Turkmen language

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Türkmençe, Türkmen dili,
Түркменче, Түркмен дили,
تۆرکمن ديلی ,تۆرکمنچه
Native toTurkmenistan, Russia, Iran, Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria
Native speakers
6.7 million (2009–2015)[1]
Latin (Turkmen alphabet), Cyrillic, Arabic
Turkmen Braille
Official status
Official language in
Recognised minority
language in
Language codes
ISO 639-1tk
ISO 639-2tuk
ISO 639-3tuk
LinguaspherePart of 44-AAB-a
Turkmen language map.png
The distribution of the Turkmen language in Central Asia
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Turkmen (Türkmençe, Түркменче, تۆرکمنچه‎, [tʏɾkmɛntʃɛ] or Türkmen dili, Түркмен дили, تۆرکمن ديلی‎, [tʏɾkmɛn dɪlɪ]) is a Turkic language spoken by the Turkmens of Central Asia, mainly of Turkmenistan, Iran and Afghanistan. It has an estimated five million native speakers in Turkmenistan, a further 719,000 speakers in Northeastern Iran[4] and 1.5 million people in Northwestern Afghanistan.[5] Turkmen has official status in Turkmenistan, but it does not have official status in Iran or Afghanistan, where big communities of ethnic Turkmens live. Turkmen is also spoken to lesser varying degrees in Turkmen communities of Uzbekistan and Tajikistan and by diaspora communities, primarily in Turkey and Russia.[6]

Turkmen is a member of the Oghuz branch of the Turkic languages. The standardized form of Turkmen (spoken in Turkmenistan) is based on the Teke dialect, while Iranian Turkmen uses mostly the Yomud dialect, and Afghan Turkmen uses Ersary variety.[7] Turkmen is closely related to Gagauz, Qashqai, Crimean Tatar, Turkish and Azerbaijani, sharing varying degrees of mutual intelligibility with each of those languages.[8] According to linguistic comparative studies, the closest relative of Turkmen is the Azerbaijani language.[9]

Elsewhere in Iran, the Turkmen language comes second after the Azerbaijani language in terms of the number of speakers of Turkic languages of Iran.[10]

Iraqi and Syrian "Turkmen" speak dialects that form a continuum between Turkish and Azerbaijani, in both cases heavily influenced by Arabic. These varieties are not Turkmen in the sense of this article.

The Turkmen language is notable for having dental fricatives; Bashkir is the only other Turkic language to have these sounds.


Turkmen is a member of the East Oghuz branch of the Turkic family of languages; its closest relatives being Turkish and Azerbaijani, with which it shares a relatively high degree of mutual intelligibility.

Turkmen has vowel harmony, is agglutinative and has no grammatical gender. Word order is subject–object–verb.

Written Turkmen today is based on the Teke (Tekke) dialect. The other dialects are Nohurly, Ýomud, Änewli, Hasarly, Nerezim, Gökleň, Salyr, Saryk, Ärsary and Çowdur. The Russian dialect is Trukhmen. The Teke dialect is sometimes (especially in Afghanistan) referred to as "Chagatai", but like all Turkmen dialects it reflects only a limited influence from classical Chagatai.

Writing system[edit]

Turkmen written language was formed in the 13-14th centuries.[11] During this period, the Arabic alphabet was used extensively for writing. Already in the 18th century, there was a rich literature in the Turkmen language. At the same time, the literacy of the population in their native language remained at low levels; book publishing was extremely limited, and the first primer in the Turkmen language appeared only in 1913, while the first newspaper ("Transcaspian native newspaper") was printed in 1914.[12]

The Arabic script was not adapted to the phonetic features of the Turkic languages. Thus, it did not have necessary signs to designate specific sounds of the Turkmen language, and at the same time there were many letters to designate Arabic sounds that were not in the Turkmen language.

During the first years after the establishment of the Soviet power, the Arabic alphabet of the Turkmens of the USSR was reformed twice, in 1922 and 1925. In the course of the reforms, letters with diacritics were introduced to denote Turkic phonemes; and letters were abolished for sounds that are absent in the Turkmen language.[13]

The Turkmens of Afghanistan and Iran continue to use Arabic script.[14]

In January 1925, on the pages of the republican newspaper "Türkmenistan", the question of switching to a new, Latin alphabet was raised. After the first All-Union Turkological Congress in Baku (February-March 1926), the State Academic Council under the People's Commissariat of Education of the Turkmen SSR developed a draft of a new alphabet. On January 3, 1928, the revised new Latin alphabet was approved by the Central Executive Committee of the Turkmen SSR.

At the end of the 1930s, the process of the Cyrillization of writing began throughout the USSR. In January 1939, the newspaper "Sowet Türkmenistany" published a letter from teachers in Ashgabat and the Ashgabat region with an initiative to replace the Turkmen (Latin) script with Cyrillic. The Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the Turkmen SSR instructed the Research Institute of Language and Literature to draw up a draft of a new alphabet. The teachers of the Ashgabat Pedagogical Institute and print workers also took part in the development of the new writing system. In April 1940, the draft alphabet was published.

In May 1940, the Council of People's Commissars of the Turkmen SSR adopted a resolution on the transition to a new alphabet of all state and public institutions from July 1, 1940 and on the beginning of teaching the new alphabet in schools from September 1 of the same year.[15]

After the dissolution of USSR, in January 1993, a meeting was held at the Academy of Sciences of Turkmenistan on the issue of replacing the Cyrillic with the Latin alphabet, at which a commission was formed to develop the alphabet. In February, a new version of the alphabet was published in the press. On April 12, 1993, the Mejlis of Turkmenistan approved a presidential decree on the new alphabet.[16]


Turkmen is a highly agglutinative language, in that much of the grammar is expressed by means of suffixes added to nouns and verbs. It is very regular compared with many other languages of non-Turkic group. For example, obalardan "from the villages" can be analysed as oba "vıllage", -lar (plural suffix), -dan (ablative case, meaning "from"); alýaryn "I am taking" as al "take", -ýar (present continuous tense), -yn (1st person singular).

Another characteristic of Turkmen is vowel harmony. Most suffixes have two or four different forms, the choice between which depends on the vowel of the word's root or the preceding suffix: for example, the ablative case of obalar is obalardan "from the villages" but, the ablative case of itler "dogs" is itlerden "from the dogs".


Turkmen literature comprises oral compositions and written texts in Old Oghuz Turkic and Turkmen languages. Turkmens are direct descendants of the Oghuz Turks, who were a western Turkic people that spoke the Oghuz branch of the Turkic language family.

The leading Turkmen poet is Magtymguly Pyragy, who wrote in the 18th century. His language represents a transitional stage between Chagatai and spoken Turkmen.



Number Turkmen Number Turkmen
0 nol 10 on
1 bir 20 ýigrimi
2 iki 30 otuz
3 üç 40 kyrk
4 dört 50 elli
5 bäş 60 altmyş
6 alty 70 ýetmiş
7 ýedi 80 segsen
8 sekiz 90 togsan
9 dokuz 100 ýüz
1000 müň

Note: Numbers are formed identically to other Turkic languages, such as Turkish. So, eleven (11) is "on bir" (ten-one). Two thousand seventeen (2017) is "iki müň on ýedi" (two-thousand-ten-seven).


English Turkmen
black gara
blue gök
brown goňur, mele
grey çal
green ýaşyl
orange narynç, mämişi
pink gülgün
purple benewşe, melewşe
red gyzyl
white ak
yellow sary

Basic expressions[edit]

English Turkmen
yes hawa
no ýok
goodbye sag boluň, hoş
good morning ertiriňiz haýyrly bolsun
good evening agşamyňyz haýyrly bolsun
good night gijäňiz rahat bolsun
please -aý/-äý [b]
thank you sag boluň
Do you speak English? Siz iňlis dilinde gepleýärsiňizmi?
I don't speak Turkmen Men türkmen dilinde geplemeýärin
What does it mean? Munuň manysy näme?


"Türkmeniň" is a great example of the Turkmen language. It's the most famous poem among the Turkmen people, composed by Magtymguly. The poem depicts the beauty of the Turkmen land, praises valiancy and spirit of the Turkmen people, and calls for the unity of all Turkmens.

The following is Magtymguly's "Türkmeniň" poem with the text transliterated into Turkmen (Latin) letters, whereas the original language is preserved. Second column is the poem's Turkish translation, while the third one is its English translation.


  1. ^ Third official language in areas where Turkmens are majority[2]
  2. ^ -aý/-äý are verb suffixes, which can be seen in "Maňa beräý!" (please give it to me).

Further reading[edit]

  • Nicholas Awde; William Dirks; A. Amandurdyev (2005). Turkmen: Turkmen-English, English-Turkmen Dictionary & Phrasebook. Hippocrene Books. ISBN 978-0-7818-1072-2.


  1. ^ Turkmen at Ethnologue (21st ed., 2018)
  2. ^ Islamic Republic of Afghanistan: The Constitution of Afghanistan: From amongst Pashto, Dari, Uzbeki, Turkmani, Baluchi, Pachaie, Nuristani, Pamiri and other current languages in the country, Pashto and Dari shall be the official languages of the state. In areas where the majority of the people speak in any one of Uzbeki, Turkmani, Pachaie, Nuristani, Baluchi or Pamiri languages, any of the aforementioned language, in addition to Pashto and Dari, shall be the third official language, the usage of which shall be regulated by law.
  3. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Turkmen". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  4. ^ "Iran". Ethnologue.
  5. ^ Turkmen language at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  6. ^ "Where and how do the Turkmens abroad live? (in Russian)". Information Portal of Turkmenistan.
  7. ^ "Who are the Turkmen and where do they live?". Center for Languages of the Central Asia Region, Indiana University.
  8. ^ Sinor, Denis (1969). Inner Asia. History-Civilization-Languages. A syllabus. Bloomington. pp. 71–96. ISBN 0-87750-081-9.
  9. ^ Mudrak, Oleg (30 April 2009). "Language in time. Classification of Turkic languages (in Russian)". polit.ru. Retrieved 31 August 2019. The collapse of the Turkmen-Azerbaijani. Despite all the assurances that Azerbaijani is the closest relative of Turkish, this is not so. The closest relative of it (Azerbaijani) is Turkmen. The collapse of this unity falls on around 1180. It is amazing. Because it matches with the period of collapse of the Great Seljuk Empire. This state, which included lands south of the Amu Darya: Afghanistan, Iran, the territory of modern Iraq, including Baghdad, Northern Syria, etc., was disintegrating. Then, the Khwarazmshahs appeared, but direct contacts between the population that was “ east of the Caspian Sea " and the population that was in the region of Tabriz, the heart of Azerbaijan and the Great Seljuk Empire, ceased.
  10. ^ "TURKMENS OF PERSIA ii. LANGUAGE". Encyclopedia Iranica.
  11. ^ Languages of the peoples of the Russian Federation and neigboring states (in Russian), Vol.3; 2005. Nauka (Science). p. 138}}
  12. ^ Isaev M. M. Language construction in USSR. 1979. Nauka (Science). p. 352
  13. ^ Chariyarov B. Issues of improvement of the alphabets of Turkic languages of USSR. 1972. Nauka (Science) pp. 149-156
  14. ^ Languages of the peoples of the Russian Federation and neigboring states (in Russian), Vol.3; 2005. Nauka (Science). p. 138}}
  15. ^ Chariyarov B. Issues of improvement of the alphabets of Turkic languages of USSR. 1972. Nauka (Science) pp. 149-156
  16. ^ Soyegov, M. New Turkmen Alphabet: several questions on its development and adoption
  17. ^ .Gudar, Nurcan Oznal (2016). Mahtumkulu Guldeste. Istanbul: Salon Yayinlari. pp. 24–25. ISBN 978-605-9831-48-2.


  • Garrett, Jon, Meena Pallipamu, and Greg Lastowka (1996). "Turkmen Grammar". www.chaihana.com.

External links[edit]