short.
Bu çay çok iyi.
This tea is very good.
Güzel kiz uzun, diger kiz kisa. The pretty girl is tall; the other girl is short.
Bu iyi.
This is good.

In speech (and to a lesser degree in the formal written language), the third person forms, singular and plural, present tense of the Turkish verb 'to be' are not expressed. Hence a Turkish adjective in the predicate position (i.e., following the noun it modifies) expresses a complete sentence, e.g., O kiz uzun 'That girl (is) tall.'


A. Practice aloud. Translate.

1. güzel bir anne

2. O anne güzel.

3. Çocuk çok uzun.

4. çok uzun bir çocuk

5. genç bir kiz

6. Bir kiz genç.

7. Genç kiz küçük.

8. Bu genç kiz çok küçük.

9. Bu iki kadin iyi.

10. on iki iyi kadin

11. Bu çok küçük.

12. iki yasli kadin

13. Iki kadin yasli.

14. Iki yasli kadin kisa.

15. Baba iyi.

16. bir iyi baba

17. iki iyi baba

18. Iki baba iyi.

19. Kaç tane baba?

20. Kaç gün?

21. Kaç tane elma?

22. iyi bir gün

23. Bugün iyi.

24. Bu, iyi bir gün.

25. büyük otomobil

26. iki büyük otomobil

27. Iki otomobil büyük.

28. Bu, küçük bir otomobil.

29. Bir otomobil yeni, diger otomobil eski.

30. Büyük otomobil yeni.

31. Diger otomobil çok eski.

32. Bu, çok eski.

33. Bu seker iyi.

34. biraz seker

35. O göl çok büyük.

36. iki güzel göl

37. Iki göl güzel.

38. az para

39. Bu para çok az.

40. biraz para

41. üç fincan kahve

42. üç kahve

43. üç tane kahve

44. birçok fincan

45. birçok fincan çay

46. Kaç para?

47. otuz bes lira on bes kuru?

48. bes eski ev

49. Bes ev eski.

50. Bu çok eski.


Excerpted from Elementary Turkish by Lewis V. Thomas, Norman Itzkowitz. Copyright © 1967 Norman Itzkowitz and Mrs. Ethel Thomas. Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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