How Does Azerbaijani Sound to Turks?

An interesting Quora discussion:

Bulent Cetin:

Sometimes it sounds funny, due to the difference in vocabulary and emphasis.

Though it can be understood. Modern Turkish, and the most used accent “Istanbul Accent” is highly corrupted since the Ottoman era with gazillions of Arabic and Persian words. As far as I know Azeri Turks use the Turkmen dialect of Oguz Turkish, which contains more words of purely Turkic origin.[…]

Kozan Soykal:

They are the same language with some differences in how words are used. For example, Azerbaijani verb for (a plane) landing is the Turkish verb for (a plane) crashing.

The experience is perfectly understandable Turkish, suddenly interrupted by such a different use of a word that breaks that rhythm. Note that this is the same structure as jokes (in any language) – a straight story with a sudden twist at the end.

So Turks find listening to Azerbaijani fun – it’s sounds like an endless stream of jokes. That it’s not intended to be so makes if even funnier.

Tolga Han:

It never sound to me funny.

Turkish people are very egocentric about this issue. They are laughing when an Azerbaijani saying ‘Qapı'(door) to football target , but they dont realize they are calling the same thing ‘Kale’(castle).

Or they are get angry when an AZE call to bus a ‘Maşın’. They are grumbling that about the Russian influence on the Azerbaijani Turkish. But they dont think they called it ‘Otobüs’ . It is completly from French.

Those are just the top three responses; there are 21 so far, and it’s a lot of fun to get this kind of impressionistic picture of how people react to a closely related language. Thanks, Bathrobe!

Comments

  1. This brings to mind a passage in the book Memories: from Moscow to the Black Sea, by Teffi, where she describes her initial encounter with Ukrainian: ‘…made everything seem like the work of some practical joker…as surprising as if, in some official Russian institution, you were to see a sign saying “No barging in without prior announcement,” or, inside a train carriage, “Don’t lean your noggin against the glass,” or “All tittle-tattle strictly prohibited.” ‘

  2. This reminds me of when a friend asked me recently what Russian sounds like to me (a native speaker of Serbo-Croatian), and my honest answer was that it sounds like baby talk.

  3. The Bulent Cetin comment is laughable, nationalist nonsense. And I don’t know how anyone could compare modern (reformed) Istanbuli Turkish with the Azeri spoken in Azerbaijan and conclude that the latter has more words of “purely Turkic origin.” Just compare the top headline and blurb from BBC Turkish and BBC Azeri, respectively, with “foreign” loanwords bolded. I’ve excluded names of people and places.

    BBC Turkish:
    Trump: Guantanamo Üssü açık kalacak
    ABD Başkanı Donald Trump, göreve başlaması sonrası Amerikan Kongresi’nde ilk ulusa sesleniş konuşmasını yaptı. Trump, Guantanamo Üssü’nün açık tutulmasını öngören başkanlık kararnamesini imzaladığını açıkladı.
    3 loanwords out of a total of 29 (including “Kongres” for discussing the US Congress), ~10%

    BBC Azeri:
    Bakı metrosunda qatarlararası fasilə bərpa olunub
    Bakı Metropolitenində səhər saat 07:15 radələrində sıxlıq yaşanıb. Qatarlardan biri texniki nasazlıq səbəbindən xətdən çıxarılıb.
    12 loanwords out of a total of 21 (excluding “radə” because, while it strikes me as probably a loanword, I couldn’t guess the etymology, so I counted it as “native” just to be conservative), ~57%

    Seems pretty clear to me.

  4. radə

    Looks like it was derived from ‘burada’, though how such semantic shift could occur evades me.

  5. David Marjanović says:

    I can tell what it sounds to me! I got to hear some recently for a few hours. Turkish? …No, that’s not Turkish. …Hungarian?… No. Turkish?… I was told only afterwards what it was, and then it made sense: what reminded me of Hungarian – [ɒ] in particular – is actually shared with Persian.

    That’s just the phonetics, though. I didn’t understand a word.

    ‘…made everything seem like the work of some practical joker…as surprising as if, in some official Russian institution, you were to see a sign saying “No barging in without prior announcement,” or, inside a train carriage, “Don’t lean your noggin against the glass,” or “All tittle-tattle strictly prohibited.” ‘

    That’s also what Dutch looks like when seen from German. And no doubt vice versa.

    Just compare the top headline and blurb from BBC Turkish and BBC Azeri, respectively, with “foreign” loanwords bolded.

    The samples are too short for accidental sampling bias. For instance, saat “hour”, from Arabic, is also used in Turkish, and from there all over the Balkans.

  6. The problem with the BBC as a source of comparisons is how little seems to be shared across the Azeri and Turkish news sites — or if it is, how hard it is to find it given the different principles of site organisation. Same for Uzbeck and Kyrgyz.

  7. With regard to mutual intelligibility between Turkish and Azeri, see this blog post of mine about a old paper that attempted to quantify it.

  8. David Marjanović says:

    The samples are too short for accidental sampling bias.

    *facepalm*

    The samples are too short, because they’re short enough for accidental sampling bias.

    That’s also what Dutch looks like when seen from German. And no doubt vice versa.

    To a lesser extent, this also happens within sociolinguistic German, i.e. between the standard and any dialect.

    this blog post of mine

    Huh, I didn’t know they had Westfernsehen in Azerbaijan in 1962. 🙂

  9. I am pretty sure in 1962 Nicholas Poppe could only study mutual intelligibility of Turkish and Iranian Azeri, not Azeri of the Soviet Azerbaijan.

    He definitely wouldn’t be allowed back into the USSR after having defected to the Nazis during the war (and serving as a consultant for Amt VI (SD-Ausland) of the Reichssicherheitshauptamt).

  10. For example, Azerbaijani verb for (a plane) landing is the Turkish verb for (a plane) crashing.

    Fantastic. That’s better than the Inuit and their words for snow; Azeris have no word for “to land a plane safely”.

    (A good landing is any landing you can walk away from, and a great landing is one where they get to re-use the plane.)

  11. The experience is perfectly understandable Turkish, suddenly interrupted by such a different use of a word that breaks that rhythm.

    Reminds me slightly of the joke about the Polish pilot in the UK during the war, and his hosts ask him whether he has any family back in Poland?
    “Yes, I have a wife.”
    And children?
    “No, no children. Unfortunately my wife is, how do you say it, impregnable. No, unbearable. No, inconceivable.”

  12. ə de vivre says:

    The lack of vowel harmony in “radə” would suggest that it’s a loan. My impression of the differences between Turkish and Azeri certainly matches E’s in that Azeri seemed to have a much more prominent Arabic/Persian influence that reminded me of the vocabulary of early 20th century Turkish authors. But in general I don’t believe any statements about language that involve the word “purity”.

    I also recall a sitcom on ATV about an Azeri nanny in Istanbul. It was essentially the same premise as the American TV show The Nanny. The character in question mostly spoke Istanbullu Turkish with a heavy “Eastern” accent though.

  13. Trond Engen says:

    Azerbaijani verb for (a plane) landing is the Turkish verb for (a plane) crashing

    That could easily happen. The meanings of positional affixes and prepositions are notoriously notorious.

    This reminds me of another trip to Paris. My sister had arranged for us to stay with her mother-in-law for a couple of days, and we were to call her when we landed at (on? in?) Roissy. I wanted to sound my very brightest and had prepared a line on the plane, and, after landing, while I waited for my phone to select a network (it took some time back then), I had time to rehearse it in my head. Something went wrong, for I ended up saying Nous sommes enterrés. The French lady was atterrée.

  14. I think I solved the mystery of radə.

    It’s just different spelling (and possibly different pronunciation as well) of Azeri (and Turkish) word “arada” which means “between, around, at the time”.

    “saat 07:15 radələrində” – “at about 07:15”

  15. “No, no children. Unfortunately my wife is, how do you say it, impregnable. No, unbearable. No, inconceivable.”

    I love it!

  16. SFReader: arada is ara “distance, interval” plus -DE. There’s no rādah in Steingass, though; I’m in a comparable loss.

  17. From Proto-Turkic *hār- (“split, divide, cleave in twain”). Cognate with Old Turkic 𐰺𐰀‎ (āra).

    Native Turkic word, not loanword from Persian

  18. Thanks for clearing up the mystery of radə, SFReader!

    As for sample size, I understand that these are too small, I just meant them as examples of something I’m not going to be able to prove scientifically in the space of a comment box. I don’t have the time to mark up a long text, but if anyone wants to try this exercise themselves, I have no doubt that they’d find roughly the same results: Azeri has exponentially more foreign loanwords than does Turkish.

  19. I’ve finally understood radə. The second Google hit sez “RADƏ см. raddə ətraflı”, so rādda رادّة.

  20. Michael Hendry says:

    David Marjanović (6:04am): “That’s also what Dutch looks like when seen from German.”

    One of G. C. Lichtenberg’s best-known aphorisms is pretty much the same idea turned around: “A donkey looks to me like a horse translated into Dutch”

  21. Impregnable/inconceivable etc.: I heard that joke told about an Indian graduate student. There must be many other versions around.

  22. Once more on raddə/radə: it must be [raddɛ] vs [raːdɛ]: you either preserve the vowel length or the consonant length, but not both, as in good Arabic/Persian.

  23. I don’t get it. The dictionary says the Arabic word means “return, profit”. How then can it be relevant to the Azeri meaning?

  24. Nişanyan’s dictionary.

    Basically R-D-D is “related to going back or giving back”, whence “turn” > “degree”.

    Kamus-ı Türki (1900):
    Arabīde faide ve menfaat manasından başka bir de araba oku manasına gelir. Lisanımızdaki istimalinin vechi anlaşılamadı.

    “Means benefit/profit in Arabic and also ‘wagon-arrow'(?). The usage in our language is apparently incomprehensible.”

  25. So that settles it. Azeri/Turkish usage is based on native word “arada” which has relevant meaning and raddə is just erroneous spelling/false etymology/hypercorrection or whatever.

  26. “arada” wouldn’t work. It’s not a noun, but a noun plus a case marker, so “arasında”, “aralarında” etc.

  27. Forms like “aradalarinda” also can be found if you google it. Granted, it’s not very good grammar, but it is produced regularly by native Turkish speakers nevertheless.

    Azeri word was probably derived from something similar.

  28. Point conceded!

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