Re: [hrl_2] Questions about your theory

To the owner of the e-mail given below and written by "D":

Dear D,

I read your letter and found it inquisitive and deserving of a response, yet, I have to say that I am also disappointed because:

a)   You did not identify yourself.  The Letter "D" is not an identity.  With this kind of secretive representation of yourself, you have put yourself in a "shadowy non-entity" with whom I have no intention of communicating unless you properly identify yourself. In case you do not know, please note that my name is always identified in my postings. I expect my readers to do the same when they communicate with me! 

b)   Although, there are indications that your email was directed at me, that is, Polat Kaya - whose findings you are referring to in your writing, nowhere have you written my name, that is, something to the effect of "To Polat Kaya" or "Mr. Polat Kaya" or "Dear Polat Kaya", etc..  You should have clearly identified who you are talking to. In a cordial communication, one is expected not only to identify himself or herself, but also to identify the addressee before "requesting" rather than "demanding" something, particularly of the personal nature. As you may know one does not phone someone and immediately start talking about a subject as soon as the other party picks up their telephone - without first identifying themselves and also acknowledging the person that they wish to speak to. The same applies to written communication.

c)   Last but not least, one should always sign off their letter with a sincere good-bye and/or thank you note - and finish with their name.  This was also missing in your letter.

Without these, I found your letter rather offensive as it puts me in a "non-person" position too, although I did note your saying: "I am not hostile."  Surely, the writer of the below posting, who has a "Bachelor's Degree in history" would know these essential elements of communication.

I would like to respond to your posting, only, if you do not mind, please fulfill my above noted conditions.  Thank you.


Sincerely yours,

Polat Kaya

02/12/2010
 


D wrote:
 

Let me begin by saying that I am not a professional linguist, and that I only know how to speak, read, and write in English. I have a Bachelor's Degree in history with a focus on early United States history, so the area covered by ancient Turks is obviously not my specialty. I will also say, however, that I am not ignorant of other regions of the world, which is why I found your idea that Turkish is the root of all languages to be ridiculous. I would also like to know what your qualifications are, and whether your views are shared by distinguished scholars in the field of linguistics. From what I've read so far, your views are not widely accepted in the linguistic community. While there is certainly a possibility that you are correct, this lack of support is bound to make any rational person suspicious. Instead of simply dismissing you out of hand, however, I decided to ask you about your views. Please respond with this in mind: I am not hostile, but I a
m also certain!
ly not convinced in any way that what you say is true.
I will also tell you what I know about the cultural and linguistic history of the Turks. I know that the Turks originate from the steppes of central Asia, near Mongolia, and were driven Westward by other nomadic groups in the area. Eventually, they made their way to the Middle East where they served in the Muslim armies in their conquests of Byzantine and Persian lands. I am pretty sure that the Seljuk Turks were the first group of Turks to settle in Anatolia, what is now considered Turkey. From what I know, the Turks were in no way native to the area. As a minority group in the lands of powerful empires, I would imagine that many Turkish words would have been influenced by Arabic, Greek, and Persian, where the Turks saw the most military action and spent the most time. (This is, consequently, why I think Turkish might have some similarities with Indo-European languages as well as Asian languages.) The Ottoman Turks were another, later-arriving group of Turks who even!
tually managed to subdue all the other Turkish groups in Anatolia and eventually absorbed the Eastern Roman Empire. Ottoman society was very flexible because they eventually ruled over a very diverse population in which Turks were actually not the most numerous group. I imagine that this would have further mixed the native languages (Greek, Balkan languages, Arabic, some Persian, and other minority languages) with the Turkish that the Ottomans spoke. This mixture of language would have gone both ways, leading to the adoption of some Turkish words and phrases into these languages and some words and phrases from those languages into Turkish. I have a friend who speaks Turkish as their native language who says that there are some similarities between Turkish and Arabic (which they also speak), but that the languages are far from mutually intelligible. I also have a couple of Persian friends who tell me that Persian and Arabic, while containing some similarities (mostly brought about by the widespread practice of Islam), the languages are also quite different and not mutually intelligible.
Please tell me if you find what I said to be unreasonable. Since I have no doubt you will find it incorrect (otherwise I would not disagree with you), please don't tell me that. I am only asking if what I say is reasonable for someone who doesn't specialize in either linguistics or Turkish history.
I understand that languages that are descended from common origins don't need to be mutually intelligible to be related, in case you were going to point that out. As you likely know, English is derived from the native languages of the British isles, various Germanic and Nordic languages, and Old French, which itself is derived from Latin. I also find it curious that you believe that by borrowing or adopting words from another language is "stealing" from that language and culture. Languages are very fluid and malleable, changing slightly with each generation of new speakers. To borrow a word or phrase from another language simply reflects the word's relative usefulness to the language's speakers. For example, English picked up many of its French and Latin based words after the Norman kings used French (a kind of French probably only barely discernible to modern French speakers) in court. It was important for nobility to speak the new language of power if they wanted to !
maintain their own power, so the new French was eventually mingled with the Old English of the English of Saxon descent. I think this mirrors what may have happened to the Turks to give them so many similarities with languages spoken in the Middle East of the time. When the Turks arrived, the languages of power were Arabic, Persian, and Greek. Arabic was the language of Islam, which quickly spread among the Turks as they permanently settled the Middle East. It was also the language of many of the powerful rulers of the time who were hiring the Turks for military service. The Persians similarly became powerful when the Safavids became the dominant force in the region. Once again, the nomadic Turks were either recruited for military service in the many violent wars that accompanied this period in history, or already settled in areas ruled by the Persians. It makes sense that the Turks, still a minority group at the time, would have adapted some of the chief languages of the region to suit their own needs. The Greek-speaking Byzantine Empire was also still a formidable force in the region,!
and the owners of what is now Turkey before the Turks began to invade and settle there. Initially, the Turks settled a land of Greek speakers where, once again, the Turks were a minority. The Eastern Roman Empire was obviously very influential to the Turks because the Turks who ruled in Anatolia called themselves the Turks of Rum, or Rome in Turkish. They wanted to inherit the cultural and military tradition of the Roman Empire. To deny that they were impacted by the chief language of the Roman Empire at the time seems foolish to me.
That all being said, I think it should be obvious which way I think the Turkish language was initially influenced. Initially, Turkish was influenced and changed by the powerful Indo-European languages in the region. Once the Turks gained power and control over Anatolia, much of the Balkans, the Levant, and Egypt, linguistic forces probably worked in two directions. The Turkish the Ottomans spoke (I don't know if it is the same as modern Turkish, so I'll just call it Ottoman Turkish) became the language of power and likely had a strong influence on the languages of the ruled. The Ottomans, however, inherited many of the administrative and cultural structures from the preceding groups and obviously didn't dismantle them. The Greeks presided over a long-lived and powerful Empire, and their administrative talents would have been valuable to the conquering Turks. Additionally, as I mentioned earlier, the Ottomans were a very tolerant ruling group in allowing minority groups!
to continue to be culturally and religiously unique. The fact that one needed to be Muslim to advance in Ottoman society meant that to have power, one must also at least speak some Arabic (for religious purposes) and Ottoman Turkish (for administrative purposes).
One can draw many parallels between the Ottomans and the modern United States linguistically in this regard. English, while not legally the official language of the country, is used universally for business and government. This means that in order to advance in society, immigrants must learn English. I believe I read somewhere that you attended school and worked for a time in the United States, so you know this to be true. You would also be aware, then, that many people who speak multiple languages frequently mix the two when they speak to each other in either language. My Turkish friend speaks in a combination of English, Turkish, and Arabic to her parents. English-speaking Americans also borrowed many words from Spanish in the American Southwest. I live near Los Angeles (a Spanish name), and many Americans who have no working knowledge of Spanish (like me), still have a wide vocabulary of common Spanish words and phrases. Additionally, Spanish-speaking immigrants f!
requently mix Spanish and English words when they speak to each other. Another example of language mixing is the language of Tagalog, which originates around Manila in the Philippines. Many of my friends' parents come from the Philippines, where the Spanish and Americans each had a significant presence. Tagalog combines native Filipino languages with Spanish and English to such a degree that sometimes the complete English or Spanish phrase is the only way to say something. For some words, there is no "native" equivalent, and the phrase has been adopted unchanged.
What is the point of these examples you might ask. The point is that I can personally observe instances where languages have changed or are changing because of the presence of another powerful language. To say that the same forces didn't happen to the Turks at all, but that the reverse is true, seems to defy clearly observable trends and smacks of nationalism, maybe even jingoism. To say that Turkish is the mother language of all languages because it has some similar words and sounds to other languages with which it has had contact seems to me to be unsound thinking.
I have looked through some of your suggested alternate etymological origins of other words. There are some instances where the sounds are similar, and others where words appear to be close. This, however, is coincidence and no more. More often than not, you really have to stretch to see the similarities. As you have said to another poster, you believe that such coincidences have almost no chance of occurring. This is not true, however. Take for example, the Iroquois Seneca tribe, which is identical to the Roman agnomen Seneca (made famous by Seneca the Elder and Seneca the Younger, prominent Roman orators and playwrights). The Native Americans had over ten thousand years in which to develop languages distinct from their Asian origins (until European contact, the Americas were incredibly linguistically diverse). It is a coincidence that the two words are exactly the same. It is more reasonable an explanation than claiming that Turkish was spoken by everyone in the wo!
rld.
I will conclude by saying that I believe my (and the linguistic community's) explanation for the evolution of Turkish is more reasonable than yours for the reasons stated above. The Turkish language changed with its speakers as they moved through history, just as every language changes and evolves. I don't believe that culture is being "stolen" when words are absorbed into another language as you seem to believe. We can observe the phenomenon of language change firsthand as cultures mix, just as they always have and will continue to do. I invite you to respond to my arguments without being hostile or dismissive. I understand that this was a long post, but that is repayment for producing over 600 forum posts for me to read through to try to get to the heart of why you believe what you do. I look forward to your reply.