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Learning Turkish Language Difficulties

Ambiguities of Turkish

Ambiguities are not a Turkish invention but...
In Turkey - Türkiye'de

Tüm kitap fırsatları için tıklayın !

>
English has its own ambiguities,
but it does our heart good to see that
we're not suffering alone.
Hey, wait a minute!
Who's really doing the suffering...?!

We think we may have shot ourselves in the foot, here...

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The problem with "karın"
(no, not that woman you know from Germantown...)

  • karın means belly, or is it ...
  • karı'n which means your wife, or is it...
  • kar'ın which means of the snow, ...?
Note that all three usages of "karın" are indistinguishable when spoken. And in addition, when you encounter them in written material, you won't see the use of the apostrophe! Apostrophe use in Turkish is generally reserved for proper names.
So karın provides an example of a Turkish triple gotcha...

In fairness...English is so full of this kind of problem -- as in, "bat" meaning the flying creature or the baseball (and cricket?) thingy -- that our objection here may be a case of "the pot calling the kettle, black". But this sort of problem can be a little more serious in Turkish...

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You think you've got car problems? Check this out! One noun plus a simple suffix gives four ambiguous meanings...!

Click following to learn
how to avoid Turkish ambiguities
in your own use of the language...

To illustrate the difficulty, we'll start with the singular of the noun Araba; Car [but the problem exists for all Turkish nouns] and see what happens when we add a simple suffix like ları giving Arabaları...

    1 - The Turkish word Arabaları can then be used as the direct object of the plural of Araba, as in Arabaları onardim meaning...

    I repaired the cars [anybody's cars]

    -- think of it being parsed logically as "Arabalar - ı", with that final "ı" supplying the direct object signal.

    2 - Or Arabaları could represent the plural with the possessive suffix of the third person singular meaning her cars -- also parsed logically as "Arabalar - ı".

    3 - Or Arabaları might be used to represent the singular with the suffix of the third person plural meaning their car -- parsed logically as "Araba - ları".

    4 - Finally, Arabaları could mean their cars (plural)... This can be because when ları; their is suffixed to a plural noun, such as Arabalar; Cars -- then one lar drops out. That is, "Araba-lar-ları" doesn't fly in Turkish. It becomes "Araba-ları".

    Tricky, what?... You like?... Hmmm... You sick?

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    We didn't give sentence examples for items 2, 3, and 4 just above, did we? OK, let's do that now...

    As the subject of a sentence, we could use Arabaları like so...

    Arabaları uçurumdan uçtu.

    And how many meanings do you think that gives?

    Let's see, there's...
    a) Her cars plunged off the cliff.
    b) Their car plunged off the cliff.
    c) Their cars (plural) plunged off the cliff.

    At this point do feel you might be trapped in one of those cars? Accelerating rocky-earthward -- at 32 feet per second, per meaning?

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    And if we wish to use Arabaları as the direct object of a sentence, we first tag it with another suffix (to signal its direct object status, remember) and then burst forth with stirring examples like...

    Arabalarını çaldı.

    And how many meanings does that produce...?

    Well as a minimum, there's...
    a) He stole her cars, and...
    b) He stole their car, and ...
    c) He stole their cars (plural).

So, the only way to understand the precise meaning of Arabalarını çaldı is by knowing the exact circumstances of all the parties involved in the theft!

Isn't this a bit of the ole "which-comes-first-the-chicken-or-the-egg" game?

Click following to learn
how to avoid Turkish ambiguities
in your own use of the language...

And if we wanted to be really devilish, we could point out that all the examples above could be interpreted not just as "he stole...", but also as "she stole..." -- without changing a single letter of any of the sentences. So that, from one sentence...
Arabalarını çaldı...
we can actually get six different sensible but ambiguous meanings!!!

But wait! It's also possible that the stolen cars were his cars not her cars. That would add yet another meaning, wouldn't it.

And if we were feeling beyond-the-pale devilish, and if we believed in alien beings...
we could actually add even more ambiguous meanings by using "it stole..." !!!

Now...how do you like them apples, mon cher!

«« »»

And this story is far from over --
Ambiguity 'Gourmands' may click here for more...


Also Related Pages:
  • 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
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