Turkmen/Lesson One

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What is your name?

Salam, or hello, and welcome to your first official class! OK, so I bet that now you really want to learn Turkmen, right? Well then, let's start off with our names!

Throughout this lesson we will be analysing part of a conversation between a Turkmen man called Murat and a Turkmen woman called Bahargül. Let's begin...

Siziň adyňyz näme?

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"Siziň adyňyz näme?" or "What is your name?" is, for obvious reasons, a very important phrase to learn. The phrase literally translates word-by-word as Your name what?. The word näme simply means "what", and like other Turkmen question words, it always goes to the end of the sentence.

Read the conversation between Murat and Bahargül below:

Murat: Salam!
Bahargül: Salam.
Murat: Siziň adyňyz näme?
Bahargül: Meniň adym Bahargül. Siziň adyňyz näme?
Murat: Meniň adym Murat.

Although there might not be words in there that you understand, it should be pretty obvious what each sentence means, considering that you already know how to say salam and siziň adyňyz näme?, and that you know their names, too. Before you can read the translation for this conversation, first let's look at some important grammatical points.


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Like Russian or German, Turkic languages have a system of grammatical cases. Cases are defined by changes that occur to a word when it is placed in different grammatical context. English has cases for personal pronouns. For example: "I see him", "He sees me". Not "Me sees he", "Him sees I". Turkmen, however, has six cases, and these cases are used for all words, not just personal pronouns. The six Turkmen cases are: the nominative, used for the subject of the sentence; the genitive, similar to English possessives; the dative, used to show directed action; the accusative, which is similar to the English "direct object"; the locative, which shows locality; and the instrumental, which is used to show origin.

While six cases might seem a bit overwhelming at first, it should be noted that the case suffixes simply replace our English prepositions such as "from," "at," "with," "in," "on," and "to". Also, the rules for their use are remarkably simple and inflexible, unlike those of the Russian cases.

In the case of the conversation that we were looking at, cases were used with personal pronouns (e.g. Siziň). These follow fairly straightforwardly from the regular case endings. For now, though, we will only be learning the nominative and genitive cases. As you can see, its all fairly straightforward, except for ol which changes to on- in every non-nominative case. To make a pronoun genitive, simply add -iň or -yň, depending on the pronoun's vowel harmony.

Case I you (singular informal) he/she/it we you (plural or formal) they
Nominative men sen ol biz siz olar
Genitive men (my) sen (your) on (his/her/it's) biz (our) siz (your) olar (their)

That's all fairly easy, but you still can't say My name is in Turkmen if you only know how to make a pronoun genitive. Unlike English, the Turkmen language also adds a suffix to the object of possession. This may at times be redundant (Meniň kakam geldi. = My father-(my) came.) but often the possessive participle is omitted (Kakam geldi. = Father-(my) came.) so the suffix alone shows possession, for example, adym Murat alone still means My name is Murat, even without using meniň.

The suffix added to a noun depends on it's vowel harmony, so using the words kaka (father), eje (mother), at (name) and it (dog), let's look at the suffixes which need to be added:

Vowel ending Consonant ending Vowel ending Consonant ending
kakam - my father
ejem - my mother
-ym, -im (-um, -üm)
adym - my name
itim - my dog
-myz, -miz
kakamyz - our father
ejemiz - our mother
-ymyz, -imiz (-umyz, -ümiz)
adymyz - our name
itimiz - our dog
Your (sing., informal)

kakaň - your father
ejeň - your mother
Your (sing., informal)
-yň, -iň (-uň, -üň)
ad - your name
it - your dog
Your (pl., formal)
-ňyz, -ňiz
kakaňyz - your father
ejeňiz - your mother
Your (pl., formal)
-yňyz, -iňiz (-uňyz, -üňiz)
adyňyz - your name
itiňiz - your dog
-sy, -si
kakasy - his/her/it's father
ejesi - his/her/it's mother
-y, -i
ady - his/her/it's name
iti - his/her/it's dog
-sy, -si
kakasy - their father
ejesi - their mother
-y, -i
ady - their name
iti - their dog

As mentioned already, the noun alone already indicates possession, so pronouns such as meniň, seniň, etc., don't HAVE to be used. For example, in Turkmen My name is John could either be Meniň adym John or simply just Adym John.

As you can see in the above table, possessive suffixes for nouns are not only about vowel harmony, but also whether the noun, in it's nominative form, ends in a vowel or a consonant.

You've also probably noticed that at changes to ad- when a suffix is added to it. The word at is merely one of the few irregularities of the Turkmen language, and its good that you're getting used to it at an early stage.

You may be wondering what the word for "is" is in Turkmen. The truth is, there isn't one.

If you tried to translate "he is" by itself into Turkmen, or any Turkic language for that matter, it would be impossible. If you tried to translate "he is good" into Turkmen, it would translate as ol ýagşy, which would translate word-by-word back into English as "he good".

It works in the same way in "Siziň adyňyz näme?" and "Meniň adym...", which literally translate word-by-word as "Your name what?" and "My name..." respectively.

Sentence order

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Turkmen, like other Turkic languages, follows an SOV (Subject Object Verb) sentence order. Don't know what subject, object or verb are? Let's look at a very basic demonstration in English, which uses SVO instead of SOV:

Bobby kicked the ball.
Subject Verb Object

In this case, Bobby is the subject, because he is the one kicking the ball (i.e. the subject is the word executing or otherwise attributed to the verb); kicked is the verb because it is a word of action (i.e. verbs show what is taking/has taken/will take place); and the ball is the object because it is being kicked by Bobby (i.e. something happens to the object by the subject by means of the verb).

Now that we've established what the subject, object and verb actually are, you'll be able to understand that in Turkmen, the subject goes first, then the object, and then the verb. This is true in most cases, but in some instances, mostly in sentences without verbs such as O ýagşy or Siziň adyňyz näme?, the sentence order is just SO. Unlike in English, in which all sentences need to have verbs, in Turkmen certain things such as "he is nice" can be demonstrated, as shown in the Is? section of this page, without the use of a verb.

On the other hand, as a result of pronouns not being needed in Turkmen, sentences can also be verb only, such as "geldi" (he came), although the subject (he) is still technically in the verb, so "geldi" itself is both a subject and a verb. If you look at it in this sense, then you'll find that all Turkmen sentences have at least a subject.

We will look at verbs in more detail at a later stage in this book.

It is certainly worth practising everything you've learned in this lesson with an exercise. Click here to do this lesson's exercise.

It is also worth reading about subject, object and verb on Wikipedia for a better explanation of these things.

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