Monday, December 1, 2014

Country Profile: The Languages of Turkey

Last week we looked into the diverse linguistic landscape of Iran, one of the largest countries in the Middle East. Today we're turning our focus to its neighboring country of Turkey, which is located at the crossroads of Europe and Asia. It has a population of over 75 million people who speak a number of distinct languages.

The Official Language

It should come as no surprise that the sole official language of Turkey is Turkish. Turkish is a member of the Turkic language family, and is the native language of approximately 85% of the Turkish population. The country's constitution also mandates that it is the only language that can be taught as a native language in Turkish schools.

Mount Nemrut in southeastern Turkey is home to a fascinating
collection of statues that date back to the 1st century BC.
Minority Languages

Turkey is also home to speakers of many other minority and immigrant languages. Kurmanji, also known as Northern Kurdish, is spoken by approximately 12% of the country's population. It is the most commonly spoken dialect of the Kurdish language, which is also used in Iran, Iraq, and Syria.

The Laz language is natively spoken by around 20,000 people in Turkey. It is a member of the Kartvelian language family which includes three other closely-related languages, including Georgian. Two other prominent minority languages in Turkey are Arabic and Zazaki. Arabic is the most spoken Semitic language in the world, while Zazaki is an Iranian language with approximately 1.5 million speakers worldwide.

Immigrant Languages

Turkey, like many other countries, is also home to many immigrants who continue to speak their native languages. Three of the most spoken immigrant languages in Turkey are Albanian, Bosnian, and Bulgarian. Albanian comprises its very own independent branch of the Indo-European language family, while Bosnian and Bulgarian are Slavic languages. Bulgarian is also the official language of Bulgaria, while Bosnian is a standard variety of Serbo-Croatian that is the official language of Bosnia and Herzegovina.