As I’ve mentioned before, language has been a huge interest of mine ever since I was a boy. The Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) has a series of podcasts called Lingua Franca. Hosted by Maria Zijlstra, the show features all sorts of things related to language. As you might imagine, I am very much a fan of the show.
I’ve written before about Turkish. Turkish is not related to Arabic, though like Persian which is also not related to Arabic, it used to be written in the Arabic script. (Strangely enough, Persian or Farsi is an Indo-European language. English belongs to the great Indo-European family of languages as well.) After the fall of the Ottoman Empire, a man by the name of Kemal Atatürk took power. Atatürk wanted Turkey to shed its feudal past. For Atatürk, modernization meant Europeanization. He wanted to create in Turkey a secular state. Very strict separation between mosque and state was put in place. However, this did not stop Atatürk from meddling in the religious affairs of the Turkish people.
Part of his modernization program involved making Turks write in Roman letters. Before, they had written in Arabic script. It is now very difficult if not impossible for modern Turks, most of whom are Muslim and therefore have some familiarity with Arabic, to read anything published prior to 1930. One reform of Atatürk’s which is still in practice today is the practice of giving the Friday sermon in Mosques in Turkish rather than Arabic. He also purged the language of Arabic and Persian loan words. From 1932 until 1950, it was actually illegal in Turkey to chant the ezan, or the call to worship that is chanted from the minarets of mosques five times a day in Arabic. Rather, only a Turkish translation could be used.
Maria Zijlstra has interviewed Professor Şehnaz Tahir-Gürçağlar about this. You can either read the transcript or listen to the podcast by clicking here.
If you’re interested in such things, you can also hear guest host Prithvi Varatharajan interview Dr. Mark Okrand, inventor of the Klingon language. There is a community of people who have learned this language which was devised for Star Trek. You can access this one by clicking here.