Turkish/Pronunciation and Alphabet/Consonant Classifications and Harmony

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Pronunciation and Alphabet
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Lenis (yumuşak, meaning soft) Fortis (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

Continuants f/v, ğ/h, j/ş, s/z have strict voicing distinction between fortis and lenis. Non-continuant distinction varies on the speaker: unaspirated/voiceless and strongly aspirated, voiced aspirated/voiceless aspirated.

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.

Consonant lenition (Yumuşama, meaning softening)[edit | edit source]

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

grammar rules • lenition
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.).

Words of Arabic or Persian origin undergo lenition if their original form ends with a soft consonant and has softened to become compatible with Turkish, regardless of syllable count. If you aren't a native Arabic or Persian speaker, you will have to memorize these exceptions as you learn them.

  • Sebep (from Arabic sabab) + -i -> Sebebi (Reason)
  • İnat (from Arabic 'inad) + -i -> İnadı (Stubbornness)
  • Girdap (from Persian girdab) + -i -> Girdabı (Vortex)
  • Hayat (from Arabic hayat) + -i -> Hayatı (Life)
  • Abdest (from Persian abdest) + -i -> Abdesti

Fortitive assimilation (sertleşme, hardening)[edit | edit source]

This rule is for suffixes starting with c, d, g being added to the words ending in fortis consonants. If a suffix starting with c, d or g is added to a word ending in one the fortis consonants (p, ç, t, k, f, h, s, ş), the initial word of the consonant is fortited 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 • fortition
c > ç d > t g > k
When a suffix beginning with c is added to a word ending in one of the fortis 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 fortis 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 fortis consonants, the initial g of the suffix becomes k (because g's corresponding unvoiced letter is k).
  • k + ginsıkkın

Ünlü Düşmesi (Vowel Obthesis)[edit | edit source]

This takes place when some 2-syllable words with a narrow vowel in the second syllable (ı, i, u or ü) takes a suffix starting with a vowel. If you are a native Arabic or Persian speaker, you may determine when this occurs based on a word's origin. Words ending in consonant clusters incompatible with Turkish get an epenthic vowel in Turkish, but this vowel is dropped when a suffix with a vowel is added. If you aren't a native Arabic or Persian speaker, you'll have to memorize them as you see them. Some native Turkish words also experience this, but this is not predictable, and must be memorized as you learn them.

  • Şehir (from Persian shehr) + -i -> Şehri (City)
  • Akıl (from Arabic aql) + -i -> Aklı (Mind)
  • Oğul (native Turkish vocabulary) + -i -> Oğlu (Son)

Compound verbs using etmek or olmak also undergo vowel obthesis.

  • Bahis (from Arabic bahs) + etmek -> Bahsetmek (to refer)
  • Fesih (from Arabic Fasih) + etmek -> Feshetmek (to dissolve)

Ünsüz Türemesi (Consonant Geminition)[edit | edit source]

This happens in words of Arabic origin ending with double/extended consonants. These consonants are reduced in Turkish to make them more compatible, but this reduction is reversed when a suffix starting with a vowel is added. Again, if you are not an Arabic speaker, you will have to memorize these examples as you learn them.

  • Af (form Arabic 'afv) + -i -> Affı (Forgiveness, Pardon)
  • Hak (from Arabic haqq) + -i -> Hakkı (Right)

The same also happens in compound verbs using etmek and olmak.

  • Hâl (from Arabic hall) + etmek -> Halletmek (to take care of something)

Some words undergo both consonant geminition, and consonant lenition simultananeously.

  • Tıp (from Arabic tibb) + -i -> Tıbbı (Medicine)
  • Ret (from Arabic redd) + etmek -> Reddetmek (to deny)

Ünlü Daralması (Vowel raise)[edit | edit source]

This action takes place when a verb ending with an "a" or an "e" has the suffix "-yor" (present continuous tense) added to it, making the "a" or "e" an "ı" or "i". The vowels that are raised will be shown in bold. Bekle + yor = Bekliyor (wait) Ağla + yor = Ağlıyor (cry) Sağla + yor = Sağlıyor (make possible)

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