Nominal Inflections

As we have mentioned in previous sections, suffixation is omnipresent in Turkish. Most syntactic functions are expressed with suffixes (and a few with clitics). Consider the English sentences below (a):

a. The man hit the ball.

You know that it was the player that hit the ball, because in English word order marks the subject and object. In this case, nominative, player comes before the accusative ball. If you reverse the order, it changes the meaning completely (b):

b. The ball hit the man.

Who did the hitting? Who was hit?
Who did the hitting? Who was hit?

Turkish, on the other hand, does not solely rely on the word order, but uses suffixes to accomplish the same task. In the sentence below it uses absolutive and accusative cases to mark the subject and definite direct object (c):

c. Adam topu at
man-NOM ball-ACC throw-PT
‘(The) man threw the ball’

Because the subject and object is clearly marked in these types of sentences, breaking the word order does not change the core meaning of the sentence. All of the sentences below express the same basic meaning, albeit with different emphasis on the different parts of the sentence (emphasized part shown in capital letters):

1. bugün tamirci geldi
‘the repairman came today’
2. geldi bugün tamirci
‘the repairman DID come today’
3. bugün geldi tamirci
‘the repairman came TODAY (not another day)’

Although the basic meaning expressed in the sentences above are identical, they nevertheless have slightly different meanings and/or contextual usage. As you will discover in upcoming lessons, word order matters with indefinite objects and at the phrase level. As a new learner you should stick with the natural word order of Turkish which is subject, object and verb (SOV).

Proper nouns

When proper nouns are suffixed an apostrophe is used to separate the noun from the suffix:

Ali’nin ‘Ali’s’
New York’da ‘Ali’s’

Intervocalic voicing in suffixation

As you might recall from previous lessons, notwithstanding few exceptions, most suffixes in Turkish have variants based on vowel harmony. That is, the vowel in the suffix will change to match the features of the last vowel in the stem. In addition to the vowel change, there is another process that affects the consonants in the suffix (or in some cases stem). This process can be called intervocalic voicing which is very common among the world languages. During this process, a voiceless sound such as k /k/ becomes (pronounced as) its voiced counterpart (g /g/) when it is surrounded by voiced sounds. In Turkish, this process is very productive with suffixes that start with the sounds ç, t and k. That is, when these suffixes are affixed to stems that end with a voiced sound, the first consonant in the suffix becomes intervocalic (in between two voiced sounds), and their voiced variants c, d and g are used.

çiçekçi ‘florist’
öğrenci ‘student’

We will visit this topic again as we cover these suffixes in detail in subsequent sections.

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