[Home] [Table of Contents] [Comments]

LPT Symbol Turkish Variations

Devrik Cümle -- the Transposed or Inverted Sentence...
Standard Word Order? What Standard Word Order?

Click Here!

Standard Turkish Word Order
'Devrik Cümle' -- the Transposed or Inverted Sentence
Simple definition and Main characteristic
Table of Examples
Not a modern invention, but...
Nurullah Ataç
Lengthy Sample of DC writng style
English Translation of same
It's 'Decision Time'!
Links to other pages with DC style

'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 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 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 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 here for full coverage of the Standard Turkish Word Order Rules...

And the main characteristic of a Turkish sentence written (or spoken) in the DC 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, 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 Word Order in a sentence follows the pattern of Subject first, Object second, and Verb... dead last. For example:

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

Let's take a look at some other examples.
Lackluster 'Standard Sentence'
Word Order
or Colloquial, Poetic, Idiomatic, Proverbial
'Transposed Sentence'
Word Order
English Translation
(Type of Sentence)
Ingilizce bilen var mI?! Var mI Ingilizce bilen?!
Is there
anyone who knows
English [here]?
(Desperate Interrogative)
O hIrsIzI yakala! Yakala o hIrsIzI!
Catch that thief!
(Angry Command)
Redskins'im yasasIn! YasasIn Redskins'im!
Hurray for my Redskins!
(Joyful Exclamation)
Marvin geneleve gidiyor. Marvin seye gidiyor -- geneleve.
Marvin is going to the whatchamacallit -- the brothel.
(Lapsed Memory Statement)
Mabel onu orada bulursa, öldürür. Onu orada bulursa Mabel, öldürür.
If Mabel finds him there, she'll kill him.
(Seriously-worried Statement)
AdI dokuza çIkmIs, sekize inmez. AdI çIkmIs 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 çayIr kusunun isi degildir. ÇayIr kusunun isi degildir 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 text
written in 1071

by Kasgârli Mahmut
Gençlik gitti gelmez, ihtiyarlIk geldi gitmez. Gitti gelmez gençlik, geldi gitmez ihtiyarlIk.
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.

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

The Transposed Sentences in the table, above, represent quite common examples of modern Turkish -- 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 "DC 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 DC 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 bes kisiyiz böyle söyliyen, biliyoruz çogunluga bunu anlatamIyacagImIzI."
"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 DC 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 DC 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 Turkish.

Gençler için

inanmayIn öyle gözükmelerine; ne derlerse desinler, o gençleri, o uslu uslu gençleri begendikleri yalandIr. Denemesi kolay: bir dergiyi, o kosmalardan birini yüksek sesle okuyun, ara sIra da gözlerinizi kaldIrIp o bas sallayarak dinleyenlere bakIn; yüzlerinde bir sIkIntI, bir bunalma görürsünüz. Öyle çok okumanIzI istemezler, gene ötekilerin, yenilik arayan gençlerin sözü açIlsIn diye beklerler. Niçin, bilir misiniz? Güldüklerine, kIzdIklarInI, anlamIyoruz demelerine bakmayIn, onlarI anlarlar, onlarI begenirler, onlarI severler de onun için. YalnIz anladIklarInI, begendiklerini, sevdiklerini açikca söyleyemezler, utanIrlar söylemekten . BabalarIndan, aga-babalarIndan ögrendiklerine, ötedenberi yerlesmis güzelliklere benzemeyen, uymayan sözleri begenmeleri agIrlarIna gider, bundan kurtulmak isterler. O gençleri yermeleri, o gençlere öfkelenip gülmeleri, dogrusunu isterseniz, kendi kendilerini yermek içindir, kendi kendilerine öfkelendikleri içindir.

Bir kisi, ne demek oldugunu anlamadIgI sözlere boyuna gülüp durabilir mi? BIkar, sIkIlIr…Gülmek de biraz olsun anlamak demektir. Büsbütün anlamadIgImIz bir söze gülemeyiz ki! Gülüyorlar, kIzIyorlar, demek anlIyorlar. Öyle olmasa, baslarInI çevirir, baska bir yerden açarlardI.

Biraz zor, degil 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 DC writing style]. If not, they'd turn their heads, and give their attention elsewhere.

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 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 izmir, 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 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 DC 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…

[Home] [Contents] [Mail us]Please email us and tell us how we can improve the Learning Practical Turkish Web site.