Turkish/Pronunciation and Alphabet/Consonant Classifications and Harmony

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Pronunciation and Alphabet
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Voiced (yumuşak, meaning soft) Voiceless (sert, meaning hard)
Continuant (Sürekli) Non-continuant (Süreksiz)
b, c, d, g, ğ, j, l, m, n, r, v, y, z f, h, s, ş p, ç, t, k

The table above shows the consonant classifications in Turkish. You don't have to learn these by heart. But you have to know consonant harmony rules below. Voicing rules are a bit problematic, there are a lot of exceptions and irregular words, but devoicing rules has no exceptions.

Voicing (Yumuşama, meaning softening)[edit]

This rule is for words ending in non-continuant voiceless consonants (süreksiz sert ünsüzler, "p, ç, t, k"). When these words take a suffix starting with a vowel, last consonants of these words become voiced (yumuşak, soft "b, c, d, g, ğ"). And this process is named voicing in English and yumuşama (softening) in Turkish. The table below shows the rule for voicing.

grammar rules • voicing
p > b[1] ç > c t > d[1] k > g k > ğ

When words ending in p take a suffix starting with a vowel, the last consonant p of the word becomes b, making its pronunciation easier.

  • cep + ecebe
  • p + ipü[2]
  • kitap + ikitabı[3]

When words ending in ç take a suffix starting with a vowel, the last consonant ç of the word becomes c, making its pronunciation easier.

  • ağaç + eağaca
  • sonuç + insonucun
  • iç + iiçi[2]

When words ending in t take a suffix starting with a vowel, the last consonant t of the word becomes d, making its pronunciation easier.

  • git + –(i)yorgidiyor
  • kağıt + inkağıdın
  • tat + itadı

When words ending in a consonant and k take a suffix starting with a vowel, the last consonant k of the word becomes g, making its pronunciation easier.

  • denk + idengi
  • renk + irengi

When words ending in a vowel and k take a suffix starting with a vowel, the last consonant k of the word becomes ğ, making its pronunciation easier.

  • elektrik + inelektriğin
  • çok + içoğu
  • ak + iakı[2]
  • ışık + inışığın

Good news: There are many exceptions for p>b, ç>c, t>d rules (especially for p>b and t>d) but k>g and k>ğ rules are generally followed, only most of the monosyllabic words and some polysyllabic borrowings are irregular.

Notes
  1. a b There are many irregular words for this rule. Because most of the Turkish words ending in t and p are of Arabic or Persian origin and irregular (some resources claim that sometimes these words may be regular, see the note below for its explanation). Some of the remaining words of Turkish origin are irregular, too (yapıt, kanıt, taşıt etc.). There are monosyllabic Turkish words ending in p, but monosyllabic words occasionally follow the rule, so there're very few regular words ending in t and p.
  2. a b c Most of the monosyllabic words (words consisting of only one syllable, e.g. ok, küp etc.) don't follow this rule. Actually, voicing of a monosyllabic word is an exception. Voicing is very rare in monosyllabic words.
  3. Words of foreign origin don't follow p > b, ç > c or t > d rules and sometimes k > g/ğ rule (examples for these words are olimpiyat, saat etc.). You can encounter some words of foreign origin that follow this rule. An example for this is kitap, which is an Arabic word. Actually this word is not kitap in Arabic, it is kitab. But b becomes p because of the rules of the Turkish language, and it reappears before a vowel. Explanation for this: In modern Turkish, words cannot end in voiced plosive consonants (b, c, d, g). Words ending in these letters became voiceless in Modern Turkish. b, c, d or g becomes p, ç, t or k at the end of the borrowings, but reappears before a vowel. There are some borrowings ending in g, they are exceptions (biyolog, meteorolog etc.).
  • You don't have to learn these irregular words for now. You will learn as you encounter them.

Devoicing / Assimilation (sertleşme, hardening)[edit]

This rule is for suffixes starting with c, d, g being added to the words ending in voiceless consonants. If a suffix starting with c, d or g is added to a word ending in one the voiceless consonants (p, ç, t, k, f, h, s, ş), the initial word of the consonant is unvoiced to ç, t or k. You know that vowels in suffixes can change according to the vowel harmony rules. Consonants can change in suffixes, too. These changeable letters are shown red, and their b, c, d, g versions are written in this book (dir, di, etc. instead of –tır, –tı which are also possible forms of these suffixes).

grammar rules • devoicing
c > ç d > t g > k
When a suffix beginning with c is added to a word ending in one of the voiceless consonants, the initial c of the suffix becomes ç (because c's corresponding unvoiced letter is ç).
  • kitap + cikitapçı
  • iş + ciçi
When a suffix beginning with d is added to a word ending in one of the voiceless consonants, the initial d of the suffix becomes t (because d's corresponding unvoiced letter is t).
  • market + demarkette
  • iş + dete
When a suffix beginning with g is added to a word ending in one of the voiceless consonants, the initial g of the suffix becomes k (because g's corresponding unvoiced letter is k).
  • k + ginsıkkın
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