You might be a little confused when you see the abundance of Turkish vowels. English and Spanish language have 5 vowels whereas the Turkish language has 8 vowels in the alphabet. Okay, let’s learn Turkish vowels together.
“ö”, “ü”, “ı” are the distinct Turkish vowels that you can’t find in the English alphabet but only in the Turkish alphabet.
8 Turkish vowels are: “a, e, ı, i, o, ö, u, ü”. Please watch Vowels Types video if you want to hear the sounds of these vowels.
There are no gliding vowels (diphthong) in Turkish. Yey. This makes reading Turkish a lot easier! (by only knowing the pronunciation of each letter)
In the Turkish language, the letter sequence has to follow one rule: Vowels precede consonants and vice versa. What do I mean with that?
A: any Turkish vowel
B: any Turkish consonant
But, there are words that do not follow this rule.
Then, you can understand that word-stem is most probably a borrowing. (of course, this rule fails when suffixes come into the picture)
‘Kaos’ doesn’t follow the vowel rule, of course. But still, ‘Kaos’ and ‘Kaotik’ are two popular words you can hear in modern Turkish.
Anyways, let’s try to see vowel types from a linguistic perspective and with basic terms so that you can understand easily.
Roundness of lips and frontness of tongue shape the sounds of these 8 vowels.
Turkish vowels can be categorized according to three criteria:
i. The position of the lips decides whether a vowel is “rounded” or “unrounded”.
ii.The space in your mouth decides whether a vowel is “open” or “closed”.
iii.“Front” or “Back”, according to the position of your tongue.
Turkish Vowels Chart
You might wonder why would you need to know if a vowel is rounded not or back or front. Because, it’ll make your life a lot easier when you are learning Turkish grammar.
Turkish grammatical rules like vowel harmony or consonant alternation are derived from these vowel types or consonant types. For example, if there is a rounded vowel in the verb-stem, the suffix you need to attach becomes rounded too.
Shaping your mouth for two rounded vowels is easier than shaping for one rounded and one unrounded vowel. Speakers always try to spend less effort. Watch the vowel types video if you want to hear the sounds from a Turkish speaker.
So, it’s important if you know these vowel types because they are useful to learn vowel harmony rules.
Another thing you should know that some of the borrowings that originally had long vowels are shortened in Turkish. For example, the English word “Jean” exists in Turkish as “cin”.
In Uludağ sözlük -an online dictionary written by internet users in an informal style-, you can find more loanwords and check how they are shaped by time.
Also, some long vowels represent emphasis.
Very, too much
Soft g, is a unique consonant that you can see in Turkish and Azerbaijani alphabets. But wait, why are you learning a consonant in vowel section?
Because, soft g, (ğ) lengthens the previous vowel. It’s a silent letter but when attached to other letters, it gains its function.
There are no words starting with “ğ” because “ğ” must always follow a vowel.