[Home] [Table of Contents] [Comments]

color bar

LPT Symbol Ambiguities of Turkish

Ambiguities are not a Turkish invention but...
color bar

Click Here!

Words with multiple meanings -- Karin's problem
Car problems?
Avoiding Ambiguities
Ambiguity Overdose
Just a few more...

color bar

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...

color bar

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

  • karIn means belly, or is it ...
  • karI'n which means your wife, or is it...
  • kar'In which means of the snow, ...?

Note that all three usages of "karIn" 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 karIn 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...

color bar

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

Click here
to learn how to avoid ambiguities

in your own use of Turkish...

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 larI giving ArabalarI...

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

    I repaired the cars [anybody's cars]

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

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

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

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

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

    color bar

    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 ArabalarI like so...

    ArabalarI 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?

    color bar

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

    ArabalarInI çaldI.

    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 ArabalarInI çaldI 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 here
to learn how to avoid ambiguities

in your own use of Turkish...

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...
ArabalarInI çaldI...
we can actually get six different sensible 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 meanings by using "it stole..." !!!

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

«« »»

color bar

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

color bar

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