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Turkic Branch 


Turkic languages constitute a branch of the Altaic language family. They are a group of closely related languages spoken by people spread across a vast area from Eastern Europe to Siberia and Western China. All Turkic languages show close similarities to each other in phonology, morphology, and syntax, though Chuvash, and Yakut differ considerably from the rest. The Turkic branch of the Altaic family is the largest of the three branches in terms of the number of languages and the number of speakers. It is commonly divided into the five groups based on their geographical location. Languages with over 50,000 speakers are listed below.

Southwestern (Oghuz)
Turkish (Ottoman Turkish)
61 million
400,000 Iran
24.4 million
6 million
6.4 million
Qashka’i (Qashqai)
1.5 million
Northwestern (Kipchak)
8.2 million
3.1 million
1.6 million
1.9 million
Northeastern (Siberian)
Southeastern (Uyghur-Chagatai)
18.8 million Uzbekistan
1.5 million Afghanistan
7.6 million China
60,000 China
Strongly divergent
1.8 million Russia (Volga region)

Six Turkic languages have official status in their respective countries.

Azerbaijani North Azerbaijan
Kazakh (along with Russian) Kazakhstan
Turkmen Turkmenistan
Uzbek Northern Uzbekistan
Turkish Turkey
Kyrgyz (along with Russian) Kyrgyzstan


Turkish languages are quite similar to each other linguistically. They form chains of dialects, with adjacent varieties being mutually intelligible. Only Chuvash, spoken in the mid Volga region, is quite different from the rest.


Sound system
The sound systems of most Turkic languages share many common features.


  • A typical Turkic vowel system looks like the vowel system of Turkish in which front vowels can be unrounded or rounded.
  • Vowels may be short or long. Vowel length differentiates word meaning.
  • A common feature of most Turkic languages is vowel harmony, a type of phonological process that involves constraints on what vowels may be found near each other. There are two kinds of vowels — front vowels, which are produced at the front of the mouth, e.g., /i/, /e/, and back vowels, produced at the back of the mouth, e.g., /a/, /u/, /o/. Native Turkic words can contain only all front or all back vowels, and all suffixes and affixes must conform to the vowel of the syllable preceding them in the word. For example, a vowel at the beginning of a word can trigger assimilation of the rest of the vowels in that word, e.g., in Turkish, ev– ‘house + -ler ‘plural’ is evler ‘houses’, çocuk– ‘child’ + –ler ‘plural’ is çocuklar ‘children’. In the first example, all vowels inevler are front vowels. In the second example, all vowels in çocuklar are back vowels.


  • Turkic languages do not allow consonant clusters at the beginning or at the end of words.
  • For the most part, Turkic languages have a variety of consonant sounds produced at the back of the oral cavity, i.e., velaruvular, and glottalconsonants.
  • Voiced stops and affricates are devoiced at the end of words, e.g., in Kyrgyzkitebi ‘book’ (accusative case) becomes kitep ‘book’ (nominative case).

Word stress tends to fall on the last syllable in most Turkic languages, although several eastern languages, e.g., Kazakh and Uyghur, have an initial stress.

All Turkic languages share certain common characteristics.They are agglutinative. An agglutinative language is one in which each affix typically represents one unit of meaning, e.g.,’past tense’, ‘plural’, or ‘masculine’. These affixes do not become fused with each other and do not change their form. They are simply added to each other in a string. For instance, in Turkish evlerimde ‘in my houses’ is composed of ev ‘house,’ ler ‘ plural suffix,’ im ‘my,’ and de ‘in.’

A typical Turkic noun system has the following characteristics which may or not be represented in all Turkic languages: :

  • two numbers: singular and plural.
  • Up to seven cases for nouns and pronouns: nominativegenitivedativeaccusativelocativeablativeinstrumental. Cases are marked by inflectional suffixes whose forms depend on whether the stem ends in a front vowel, a back vowel, a voiced consonant, or a voiceless consonant.
  • Absence of a definite article.
  • Absence of grammatical gender.
  • Distinction between a informal and a formal second person pronoun.
  • There is no gender distinction in third person pronouns: ol refers to ‘he, she, it.’

A fairly typical Turkic verb system has the following features which may or may not be present in all Turkic languages:

  • A grammatical category of evidentiality evidentiality is required at all times. It indicates whether evidence exists for a given statement. Turkic languages contrast direct information (reported directly) and indirect information (reported indirectly).
  • two numbers: singular and plural;
  • three persons: 1st, 2nd, 3rd;
  • three tenses: present, past, future;
  • Auxiliary verbs are used to form tenses.
  • five moods: indicativedubitativeimperativeconditionalsubjunctive;
  • two voices: active and passive with different forms for passive transitive and passive intransitive verbs;
  • fairly complex rules for interrogative and negative forms;

Word order
The word order in Turkic languages is typically Subject-Object-Verb. Other permutations are possible if context demands.

Turkic languages share a core of basic vocabulary. They have also borrowed extensively from Arabic and Persian, and more recently from European languages. Languages spoken on the territory of the former Soviet Union have a large number of Russian loanwords.

Hello Merhaba Cәleм, aссалаум ағалайкум Salamsatysbycаламатсызбы Yahximusiz Salomcaлoм
Good bye Hoşça kalın Кош болыңыз  Kosh kalyng, кош калын Xayrхайр 
Thank you Teşekkür ederim Paқмет Raxmat, paхмат Rehmet Raxmatраҳмат 
Please Lütfen Қалауыӊыз   Otunuchoтунуч Merhemet Marxamat,марҳамат 
Excuse me Affedersiniz Болсын  Kechirip koyunguz, кечирип коюнуз Kequrung Kechiring,кечиринг 
Yes Evet Бәсе, да  Oobaoоба He’e Xaҳа 
No Hayir Емес, жоқ  Jokжок Yakh Yo’qйўк 
Man Adam Адам  Adam, aдам  Adem Odamодам 
Woman Kadın Өйел  Ayalaял  Hotun Ayolайол 

Below are numbers 1-10 in a sample of Turkic languages.

Azerbaijani bir iki üç  dörd beş alti yeddi sekkiz doqquz on
Bashkir ber ike ǿs  dœrt bish alti ete higedh tughidh un
Kazakh bir yeki üsh tort bes alti zhetti segiz toghiz on
Kyrgyz bir iki üch  tört besh alty jeti segiz toghuz on
Turkish bir iki üç  dört beş alti yedi sekiz doquz on
Turkmen bir iki uch dört besh alti yedi sekiz dokuz on
Uyghur bir ikki üq töt bex alte yet’te sekkiz tokh’khuz on
Uzbek bit ikki uch tórt besh olti yetti sakkiz tókkiz ón
Chuvash pêr ik vis’ tâvat pilêk ult s’ich sakâr tâkhâr vun


  • The Orkhon script 
    The Orkhon inscriptions on 8th-century monuments are the earliest known samples of a Turkic alphabet. They were discovered in the valley of theOrhon River, in northern Mongolia, in 1889 and deciphered in 1893. The monuments were erected in honor of the Turkish prince Kul and his brother the emperor Bilge Khan. The text of the inscriptions describes the origin of the Turks, their subjugation by the Chinese, and their liberation by Bilge KhanThe Orkhon script is externally similar to the runic alphabet because both were chiselled on stone with a sharp instrument.
  • The Arabic script was generally used by all Turkic peoples until the early 1920s when the Latin script was introduced to Turkic people.
  • Turkey officially adopted a modified Latin script in 1928.
  • After 1939, the Latin script was almost completely replaced in the Soviet Union by modified forms of the Cyrillic alphabet. Today, both Cyrillic and Latin scripts are used in the former Soviet republics.
  • Today, the Arabic script is used by Turkic-speaking people in Iran, China, and Arab countries.


Language Difficulty
questionHow difficult is it to learn Turkic languages?
All Turkic languages are considered to belong to Category II in terms of difficulty for speakers of English.

5 Responses to Turkic Branch

  1. AyDin

    32 milion Azerbaijani Turks Living In Iran.
    Please edit your text.

    • Irene Thompson

      According to the CIA Factbook, the population of Iran was 77.45 million (2013). Azeris constituted 16% of the population. This means 12,392,000 people. What is your source?

      • maxin

        and according to CIA there is only one black man in U.S. and that’s Obama .
        but my source is not some foreign agency who is trying to hide the truth and says what is good for itself my source is your own politician “Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi” saying “we almost speak the same language 40% of the iranians speak Turkish”
        time : 1:40

  2. Ntdl

    Population in Turkey is nearly 79 million and information here shows that there are 61 million Turkish speaker. You should edit the post.

    • Irene Thompson

      Not all citizens of Turkey are first-language speakers of Turkish. According to Ethnologue (, there are 66,500,000 L1 speakers of Turkish (European Commission 2006) and 350,000 L2 users in Turkey (European Commission 2006). Total users in all countries: 71,785,850 (as L1: 71,435,850; as L2: 350,000). Hope this answers your comment on the disparity between number of citizens and number of L1 speakers in Turkey.


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