2. The Turkish Vowel and Consonant Harmony


Have you ever wondered why Turkish is so different and difficult to learn? Well, one of the reasons is that Turkish is an agglutinative language. This means that words are formed by adding suffixes with grammatical or semantic meaning.  As you can see in the example above you can form a whole sentence in Turkish just by adding suffixes to the word stem. One word in Turkish can be translated into many words in English. Before learning the suffixes and their meaning you should understand the principles of vowel and consonant harmony, followed in word-formation and conjugation.
1. Vowel Harmony
There are two types of vowel harmony you need to know:

Little vowel harmony (suffixes of ‘e’ type)
• ‘a’, ‘ı’, ‘o’, ‘u’ can be followed by ‘a’
• ‘e’, ‘i’, ‘ö’, ‘ü’ can be followed by ‘e’
Examples: evler (houses), kapılar (doors, gates)

Great vowel harmony (suffixes of ‘i” type)
• ‘a’, ‘ı’ can be followed by ‘ı’
• ‘e’, ‘i’ can be followed by ‘i’
• ‘o’, ‘u’ can be followed by ‘u’
• ‘ö’, ‘ü’ can be followed by ‘ü’
Examples: temizlik (cleanness), hastalık (illness), gözlük (glasses), yağmurluk (raincoat)

Of course, there are some noteworthy exeptions:
• Turkish words like: anne (mother), elma (apple), şişman (fat)
• Words of foreign origin: tiyatro (theatre), kitap (book), lale (tulip), kalem (pen), rozbif (roast beef), röportaj (reportage), liman (port)
• Compound words: bugün(today)= bu (this)+ gün (day), Karadeniz (Black Sea)= kara (black)+ deniz (sea)
• Words formed with invariable Turkish suffixes: -ki, -ken, -(i)yor, -(e)bil 1

2. Consonant Harmony
Voiced consonants: ‘d’, ‘g’, ‘ğ’, ‘j’, ‘y’, ‘l’, ‘m’, ‘n’, ‘r’, ‘v’, ‘z’
Unvoiced consonants: ‘ç’, ‘f’, ‘k’, ‘p’, ‘s’, ‘ş’, ‘t’
When a word ends in the unvoiced consonants ‘p’, ‘ç’, ‘k’, ‘t’ and is added by a vowel or a syllable beginning with a vowel, the unvoiced consonants change into their voiced counterparts ‘b’, ‘c’, ‘ğ’, ‘d’ :
• ‘p’ changes into ‘b’: kitap+ ı= kitabı (his book)
• ‘ç’ changes into ‘c’: ağaç+ı= ağacı (his tree)
• ‘k’ changes into ‘ğ’: köpek+i= köpeği (his dog)
• ‘t’ changes into ‘ğ’: kanat+ı= kanadı (his wings)

Some exceptions:
• Monosyllabic word roots: maç+ı=maçı (his match), saç+ı=saçı (his hair), at+ı= atı (his horse), suç+u=suçu (his fault)
• Some words ending in ‘t’ or ‘nk’: hayat+ı= hayatı (his life), hürriyet+i=hürriyeti (his freedom), anket+i=anketi (his survey), bank+ı= bankı ( his bench)

1. Rosita D’Amora, Corso di Lingua Turca, Hoepli, 2012
2. Yüksel Göknel, Turkish Grammar Updated Academic Edition, 2013