It is widely known that people in Kazakhstan speak Russian as a second language and use Cyrillic script as a base for Kazakh alphabet. Therefore, many foreigners think that Kazakh language is similar to Russian. However, it is not true at all. The two languages are totally different, and they don’t share any resemblances in word formation, grammatical or lexical structure. Of course, you can find Russian loanwords in Kazah, but there are not so many.
Now you are puzzled, and you wonder “if Kazakh is not like Russian, then how does it sound like it and to what language is it related?”. The answer is Turkish.
The Turkish and Kazakh languages belong to the group of the Turkic languages and have much in common. However, in this blog article we will speak only about theTop 5 similarities between Kazakh and Turkish. Let’s get started!
Structure and formation of words in Kazakh and Turkish
The first similarity is structure and formation of words. As aforementioned, Kazakh and Turkish are Turkic languages and the languages of this group can be classified as agglutinative languages.The Agglutinative languages (agglutinare from Latin means to stick together) are languages whose morphological system is characterized by agglutination (”adding”) of various suffixes. The suffixes are attached according to strict grammatical rules and the resulting new words can belong to other parts of speech. This can sometimes result in rather long nouns and verbs depending on the concepts being conveyed.
In order to show how the agglutinative language rules apply I can give an example of the longest word in Kazakh: Qanagattandyrylmagandyktarynyzdan. The word consists of 33 letters and can be translated as “because of your dissatisfaction”. The stem of the word is qanagat (satisfaction) by adding the suffixes “tan” and “dyr”, we will have the verb ganagattandyr (to satisfy); other suffixes will change the meaning of the word accordingly: qanagattandyrylmagan (dissatisfied), qanagattandyrylmagandyk (dissatisfaction), and the rest of suffixes gives the final word qanagattandyrylmagandyktarynyzdan (because of your dissatisfaction).
Words that Turkish and Kazakh have in common
The second similarity is common words which sound similar and bear the same meaning. But be aware of the fact that there are a lot of false friends too!
Turkologists claim that 65% of the whole vocabulary of Kazakh can be found in Turkish as well. The main similarity can be seen in numerals, personal pronouns, and action verbs. For instance, all the numerals in both languages are almost identical with minor differences in pronunciation. The same tendency can be viewed with personal and possessive pronouns:
|O||Ol||(He, She, It)|
|Onun||Onyn||(His, Her, Its)|
Vowel harmony in Kazakh and Turkish – What is it and how does it work?
The third similarity is vowel harmony. In phonology, vowel harmony (synharmonism) is an assimilatory process in which the vowels of a word have to be members of the same class (thus “in harmony”). Thus, both Kazakh and Turkish employ vowel harmony rules when morphemes are added. Vowel harmony is defined according to the last morpheme containing a back or front vowel. The only difference is that synharmonism in Turkish language can be identified according to back, front vowels as in Kazakh, and unrounded, rounded vowels additionally. However, the consonant harmony rule related with voiceless letters is similar in both languages.
Bear in mind that Kazakh and Turkish have vowel harmony property except for loanwords from other languages such as Russian, Persian and Arabic.
Sentence structure in Kazakh and Turkish languages
The fourth similarity is sentence structure. Both Kazakh and Turkish languages are a subject–object–verb (SOV) language. In linguistic typology, SOV language is one in which the subject, object, and verb of a sentence always or usually appear in that order.
Turkish and Kazakh phraseology – sayings and proverbs
The last but not the least similarity is common phraseological units, sayings and proverbs. You can find equivalents of Kazakh proverbs in Turkish, or proverbs with close meaning and usage. For instance:
|Kazakh Proverb||Turkish Equivalent||English Equivalent|
|Zheti ret olshep bir ret kes||Bin ölçüp bir biçmeli||Measure seven times, cut once|
|Dos jylatyp aitady, dushpan kuldirip aitady||Dost acı söyler, fakat doğru söyler||Real friends tell you the ugly truth, not the pretty lie|
|Eki kemenin basyn ustagan suga keter||İki kaptan bir gemiyi batırır||He who follows two hares catches neither.|
Fictional characters in Kazakh and Turkish culture
In addition to common proverbs and sayings, Kazakh and Turkish culture shares the same fictional characters. The most famous is Nasreddin Hodja (in Kazakh, Qozha Nasir).
In stories of both cultures, Hodja is a witty man with a sense of humor and he helps poor people. Nasreddin Hodja stories were spread by word of mouth over a vast area mainly in the lands under the domain of the Ottoman Empire and the lands where old Turkish was spoken. All these resemblances and similar features in languages show the close connection between Kazakh and Turkish people.
After reading the whole article you may wonder: if Kazakh and Turkish share 65% of common vocabulary stock and have much in common, are they mutually intelligible? Yes, they are mutually intelligible to some degree. If both sides speak slowly and use short sentences, they can communicate enough to get by on a daily basis, in everyday life situations, maybe even more. Therefore, I encourage you to start learning Kazakh or Turkish. It will help you to understand other 35 Turkic languages which are spoken as a native language by some 170 million people. The easiest way to learn Kazakh and Turkish is by learning their vocabulary. The language learning tool of VocApp offers courses for beginners of Kazakh as Kazakh in 1 day and Kazakh: day 2. Moreover, you can find there Turkish courses as well. Don’t postpone language learning for tomorrow! Start it now with an easy-to-use app by VocApp. Good luck!