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Sentence Structure Variations
of the Turkish Language

Devrik Cümle --
the Transposed or Inverted Sentence...

Standard Word Order? What Standard Word Order?

In Turkey - Türkiye'de

Tüm kitap fırsatları için tıklayın !

Language-learning pages:
  • How To Learn Basic Turkish --
    A Practical Philosophy for beginners

    (Found in the 'Introduction to The Whole Earth Catalog of Turkish Movies'.)
  • Why Off-color language is important too...
  • Translating Turkish, the basics
  • Translating Turkish, advanced
  • Essential Turkish Vocabulary
  • Turkish Verbs
  • Essential Idioms, Index
  • Essential Suffixes, Index
  • Sentence Structure, Standard
  • Sentence Structure Variations
  • Turkish Pronunciation
  • Turkish Accenting
  • Turkish Numbers Revealed
  • Other Turkish Language Difficulties
  • Devrik Cümle
    The Transposed Sentence

    "I always wondered why ordinary Turkish-speaking people in the street had difficulties in understanding long and complicated sentences. I think the (reverse) Turkish Language word order is the reason. Technically speaking, it requires a kind of "memory" to store all the necessary operational parameters until the operation code (verb) is caught. Because of this "memory" requirement, many of us (colloquially) prefer simple sentences. As an evolving language, Turkish has its own action. I see a remarkable increase in the use of verb-near-the-beginning sentences, as in English. It seems more natural (in agreement with the natural way of thinking), I suppose..."
    Mehmet Un, 1997

    Mehmet Un's insightful, man-in-the-street observation provides a serviceable segue into discussion about the Devrik Cümle (DC) [or 'Transposed Sentence' (also known as 'Inverted Sentence')]. It's a subject with some built-in controversy since a few Turkish Language linguists complain that it is a modern invention of the devil by rebellious Turkish artistes -- that has corrupted the Turkish language. In fact its origins are not at all modern (but we'll get to that later). Others see it as an attack on the language by uneducated village people.

    (You're problee wonderin' to yourself,
    "The Village People..? in Turkey..? too..?"
    Well, it's not the same group.)

    But most folks, like Mehmet Bey, see it as a useful variation of standard Turkish Language for easier communication and understanding.

    Still... before you try to make up your mind whether it's devil or angel, let's see exactly what it is -- this Devrik Cümle.

    Simply stated… it is Turkish Language in which
    Standard Word Order Rules are partially relaxed.

    Click following for full coverage of the
    Standard Turkish Language Word Order Rules...

    And the main characteristic of a Turkish Language sentence written (or spoken) in the Devrik Cümle style is that verb in the sentence finally gets some respect! It gets promoted from the back-end of the sentence to the middle or the front-end of the sentence (And in the process, the word-order pattern can coincidentally begin to resemble that found in English).

    In general, 'Transposed Sentence' structure is found most frequently in spoken Turkish Language, poetry, colloquial expressions, proverbs, and idioms --
    or in situations where the writer/speaker wants to
    enliven, energize, or intensify
    his meaning.

    Of course it is most effective when used sparingly.

    Let's be clear now…Standard Turkish Language Word Order in a sentence follows the pattern of Subject first, Object second, and Verb... dead last. For example:

    Vincent sineği öldürdü!
    Vincent killed the fly!

    In a 'Transposed Sentence' the word order pattern is more flexible and can be Subject first, Verb second, and Object last -- or, in the case of a Command or a Question, it can be Verb first, Subject second, and Object last (see following table for examples).

    So, when it's transposed, the example from above could look like:

    Vincent öldürdü sineği!
    Note how the word-order pattern of this very simple Turkish Language sentence
    perfectly matches the English sentence word-order pattern.
    Now, if only all Turkish Language sentences were so simple...
    < sigh >

    Let's take a look at some other examples.
    Lackluster
    Standard Turkish Language
    Sentence
    Word Order
    Enlivened
    or Colloquial, Poetic, Idiomatic, Proverbial
    Devrik Cümle
    Sentence Word Order
    English Translation
    (Type of Sentence)
    Ingilizce bilen var mı?! Var mı Ingilizce bilen?!
    Is there
    anyone who knows
    English [here]?
    (Desperate Interrogative)
    O hırsızı yakala! Yakala o hırsızı!
    Catch that thief!
    (Angry Command)
    Redskins'im yaşasın! Yaşasın Redskins'im!
    Hurray for my Redskins!
    (Joyful Exclamation)
    Marvin geneleve gidiyor. Marvin şeye gidiyor -- geneleve.
    Marvin is going to the whatchamacallit -- the brothel.
    (Lapsed Memory Statement)
    Mabel onu orada bulursa, öldürür. Orada bulursa Mabel, öldürür onu.
    If Mabel finds him there, she'll kill him.
    (Seriously-worried Statement)
    Adı dokuza çıkmış, sekize inmez. Adı çıkmış dokuza, inmez sekize.
    He's got a bad reputation,
    and he can't get his good name back.

    [His (bad) reputation reached a (high level of) 9, it can't descend back to 8]
    (Inventive Idiom)
    Harman dövmek çayır kuşunun işi değildir. Çayır kuşunun işi değildir harman dövmek.
    The meadow bird should not be called upon to help thresh the corn.
    [Threshing corn is not the job of the meadow bird.]
    (Poetical Witticism)
    from a Turkish Language text
    written in 1071

    by Kaşgârli Mahmut
    Gençlik gitti gelmez, ihtiyarlık geldi gitmez. Gitti gelmez gençlik, geldi gitmez ihtiyarlık.
    Youth left and it won't come back, old age came and it won't go away.
    (Woeful Proverb)
    The first three table entries are examples of enlivened language. The next two are examples of colloquial language. The final three are examples of idiomatic, poetical, and proverbial language.
    Together, they represent the Devrik Cümle style-types
    that you are most likely to see in Turkish Language.

    In Turkey - Türkiye'de

    Tüm bilgisayar kitabı fırsatları için tıklayın !

    Turkish Turkish Food, Turkish Drink

    The 'Transposed Sentence' is not a Modern Invention, but…

    The Transposed Sentences in the table, above, represent quite common examples of modern Turkish Language -- and some of them, like the last two entries, have been around for centuries.

    But it's also fair to say that after Atatürk established the modern Turkish Republic and then introduced sweeping language reform in 1928, there began to emerge in Turkey a school of writers who purposely avoided traditional word order rules, even in formal writing. And those writers of the Devrik Cümle school continue to have a strong public following, especially among young people, so DC's place in the language is well assured.

    One of the most prominent members of the Devrik Cümle writers group (perhaps DC's most influential proponent) was Nurullah Ataç (1898-1958), an author and a critic. When asked to comment on the DC group's writing style, he replied in the typical DC-informal speaking style,

    "Üc beş kişiyiz böyle söyliyen, biliyoruz çoğunluğa bunu anlatamıyacağımızı."
    "There are just a few of us who speak like this,
    we know we won't be able to explain [ourselves] to the majority."

    But, as a mature artist, he always wrote in the Devrik Cümle style -- and when more and better writers emulated him -- Turkish literature (and the language, in general) entered a new era.

    Just below is a longer selection of his --
    together with an approximate English translation.
    It's entitled "For the Young [Writers]" and it addresses perceptions [by members of the reading public] about the Devrik Cümle writing style --
    and it opens at once with an example of the DC style.
    Later in the selection, there's a further example of DC.
    Shame on you if you can't find it!

    That was a clue, mon cher...

    Beware of this writing selection...It's rather difficult to follow in places --
    so you may want to familiarize yourself with
    the English translation
    before tackling the following Turkish Language source text.


    Gençler İçin

    İnanmayın öyle gözükmelerine; ne derlerse desinler, o gençleri, o uslu uslu gençleri beğendikleri yalandır. Denemesi kolay: bir dergiyi, o koşmalardan birini yüksek sesle okuyun, ara sıra da gözlerinizi kaldırıp o baş sallayarak dinleyenlere bakın; yüzlerinde bir sıkıntı, bir bunalma görürsünüz. Öyle çok okumanızı istemezler, gene ötekilerin, yenilik arayan gençlerin sözü açılsın diye beklerler. Niçin, bilir misiniz? Güldüklerine, kızdıklarını, anlamıyoruz demelerine bakmayın, onları anlarlar, onları beğenirler, onları severler de onun için. Yalnız anladıklarını, beğendiklerini, sevdiklerini açikca söyleyemezler, utanırlar söylemekten . Babalarından, ağa-babalarından öğrendiklerine, ötedenberi yerleşmiş güzelliklere benzemeyen, uymayan sözleri beğenmeleri ağırlarına gider, bundan kurtulmak isterler. O gençleri yermeleri, o gençlere öfkelenip gülmeleri, doğrusunu isterseniz, kendi kendilerini yermek içindir, kendi kendilerine öfkelendikleri içindir.

    Bir kisi, ne demek olduğunu anlamadığı sözlere boyuna gülüp durabilir mi? Bıkar, sıkılır…Gülmek de biraz olsun anlamak demektir. Büsbütün anlamadığımız bir söze gülemeyiz ki! Gülüyorlar, kızıyorlar, demek anlıyorlar. Öyle olmasa, başlarını çevirir, başka bir yerden açarlardı.

    Üf...
    Biraz zor, değil mi?

    For the Young [Writers]

    Don't believe the looks [of the readers]; no matter what they say, it's a lie that they [the readers] like the "bright, intelligent, well-behaved" young writers's [ways]. There's an easy test: Take a magazine and read one of the old folk poems in a loud voice, and occasionally raise your eyes to look around to see who's listening; you'll see the listeners shaking their heads in [apparent] boredom and distress. They don't [seem to] want you to read, they are waiting to hear about young writers. Do you know why? Don't pay attention to what they say [negatively] about their laughing, about their anger, about their not understanding [the young writers] -- it's that they [actually] like [the young writing style], even love it. But they can't openly say that they understand it, like it, and love it -- they are embarrassed to say that. The writing style is not as taught by their fathers and fore-fathers, it doesn't resemble long-established standards of "excellence", it bothers them that they like this unsuitable style, and they want to escape from it. They are critical of the young, they are laughing at and angry with the young, but if you want the truth, it's because they are [actually] critical of themselves, it's because they are [actually] angry with themselves.

    If a person doesn't understand the [spoken] words then how can he laugh [at them]? He [may seem] fed up, bored…but [if] he laughs -- it means he understands something. We [humans] can't laugh at something we don't understand at all! [So when readers] laugh, display anger, it means they understand [the Devrik Cümle writing style]. If not, they'd turn their heads, and give their attention elsewhere.

    Oof...
    Kinda heavy, what?

    It's Decision Time!

    So which is it, dear reader? Devil or Angel?

    Well, we like it here at LPT (as if that mattered)in moderation.
    Because, in small doses,
    it does seem to add vigor and interest to Turkish Language expressions.
    And besides that -- it's much more forgiving of us
    Turkish language strugglers as we try to get ourselves understood
    on the streets of İzmir, Gümüldür, and Selçuk!

    Just think.
    If Turks weren't already used to non-standard word order,
    we strugglers could be in a real pickle --
    because the sentences we utter
    don't always roll off our tongues in strict accordance with the rules.

    Well, Marvin's sentences don't -- that's fer shur…

    But, remember…the DC style doesn't replace the Standard Turkish Language Word Order. It's a variant, and if it's deliberately (or mistakenly) overdone -- it can muddle your intended meaning beyond recognition!

    By the way, you may not have noticed,
    but we've used some Devrik Cümle style on other pages of the site,
    without disclosing our dirty little secret
    You can see examples by clicking on the following links :

    A simple Turkish 'thing'
    Proverbs with Var and Yok

    Thanks to G.L. Lewis, Mehmet Hengirmen, Mehmet Un,
    and Albert Sarda
    for inspiring this article.

    Language-learning pages:
  • How To Learn Basic Turkish --
    A Practical Philosophy for beginners

    (Found in the 'Introduction to The Whole Earth Catalog of Turkish Movies'.)
  • Why Off-color language is important too...
  • Unrelated fun:
  • Maganda, The Racy Turkish Lout -- a risqué illustration of the word zipper
  • Aysel, The Turkish Lout's daughter -- has a sexy job interview technique
  • Ferdi Tayfur - Arabesque (Arabesk) Singing Sensation
  • Turkish Movies - Best-Looking Bad Girl of the 1970s, Sevda Ferdağ
  • Bad Girls of the 1970s Turkish Cinema, Aliye Rona
  • Frequently asked questions about Turkey and the Turkish language
  • llustrated Nargile Users Guide -- and Encyclopedia
  • Our Honda Generator -- A Member of the Family
  • Habibullah and The Great Cannon Caper
  • Turkish Tongue Twisters
  • Turkish Belly Dancers
  • Turkish Tango, Dance the Romance
  • Turkish Terms Of Endearment
  • Turkish Personal Names
  • Politically Incorrect Turkish Humor
  • Why Off-Color Turkish is important too
  • Gossipy Turkish Who's Who
  • Turkish Kinsey Report #6 - Turkish Turn-Ons
  • Turkish Kinsey Report #1 - Turkey opens up about its seks
  • Turkish Kinsey Report #2 - Did they hear it through the grapevine?
  • Turkish Kinsey Report #3 - Was it good for you?
  • Turkish Kinsey Report #4 - The first time, by age group...
  • Turkish Kinsey Report #5 - Who's gotta have it? He? Or she?
  • Hülya Avşar -- in a league of her own
  • Translating Danielle Steele
  • Learn Turkish language

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