Ottoman Turkish language



Ottoman Turkish ( ota, لِسانِ عُثمانى, Lisân-ı Osmânî, ; tr, Osmanlı Türkçesi) was the standardized register of the
Turkish language Turkish ( , ), also referred to as Turkish of Turkey (''Türkiye Türkçesi''), is the most widely spoken of the Turkic languages, with around 80 to 90 million speakers. It is the national language of Turkey and Northern Cyprus. Significant smal ...
used by the citizens of the
Ottoman Empire The Ottoman Empire, * ; is an archaic version. The definite article forms and were synonymous * and el, Оθωμανική Αυτοκρατορία, Othōmanikē Avtokratoria, label=none * info page on book at Martin Luther University) ...
(14th to 20th centuries CE). It borrowed extensively, in all aspects, from
Arabic Arabic (, ' ; , ' or ) is a Semitic languages, Semitic language spoken primarily across the Arab world.Semitic languages: an international handbook / edited by Stefan Weninger; in collaboration with Geoffrey Khan, Michael P. Streck, Janet C ...
and Persian, and its speakers used the Ottoman Turkish alphabet for written communication. During the peak of Ottoman power (), words of foreign origin in Turkish literature in the Ottoman Empire heavily outnumbered native Turkish words, with Arabic and Persian vocabulary accounting for up to 88% of the Ottoman vocabulary in some texts.
''Persian Historiography & Geography''
Pustaka Nasional Pte Ltd p 69
Consequently, Ottoman Turkish was largely unintelligible to the less-educated lower-class and to rural Turks, who continued to use ("raw/vulgar Turkish"; compare
Vulgar Latin Vulgar Latin, also known as Popular or Colloquial Latin, is the range of non-formal registers of Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was ori ...
and Demotic Greek), which used far fewer foreign
loanword A loanword (also loan word or loan-word) is a word at least partly assimilated from one language (the donor language) into another language. This is in contrast to cognates, which are words in two or more languages that are similar because the ...
s and is the basis of the modern standard. The Tanzimât era (1839–1876) saw the application of the term "Ottoman" when referring to the language ( or ); Modern Turkish uses the same terms when referring to the language of that era ( and ). More generically, the Turkish language was called or "Turkish".



Nominative In grammar, the nominative case (list of glossing abbreviations, abbreviated ), subjective case, straight case or upright case is one of the grammatical cases of a noun or other part of speech, which generally marks the subject (grammar), subject ...
and Indefinite accusative/objective: - , no suffix. 'the lake' 'a lake', 'soup', 'night'; 'he/she brought a rabbit'. *
Genitive In grammar, the genitive case (list of glossing abbreviations, abbreviated ) is the grammatical case that marks a word, usually a noun, as modifying another word, also usually a noun—thus indicating an attributive noun, attributive relationshi ...
: suffix . 'of the pasha'; 'of the book'. * Definite accusative: suffix : 'he/she brought the rabbit'. The variant suffix does not occur in Ottoman Turkish orthography unlike in Modern Turkish, although it's pronounced with the vowel harmony. Thus, 'the lake' ''vs.'' Modern Turkish . *
Dative In grammar, the dative case (list of glossing abbreviations, abbreviated , or sometimes when it is a core argument) is a grammatical case used in some languages to indicate the recipient or beneficiary of an action, as in "Maria Jacobo potum dedit ...
: suffix : 'to the house'. * Locative: suffix : 'at school', 'in (the/a) cage', 'at a/the start', 'in town'. The variant suffix used in Modern Turkish does not occur. * Ablative: suffix : 'from the man'. * Instrumental: suffix or postposition . Generally not counted as a grammatical case in modern grammars.


The conjugation for the aorist tense is as follows:


Ottoman Turkish was highly influenced by Arabic and Persian. Arabic and Persian words in the language accounted for up to 88% of its vocabulary. As in most other Turkic and other foreign languages of Islamic communities, the Arabic borrowings were borrowed through Persian, not through direct exposure of Ottoman Turkish to Arabic, a fact that is evidenced by the typically Persian phonological mutation of the words of Arabic origin. The conservation of archaic phonological features of the Arabic borrowings furthermore suggests that Arabic-incorporated Persian was absorbed into pre-Ottoman Turkic at an early stage, when the speakers were still located to the north-east of
Persia Iran, officially the Islamic Republic of Iran, and also called Persia, is a country located in Western Asia. It is bordered by Iraq and Turkey to the west, by Azerbaijan and Armenia to the northwest, by the Caspian Sea and Turkmeni ...
, prior to the westward migration of the Islamic Turkic tribes. An additional argument for this is that Ottoman Turkish shares the Persian character of its Arabic borrowings with other Turkic languages that had even less interaction with Arabic, such as
Tatar The Tatars ()Tatar
in the Collins English Dictionary
is an umbrella term for different Turki ...
, Bashkir, and Uyghur. From the early ages of the Ottoman Empire, borrowings from Arabic and Persian were so abundant that original Turkish words were hard to find.Korkut Bugday
''An Introduction to Literary Ottoman''
Routledge, 5 dec. 2014 p XV.
In Ottoman, one may find whole passages in Arabic and Persian incorporated into the text. It was however not only extensive loaning of words, but along with them much of the grammatical systems of Persian and Arabic. In a social and pragmatic sense, there were (at least) three variants of Ottoman Turkish: * (Eloquent Turkish): the language of poetry and administration, Ottoman Turkish in its strict sense; * (Middle Turkish): the language of higher classes and trade; * (Rough Turkish): the language of lower classes. A person would use each of the varieties above for different purposes, with the variant being the most heavily suffused with Arabic and Persian words and the least. For example, a scribe would use the Arabic () to refer to
honey Honey is a sweet and Viscosity, viscous substance made by several Bee, bees, the best-known of which are honey bees. Honey is made and stored to nourish bee colonies. Bees produce honey by gathering and then refining the sugary secretions of ...
when writing a document but would use the native Turkish word when buying it.


Historically, Ottoman Turkish was transformed in three eras: * (Old Ottoman Turkish): the version of Ottoman Turkish used until the 16th century. It was almost identical with the Turkish used by Seljuk empire and Anatolian beyliks and was often regarded as part of (
Old Anatolian Turkish Old Anatolian Turkish (OAT, tr, Eski Anadolu Türkçesi, ''EAT'') is the stage in the history of the Turkish language spoken in Anatolia from the 11th to 15th centuries. It developed into Ottoman Turkish language, Early Ottoman Turkish. It was ...
). * (Middle Ottoman Turkish) or ( Classical Ottoman Turkish): the language of poetry and administration from the 16th century until
Tanzimat The Tanzimat (; ota, تنظيمات, translit=Tanzimāt, lit=Reorganization, ''see'' wikt:نظام, nizām) was a period of reform in the Ottoman Empire that began with the Edict of Gülhane, Gülhane Hatt-ı Şerif in 1839 and ended with the F ...
. * (New Ottoman Turkish): the version shaped from the 1850s to the 20th century under the influence of journalism and Western-oriented literature.

Language reform

In 1928, following the fall of the Ottoman Empire after
World War I World War I (28 July 1914 11 November 1918), often abbreviated as WWI, was List of wars and anthropogenic disasters by death toll, one of the deadliest global conflicts in history. Belligerents included much of Europe, the Russian Empire, ...
and the establishment of the
Republic of Turkey Turkey ( tr, Türkiye ), officially the Republic of Türkiye ( tr, Türkiye Cumhuriyeti, links=no ), is a list of transcontinental countries, transcontinental country located mainly on the Anatolia, Anatolian Peninsula in Western Asia, with ...
, widespread language reforms (a part in the greater framework of Atatürk's Reforms) instituted by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk saw the replacement of many Persian and Arabic origin loanwords in the language with their Turkish equivalents. One of the main supporters of the reform was the Turkish nationalist Ziya Gökalp. It also saw the replacement of the Perso-Arabic script with the extended Latin alphabet. The changes were meant to encourage the growth of a new variety of written Turkish that more closely reflected the spoken vernacular and to foster a new variety of spoken Turkish that reinforced Turkey's new
national identity National identity is a person's identity or sense of belonging to one or more states or to one or more nation, nations. It is the sense of "a nation as a cohesive whole, as represented by distinctive traditions, culture, and language". National i ...
as being a post-Ottoman state. See the list of replaced loanwords in Turkish for more examples of Ottoman Turkish words and their modern Turkish counterparts. Two examples of
Arabic Arabic (, ' ; , ' or ) is a Semitic languages, Semitic language spoken primarily across the Arab world.Semitic languages: an international handbook / edited by Stefan Weninger; in collaboration with Geoffrey Khan, Michael P. Streck, Janet C ...
and two of Persian loanwords are found below.


Historically speaking, Ottoman Turkish is the predecessor of modern Turkish. However, the standard Turkish of today is essentially (Turkish of Turkey) as written in the Latin alphabet and with an abundance of
neologism A neologism from Ancient Greek, Greek νέο- ''néo''(="new") and λόγος /''lógos'' meaning "speech, utterance"is a relatively recent or isolated term, word, or phrase that may be in the process of entering common use, but that has not ...
s added, which means there are now far fewer loan words from other languages, and Ottoman Turkish was not instantly transformed into the Turkish of today. At first, it was only the script that was changed, and while some households continued to use the Arabic system in private, most of the Turkish population was illiterate at the time, making the switch to the Latin alphabet much easier. Then, loan words were taken out, and new words fitting the growing amount of technology were introduced. Until the 1960s, Ottoman Turkish was at least partially intelligible with the Turkish of that day. One major difference between Ottoman Turkish and modern Turkish is the latter's abandonment of compound word formation according to Arabic and Persian grammar rules. The usage of such phrases still exists in modern Turkish but only to a very limited extent and usually in specialist contexts; for example, the Persian genitive construction (which reads literally as "the preordaining of the divine" and translates as "divine dispensation" or "destiny") is used, as opposed to the normative modern Turkish construction, (literally, "divine preordaining"). In 2014, Turkey's Education Council decided that Ottoman Turkish should be taught in Islamic high schools and as an elective in other schools, a decision backed by President
Recep Tayyip Erdoğan Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (born 26 February 1954) is a Turkish politician serving as the List of presidents of Turkey, 12th and current president of Turkey since 2014. He previously served as prime minister of Turkey from 2003 to 2014 and as Lis ...
, who said the language should be taught in schools so younger generations do not lose touch with their cultural heritage.

Writing system

Most Ottoman Turkish was written in the Ottoman Turkish alphabet ( ota, الفبا, elifbâ), a variant of the
Perso-Arabic script The Persian alphabet ( fa, الفبای فارسی, Alefbâye Fârsi) is a writing system that is a version of the Arabic script used for the Persian language spoken in Iran (Iranian Persian, Western Persian) and Afghanistan (Dari, Dari Persi ...
. The Armenian, Greek and Rashi script of
Hebrew Hebrew (; ; ) is a Northwest Semitic languages, Northwest Semitic language of the Afroasiatic languages, Afroasiatic language family. Historically, it is one of the spoken languages of the Israelites and their longest-surviving descendants, ...
were sometimes used by Armenians, Greeks and Jews. (See Karamanli Turkish, a dialect of Ottoman written in the Greek script; Armeno-Turkish alphabet)



The transliteration system of the İslâm Ansiklopedisi has become a ''de facto'' standard in
Oriental studies Oriental studies is the academic field that studies Near Eastern and Far Eastern societies and cultures, languages, peoples, history and archaeology. In recent years, the subject has often been turned into the newer terms of Middle Eastern studie ...
for the transliteration of Ottoman Turkish texts. Concerning transcription the New Redhouse, Karl Steuerwald and Ferit Develioğlu dictionaries have become standard. Another transliteration system is the Deutsche Morgenländische Gesellschaft (DMG), which provides a transliteration system for any Turkic language written in Arabic script.Transkriptionskommission der DMG ''Die Transliteration der arabischen Schrift in ihrer Anwendung auf die Hauptliteratursprachen der islamischen Welt'', p. 9
There are not many differences between the İA and the DMG transliteration systems.

See also

* Old Anatolian Turkish language * Culture of the Ottoman Empire * List of Persian loanwords in Turkish



Further reading

; English * Online copies

* Online copies from
Google Books Google Books (previously known as Google Book Search, Google Print, and by its code-name Project Ocean) is a service from Google, Google Inc. that searches the full text of books and magazines that Google has scanned, converted to text using o ...

* * * * * * * * * * * Lewis, Geoffrey. The Jarring Lecture 2002.
The Turkish Language Reform: A Catastrophic Success
. ; Other languages * Mehmet Hakkı Suçin. ''Qawâ'id al-Lugha al-Turkiyya li Ghair al-Natiqeen Biha'' (Turkish Grammar for Arabs; adapted from Mehmet Hengirmen's ''Yabancılara Türkçe Dilbilgisi''), Engin Yayınevi, 2003). * Mehmet Hakkı Suçin. ''Atatürk'ün Okuduğu Kitaplar: Endülüs Tarihi'' (Books That Atatürk Read: History of Andalucia; purification from the Ottoman Turkish, published by Anıtkabir Vakfı, 2001). * *

External links

* *
Ottoman Text Archive Project
* ttp:// Ottoman Turkish Language Textsbr>Ottoman-Turkish-English Open DictionaryOttoman<>Turkish Dictionary – University of Pamukkale
You can use ? character instead of an unknown letter. It provides results from Arabic and Persian dictionaries, too.
Ottoman<>Turkish Dictionary –
{{Authority control Languages of Tunisia Turkic languages Extinct languages of Europe Extinct languages of Asia