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Slightly Geeky Guide to

Pronouncing Turkish

Without Knowing Any Turkish

(Generally More Than You Actually Need To Know)


The Absolute Minimum to Remember:
C/c is like J in "judge."
Ç/ç is like CH in "church."
Ş/ş like SH in "shoot"
Ğ/ğ is effectively silent.
İ/i (dotted) is like I in "machine."
I/ı (undotted) is like U in "putter."

Turkic languages are used across a wide territory ranging from modern Turkey on the west to China's Xīnjiāng province ("East Turkistan") on the east. They are broadly similar, and speakers of one can usually rapidly pick up another. They are written in a range of orthographies, today usually based on Latin or Cyrillic (Russian) letters. Turkic words from various of these languages that you encounter in English texts are likely to be converted to Turkish ones or to be represented in spellings very similar to Turkish spelling.

Written Turkish underwent a substantial spelling (and style) reform when it was converted to Latin letters early in the XXth century, and it is therefore generally easy to pronounce well enough for most purposes just by looking at it. A few letters have been modified to correspond with sounds not directly represented by the Latin alphabet as usually used:

Ç/ç like the CH in "church"
C/c like the J in "judge"
J/j like the G in "rouge"
Ş/ş like the SH in "shoot" (S without the subscript is like English S.)
Ğ/ğ like W or nearly silent
(G without a mark over it is like the G in "gum"; never soft.)
İ/i (always dotted) like the I in "machine"
I/ı (always undotted) like the U in "putter"
Ö/ö like German Ö (like E in "get" but with lips rounded)
Ü/ü like German Ü (like I in "machine" but with lips rounded)

Apparently for some speakers, the Ö/Ü distinction is sometimes rather fuzzy. (That is why the archaeological site is sometimes called Çatalhöyük and sometimes Çatal Hüyük.) Don't worry if you hit it a bit wrong.

Most Turkish words you encounter in English have very little difference in stress from one syllable to the next, so there is no need to worry about putting the accent in the right place. Just keep it light.

Some English editors fail to distinguish the dotted and undotted I, or they leave off the cedillas under C or S, or they ignore the breve over the G. That leaves you without needed information, but there is nothing you can do about it without finding another source. (Wikipedia is pretty good about such things.)

Now you know.

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