The Turkmen alphabet was first written in a modified form of the Arabic alphabet, until about 1930, when a Latin script was introducted. The Latin script was replaced in 1940 when all Turkic people in the Soviet Union were required to adopt the Cyrillic script. Finally, in 1995, the Täze Elipbiýi or New Alphabet, was formally introduced by former president Saparmurat Nyýazow to re-align Turkmenistan with the non-Soviet world. (Similar new alphabets have been introduced in Uzbekiztan and other republics.)
The New Alphabet is currently used for street signs and political slogans, but there is a severe deficit of other reading materials. Almost all Turkmen books in print use the Cyrillic alphabet, and despite the national-wide trainings that have taken place, and televised instructional programs, the New Alphabet has yet to gain popular acceptance. Nevertheless, the Latin alphabet is the official writing system of Turkmenistan, and for this reason, as well as the fact that the Latin alphabet seems better suited to the Turkmen language, this book will be teaching you Turkmen in the Latin alphabet. Having said that, though, for those interested, this page will also be showing the Cyrillic alphabet, too. It would certainly be worth taking a look at the comparison table at the bottom of the page, where sound clips of certain letters can also be found.
The thirty letters of the Latin Turkmen alphabet are as follows:
|A a||B b||Ç ç||D d||E e||Ä ä||F f||G g||H h||I i||J j||Ž ž|
|K k||L l||M m||N n||Ň ň||O o||Ö ö||P p||R r||S s||Ş ş||T t|
|U u||Ü ü||W w||Y y||Ý ý||Z z|
As well the thirty sounds of the Latin alphabet, the Turkmen version of the Cyrillic alphabet also has some more letters, among other differences:
|А а||Б б||В в||Г г||Д д||Е е||Ё ё||Ж ж||Җ җ||З з||И и||Й й||К к|
|Л л||М м||Н н||Ң ң||О о||Ө ө||П п||Р р||С с||Т т||У у||Үү||Фф|
|Х х||Ц ц||Ч ч||Ш ш||Щ щ||Ъ ъ||Ы ы||Ь ь||Э э||Ә ә||Ю ю||Я я|
- This letter is only used in Russian words
- NOTE: The Cyrillic alphabet in this table isn't shown in it's right order, and is only shown as such for comparative purposes. For the correct order, see the section named Cyrillic alphabet.
|Latin letter||Cyrillic equivalent||IPA Phonetic value||Phonetic value, in Layman's terms|
|A a||А а||[a]||a, as in father|
|B b||Б б||[b]||b|
|Ç ç||Ч ч||[ʧ]||ch|
|D d||Д д||[d]||d|
|E e||Е е||[je], [e]||e, like the "ea" in bread|
|Ä ä||Ә ә||[æ]||close to the "a" in "axe". Same as German.|
|F f||Ф ф||[ɸ]||f|
|G g||Г г||[g~ʁ]||when starting a word, voiced like the "g" in "go". Pronounced gutturally when within words.|
|H h||Х х||[h~x]||h|
|I i||И и||[i]||ee, as in see|
|J j||Җ җ||[ʤ]||j|
|Ž ž||Ж ж||[ʒ]||zh, as in pleasure or Doctor Zhivago|
|K k||К к||[k~q]||k|
|L l||Л л||[l]||l|
|M m||М м||[m]||m|
|N n||Н н||[n]||n|
|Ň ň||Ң ң||[ŋ]||ng, as in song|
|O o||О о||[o]||o|
|Ö ö||Ө ө||[ø]||no exact English equivalent. The same as the Germanic/Turkish Öö. Also the same as the "ö" in "Björk".|
|P p||П п||[p]||p|
|R r||Р р||[r]||r, pronounced with a trill, as in Russian or Spanish.|
|S s||С с||[θ]||s|
|Ş ş||Ш ш||[ʃ]||sh|
|T t||Т т||[t]||t|
|U u||У у||[u]||pronounced like the French "ou" sound; close to the "oo" in "ooze"|
|Ü ü||Ү ү||[y]||like u, but pronounced with rounded lips and higher in the throat|
|W w||В в||[β]||v|
|Y y||Ы ы||[ɯ]||no exact English equivalent, sort of like the second "e" in "legend. It is exactly the same as the Turkish "ı", and similar to the Russian "ы" It is recommended that you listen to the sound clip.|
|Ý ý||Й й||[j]||y, as in yes|
|Z z||З з||[ð]||z|
ÇEKIMLI SES YLALAŞYGY (SINGARMONIZM)
One very interesting feature of Turkmen is that all vowels can be divided into two groups, the front vowels (inçe çekimli sesler) and the back vowels (ýogyn çekimli sesler). Front vowels are pronounced higher in the throat and are more nasal, while back vowels are pronounced lower in the throat and are more guttural. The front vowels are ä, e, i, ö, and ü. The back vowels are a, y, o, and u. The "harmony" lies in the fact that all Turkmen words of Turkic origin are pronounced either entirely with front vowels, like kädi (pumpkin) or köwüş (shoe), or with back vowels, like doganlyk (brotherhood) or mugallym (teacher). Grammatical and verb suffixes also follow vowel harmony, being divided into two groups for front-vowel words and back-vowel words. For example, the front-vowel plural suffix -ler would be added to kädi to form the word for "pumpkins," whereas the back-vowel plural suffix -lar would be added to mugallym to produce "teachers." In short, front vowels go with front vowels and back vowels with back. Subsequent suffix appendices will more completely explain applications of this rule.
Turkmen has many Russian words, such as telewizor (television) and radio (radio), that have simply been incorporated into the language. These are spelled exactly according to the original Russian and often have both front and back vowels within one word. Such is true for the numerous Turkmen words of Persian and Arabic origin, such as kitap (book), dükan (shop), and serdar (leader). In these cases, consistent with the general rule for vowel harmony in Turkmen, the final vowel of the word determines the vowel harmony for suffixation.
Verbs in Turkmen adhere consistently to vowel harmony. All verbs belong to one of two groups determined by their infinitive forms: those ending in -mak, and those ending in -mek. The suffixes for all -mak verbs have only back vowels, whereas only front vowels will be found in the suffixes of -mek verbs. Examples of this will follow in the explanations of verb tenses.
Obviously everything covered in this page is extremely important and without it you can't learn Turkmen properly, so if you didn't get anything, it might be worth reading the page, again, just like you would with a normal book. If you feel that you understand everything, look at the following checklist and check whether you can check all of the points:
- I know the Latin Turkmen alphabet off by heart, in the right order.
- (Optional) I know the Cyrillic Turkmen alphabet off by heart, in the right order.
- I understand the concept of vowel harmony.
It is definitely worth doing this exercise, too, just to reinforce the information that you've just learned.