THE TURKISH LANGUAGE
The official language in Turkey is Turkish and this is spoken by about 90-95% of the population. About 5-10% of the Turkish people who come from different ethnic origins, speak their mother tongues in daily life besides Turkish.
Evolution of the Turkish
Turkish is a branch of Ural-Altaic languages. These were originally spoken by the Altai people who lived in the steppe area around the Altai mountains which form part of the border between China, Mongolia and Russia. The Altai spread out over a vast geographical area reaching as far as the Balkans and today 100-120 million people speak these languages, generally called the Turkic Languages.
As a version of these languages, Turkish came to Anatolia with these people from the 11C onward and it can be classified in 3 separate periods:
1) Turkish in the Pre-Islamic Period
This is the period until the 10C AD, before the Turks adopted Islam and came to Anatolia. The Turkish language was pure during this period because it was not influenced by any other languages. Gokturk and Uighur Alphabets were used.
2) Turkish in the Islamic Period
This is the period between the 10C and 20C. From the 11C onward the Turks started to settle in Anatolia in large numbers, first as Seljuks and then later as Ottomans. They had already adopted Islam, which meant they were influenced by Arabic since the Koran was written in that language. However, Persian remained the language of art, refined literature and diplomacy.
Common people spoke Turkish but used the Arabic alphabet to write it. This mixture was called Ottoman Turkish or the Ottoman language.
3) Modern Turkish in the 20C
In the beginning of the 20C, parallel to all the changes and reforms in the country, there was consciousness towards the language as well. In this period no one played a more important role in the development of modern Turkish than Ataturk, the founder of the Turkish Republic. His language reforms as a result of his Westernization philosophy—for instance the replacement of the Arabic alphabet with the Latin, or “purifying” it of the Arabic and Persian words and idioms that had invaded the literary language during the Ottoman Empire— have profoundly affected the course of Modern Turkish spoken today. This is a remarkable fact but not actually so difficult to achieve in an era when the literacy rate was less than 20%.
Language reform has closed the language gap that used to exist between the classes in Turkish society and a certain democratization of language and literature has occurred during the 20C.