In order to provide additional help to new learners of Turkish, Hands on Turkish is publishing a series of articles focusing on particular sticking-points in the grammar that often confuse learners whose first language is not Turkic. These are not intended to teach you these concepts from scratch – check out the Hands on Turkish course for that – but to be a handy reference guide for any difficulties later on.
This blog article focuses on vowel harmony, which is often seen as a very difficult problem for new learners. However, with a little practice, it will soon become second nature.
There are two main concepts to grasp in this blog post:
- Long vowel harmony (e or a)
- Short vowel harmony (i, ı, ü, or u)
Both forms of vowel harmony work to make words easier to pronounce and less of a mouthful. As you come to use Turkish more often, you will increasingly find that you can tell when another speaker has got it “right”.
With long vowel harmony, suffixes on a word take either the letter “e” or the letter “a”.
This happens with nouns, for example when you are specifying something’s location with the suffix -da/-de –
|Amerika’da – in America||dışarıda – outside|
|İngiltere’de – in Britain||içeride – inside|
And with verbs, for example with the future tense (-acak/ecek)
|Yapacak – He/she/it will do||Bırakacak – He/she/it will leave|
|Gelecek – He/she/it will come||Gidecek – He/she/it will go|
Whether something takes an “a” or an “e” depends on the last vowel in the word before you add the ending.
a, ı, u, and o take an “a” where the suffix uses long vowel harmony
e, i, ü, and ö take an “e” where the suffix uses long vowel harmony
Short vowel harmony works in much the same way, but with four possible options: i, ı, ü and u.
For example, the simple past tense (-di/dı/dü/du) works like this:
|Geldi – He/she/it came||Öldü – He/she/it/died|
|Yandı – He/she/it burnt||Oldu – He/she/it was|
Once again, it is the same with nouns, as we can see with the possessive “my” (-im/ım/üm/um, or just -m after vowels):
|Trenim – My train||Sözüm – My word|
|Adım – My name||Gururum – My pride|
Whether something takes an “i”, “ı”, “ü” or “u” depends again on the last vowel in the word before you add the ending.
e and i take an “i” where the suffix uses short vowel harmony
a and ı take an “ı” where the suffix uses short vowel harmony
ö and ü take a “ü” where the suffix uses short vowel harmony
o and u take a “u” where the suffix uses short vowel harmony