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[tatar-l] Question of a common Turkish language

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  • TIMUR KOCAOGLU
    QUESTION OF A COMMON TURKISH LANGUAGE by Timur Kocaoglu Three messages and one reply: ... The standard Arabic first initiated in the pre-Islamic period Arabia
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 1, 1999
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      QUESTION OF A COMMON TURKISH LANGUAGE
      by Timur Kocaoglu

      Three messages and one reply:

      1) On 19991128 Yahya M wrote in message:
      >> There is considerably greater mutual comprehension between
      >> dialects of spoken Arabic than there is between the Chinese
      >> dialects

      2) On Sun, 28 Nov 1999 12:41:35 -0800 Paul Davidson wrote:
      > True. I believe there are about 160 million Arabic speakers, and
      > although this is fragmented into various dialects, all (or nearly
      > all) know Standard Arabic (which is used in media throughout the
      > Arab world).


      3) On Mon, 29 Nov 1999 22:34:13 -0500 H. Mark Hubey wrote:
      > How did this standard Arabic come about, and can it be
      > done for Turkic languages?

      The standard Arabic first initiated in the pre-Islamic period Arabia
      known as the "al-jahiliyya" ('the period of ignorance' as called
      later by the Muslim Arab intellectuals). In ancient (pre-Islamic)
      Arabia, every Arabic tribe had its own dialect "as spoken language",
      but there evolved a "common dialect" used by the poets which helped
      the mutual intelligibility between various Arabic tribes speaking in
      different dialects (actually different Arabic languages). Later, the
      Holly Qur'an was orally transmitted in this "common dialect" of the
      prophet Muhammad, and was written after Muhammad's death in this
      "common dialect" which was serving as a "common comunicational
      language" for the Arabs. The scholars of the Arabic linguistics call
      this "common Arabic language" as the Meccan dialect. So, the
      Classical Arabic literary language evolved after the 7th century
      based on this particular Meccan dialect.

      Today, Arabic is the "common standard literary language" of about 160
      million people in the Arabic countries of the Arabian peninsula,
      Persian Gulf, and the north and central Africa (including Chad).
      However, there are many other Arabic languages which are very
      different than this "standard literary Arabic" and used as only
      "spoken languages" in Egypt, Sudan, Libya, Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria,
      Saudia Arabia, Iraq, Jordan, Syria, the Gulf countries (the
      Amirates), including Chad in Central Africa (Chadians speak Arabic,
      but their language is completely different than any Arabic language).
      [see Alan S. Kaye, "Arabic" in The World's Major Languages, ed. by
      Bernard Comrie. New York, 1990; pp. 664-667].

      The historical reason why today there is only a single Arabic
      literary language is that no other "literary languages" evolved from
      different Arabic dialects! I guess, first it is Islam and the
      language of the Holly Qur'an that helped the development of a common
      Arabic classical language despite the fact that there were various
      other Arabic spoken languages most of them were mutually
      unintelligible (incomprehensive) to each other. Yes, we can say that
      the various Arabic spoken languages presently used in the Arab world
      are more comprehensive among themselves than the various Chinese
      languages to each other (therefore, despite the fact that there is a
      "common Chinese" language based on the Beijing Chinese (Mandarin),
      the other Chinese languages are considered as seperate languages by
      the linguists). See Noam Chomsky, Knowledge of Language: Its Nature,
      Origin, and Use. Westport: Praeger, 1986; p. 15.

      Yes, the present spoken-Arabic languages are mutuallly more
      comprehensive than the Chinese languages to each other. However,
      most of the present written- and spoken-Turkic languages of
      the world are even mutually more comprehensive than the Arabic
      languages to each other. Only, with the exception of Saha (Yakut) and
      Chuvash languages which are very far and uncomprehensive to the rest
      of the Turkic languages.

      Historically, there were two distinct spoken dialects of the
      proto-Turkish as the Bulgar (a "r" and "l" dialect) and the
      Turkish or "Turkic" (a "z" and "sh" dialect). Two seperate literary
      languages developed from this two dialects from the 5th century on
      where there is little written works from Bulgar, but much more
      written works in Turkish 7th century on up to the present day.
      Despite these two main phonetic differences of "r > z" and "l > sh"
      consonants when we compare the old written documents of the Volga
      Bulgar and Orkhun Turkic we find it highly comprehension between
      them. But, the present Chuvash (believed to be the modern language of
      the old Bulgar group) is totally incomprehensive to the rest of the
      Turkic languages.

      A common Turkish/Turkic literary language have evolved from the 7th
      century on despite the existence of various different spoken Turkic
      languages as mentioned by the great linguist Mahmud Qashgariy in his
      11th century work "Diwanu-lughati't-turk" (Compendium of the Turkic
      Dialects). We can speak of a "common Turkish literary language"
      between the 8th and 13th centuries belonging to the various Turkic
      groups living in distant places such as Turkistan (both Western and
      Eastern parts), Idil-Ural (Volga-Ural), northern steppes of the Black
      Sea, and the Mamluk Egypt. This common Turkish literary tradition had
      the following literary periods: Orkhun Turkish, Old Uyghur,
      Karakhanid, Kharazmian, Kipchak (of both Saray "Idil-Ural" and the
      Mamluk Egypt).

      However, after the movement of major Oghuz Turks to Iran and Anatolia
      and the development of a seperate writing system in Anatolia, a new
      Turkic literary language has evolved in Anatolia, later in the
      Ottoman Empire which we call today as "Old Anatolian Turkish"
      literary language. So, after the 13th century on two different
      Turkish literary languages have followed different literary
      traditions and writing systems: an eastern Turki (Chagatay and the
      similar literary language of the Golden Horde) and the western
      Turkish (of Anatolian).

      By the mid-16th century, the western Turkish literary language
      evolved into further two distinct literary languages of Ottoman
      Turkish of Istanbul and the Azerbaijani Turkish of the Caucasus and
      Iran. Thus, between the 16th and 19th centuries there were three
      distinct Turkish literary languages of Ottoman Turkish, Azerbaijani,
      and the Turki (in both Central Asia, Kazan, and Crimea). Of course,
      there have been always many Turkic spoken languages (between 20 to
      25) in the 8th century, in the 11th century (as recorded by
      Kashgariy), and the mid-19th century (as recorded by Radloff), but
      there was mainly threeTurkic literary languages until the mid-19th
      century. As a result of the long Russian domination of the Turkic
      lands between the 1551 (Kazan) and the 1917 and later the Soviet
      colonialism (1920-1991), seperate Tatar, Kazak, Turki (Sart),
      Turkmen, Yakut, Chuvash, other Turkic languages started to be
      evolved, but it was only in the Soviet period that about 21 seperate
      Turkic literary languages were hastly created between 1920 and 1935
      with very distinct features from each other. The alphabet changes
      from Arabic to Latin, and later to Cyrillic (1938-1940) have also
      helped to isolate each Turkic language from each other.
      [See Timur Kocaoglu, "Turk Diline Sosyo-Politik Bir Bakis"
      Turk Dili (Ankara), Sayi: 548 (August 1997); pp. 113-121;
      Attila Jorma, Hazar Berisi: Karadeniz Kultur Cevresinde Turk Dili.
      Haarlem: SOTA, 1999].

      As Prof. Uli Schamiloglu has correctly stated in his recent posting
      to the Tatar-l (Nov. 29): "In the 1910s-1920s Tatar, Uzbek, Turkish,
      Azeri, etc. in Arabic script (sometimes even Kazak) were liberally
      using the grammatical forms of each other's languages, since literary
      norms for each separate literary language had not yet developed at
      that time (quite different norms were established only later in the
      Soviet period)." [from Uli Schamiloglu].

      If the Soviet Union was not created and the Turkic peoples were free
      to form their own national states after the end of the Czarist
      empire such as the states of Idil-Ural (Tatars & Bashkirs together),
      Crimean-Tatar, Turkistan (including the Chinese Turkistan), a kind of
      federation in the Caucasus between the Turkic and other peoples, and
      if the majority of the Turks have followed the path of Gaspirali
      Ismail Bey "Tilde, ishde, fikrde birlik!", there would be more
      possibility to form a "common Turkic literary language" for the
      majority of the Muslim Turks, excluding the Chuvash, Siberian Turkic
      languages, and Yakut. However, the political developments in the
      first half of the 20th century have not allowed such development.

      Therefore, history has provided more kind (favorable) conditions to
      both Arabic and Chinese languages that they could evolve into a
      "common Arabic" and a "common Chinese" languages, but not the Turkic
      languages although there was a period of "common Turkish literary
      language" between the 8th and the 13th centuries.

      However, there should not be a kind of hard feeling among the members
      of the Turkic peoples today. We have to accept and understand this
      historical development for the present 21 Turkic literary languages
      in the world (with many more spoken Turkic languages in Iran,
      China, Siberia, etc.). Despite these "negative" developments in the
      view of a "common Turkic language", Tatars, Bashkirs, Ozbeks,
      Uyghurs, Qazaqs, Qirghiz, Turkmens, Karays, Karachay-Balkars, Kumuks,
      Nogays, Azerbayjanis, Turkey Turks could understand each other to
      various levels depending on their mutual comprehension. As an Ozbek,
      I have no problem to read and understand the literary texts from
      Uyghur to Tatar, from Qazaq to Azerbaijani. Why should I hold myself
      from reading Tatar literature? I don't want to miss not only the
      beautiful literary expressions of the Tatar language, but the ideas &
      thoughts of the Tatar intellectuals as follows:

      (The capital letter "I" is used for the back vowel "i" = hard i,
      and the capital "L" is used for normal "l" letter when there is
      capital "I = hard i" letter before or after it):

      "Xezér Idél tamagInda da xörriyet kanat ceya, örkétélgen,
      mingéreületélgen tatar kabat uyanIrga, yaralarIn devalarga kImshana
      bashlagan iken, digen xeberler kile. Niche diste éldan song bérénché
      mertebe sabantuy beyremé uzdIrILgan, bish-altI avIL mektebénde atnaga
      ikésher segat tatar télé-edebiyatI ukItIrga kéréshélgen, ölke
      üzegénde Tatar medeni cemgIyeté korIgan, éshné tagIn da kingrek ceép
      ciberérge bélgéchler citéshmi. Estérxan yagI zur ömétler bélen
      Tatarstanga karIy: savIgIrga, térneklenérge Kazan yardem itermé?
      Belki shushI bérdemlik xisé bézge xerabeler arasInnan kalkIp
      chIgarga, tarixi vatanIbIznIng her tarafInda yanga matur binalar
      korIrga, chechkeler üstérérge mömkinlék birer? Küz kurkak, kul batIr
      - monga xalkIbIznIng küp gasIrLI tarixi da shahit - béz indé niche
      mertebe köl bulgannan song göl bulgan xaLIk labasa!"
      from Teüfik Eydi, "Yörte Bézné YazmIshlar" Kazan: "Avaz", 1999;
      p. 317.

      Timur Kocaoglu

      ****************************************************
      Timur Kocaoglu
      Associate Professor of Central Asian Studies
      College of Arts & Sciences
      Koc University
      Cayir Cad. 5, Istinye 80860, Istanbul, Turkey
      Office Phone# (90-212) 229-3006 (Ext. 422)
      Office Fax# (90-212) 229-0680
      E-mail: tkocaoglu@...
      Home Page: http://home.ku.edu.tr/~kocaoglu/
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