Turkmen (, , , or , , , ), also referred to as Turkmen Turkic or Turkmen Turkish, is a Turkic language spoken by the Turkmens of Central Asia, mainly of Turkmenistan, Iran and Afghanistan. It has an estimated five million native speakers in Turkmenistan, a further 719,000 speakers in Northeastern Iran and 1.5 million people in Northwestern Afghanistan. Turkmen has official status in Turkmenistan, but it does not have official status in Iran or Afghanistan, where big communities of ethnic Turkmens live. Turkmen is also spoken to lesser varying degrees in Turkmen communities of Uzbekistan and Tajikistan and by diaspora communities, primarily in Turkey and Russia. Turkmen is a member of the Oghuz branch of the Turkic languages. The standardized form of Turkmen (spoken in Turkmenistan) is based on the Teke dialect, while Iranian Turkmen uses mostly the Yomud dialect, and Afghan Turkmen uses Ersary variety. Turkmen is closely related to Azerbaijani, Crimean Tatar, Gagauz, Qashqai and Turkish, sharing varying degrees of mutual intelligibility with each of those languages. Elsewhere in Iran, the Turkmen language comes second after the Azerbaijani language in terms of the number of speakers of Turkic languages of Iran. Iraqi and Syrian "Turkmen" speak dialects that form a continuum between Turkish and Azerbaijani, in both cases heavily influenced by Arabic. These varieties are not Turkmen in the sense of this article. The Turkmen language, unlike other languages of the Oghuz branch, preserved most of the unique and archaic features of the language spoken by the early Oghuz Turks, such as pronouncing vowels longer or shorter according to corresponding words or word characteristics.


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.

Comparison with other Turkic languages

Turkmen has dental fricatives and unlike other Oghuz Turkic languages, where these sounds are pronounced as and . The only other Turkic language with a similar feature is Bashkir. However, in Bashkir and are two independent phonemes, distinct from and , whereas in Turkmen and are the two main realizations of the common Turkic and . In other words, there are no and phonemes in Turkmen, unlike Bashkir which has both and and and . However, Russian linguist Oleg Mudrak calls the Azerbaijan language the closest relative of Turkmen.

Turkmen vs. Turkish

Turkey was first to recognize Turkmenistan's independence on 27 October 1991, following the dissolution of the USSR and to open its Embassy in Ashgabat on 29 February 1992. Sharing a common history, religion, language and culture, the two states have balanced special relations based on mutual respect and the principle of “One Nation, Two States”. Turkmen language is very close to Turkish with regard to linguistic properties. However, a couple of differences due to regional and historical reasons prevent the high mutual intelligibility across these languages. Most morphophonetic rules are common in Turkmen and Turkish languages, though they use different alphabets. For instance, both languages show vowel harmony and consonant mutation rules, and have similar suffixes with very close semantics. Here are some words from the Swadesh list in Turkmen and Turkish that mean the same in both languages:

Turkmen vs. Azerbaijani

The 1st person personal pronoun is “men” in Turkmen, just as “mən” in Azerbaijani, whereas it is “ben ” in Turkish. The same is true for demonstrative pronouns “bu”, where sound “b” is replaced with sound “m”. For example: “bunun>munun//mının, muna//mına, munu//munı, munda//mında, mundan//mından”. In Turkmen, “bu” undergoes some changes just as in: “munuñ, munı, muña, munda, mundan, munça”. Here are some words with a different pronunciation in Turkmen and Azerbaijani that mean the same in both languages:


Writing system

Turkmen written language was formed in the 13-14th centuries. During this period, the Arabic alphabet was used extensively for writing. Already in the 18th century, there was a rich literature in the Turkmen language. At the same time, the literacy of the population in their native language remained at low levels; book publishing was extremely limited, and the first primer in the Turkmen language appeared only in 1913, while the first newspaper ("Transcaspian native newspaper") was printed in 1914. The Arabic script was not adapted to the phonetic features of the Turkic languages. Thus, it did not have necessary signs to designate specific sounds of the Turkmen language, and at the same time there were many letters to designate Arabic sounds that were not in the Turkmen language. During the first years after the establishment of the Soviet power, the Arabic alphabet of the Turkmens of the USSR was reformed twice, in 1922 and 1925. In the course of the reforms, letters with diacritics were introduced to denote Turkic phonemes; and letters were abolished for sounds that are absent in the Turkmen language. The Turkmens of Afghanistan and Iran continue to use Arabic script. In January 1925, on the pages of the republican newspaper "Türkmenistan", the question of switching to a new, Latin alphabet was raised. After the first All-Union Turkological Congress in Baku (February-March 1926), the State Academic Council under the People's Commissariat of Education of the Turkmen SSR developed a draft of a new alphabet. On January 3, 1928, the revised new Latin alphabet was approved by the Central Executive Committee of the Turkmen SSR. At the end of the 1930s, the process of the Cyrillization of writing began throughout the USSR. In January 1939, the newspaper "Sowet Türkmenistany" published a letter from teachers in Ashgabat and the Ashgabat region with an initiative to replace the Turkmen (Latin) script with Cyrillic. The Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the Turkmen SSR instructed the Research Institute of Language and Literature to draw up a draft of a new alphabet. The teachers of the Ashgabat Pedagogical Institute and print workers also took part in the development of the new writing system. In April 1940, the draft alphabet was published. In May 1940, the Council of People's Commissars of the Turkmen SSR adopted a resolution on the transition to a new alphabet of all state and public institutions from July 1, 1940, and on the beginning of teaching the new alphabet in schools from September 1 of the same year. After the dissolution of USSR, in January 1993, a meeting was held at the Academy of Sciences of Turkmenistan on the issue of replacing the Cyrillic with the Latin alphabet, at which a commission was formed to develop the alphabet. In February, a new version of the alphabet was published in the press. On April 12, 1993, the Mejlis of Turkmenistan approved a presidential decree on the new alphabet.


Turkmen is a highly agglutinative language, in that much of the grammar is expressed by means of suffixes added to nouns and verbs. It is very regular compared with many other languages of non-Turkic group. For example, obalardan "from the villages" can be analysed as oba "vıllage", -lar (plural suffix), -dan (ablative case, meaning "from"); alýaryn "I am taking" as al "take", -ýar (present continuous tense), -yn (1st person singular). Another characteristic of Turkmen is vowel harmony. Most suffixes have two or four different forms, the choice between which depends on the vowel of the word's root or the preceding suffix: for example, the ablative case of obalar is obalardan "from the villages" but, the ablative case of itler "dogs" is itlerden "from the dogs".


Turkmen literature comprises oral compositions and written texts in Old Oghuz Turkic and Turkmen languages. Turkmens are direct descendants of the Oghuz Turks, who were a western Turkic people that spoke the Oghuz branch of the Turkic language family. The earliest development of the Turkmen literature is closely associated with the literature of the Oghuz Turks. Turkmens have joint claims to a great number of literary works written in Old Oghuz and Persian (by Seljuks in 11-12th centuries) languages with other people of the Oghuz Turkic origin, mainly of Azerbaijan and Turkey. This works include, but are not limited to the Book of Dede Korkut, Gorogly, Layla and Majnun, Yusuf Zulaikha and others. There is general consensus, however, that distinctively modern Turkmen literature originated in the 18th century with the poetry of Magtymguly Pyragy, who is considered the father of the Turkmen literature. Other prominent Turkmen poets of that era are Döwletmämmet Azady (Magtymguly's father), Nurmuhammet Andalyp, Abdylla Şabende, Şeýdaýy, Mahmyt Gaýyby and Gurbanally Magrupy.



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).


Basic expressions


The following is Magtymguly's ''Türkmeniň'' (of the Turkmen(s)) poem with the text transliterated into Turkmen (Latin) letters, whereas the original language is preserved. Second column is the poem's Turkish translation, third one is the Azerbaijani translation, while the last one is the English translation.


Further reading




*Garrett, Jon, Meena Pallipamu, and Greg Lastowka (1996). "Turkmen Grammar". www.chaihana.com.

External links

Turkmen grammar and orthography rules (Turkmen)
(''in Turkmen'')
Turkmen - English Dictionary with searchable reverse dictionary

Turkmen - English / English - Turkmen Dictionary (a)

Turkmen - English / English - Turkmen Dictionary (b)

Turkmen - English Dictionary

Turkmen language online transliteration

Ajapsozluk.com Ever-growing dictionary of Turkmen language

Turkmen<>Turkish dictionary
(Pamukkale University) {{DEFAULTSORT:Turkmen Language Category:Turkmen language| Category:Turkic languages Category:Agglutinative languages Category:Languages of Turkmenistan Category:Turkic languages of Afghanistan Category:Languages of Iran Category:Languages of Russia Category:Languages formerly written in Cyrillic script