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The Turkish Language Reform

Geoffrey Lewis



This is the first full account of the transformation of Ottoman Turkish into Modern Turkish, the most thorough-going piece of linguistic engineering in history.


In 1928 the Arabic-Persian alphabet was outlawed and replaced by the Latin alphabet. Two years later Ataturk declared that the Turkish nation must liberate its language from the yoke of foreign languages, and instituted a government-sponsored campaign to replace words of Arabic or Persian origin. When popular speech or ancient texts failed to provide the needed word, the reformers invented them.


Changing the language was central to the Turkish Republic's aspiration to be western and secular. Ottoman Turkish is dead, but the controversy continues.


Books by Geoffrey Lewis in Greenhousekitap:

The Book of Dede Korkut (translated by Lewis)

Turkish Grammar


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