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The Turkish Language Reform: A Catastrophic Success

4.22  ·  Rating Details ·  67 Ratings  ·  8 Reviews
This is the first account of the transformation of the Turkish language in the years following 1930--probably the most extensive piece of language engineering ever attempted. The book is important both for the study of linguistic change and for the light it throws on twentieth-century Turkish politics and society.
Paperback, 208 pages
Published August 1st 2002 by OUP Oxford (first published January 1st 1999)
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Nov 03, 2010 Christopher rated it it was amazing
Geoffrey Lewis' THE TURKISH LANGUAGE REFORM: A Catastrophic Success is a presentation of the wild transformation of Standard Turkish over the course of the 20th century. Ottoman Turkish was an arcane written language understandable only to a tiny elite, filled with Arabic and Persian constructions. The Turkish of today is closer to the speech of the masses, but government fiat succeeded in pushing hundreds of neologisms into the language, some respecting the structure of Turkish and others ...more
Nov 03, 2015 Pinar rated it it was amazing
Turk dil reformunu boyle guzel ve olabildigince az etimolojiye girererk anlatan bir kitap az bulunur. Cok ilginc.
Feb 12, 2012 Filip rated it really liked it
This book details the little known but fascinating story about how Atatürk not only reformed his country, but also its language. The author asks us to imagine that a ruler would decree that all English words that came into the language with the Normans had to be replaced by Germanic words, and what the consequences of that would be.
In Turkey in the 20th century, this actually happened. Ottoman was an official language, based on Turkish syntax, but with many Arab and Persian words, which gave th
Jul 29, 2011 Lucas rated it really liked it
Shelves: linguistics, 2011
Thorough and encompassing summary of the language issues involved in one of the most interesting language reforms in history. One issue I found was the nostalgic tinge Lewis takes on near the end when he begins to lament to the "better times" and loss of certain features; a perspective I'd consider a bit short-sighted for someone woh studies language change at all. Some basic understanding of Turkish (and Arabic, as well) would be preferable when approaching this book but is entirely ...more
Dec 07, 2015 Kartik rated it it was amazing
It's not often that you read a book on linguistics that's this witty. It's thoroughly researched to boot, and the author really impresses upon you the gravity of the change that occurred during this reform. Another neat feature is the fact that Lewis chooses to use the native Turkish text at all times, to visually represent the changes in the language. He has a clear cut point to make and goes about doing it systematically. A very entertaining read, and informative at the same time.
Oct 09, 2016 Marissa rated it liked it
Shelves: history, ceus
The author has an excellent grasp of Turkish linguistics and the technical aspects of the language reform, but his view of the topic in social context is polemical and overly negative. Often, it is also too much based on the opinions of government intellectuals and 'experts', the very people who have always been rather poorly placed to reflect on the speech, and speech needs, of the people. Readers will be disappointed by the book's top down approach; while he mentions new textbooks written with ...more
Thomas Escritt
Mar 21, 2016 Thomas Escritt rated it really liked it
A book about the reform of a language I don't speak turned out to be highly entertaining. That should give a sense of quite how lively and engaging this book is. He suggests that years of overzealous language reforms have left Turks without a vocabulary supple enough to communicate effectively, especially on abstract topics, but then hints that gradations of nuance have latterly begun to re-emerge as new coinages and old words get repurposed in a process that made me think of creolisation. Made ...more
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Dec 17, 2011 Wallace rated it liked it
Extremely opinionated and catty. Which only makes it more interesting.
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“The author was told by Fahir Iz that, during his military service in the neighbourhood of Erzurum just before the Second World War, he had got into conversation with a shepherd, whom he shocked by using the words `Biz Torkler' (We Turks). `Estagfurullah!' was the reply, `Ben Torkiim, zat-i aliniz Osmanlismrz' (Lord have mercy! I'm a Turk; Your Excellency is an Ottoman).” 0 likes
“The trouble was that, although Atatiirk liked nothing better than a good argument, none of his intimates had the guts to say `Very amusing as an after-dinner game, Pasha, but we mustn't take it too seriously, must we?' On the contrary, they
played the same game. This being long before the age of political correctness, Samih Rifat, the president of TDK, found the origin of the Western word academy in the Turkish ak `white' and adam [A] `man'.”
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