Turkish vowel harmony

In this module, we examine a phenomenon of vowel harmony that occurs in Turkish. In cases of vowel harmony, aspects of a vowel's quality are determined by qualities of another vowel, usually the vowel preceding or following it in the same word. Turkish has a symmetrical inventory of eight vowels, shown in (1).

(1) Turkish has an inventory of eight vowel phonemes:

  [-back] [+back]
[+high] i y ɨ u
[-high] e ø o
[+low] a
-- LAB/[+rd] -- LAB/[+rd]

The full set of forms that we will consider in this section is shown in (2). The nominative (nom) forms are unaffixed; each consists only of a free root morpheme. (Nominative is the case assigned to the subject of the verb.) The suffix marking possession by a 2nd person singular possessor (2nd singular gen) is the -Vn sequence following the root (I will refer to this simply as the genitive suffix, or just gen, in tables). Forms not designated as plurals are nonplural (in most cases, singular) forms.


Last root V Nom Gen Nom Plural Gen Plur Gloss
[i] ip ipin ipler iplerin 'rope'
tjilci tjilcin tjilciler tjilcilerin 'fox'
[e] el elin eller ellerin 'hand'
cep cepin cepler ceplerin 'cap'
[y] jyz jyzyn jyzler jyzlerin 'face'
ɟyt͡ʃ ɟyd͡ʒyn ɟyt͡ʃler ɟyt͡ʃlerin 'power'
[ø] cøj cøjyn cøjler cøjlerin 'village'
ɟøz ɟøzyn ɟøzler ɟøzlerin 'eye'
[ɨ] kɨz kɨzɨn kɨzlar kɨzlarɨn 'girl'
arɨ arɨn arɨlar arɨlarɨn 'bee'
[a] t͡ʃan t͡ʃanɨn t͡ʃanlar t͡ʃanlarɨn 'bell'
sap sapɨn saplar saplarɨn 'stalk'
[u] pul pulun pullar pullarɨn 'stamp'
boru borun borular borularɨn 'pipe'
[o] son sonun sonlar sonlarɨn 'end'
jol jolun jollar jollarɨn 'road'

The final column of every chart containing examples provides a gloss for the noun root alone. As a model, the four forms for rope can be glossed as follows (from left to right): rope; your (singular) rope; ropes; your (singular) ropes.

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