The languages of Turkey, apart from the only official language Turkish, include the widespread Kurmanji, the moderately prevalent minority languages Arabic and Zazaki and a number of less common minority languages, some of which are guaranteed by the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne.
Article 42 of the Constitution explicitly prohibits educational institutions to teach any language other than Turkish as a mother tongue to Turkish citizens.
No language other than Turkish shall be taught as a mother tongue to Turkish citizens at any institutions of training or education. Foreign languages to be taught in institutions of training and education and the rules to be followed by schools conducting training and education in a foreign language shall be determined by law. The provisions of international treaties are reserved.— Art. 42, Constitution of the Republic of Turkey
Due to Article 42 and its longtime restrictive interpretation, ethnic minorities have been facing severe restrictions in the use of their mother languages.
Concerning the incompatibility of this provision with the International Bill of Human Rights, Turkey signed the International Covenants on Civil and Political Rights and on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights only with reservations constraining minority rights and the right to education. Furthermore, Turkey hasn't signed either of the Council of Europe's Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages, or the anti-discrimination Protocol 12 to the European Convention on Human Rights.
This particular constitutional provision has been contested both internationally and within Turkey. The provision has been criticized by minority groups, notably the Kurdish community. In October 2004, the Turkish State's Human Rights Advisory Board called for a constitutional review in order to bring Turkey's policy on minorities in line with international standards, but was effectively muted. It was also criticized by EU member states, the OSCE, and international human rights organizations, including Human Rights Watch who observe that "the Turkish government accepts the language rights of the Jewish, Greek and Armenian minorities as being guaranteed by the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne. But the government claims that these are Turkey's only minorities, and that any talk of minority rights beyond this is just separatism".
In 2015, the Turkey’s Ministry of Education announced that as of the 2016-17 academic year, Arabic courses (as a second language) will be offered to students in elementary school starting in second grade. The Arabic courses will be offered as an elective language course like German, French and English. According to a prepared curriculum, second and third graders will start learning Arabic by listening-comprehension and speaking, while introduction to writing will join these skills in fourth grade and after fifth grade students will start learning the language in all its four basic skills.
The following table lists the mother tongues of people in Turkey by percentage of their speakers.
|Other Turkic languages||0.28|
|Other Caucasian languages||0.07|
|West European languages||0.03|
|Language||Dialect or variety||Speakers||Status (EGIDS)[a]||Notes|
|Turkish||66,850,000 (2006)||1 (National)||Non-indigenous|
|Kurdish||Northern Kurdish||8,130,000 (2014)||3 (Wider communication)||3,000,000 monolinguals|
|Zazaki||Southern Zazaki||1,500,000 (1998)||5 (Developing)|
|Northern Zazaki||184,000 (2014)||4 (Educational)|
|Arabic||North Levantine Arabic||1,130,000 (2014)||3 (Wider communication)|
|Modern Standard Arabic||686,000 (2015)||4 (Educational)||Non-indigenous|
|North Mesopotamian Arabic||520,000 (2014)||6a (Vigorous)||Do not read Arabic|
|Other Mesopotamian Arabic||101,000 (2014)||Non-indigenous|
|Kabardian||1,000,000 (2005)||5 (Developing)||Non-indigenous|
|Azerbaijani||540,000 (2014)||5 (Dispersed)|
|Romani||Balkan Romani||500,000 (1985)||6a (Vigorous)||Non-indigenous|
|Domari||8b (Nearly extinct)|
|Turkish Sign Language||400,000 (1998)||6a (Vigorous)|
|Bulgarian||Pomak Bulgarian||351,000 (2014)||5 (Dispersed)|
|Balkan Gagauz Turkish||327,000 (1993)||7 (Shifting)|
|Adyghe||316,000 (2014)||5 (Dispersed)|
|Greek||Pontic Greek||300,000 (2009)||6a (Vigorous)||Non-indigenous|
|Standard Modern Greek||3,600 (2014)||5 (Dispersed)|
|Georgian||151,000 (2014)||6b (Threatened)||Non-indigenous|
|Crimean Tatar||100,000 (2014)||5 (Developing)||Non-indigenous|
|Albanian||Tosk Albanian||66,000 (2014)||6b (Threatened)||Non-indigenous|
|Gheg Albanian||5 (Dispersed)|
|Armenian||61,000 (2014)||6b (Threatened)|
|Abkhaz||44,000 (2014)||6b (Threatened)||Non-indigenous|
|Ossetian||Digor Ossetian||37,000 (2014)||5 (Developing)||Non-indigenous|
|Lazuri||20,000 (2007)||6b (Threatened)|
|Aramaic||Turoyo||15,000 (2014)||6b (Threatened)|
|Hértevin||1,000 (1999)||6a (Vigorous)|
|Other Syriac varieties||9 (Dormant)|
|Ladino||13,000 (2007)||7 (Shifting)||Non-indigenous|
|Bosnian||4,500 (2013)||6b (Threatened)||Non-indigenous|
|Uzbek||Southern Uzbek||3,800 (2014)||5 (Dispersed)||Non-indigenous|
a^ Expanded Graded Intergenerational Disruption Scale (EGIDS) of Ethnologue:
0 (International): "The language is widely used between nations in trade, knowledge exchange, and international policy."
1 (National): "The language is used in education, work, mass media, and government at the national level."
2 (Provincial): "The language is used in education, work, mass media, and government within major administrative subdivisions of a nation."
3 (Wider Communication): "The language is used in work and mass media without official status to transcend language differences across a region."
4 (Educational): "The language is in vigorous use, with standardization and literature being sustained through a widespread system of institutionally supported education."
5 (Developing): "The language is in vigorous use, with literature in a standardized form being used by some though this is not yet widespread or sustainable."
6a (Vigorous): "The language is used for face-to-face communication by all generations and the situation is sustainable."
6b (Threatened): "The language is used for face-to-face communication within all generations, but it is losing users."
7 (Shifting): "The child-bearing generation can use the language among themselves, but it is not being transmitted to children."
8a (Moribund): "The only remaining active users of the language are members of the grandparent generation and older."
8b (Nearly Extinct): "The only remaining users of the language are members of the grandparent generation or older who have little opportunity to use the language."
9 (Dormant): "The language serves as a reminder of heritage identity for an ethnic community, but no one has more than symbolic proficiency."
10 (Extinct): "The language is no longer used and no one retains a sense of ethnic identity associated with the language."
|Language||Mother tongue||Only language spoken||Second best language spoken|
|Province / Language||Turkish||Kurdish||Arabic||Zazaki||Circassian||Greek||Georgian||Armenian||Laz||Pomak||Bosnian||Albanian||Jewish|
|Adana (including Osmaniye)||866,316||7,581||22,356||332||51||51||0||28||9||0||312||483||29|
|Ankara (including Kırıkkale)||1,590,392||36,798||814||21||393||124||41||66||120||7||126||833||64|
|Bolu (including parts of Düzce)||375,786||363||0||0||1,593||3||1,541||488||1,791||0||40||6||1|
|Çankırı (including parts of Karabük)||250,510||158||1||0||0||1||0||3||2||0||0||0||0|
|Gümüşhane (including Bayburt)||260,419||2,189||0||0||91||0||0||0||17||0||0||0||0|
|Hakkari (including parts of Şırnak)||10,357||72,365||165||0||1||0||1||21||2||0||0||0||0|
|Kars (including Ardahan and Iğdır)||471,287||133,144||61||992||215||6||8||5||24||1||5||4||1|
|Kastamonu (including parts of Düzce)||439,355||1,090||2||0||3||2||180||849||1||0||0||0||0|
|Konya (including Karaman)||1,092,819||27,811||67||4||1,139||3||7||1||5||1||11||75||0|
|Mardin (including parts of Batman)||35,494||265,328||79,687||60||75||11||15||11||0||0||1||6||0|
|Niğde (including Aksaray)||353,146||8,991||10||0||227||5||0||12||4||0||15||4||0|
|Siirt (including parts of Batman and parts of Şırnak)||46,722||179,023||38,273||484||1||0||15||98||3||0||10||0||0|
|Zonguldak (including Bartın and parts of Karabük)||649,757||43||26||0||5||17||2||3||15||0||1||1||1|
Provinces with Turkish speakers in majority Provinces with Turkish speakers in plurality Provinces with Kurdish speakers in plurality Provinces with Kurdish speakers in majority
Turkey has historically been the home to many now extinct languages. These include Hittite, the earliest Indo-European language for which written evidence exists (circa 1600 BCE to 1100 BCE when the Hittite Empire existed). The other Anatolian languages included Luwian and later Lycian, Lydian and Milyan. All these languages are believed to have become extinct at the latest around the 1st century BCE due to the Hellenization of Anatolia which led to Greek in a variety of dialects becoming the common language.
Urartian belonging to the Hurro-Urartian language family existed in eastern Anatolia around Lake Van. It existed as the language of the kingdom of Urartu from about the 9th century BCE until the 6th century. Hattian is attested in Hittite ritual texts but is not related to the Hittite language or to any other known language; it dates from the 2nd millennium BCE.
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