Turkish Interrogatives – Why?

Neden? Niye? Niçin?

There are three interrogative forms in Turkish that can be translated as ‘why’ in to English: (i) neden, (ii) niçin and (iii) niye.

(i) Neden ‘why’ comes from the ablatives case of ne ‘what’. :
neden durdu?
what-ABL stop-PT-3S
‘why did it stop?’

(ii) Niye on the other hand is related to the dative case of ne,
niye durdu?
why stop-PT-3S
‘why did it stop?’

but it differs in meaning from the actual dative case of ne,
niye lâzım?
why needed
‘why is it needed?’
neye lâzım?
what-DAT need
‘to what is it needed?’

(iii) Niçin is a juxtaposition of ne ‘what’ + için ‘for’,
niçin durdu?
why stop-PT-3S
‘why did it stop?’

All three can be used interchangeably as interrogatives and sub-ordinate markers.
neden/niye/niçin kısa bu?
why short this
‘why is this (one) short?’
benim için neden/niye/niçin böyle olduğu önemli değil
1S-POSS for why this-like be-PT-ACC care-ADJ not
‘it is not important to me why he/she/it is like this’

Also note that these interrogatives are not subject to suffixation.

Neden can also be used as a regular noun meaning ‘reason’ or ’cause’, hence subject to suffixation in this form,

nedeni neymiş
reason-ACC what-BE.EVI
‘what was the reason?’
sen neden oldun
2S cause happen-PT-2S
‘you caused it’
nedene gerek yok
reason-DAT need not exists
‘no need for a reason’
o nedenden
3S reason-ABL
‘because of that’

Please note that unlike the rest of the interrogatives, these ones are not placed in situ. They are generally either the first or the last word in an interrogative.

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