On the surface, Turkish looks relatively simple. The majority of spellings are phonetic, with one letter per phoneme. Accents are added a number of letters in the alphabet to adjust their pronunciation, however in reality Turkish spelling is complicated by extensive agglutination and vowel harmony.
The term ‘agglutination’ refers to a method of creating words by which root words (morphemes) are joined together. The most common formations result from the addition of suffixes. In English words tend to be made up of no more than two parts, for example, ‘forgetful’. In Turkish, there is no limit on the number of morphemes that may be glued together. Take this word for example, “YaramazlastIrIlamIyabilenlerdenmissiniz,” which means “You appear to be one of those people who are incapable of being naughty”. It takes patience, skill and an expert eye to craft Turkish words as long as that, and still maintain the meaning of the text.
Vowel harmony refers to the constraints within Turkish regarding which vowels can be placed near each other. This leads to some very complex spelling rules. A thorough understanding of vowel harmony will improve the quality of spelling produced by a Turkish translator.
A further complication arises around the use of the letter “i”. In the English alphabet, the “i” loses its dot when capitalized. In Turkish, it does not, with “i” becoming “İ” when capitalized. This is because the Turkish alphabet also includes a dotless “i”, which becomes “I” when capitalized. A skillful Turkish translator will know which is the appropriate letter to use and when.
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