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Minor Vowel Harmony

Vowel harmony is one of the most fundamental and important aspects of Turkish grammar. Turkish words generally obey two vowel harmony rules, called the major vowel harmony and the minor vowel harmony. More important than the words obeying these rules, there are ways these rules change the vowels in the suffixes added to words. A good understanding of these rules is necessary to be able to use suffixes, hence to be able to make correct and meaningful sentences.

 

2. Minor Vowel Harmony

We saw that the 8 vowels in the Turkish alphabet are divided into two groups as hard and soft vowels. Besides this grouping, the 8 vowels are divided into two groups as round vowels and flat vowels. There are 4 flat and 4 round vowels. A vowel´s being round or flat is actually determined from the shape of the mouth when pronouncing that vowel, but it can also be seen in the shape of the capital characters.

Flat vowels: A, E, I, İ
Round vowels: O, Ö, U, Ü

 

A Turkish word is either a round word or a flat word depending on its last vowel.

ev[home] is a flat word since its last and only vowel, e, is a flat vowel.

okul[school] is a round word since its last vowel, u, is a round vowel.

kahve[coffee] is a flat word since its last vowel, e, is a flat vowel.

 

Now, try to guess if the following words are round or flat. Move the mouse over the right table cell of the word to see the answer.

Word Round or Flat
meslek[job] ?
araba[car] ?
güzel[beautiful] ?
yemek[food] ?
gülümse[smile] ?
çabuk[quick] ?
gül[rose] ?
göl[lake] ?
gidelim[let´s go] ?
telefon[telephone] ?
(Correct answers: flat, flat, flat, flat, flat, round, round, round, flat, round)

 

Minor vowel harmony states that:

If a suffix starting with -i is appended to a round word, the -i in the suffix becomes -u or -ü. This depends on whether the word is hard or soft. The major vowel harmony and the minor vowel harmony apply to words simultaneously. This means:

 

  • If a suffix starting with -i is added to a hard and round word, the -i in the suffix becomes -u.
    • okul --> school [a hard vowel]
    • suffix we will add is -im (gives the meaning my)
    • my school --> okulum [the suffix -im changes according to vowel harmonies and becomes -um]
  • If a suffix starting with -i is added to a soft and round word, the -i in the suffix becomes -ü.
    • gül --> rose
    • suffix we will add is -im (gives the meaning my)
    • my rose --> gülüm [the suffix -im changes according to vowel harmonies and becomes -üm]

 

my telephone --> telefonum

my beautiful --> güzelim

my lake --> gölüm


Sirki, Eilidh, MKhalid, tatam92, HalaHjr and 148 others liked this lesson


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