Ottoman Turkish.

Two links on an interesting topic:

1) When Turkish was written in the Greek, Armenian and even Syrian script, by Michael Erdman:

The two largest allographic communities were the Armenians and the Greeks. Armeno-Turkish – a rendering of Ottoman Turkish in Armenian letters – gave rise to a vibrant publishing industry and cultural community. The orthography was largely phonetic and based upon Western Armenian readings of the letters. It was in Armeno-Turkish that many French and other Western European works came into Turkish. This was a situation assisted by the reticence of the Sublime Porte to authorise Ottoman Turkish printing presses, despite the expansion of Armenian, Greek and Jewish ones. […]

Turkish written in Greek characters also laid the foundation for a vibrant publishing industry, with a heavy emphasis on religious materials. The language, known as Karamanlidika in Greek and Karamanlıca in Turkish, was the everyday idiom of the Turkish-speaking Greek Orthodox Christians of Anatolia. Despite being ethnically and linguistically Turkish, their religion required them to be classified as Rum or Greek Orthodox under the Ottoman system.

Lots of great illustrations; thanks, Trevor!

2) You should learn Ottoman Turkish, by David Selim Sayers:

If you reduced the Ottomans to Islam or Turkishness, they themselves would be the first to object. They rarely even used the word “Turk” without adding an insulting adjective like “idiotic,” “misshapen,” or “mad”. An Ottoman Empire consisting only of Turkishness would be just that: idiotic, misshapen, and mad.

You should learn Ottoman Turkish. However, that isn’t enough. Once you know the language, you have to forget everything you’ve learned about the Ottoman Empire, stand up for those rotting and looted archives you’ve never seen, dig into them, and rewrite Ottoman history. You have to read everything —from the poems Mehmed the Conqueror wrote for young boys to the correspondences of the Young Turks regarding the Armenians— and you have to share what you read with everyone. You cannot entrust this task to anyone else. Because entrusting history to others means allowing others to dictate your identity, attitudes, and life.


  1. ə de vivre says

    I don’t know if you’ve had the occasion to link to it before, but I’ll plug the Ottoman History Podcast, for anyone interested in this kind of messy (both in the sense of “complicated” and “dirty”) history of the Ottoman Empire. Of interest to Hattics might be the recent episodes 290 “The Politics of Turkish Language Reform” and 289 “The Ottoman Erotic”.

  2. Thanks!

  3. Trond Engen says

    Ottoman Turkish for Armchair Linguists.

  4. Sofa, so good!

  5. Methinks Sayers’s metaphors have run away with him, like that Lord Randall who is said to have jumped aboard his horse and ridden madly off in all directions. What’s the point of sharing your results with people if they have to do all the work from scratch themselves? It would be like handing a toddler a thick tome entitled How to Walk.

    “I give you books, and I give you books, and all you do is eat the covers.” —John A. Davidson (a kook, but even a stopped clock etc.)

  6. David Marjanović says

    John A. Davison?!? Oh, the memories.

  7. So who is this John A. Davison? Google is no help, and the saying is one of those wandering ones that everybody and nobody claims: “I buy you books and buy you books and all you do is eat the covers,” and for variety “We give ya books and we give ya books and all you do is eat the covers!”

  8. Rationalwiki for his kookery, comment 30 of this post for his (self-)attribution. (“Davidson” was a typo.) There are many similar phrases, of course, but the specific form “I give you books, and I give you books” is more unusual, although indeed the foremost user of this expression in the Interwebs is — me.

    As I have posted here before, I got the phrase from my wife, who got it from her (nearly) lifelong friend John B. Gremer.

  9. David Marjanović says

    Warning: “this post” is on Uncommonly Dense. Don’t visit on an empty stomach.

  10. In light of recent unfortunate events, I was wondering – how did the name Kaşıkçı (“Spooner”; still rendered this way in the Turkish press) get changed to خاشقجي (Xāšuqǧī), with an initial fricative, in Arabic? It seems that the family has been in Saudi Arabia for at least three generations.

  11. Oh, so I think I got an answer to that. Apparently kaşık had, at some earlier point, used /q/ (cf. Uzbek qoshiq) – which, being uvular and perhaps also aspirated or affricated, ended up being equated with Arabic /χ/, for example in Hejazi xāšūgä, ‘spoon’. Late Ottoman Turkish no longer had /q/, of course, but I suppose the memory of this equivalence was still strong enough to explain the surname.

    (I see that there was an earlier thread explicitly about this name, but I overlooked it.)


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