Turkmen (Türkmençe, türkmen dili; Түркменче, түркмен дили; تورکمن دﻴﻠی ,تورکمنچه‎; [t̪yɾkment͡ʃe], [t̪yɾkmen d̪ili]) is an official language of Turkmenistan. It is a Turkic language spoken by 3.5 million people in Turkmenistan as well as by around 2 million people in northeastern Iran[3] and 1.5 million people in northwestern Afghanistan.[1]


Turkmen is a member of the East Oghuz branch of the Turkic family of languages; its closest relatives being Turkish and Azerbaijani, with which it shares a relatively high degree of mutual intelligibility.

Turkmen has vowel harmony, is agglutinative, and has no grammatical gender. Word order is subject–object–verb.

Written Turkmen today is based on the Teke (Tekke) dialect. The other dialects are Nohurly, Ýomud, Änewli, Hasarly, Nerezim, Gökleň, Salyr, Saryk, Ärsary and Çowdur. The Russian dialect is Trukhmen. The Teke dialect is sometimes (especially in Afghanistan) referred to as "Chagatai", but like all Turkmen dialects it reflects only a limited influence from classical Chagatai.

Writing system

Officially, Turkmen is rendered in the “Täze Elipbiý”, or “New Alphabet”, which is based on the Latin alphabet. However, the old "Soviet" Cyrillic alphabet is still in wide use. Many political parties in opposition to the authoritarian rule of President Saparmurat Niyazov continued to use the Cyrillic alphabet on websites and publications, most likely to distance themselves from the alphabet that Niyazov created.

Before 1929, Turkmen was written in an Arabic alphabet. In 1929–1938 a Latin alphabet replaced it, and then the Cyrillic alphabet was used from 1938 to 1991. In 1991, the current Latin alphabet was introduced, although the transition to it has been rather slow. It used to use some unusual letters, such as the pound, dollar, yen, and cent signs, but these were replaced by more conventional letter symbols.[clarification needed]


The following phonemes are present in the Turkmen language:


Turkmen contains both short and long vowels. Doubling the duration of sound for a short vowel is generally how its long vowel counterpart is pronounced. Turkmen employs vowel harmony, a principle that is common in fellow Turkic languages. Vowels and their sounds are as follows:

Front Back
unrounded rounded unrounded rounded
Close i/и [i] ü/ү [y]
üý/үй [yː]
y/ы [ɯ] u/у [u]
Mid e/е [e] ö/ө [ø] o/о [o]
Open ä/ә [æː] a/а [a]1
  1. For purposes of vowel harmony (see below) the central vowel [a] is considered back.


Turkmen consonant phonemes (shown in Turkmen alphabet):

Bilabial Dental/
Nasal m/м [m] n/н [n] ň/ң [ŋ]
voiceless p/п [p] t/т [] ç/ч [t͡ʃ] k/к [k]/[q]
voiced b/б [b] d/д [] j/җ [d͡ʒ] g/г [ɡ]/[ʁ]
Fricative voiceless f/ф [ɸ] s/с [θ] ş/ш [ʃ] h/х [x]/[h]
voiced w/в [β] z/з [ð] ž/ж [ʒ]
Approximant l/л [l] ý/й [j]
Trill r/р [r]

Note that с (s) and з (z) are actually used for [θ] and [ð], not [s] and [z], a unique feature among the Turkic languages (cf. ceceo).

Vowel harmony

Like other Turkic languages, Turkmen is characterized by vowel harmony. In general, words of native origin consist either entirely of front vowels (inçe çekimli sesler) or entirely of back vowels (ýogyn çekimli sesler). Prefixes and suffixes reflect this harmony, taking different forms depending on the word to which they are attached.

The infinitive form of a verb determines whether it will follow a front vowel harmony or back vowel harmony. Words of foreign origin, mainly Russian, Persian, or Arabic, do not follow vowel harmony.



Verbs are conjugated for singular and plural number and first, second, and third persons. There are 11 verb tenses: present comprehensive (long and short form), present perfect (regular and negative), future certain, future indefinite, conditional, past definite, obligatory, imperative, and intentional.

There are two types of verbs in Turkmen, distinguished by their infinitive forms: those ending in the suffix "-mak" and those ending in "-mek". -Mak verbs follow back vowel harmony, whereas -mek verbs follow front vowel harmony.


Evidentiality is determined by four markers, roughly:

  • -dY (Direct Evidence)
  • -Yp-dYr (Hearsay)
  • -dYr-mY-näm (Indirect Evidence)
  • -mYş (Rumoured that)

Some independent particles may be said to convey evidentiality: one such word is the particle eken.

1. Aman syrkawla-p-dyr.
Aman become sick-EV-COP
           (I heard that) Aman is sick.(information is "hearsay")
Compare 1 with 2.a and 2.b:
2.a. Aman syrkawla-dy.
Aman  become sick-3sPAST
2.b. Aman syrkaw.
Aman sick.
                Aman is sick. (speaker has spoken with Aman)
3. Maral Aşgabat-dan gel-ip-dir.
 Maral Ashgabat-ABL come-EV-COP
                (I heard that) Maral came from Ashgabat.
4. Ben sen-iň köke-ler-iň-i iý-di.
 Ben you-GEN  cookie-pl-2sPOSS-ACC eat-3spast
      Ben ate your cookies.
i. The speaker saw Ben eat the cookies (direct evidence).
ii. Ben told the speaker that he ate the cookies.
5. Ben sen-iň köke-ler-iň-i iý-ip-dir.
 Ben you-GEN cookie-pl-2sPOSS-ACC eat-EV-COP
       Ben ate your cookies.
i. The speaker heard from someone else that Ben ate the cookies (hearsay).
ii. Generally, the speaker learned through means other than 4.i and 4.ii that Ben ate the cookies.
6.a. Ben iý-ip-dir-mikä(n) sen-iň köke-ler-iň-i.
 Ben eat-EV-COP-EV you-GEN cookie-pl-2sPOSS-ACC
         Ben ate your cookies, or more loosely: I wonder if Ben ate your cookies.
i. The speaker saw evidence of the action, i.e. crumbs, and "made the connection." (informant's account)
ii. The speaker "doesn't concretely know [Ben] ate them." (informant's account)
iii. In the words of the informant: "I am questioning myself. But it's not a question."
iv. In other words: a deduction from indirect evidence, a suspicion
6.b. Men (...) iý-ip-dir-in-mikäm?
  I    (...)   eat-EV-1sPRES(?)-EV
           Did I eat something?
i. The speaker questions whether or not s/he has performed an action.
ii. Evidence of the particular action may be direct, however the nature of its complement (i.e. an item of food) may be in doubt.
7. Ben iý-en-miş sen-iň köke-ler-iň-i.
 Ben eat-PART be-RUM  you-GEN     cookie-PL-2sPOSS-ACC
       It is rumoured that Ben ate your cookies.
i. The action has been passed on via several speakers, or gossiped, similar to in the English gloss.
  • Note the postposed complement in 7. A tree of 7 would look something like {(Ben [{(the one who ate [ti])} must be]) [your cookies]i } using different brackets only in order to make the nesting more obvious.
  • In 6.a., the verb appears in the form iý-ip-dir-minäm. I've analyzed the final two syllables as one evidential particle, glossed as EV. This follows partly from the intuitions of the informant, and partly from the consistence: it always appears as -minäm. Nonetheless, it could also be glossed as ...eat-EV-COP-INT-what..., something like, literally, Did Ben eat your cookies, or what?'


One way to express negation in Turkmen is with the negative verb ýok.[citation needed] This verb does not inflect for person or number.

Onuň maşyny ýok.
3sg car-GEN NEGV
'He does not have a car.'
Öýde Amandan başga adam ýok.
houseLOC AmanINST except person NEGV
'There is no one but Aman in the house.'

The phonetically similar suffix -ok is another option: it attaches to the verb which it negates. It comes after the stem and before the tense suffix. -Ok does not modify its form due to vowel harmony. In addition to -ok there is another suffix -me or -ma. It appears -mV is used when dealing with one event, -ok for more habitual or lasting states:

Men bilemok. 'I don't know.'
Men bilemokdym. 'I didn't know (for a long time).'
Men bilmedim. 'I didn't know (on one occasion).'

(these correspond to the positive forms 'Men bilyärin', 'Men bilyärdim', and 'Men bildim.'

Ol ajyganok.
3sg to hunger-GERUND-NEG
Literally *'He is not hungering'; in grammatical English, 'He is not hungry.' (compare to däl construction below)

Speakers of Eastern dialects of Turkmen, influenced by Uzbek, are less likely to utilize the -ok suffix.

Yet another way of expressing negation is by the negative particle däl.

Men şu kitaby okamaly däl.
1sg this book-ACC read-OBLIG NEG
I do not have to read this book. or, I should not read this book. (sentence was elicited for the latter meaning)
Ol aç däl.
3sg hungry NEG (note the lack of copula)
He is not hungry.
Kofe gyzgyn bolup biler.
The coffee might be hot.
Kofe gyzgyn däl bolup biler.
The coffee might not be hot.
Kofe gyzgyn dälmi?
Isn't the coffee hot?

There is not an equivalent in Turkmen to the English prefix 'un-'. That is, one can't simply attach an affix to a verb to indicate the opposite action, as in wrap the present → unwrap the present.

It appears that different tenses use different forms of negation, as in the following sentences:

Men ylgamok.
I am not running. (present)
Men ylgamadym.
I did not run. (past)
Men ylgajak däl.
I will not run. (definite future)

Turkmen case system

Turkmen has six cases: Accusative, Dative, Genitive, Instrumental, Locative, and Nominative.

Pronouns 1 sg 2 sg 3 sg 1 pl 2 pl 3 pl
Nominative men(-ø) sen ol biz siz olar
Genitive meniň seniň onuň biziň siziň olaryň
Dative maňa saňa oňa bize size olara
Accusative meni seni ony bizi sizi olary
Locative mende sende onda bizde sizde olarda
Instrumental[citation needed] menden senden ondan bizden sizden olardan

Back Vowels: The noun sygyr "cow" declined in the six Turkmen cases, with Jenneta's examples of how it would be used for each:

Turkmen case name English case name Noun + ending Example
Baş düşüm Nominative sygyr Sygyr yzyna geldi.
Eýelik düşüm Genitive sygyryň Men sygyryň guýrugyny çekdim.
Ýöneliş düşüm Dative sygyra Men sygyra iým berdim.
Ýeňiş düşüm Accusative sygyry Men sygyry sagdym.
Wagt-orun düşüm Locative sygyrda Sygyrda näme günä bar?
Çykys düşüm Instrumental[citation needed] sygyrdan Bu kesel sygyrdan geçdi. Men sygyrdan ýadadym.

Front Vowels: The proper noun Jeren (a woman's name) declined in the six Turkmen cases, with examples of how it would be used for each:

Turkmen case name English case name Noun + ending Example
Baş düşüm Nominative Jeren Jeren yzyna geldi.
Eýelik düşüm Genitive Jereniň Men Jereniň saçyny çekdim.
Ýöneliş düşüm Dative Jerene Men Jerene nahar berdim.
Ýeňiş düşüm Accusative Jereni Men Jereni gördüm.
Wagt-orun düşüm Locative Jerende Jerende näme günä bar?
Çykys düşüm Instrumental Jerenden Bu kesel Jerenden geçdi. Men Jerenden ýadadym.


Suffixes, or "goşulmalar", form a very important part of Turkmen. They can mark possession, or change a verb.

  • To make a verb passive: -yl/-il; -ul/-ül; -l
  • To make a verb reflexive: -yn/-in; -un/-ün; -n
  • To make a verb reciprocal: -yş/-iş; -uş/-üş; -ş
  • To make a verb causative: -dyr/-dir; -dur/-dür; -yr/-ir; -ur/-ür; -uz/-üz; -ar/-er; -der/-dar; -t

Suffixes reflect vowel harmony.


The leading Turkmen poet is Magtymguly Pyragy, who wrote in the eighteenth century. His language represents a transitional stage between Chagatai and spoken Turkmen.



Number Turkmen Number Turkmen
0 nol 10 on
1 bir 20 ýigrimi
2 iki 30 otuz
3 üç 40 kyrk
4 dört 50 elli
5 bäş 60 altmyş
6 alty 70 ýetmiş
7 ýedi 80 segsen
8 sekiz 90 togsan
9 dokuz 100 ýüz
1000 müň

Note: Numbers are formed identically to other Turkic languages, such as Turkish. So, eleven (11) is "on bir" (ten-one). Two thousand seventeen (2017) is "iki müň on ýedi" (two-thousand-ten-seven).


English Turkmen
black gara
blue gök
brown goňur, mele
grey çal
green ýaşyl
orange narynç, mämişi
pink gülgün
purple benewşe, melewşe
red gyzyl
white ak
yellow sary

Basic expressions

English Turkmen
yes hawa
no ýok
goodbye sag boluň, hoş
good morning ertiriňiz haýyrly bolsun
good evening agşamyňyz haýyrly bolsun
good night gijäňiz rahat bolsun
please -aý/-äý [a]
thank you sag boluň
Do you speak English? Siz iňlis dilinde gepleýärsiňizmi?
I don't speak Turkmen Men türkmen dilinde geplemeýärin
What does it mean? Munuň manysy näme?


Magtymguly's most famous poem among the 1.3 million Iranian Turkmen is "Türkmeniň" (of the Turkmen).[4] The poem concerns the geography of the Turkmen people, and it sings praise for their culture. The poem became a rallying cry for Turkmen independence during the Iranian Revolution. The poem can be read aloud or sung in groups. The Iranian Turkmen dialect is closer to Turkish, so they refer to the poet as "Mahtumkulu Firaki."

Jeýhun bilen bahry-Hazar arasy,
Çöl üstünden öser ýeli türkmeniň;
Gül-gunçasy – gara gözüm garasy,
Gara dagdan iner sili türkmeniň.

Hak sylamyş bardyr onuň saýasy,
Çyrpynşar çölünde neri, maýasy,
Reňbe-reň gül açar ýaşyl ýaýlasy,
Gark bolmuş reýhana çöli türkmeniň.
Al-ýaşyl bürenip çykar perisi,
Kükeýip bark urar anbaryň ysy,
Beg, töre, aksakal ýurduň eýesi,
Küren tutar gözel ili türkmeniň.
Ol merdiň ogludyr, mertdir pederi,
Görogly[5] gardaşy, serhoşdyr seri,
Dagda, düzde kowsa, saýýatlar, diri
Ala bilmez, ýolbars ogly türkmeniň.
Köňüller, ýürekler bir bolup başlar,
Tartsa ýygyn, erär topraklar-daşlar,
Bir suprada taýýar kylynsa aşlar,
Göteriler ol ykbaly türkmeniň.
Köňül howalanar ata çykanda,
Daglar lagla döner gyýa bakanda,
Bal getirer, joşup derýa akanda,
Bent tutdurmaz, gelse sili türkmeniň.
Gapyl galmaz, döwüş güni har olmaz,
Gargyşa, nazara giriftar olmaz,
Bilbilden aýrylyp, solup, saralmaz,
Daýym anbar saçar güli türkmeniň.
Tireler gardaşdyr, urug ýarydyr,
Ykballar ters gelmez hakyň nurudyr,
Mertler ata çyksa, söweş sarydyr,
Ýow üstüne ýörär ýoly türkmeniň.
Serhoş bolup çykar, jiger daglanmaz,
Daşlary syndyrar, ýoly baglanmaz,
Gözüm gaýra düşmez köňül eglenmez,
Magtymguly – sözlär tili türkmeniň.

In between the Amu-Darya and the Caspian sea,
The wind of the Turkmen expands from the desert.
The bud of a flower- the blackness of my eye
From the dark mountains comes the flood of Turkmen.

The Almighty blessed this land. His shadow is present.
A sandstorm in its desert, a white camel,
Color upon color of blooming flowers on the green plains,
The Turkmen desert has drowned into basil.

Its beautiful woman will come out covered in green,
The smell of Amber will spread,
Bey,[6] Honor, the White-bearded(elder) is the owner of the yurt,[7]
The beautiful land of the Turkmen catches the colt.

He is the son of a brave man, his father is valiant,
Görogly[5] is his brother, drunk is his head,
If the hunters chase him in the mountains and valleys,
The lion son of Turkmen cannot be caught alive

Hearts, souls and the heads unite as one,
If it draws deep, the lands and rocks will melt
If the food is ready on one dinner table
It will raise the fate of the Turkmen

His soul will fly when on horseback,
The mountains will turn to lava upon his glance,
When the river flows, it brings honey,
The dams will not hold the flood of Turkmen.

He will not despair, and will not lose on the battle day,
He will not be swayed by curses or the evil,
Will not separate from its nightingale and fade,
The Turkmen rose will forever blossom.

The clans are brothers, and the tribes are friends,
Their fates are tied, by the light of God
When the brave get on horses, it's for the battle,
The paths of the Turkmen lead to its enemies.

He will come out like drunk (fervent, mad), will not despair,
He will move mountains, his path will not be blocked,
My eyes will not gaze away, and the soul will not muse,
Magtymguly speaks the language of the Turkmen.

  1. ^ -aý/-äý are verb suffixes, which can be seen in "Maňa beräý!" (please give it to me).

Further reading

External links


  • Garrett, Jon, Meena Pallipamu, and Greg Lastowka (1996). “Turkmen Grammar”. www.chaihana.com.
  1. ^ a b Turkmen at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Turkmen". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History. 
  3. ^ The group known as "Iraqi Turkmen" are actually speakers of South Azeri and not all tribes that are called "Turkmen" in northeastern Iran are speakers of Turkmen; many are speakers of Khorasani Turkic.
  4. ^ http://www.magtymguly.com/
  5. ^ a b Epic of Koroghlu
  6. ^ Bey
  7. ^ yurt