Agop Dilaçar.

Uzay Bulut has an interesting account of a surprising participant in Turkey’s language reform (for which see this 2012 post):

Hagop Martayan, or Agop Dilaçar, was the first Secretary General and head specialist of the state-funded Turkish Language Institution (Türk Dil Kurumu, TDK) founded in 1932 in Ankara. He worked as a professor of Turkish at Ankara University between 1936 and 1951. He also was the head adviser of the Turkish Encyclopedia between 1942 and 1960. He wrote books and articles on the Turkish language. Beside his mother tongue, Armenian, he knew English, Ottoman, Azeri, Uighur, Latin, Greek, German, Russian, and Bulgarian. […]

In an article about Martayan’s life (“The Good Child of the Republic: Hagop Martayan or A. Dilaçar”), Levent Özata, a journalist with the newspaper Agos, writes that Martayan was sent to the Caucasian front to fight as an Ottoman soldier during WWI. After the war, Martayan held various positions, including principal of an Armenian school in Beirut, Lebanon, and then a lecturer of Turkish and Uighur in Sofia, Bulgaria. But when the newly formed Turkish state decided to invent a new language in the 1930s, Martayan’s life changed course.

With his articles on the Turkish language, Martayan had attracted the attention of the authorities. But he had been denationalized, stripped of citizenship; he was wandering around with a certificate documenting his statelessness. He was allowed to enter Turkey as “a special guest of Mustafa Kemal, the first president of Turkey, to develop the Turkish language. […] And it was Mustafa Kemal who suggested Martayan’s surname, Dilaçar [literally, “one who opens up the tongue (or language)”; perhaps better translated as “language-giver”] because of his contributions to Turkish after the promulgation of the Law of Family Names.

Thanks, Trevor!


  1. David Marjanović says

    Armenians, Armenians everywhere – your sidebar links to “Nişanyan’s Turkish Etymological Dictionary”, and that name has got to be Armenian, too.

  2. Yup!

  3. Speaking of the other Armenian writer of a Turkish etymological dictionary, Seven Nisanyan, he has reportedly escaped recently from prison, where he was serving a lengthy sentence for, inter alia, “construction infractions”:

    (As I recall, he had turned a decrepit old building into a hotel but the central authorities had gone after him for not having had the paperwork in order. Given the questionable legality of a large proportion of the buildings put up in Turkey, skepticism was very widespread regarding his conviction.)

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