THE TURKIC LANGUAGES PROGRAM
Turkish is the official language of the Turkish Republic. It is the most widely spoken of at least 35 Turkic languages in the world, and is spoken by approximately 75 million people in and near Turkey. Turkish uses a modified Latin alphabet of 32 letters, has a noun case system, no gender, and numerous verbal aspect particles that convey intricate shades of meaning. The word order is opposite that of English. It is closely related to other Turkic languages, and displays some possible distant connections to Altaic languages such as Mongolian, Manchu, Korean, and Japanese, and by some debatable accounts, Uralic languages such as Hungarian and Finnish. Though genetically unrelated to any of its linguistic neighbors (Greek, Persian, Arabic, Slavic, Armenian, Georgian, Kurdish) it has interacted with these languages over the past millennium.
The University of Chicago distinguishes itself with its very strong offerings in Modern and Ottoman Turkish, as well as in some other Turkic languages. The Turkish Studies program lays a great emphasis on proper education of its students in language skills.
Modern Turkish is taught at first, second and third year levels. Students are expected to reach an intermediate level of proficiency after completing first year, and a high intermediate to advanced level upon completing second year. Basic grammar is covered in first year. The second year emphasizes comprehension and self-expression both in written and spoken Turkish, and gradually introduces Turkish literature, with the help of textual and audio-visual materials of increasing complexity. The third year level is designed for students who have completed the first two levels and have reached an advanced level of proficiency, and emphasizes further readings in Turkish literature. Further Turkish reading courses in the original are also available for advanced students. All courses are staffed by full-time faculty, as well as by language instructors and teaching assistants.
At all levels of instruction, the four basic skills of speaking, listening, reading and writing are thoroughly emphasized. In addition to the regular offerings of Elementary, Intermediate and Advanced Turkish during the school year, it is possible for students to register for Intensive Summer Turkish classes through the Graham School’s Summer Program. Our students have access to FLAS, FLAG and CLS fellowships, and also benefit from a number of academic institutional connections with study abroad programs in Turkey, thanks to departmental and individual faculty affiliations.
The course offerings are supplemented by the weekly gatherings of the Turkish Circle, a voluntary student organization that promotes Turkish conversation in an informal setting, as well as events such as films, lectures, presentations and discussions in Turkish, and other items of cultural interest such as concerts, dinners and excursions.
The Modern Turkish offerings are supplemented by courses in modern Central Asian and historical Turkic languages such as Uzbek and Kazak (the latter in concert with CEERES and Slavics), and offerings in Old Turkic. There is also the possibility of independent study in less commonly taught modern Turkic languages such as Tatar or Kirghiz, or historical languages such as Chagatai.
First Year Uzbek emphasizes the acquisition of basic Uzbek grammar, based on both writing systems (Cyrillic and Latin, official since 1995), as well as basic conversational skills in Modern Literary Uzbek using audio-visual materials. Second Year Uzbek introduces Uzbek literary texts through a series of graded texts, and develops further skills in speaking, listening, reading and writing Modern Uzbek. The students have the possibility to apply for fellowships for summer school programs in Uzbekistan.
Ottoman Turkish can be studied at the introductory/intermediate and advanced levels. As anyone familiar with this language knows, one can begin to learn Ottoman Turkish (in fact, the first two years of Modern Turkish can be counted towards Ottoman Turkish), but reaching a level at which one can comfortably tackle difficult texts requires some time and experience. Keeping this in mind, we periodically offer courses on specialized subjects of Ottoman literary production, such as historiography, travelogues, hagiography, diplomatic history, etc. at the high advanced level.
On demand, special courses on Old Anatolian Turkish are offered as well, introducing students to the distinctive grammatical and lexical features of Old Anatolian Turkish (the formative period of Ottoman Turkish, 13th-15th centuries) through translation literature and original texts in prose and poetry.
The students are encouraged to attend one of the Ottoman summer courses in Turkey after they complete the advanced Ottoman Turkish course at the University of Chicago.