Guest Post from Pusat Sesi on Turkic Languages and Culture

Pusat Sesi recently had some interesting comments on Turkic languages and culture, which I thought it a shame to leave buried on an old post that few people are likely to read, so we’re transforming it into a guest post (the pictures are my additions):

560Hello, I am a Turkish citizen and my family members are descendants from Crimea during the Ottoman era. We are called Turkmen in our village and I personally look like our Asian relatives with my slanting eyes. I am able to read and write old Turkic Alphabet (I mean Orkhon Alphabet where you mention in this article). I just wanted to make a few contributions. Let me list them as below:

Orkhon, or old Turkish alphabet
Orkhon, or old Turkish alphabet

1) Turk or Turkic is a term used for people who speak a Turkic language as native whatever the race he/she belongs to.

2) Turks were never a homogenous racial group in the history except the time they emerged as a clan in the world (a hypothetical existence on earth, nobody can know the origin of the Turks but my guess is that the first Turkic people were a tribe that left their ancestral lands. Those ancestors of course should be one of Chinese/Japanese/Korean/Mongol people.)

3) Turks were a warrior nation due to their nomadic lifestyle and most of the time they were a minority among the people where they invaded/occupied/migrated/dwelled. So it is very normal that genetically they were mixed with the locals and mostly melted away as a race in the society. For

The "Phrygian cap" appears frequently in US and French symbolic art
The “Phrygian cap” appears frequently in US and French symbolic art

example in Turkey there were Greeks and Romans in western Anatolia but in the center there were Hittites and Phrygians, in the South-west there were Lydians, in the South east Mesopotamians, in the north Caucasus people and in the east Armenians etc. But what happened? They all became Turkic and you see many different hair, skin, eyes color, in Turkey today. Simply, the minority Turkic people mixed with local people genetically but most of the time culturally those crowded local people were Turkified and adopted the Turkic culture.

4) Turkic people mostly preserved the Turkic identity (this is not racial but cultural identity) and I think there is only one reason for this: the language. Admit or not, Turkic language should be somehow a powerful, dominant language wherever it goes. Even Gokturks (first ever state using the name Turk and owner of Orkhon inscriptions) were a federation with many different people from different tribes and races. Even in the Orkhon inscriptions some of these nations are given by their names. But the language was the only common factor that bring them together as a single identity. As an example fort he importance of language is the situation of Egyptians today. Think that they are descendants of the old great empire of Egypt, lands of pharaohs and builders of pyramids. Today they have almost no connection with their past except for the skin color. The reason is that they are completely Arabized with the influence of Arabic language.

Map of Turkic-language speaking peoples
Map of Turkic-language speaking peoples

5) The language of Turkic people was until the 20th century were highly mutually intelligible (during 1900s Soviet, Chinese, Western influences are very high among Turkic languages). I was in China a few years ago and talked in Uyghur restaurant with my Turkish, while they spoke in Uyghur language. Not even a single misunderstanding happened among us. Because the basic words are the same as thousands of years ago… When we talked with our own accents neither they found it odd, nor I did. And we smiled when we see that we can understand each other easily. Think about thousands of miles and thousands of years between a Turkish and Uyghur and see the power of language. It is not the DNA that makes us Turkic, it is the language despite all the loan words and pronunciation differences.

5) About the Orkhon inscriptions: I said I can read and write with this alphabet and it took only 6 hours for me to learn the rules and use of it🙂 because it is up to now the most Turkic thing I have ever seen in my life. I will explain but first I should examine your assumption in the article. When the Orkhon inscriptions were read for the first time, many theories also emerged for the origin of these monuments. One of them assumed that this alphabet was derived from Sogdian and there were a few similar letters. The main reason is that a nomadic tribe/people cannot have such a writing system because they don’t need it. So they should have borrowed the alphabet from some other civilized people which should be Iranians in the vicinity since obviously there is no relation with Chinese characters. I strongly oppose this assumption. Here is why:

a) Although some characters are similar to Sogdian, the sounds of the letters are completely different.

From the blog Orkhon letter Ok
From the blog Orkhon letter Ok

b) The letters are artificial (I mean they are not natural shapes) based on the characteristics of the Turkic language. The alphabet doesn’t seem that it is borrowed, rather it was created for a specific purpose. Since I am a Turkic myself I can see the differences with today’s Latin alphabet. I will try to explain you in a most effective way. As an example: there is a letter read as “ok” in Orkhon alphabet. “Ok” means “arrow” in Turkic and guess what… The letter’s shape is an arrow🙂 There is another letter read as “eb”. “Eb” means “house” in Turkic and guess what… The letter’s shape is a “tent”. Turks were nomadic people and lived in tents, remember? There is a letter read as “ab”. “Ab” means “water” in Turkic and guess what… The letter’s shape is a “water bottle” . There is a letter read as “ay”. “Ay” means “moon” in Turkic and guess what… The letter’s shape is a half moon🙂 There is a letter read as “er”. “Er” means “person” in Turkic and guess what… The letter’s shape is a person with arms🙂 This list goes on like this.

Another special thing with Orkhon alphabet is that it is very suitable for “pure Turkic word structure.” But none of the alphabets Turkic people used today has the same capabilities. What do I mean by this “pure Turkic word structure”? Turkic language has two sounds for one letter, one is soft (with a front vowel) and the other is thick (with a back vowel). So if a word starts with a soft letter, then all the syllables should also be soft. For instance, if the word “computer” were Turkic, it should be written as “komputar”. I will also use what I wrote above while giving my previous examples. There are two letters like “-eb” (house) and “-ab” (water) in Orkhon. These are in fact the letter “b” in Latin but for Turkic language there should be two “b”s and this is indeed valid for also other letters. Only Orkhon alphabet can satisfy such a need. So my point is that, the Orkhon alphabet was created specifically for Turkic language needs at that time rather than borrowed one from another language. Some shapes can be borrowed and modified but the alphabet is an original one.

6) As a summary: race for Turkic nations is not important. Even though there are differences, the only thing that makes a person Turkic is the Turkic language he/she used as a native language. So Turkey is not very Turkic in DNA but very Turkic in every other aspects.


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