There are two types of consonant harmony in the Turkish language.

For the first, you should remember the phrase fıstıkçı Şahap, which literally means Şahap the nut-seller. This apparent nonsense is useful because it contains all the “hard” consonants in Turkish:

f   s   t   k   ç   ş   h   p

If you add a suffix beginning with a c or a d to a word ending in one of these hard consonants, then the c changes to a ç and the d to a t.

For instance:

Soft: İngiliz (English [as an adjective]) –> İngilizce (English [the language])

Hard: Türk (Turkish [as an adjective]) –> Türkçe (Turkish [the language])

Soft: Bakkal (corner shop) –> Bakkalda (at the corner shop)

Hard: Park (park) –> Parkta (at the park)

The second is the result of a feeling that words should not end with certain letters, and so consequently words which would ordinarily end with those letters get modified.

However, if you add a vowel onto the end of them, they revert to their original form.

The letters that Turkish avoids ending words with are c (which has a j sound in Turkish), d, b, and ğ.

c becomes ç, d becomes t, b becomes p, and ğ becomes k at the end of words.

So ağaç (tree) becomes ağaca (to the tree) when a suffix beginning with a vowel is added.

Arap (Arab) becomes Arab’ın (the Arab’s).

Dert (problem) becomes derdimiz (our problem).

And terlik (slipper) becomes terliği (his/her slipper).

However, if a suffix beginning with a consonant is added, the word remains in its modified form.

e.g. terlikleri (his/her slippers)


Note – this does not mean that all words ending in these letters have been modified. For example, the word et (meat) becomes etim (my meat) and not edim, because its original form was et. The unmodified words ending in these letters are often single syllable, but this is not a rule.

This form of consonant harmony should soon become second nature, but until it is, the Turkish dictionary should helpfully have whether the words change in brackets after them, e.g. et (-ti) but Arap (-bı).

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