Adding word endings (agglutination)


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Prerequisites

Intro to the Turkish Alphabet

Turkish letters
Audio samples



What is aggulutination?

Turkish is an agglutinative language, which means word endings are constantly used to give and change meaning in a word or sentence.

This is in contrast to English, which is not agglutinative. English employs small helping words to give and change meaning, while Turkish mostly uses suffixes.

So what does this look like? Let’s take an example sentence and see how both English and Turkish would handle it.

English – “Go to your room.”

Turkish – “Odana git.”

Notice that English uses four words while Turkish only two. Turkish often explains the same idea in fewer words. At the same time, Turkish words are often longer than English words. Let’s break down the Turkish translation:

“Oda” (room) + “n” (your (possessive)) + “a” (to (dative suffix)) followed by “git” (go (command form of the verb “gitmek” ‑ to go)).

So we see that Turkish adds meaning by adding several suffixes to the word “oda” (room). These suffixes have different functions, from signifying possession to signifying direction.

Let’s try another sentence:

English – “You are coming from the store.”

Turkish – “Dükkandan geliyorsun.”

Again, notice the English sentence has six words while the Turkish sentence only has two. Also, the Turkish words are fairly long. Let’s break it down:

“Dükkan” (store) + “dan” (from (dative suffix) “geliyorsun” (you are coming (present continuous verb form for second person singular of the verb “gelmek” ‑ to come)).

Let’s change the subject of the sentence and see the differences.

English – “I am coming from the store.”

Turkish – “Dükkandan geliyorum.”

We see that in English the “you” changes to “I” and the “are” to “am”. So both the subject and helping verb change. In Turkish, only the last suffix of the verb changes, from “sun” to “um”.

You – “Dükkandan geliyorsun.”

I – “Dükkandan geliyorum.”

One last example:

English – “on my desks

Turkish – “masalarımda

As before, we see three small English words and one long Turkish word give the same meaning. Let’s break it down:

“masa” (desk) + “lar” (plural) + “ım” (my (possessive)) + “da” (at/on (locative suffix))

Hopefully you’ve seen a basic difference between English and Turkish. English employs many smaller words to give meaning, while Turkish employs many suffixes to give the same meaning. This means that we often come across long, scary-looking words in Turkish. It is not uncommon to come across words with seven or eight syllables. This can be intimidating, but with a little practice we can recognize the suffixes and so understand the word.

Just for fun, here is the longest word in the Turkish language:

“muvaffakiyetsizleştiricileştiriveremeyebileceklerimizdenmişsinizcesine”

which means:

“As though you are from those whom we may not be able to easily make into a maker of unsuccessful ones.”

For the story of this word, check out the ever-faithful Wikipedia page.

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