Historical backround of Turkizms in English language

The article considers the most important indicators of the adaptation of Turkic borrowings in English and their allocation in different English dictionaries (explanatory, etymological, phraselogical), as well as their use in various works of fiction. Linguistic contacts manifest themselves in the interaction of linguistic, cultural and historical factors and represent an essential process in intercultural communication. Turkic lexical elements actively used in various languages as a language mechanism require special attention. The article generalizes the results of comparison of different languages, and shows that borrowing is a universal fact of language, the linguistic essence of which allows to determine the absolute or relative chronology of their entry into the system of different languages. Turkisms closely related to the lexico-semantic system of the recipient language expand the body of language units of English and other languages, indicating the paths of penetration and the degree of adaptation. This takes into account the patterns of lexical and phonetic potential of the language. Turkic borrowings include not only Turkic words, but also lexical elements of Arabic, Mongolian, Persian, Tatar, Uzbek and Kazakh origin, which have penetrated English through many Turkic languages and have been reflected in English lexicographic sources. Turkism thus refers to words included in English from Turkic languages or through Turkic languages regardless of the source of the mutual relationship, i.e., words having a Turkic stage in their history.


Language is a historically developing phenomenon associated with the evolution of society. In the course of its formation, the language transmits national cultural values, adapts the treasures of another culture, as well as the words that accompany them. When entering the system of the receiving language, borrowing is included in the transformation process. In other words, when a foreign language element is inserted into another language’s system, it adapts to the recipient language system. At first glance, the problem of assimilation of borrowings is contradictory in many aspects. The discrepancy is observed both at the stage of creating classifications, types of borrowings, and at the level of designating the borrowing mechanism itself and highlighting the stages, types, and levels of adaptation of the borrowed vocabulary in the successor language.

The process of borrowing vocabulary in certain historical epochs and in different languages requires indepth study. This work is devoted to the language adaptation of turkisms in English on the material of different lexicographic sources. It is known that the language was formed as a result of centuries of joint labor activity of ancestors and as a consequence of the constant need for communication associated with it. In the history of mankind there are various forms and ways of mutual influence of languages. The study of the stages of this interaction is of fundamental importance for characterizing the processes of development, enrichment and increasement of the vocabulary of a language as a result of borrowing foreign language elements. Therefore, borrowing in the context of intercultural communication is a natural result of any communication between peoples. The relevance of this work is determined by the increased interest of linguists in Eastern languages and their cultures in the aspect of intercultural communication. Special attention should be paid to the Turkic lexical elements that are actively used in various languages.

As Damaris W. Karũrũ said in his article about borrowings and communication in languages that existed to communicate from the early time: “borrowing, therefore, occurs out of necessity or need where a language does not have a readily available word for something. Other reasons for borrowing include prestige

*Corresponding author’s e-mail: shaizat85@mail.ru

and foreign influence. Borrowing occurs when speakers of a given language have had some contact with another/other language(s)” [1].

Various scientists such as Showqi Bahumai, Damaris W. Karũrũ, S.M. Trophimova, L. Bold, N.R. Oynotkinova, A. Zaripova, D. Fominykh, Esma Fatıma Bilgin, Ayşe Berrin Yanikoğlu, A.M. Ishegulova, A.S. Adilova dedicate their works on linguistics to investigation of loanwords in general. Nowadays, there is a lot of new material, which indicates the assimilation process of borrowings, and intercultural communication in the language of the recipient on linguistics.

In this case we can also say that our country Kazakhstan is multiethnic state, which serves as a very important factor of interaction of the Kazakh, Russian and English languages. As the professor of Karaganda university A.S. Adilova wrote in her article “On the verbal structure of Kazakh media texts” interaction of the Kazakh and Russian languages is observed in many spheres. One of them is the sphere of mass communication, which means it performs various functions in society. Media texts of the main Kazakhstan news portals providing materials in Russian differ in features. Further said importance of words and word combination like Ratel.kz, Tengrinews.kz, EXPO-2017 don’t need to be translated into state language or Russian [2: 311].

There are about 7000 languages spoken all over the world. It has been discovered that when languages come into contact, there is transfer of linguistic items from one language to another due to the borrowing of words.

In the opinion of Hosam M. Darwish, it is considered quite normal for languages to borrow words from other languages. When a language takes words from other languages, these new arrivals are usually called borrowings or loanwords. According to Bynon, this term is a loan translation of German “lehnwort” whereas Abdel Rahman thinks that this term is misleading and unsatisfactory, but he disagrees with Banyon who believes that the donor language does not get its borrowed word back. It is believed that the main reason of loaning is the need to acquire new vocabulary or lexical items for new places, things and concepts. Langacker argued that loaning existing words from another language is easier than creating new ones. The cultural influence plays an important role in the path of borrowing words.

Research material

According to historical and scientific data, there is no pure language formed from the words of only one nation. Due to various objective reasons, the language is not preserved to the same extent as it is constantly evolving, cannot remain unchanged, corresponding to modern requirements and needs of application. This does not apply to English, which is currently considered a pluricentric language.

Borrowing contributes to the improvement and development of the language, making it accurate in expression, emotionally expressive and stylistically diverse. The formation of terminology of many national languages has one common feature — a tendency to borrow from a rather limited range of developed languages. Among international terms there are words that have a narrow scope of distribution, limited by the scope of one professional specialty. Hypothesis of research of foreign vocabulary in economic terminology of the German, Russian and Tatar languages is characterized by common areas of borrowing as well as by non-comparable sources of borrowing.

The purpose of the research is to define language adaptation of Turkisms in English vocabulary. It aims to characterize the features of the functioning of Turkisms at different stages of the English language (lexical and word-forming), revealing the degree of their development. The reasons for borrowing words and phrases in different historical periods of formation and development of the lexical and semantic system of a language are different. External, non-linguistic reasons for borrowing words from a single language include the presence of political, economic, industrial, and cultural ties between native-speaking peoples, the need to nominate new subjects, processes, and concepts, the nation's innovation in a particular field of activity, and the authority of the source language. Among the internal (language) reasons, the following are distinguished: the tendency to save language resources and to eliminate homonymy and polysemy of the original word, the accumulation in the borrowing language of the same type of words, which is planned to isolate one of these elements. In the lexical fund of the English language there is a reason to wonder where the Turkic borrowed words come from, since England is not nearby to the Turkic-speaking states, both religions and languages are thoroughly far apart. Albanian, German, Latin, Spanish, Italian, Hungarian became intermediate languages for the penetration of Turkic words into English. In addition, several words of Turkic origin entered English thanks to Eastern European languages such as Russian and Polish.

Research Methods

To solve the definite problem set out a number of research methods is used to investigate the material. The materials of research are small group of Turkic borrowings taken out from lexico-graphical sources (English–Russian phraseological dictionaries of different years). Comparative method is used (comparison of Turkic elements in English language) during the writing the article.

Results and discussion

Many Turkic words came into English through other languages, most often through French, for example, the words kiosk, kumiss, and macrame. Also Albanian, German, Latin, Spanish, Italian, Hungarian, and Serbo-Croatian became intermediate languages for the penetration of Turkic words into English.

The history of words leads us to the epochs of the Crusades, to the times of long and dangerous journeys to distant countries, to the caravans with Eastern goods that followed the great Silk Road. During the Mongol expansion the native language and the language of the Mongol conquerors appeared in the minds of the Turkic-speaking natives of the Central Asian steppes in relation to the “additional distribution”. In higher spheres, for example, in the political, socio-economic spheres, the local population began to use the Mongolian language of the newcomers, while in lower spheres (at the household, family levels) they still communicated in their native Turkic language. Over time, as modern research shows, (R.S. Oinotkinova) the problem of choosing the language of everyday, family communication among the bilingual population was solved in favor of a more prestigious language. The social top of the Turkic population was the fastest to switch to the Mongolian language, and the native language was preserved the longest among the lower social classes [5: 40].

According to the research of such linguists as Esma Fatıma Bilgin and Ayşe Berrin Turkish is an agglutinative language, where new words are formed by adding suffixes to the end of root words. There are grammatical rules governing which suffixes may follow each other, and in what order, but the number of possible words that may be generated by adding suffixes is practically infinite with repeated application of some suffixes. As such, a finite-size lexicon Turkish would miss a significant percentage of Turkish words, causing a high out-of-vocabulary (OOV) rate. This makes lexicon-based large vocabulary text recognition approaches unsuitable for Turkish or other agglutinative languages [3: 20].

In the XI-XIII centuries Turkizms entered the English language in the old French language, and the direct connection between the English and the Turks began when the English feudal lords took part in the Crusades with their fighters. Since the establishment of direct relations between England and Turkey, as well as between Turkey and Russia starting from the XVI century, new direct loanwords from the Turkic languages appeared in English.

The majority of Turkic loanwords in the English language belong to the exotic or ethnographic connotation lexicon. They have no analogues in English, relations with derived words are not transparent and are used in general to describe the fauna, flora, household, moral, political and social life, administrative and territorial structure of the Turkic regions. But a number of Turkic words are still part of the used vocabulary. Some Turkic words had new meanings that were not related to their etymology [3].

The materials of the research are groups of Turkic borrowings that are taken out from the lexicographical sources. The materials also comprise a block of word combinations found in literary texts and lexico-graphical sources of A.S. Hornby. In A.S. Hornby interpretation dictionary of English about 44 formants of Turkic origin were established and analyzed; 118 lexical units of Turkic origin recorded in Webster's etymological dictionary “Webster’s International Dictionary”. The results obtained during the analysis of Turkisms contribute to the solution of general or specific issues in the process of adaptation of language units and can also be used in comparative typological studies, complementing the actual material of intercul- tural communication of the interaction of languages in word formation, translation theory and linguo-country studies. Trying to classify them by semantic characteristic allowed to define the following semantic series: “Human” — ayatollah, bashi-bazouk, beebee, mullah; “Life” — angora, macramé; “Food” — caviar, kefir, yogurt; “Clothes” — caftan, gilet; “Plants” — bergamot, taiga; “Animals” — jackal, irbis; “Tool punishment / Weapon” — kurbash, yataghan [6].

As a result of the analysis of Turkic borrowings were established about 46 word formations with the word “turkey” and 21 word-formations with word “Turkish”, for instance, “turkey-cock”, “turkey foot”, “turkey wing”, “Turkish delight”, “Turkish knot”.

There are several words and word combinations with the beginning of word Turkey from the English Russian phraseological dictionary published in 1984 by A.V. Kunin, who had explained further:

Turk — турок, турчанка: 1) young turk- ист. младотурок; 2) шутл. непослушный ребенок; 3) през. дикий, неуправляемый человек; Turkey — индюк, амер. жаргон-неудача, провал; turkeybuzzard зоол. гриф-индейка; Turkey-corn — кукуруза; turkey red — ярко красный цвет; turkey-hen — индейка; turkey-poult — индюшонок; Turkey-stone — оселок; Turkish-delight — рахат-лукум; Turkish towel — мохнатое полотенце; Turkic — тюркский; Turkism — турецкий образ жизни; divan — тахта, диван (законодательное, административное или судебное учреждение в некоторых странах мусульманского Востока), диван (сборник восточных стихов).

The word “divan” has different meanings in some countries of the Muslim East, such as judicial institution and a kind of furniture. The article from The Design History Society published by Oxford University Press studies the mutual factor of Ottoman Turkish and American interiors in the growth of soft furnishings. Soft furnishings is original in relation to it affects a direct and physical interaction between the part of furniture and the body, although at the same time it is a piece of public space where social interactions took place. The concept of body convenience will provide as a common thread in understanding the origin of the expression “American style” in modern Turkish language and “the Turkish chairs” in Victorian American till 19th century. It is interesting that English vocabulary has several meanings using the words as sofa, ottoman and divan [3].

The analysis of some works of fiction also allows to complete that Turkic loan-words are often used in the following situations:

 to create a certain atmosphere that spreads and points out the specific features of the colorite of the countries of the East and Asia, for example: “It was six in the morning when Mr. Parker Pyne left for Persia after a stop in Baghdad. Completely mad. She lives there at Shiraz in a big native house. She wears Eastern dress. A big divan was placed against the wall and on it reclines a striking figure”.

 using of Turkic borrowing in literary fiction:

catch a Tartar

1) Встретить противника не по силам; получить решительный отпор;

2) Взять в жены сущую фурию, мегеру.

e.g., “A poor good-natured… creatur, as went out fishing for a wife one day and caught a Tartar”. Ch. Dickens, “Barnaby Rudge”, chapter LXXX.

“You must give up flirting, my boy, if I mistake not, you’ll find you’ve caught a Tartar”. Fl. Marryat, “The Blood of the Vampire”, chapter XIV.

cold turkey:

  1. американский жаргон: под влиянием минуты, не раздумывая; без подготовки, без предупреждения.

“You said that you and Kirby went to see Dr.Babb cold turkey, that you didn’t telephone or have any appointment”. E.S. Gardener, “The Case of the Screaming Women”, chapter V.

He had been kicked out of NCO School point blank, cold turkey. J. Jones, “From here to Eternity”, chapter XXXVIII;

  1. американский жаргон: холодный, равнодушный человек.

He was...what we call a grouch-face, a drizzle-puss, a wet blanket, a cold turkey. Chapter XXVIII;

  1. американский жаргон: легкая добыча, жертва, человек, которого ждет поражение или гибель; что-л. проваливщееся, не имевшее успеха.

“Sam,” I said, “I don’t know where to find anybody who would put money into a play that’s already a cold turkey”. E. Caldwell, “Call It Experience”, chapter XVIII.

A cold turkey for the enemy — легкая добыча для противников;

  1. американский жаргон: лишение наркомана наркотиков (во время лечения); прекращение употребления наркотиков (без медицинского вмешательства).

Joe did a cold turkey.

talk turkey

1) вести деловую беседу.

“You can have anything you care to ask for. Anything”, he repeated. “Ah,” said Dr Obispo, “now you’re talking turkey.” A. Huxley, “After Many a Summer”, part II, chapter. X.

2) говорить прямо, начистоту.

“I want to talk cold turkey to you, man to man!” K. Vonnegut, “Cat’s Cradle”.


сравнение: As red as a turkey-cock — красный как рак. “He was sorry for Mac Gown! There he sat, poor devil! — with every one getting up all round him, still; and red as a turkey-cock” [4].

The examples show that linguistic borrowings colour the speech of dialogues in literary fiction widely and are reflected in conjunction with the problems of cultural and socio-economic contacts between countries and people.


The study of foreign vocabulary and linguistic borrowings presents a serious interest for linguistic analysis and other sciences. Purely linguistic issues related to this area are connected with the issues of “purity” of vocabulary, and in many works are reflected in conjunction with the problems of cultural and socioeconomic contacts between countries and people. Historians, philologists, public figures, writers, critics have always been keenly interested in the processes of penetration of foreign vocabulary into given language and its further expansion and use, expressing their views on the acceptance or non-acceptance of certain words, and very often these statements and arguments go far beyond the linguistic sphere, expanding to the field of ideology, politics, sociology etc.

At this point of discussion it is necessary to point out that the concept of borrowing indicates the process of moving different elements from one language to another. Different elements are understood as units of different levels of the structure of the languages — phonology, morphology, syntax, vocabulary and semantics [5].

Thus, as a result of communication with different cultures, it is observed that the Turkic borrowed words included in the English language not only enrich it with new concepts that this culture does not have but also underwent morphological and phonetic changes, have lost their previous image and become an integral part of the vocabulary of English language [7].

Co-existence of different languages indicates that borrowing is a universal fact of language, linguistic essence of which allows to determine the absolute or relative chronology and their entry into the system of different languages. Turkisms closely related to the lexical and semantic system of the recipient language expand the corpus of language units of English and other languages, indicating the ways of penetration and the degree of adaptation. This takes into account the regularities of the lexical and phonetic potential of the language. The intensity of contacts between the Turkic peoples and the English and the reflection of interaction processes in the English language contributes to the emergence of turkisms in certain cultural and historical conditions that are characterized by the presence of several thematic groups.



  1. Damaris, W. Karũrũ (2013). Borrowing and Communication in Language: The Impact of morphological Adaptation Processes. Educational Journal Education and Research. Vol 1, № 9. P. 201–210 [in English].
  2. Adilova, A.S. (2018). Qazaq mediateksterinin verbaldy qurylymy turaly [On the verbal structure of Kazakh media texts]. Qazaq mediateksterinin verbaldy qurylymy turaly Khalyqaralyq gylymi-teoriialyq konferentsiiasy – International scientific and theoretical conference on the verbal structure of Kazkh media texts, p. 311-320. Almaty [in Kazakh].
  3. Esma Fatıma Bilgin, Ayşe Berrin Yanikoğlu Yeşilyurt (2018). Large vocabulary recognition for online Turkish handwriting with sublexical units. Turkish Journal of Electrical Engineering & Computer Sciences, Faculty of Engineering and Natural Sciences, 20–29. İstanbul: Sabancı University [in English]
  4. Kunin, A.V. (1984). Anglo-russkii frazeologicheskii slovar [English-Russian phraseological dictionary]. Moscow: Russkii yazyk [in Russian-English].
  5. Oinotkinova, N.R. (2018). Demonim «aza» v yazyke i folklore turkov Yuzhnoi Sibiri [Demonym «Aza» in the language and folklore of the Turks of southern Siberia]. Siberian philological journal, 2, 40–53 [in Russian].
  6. Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology (Ed. C.T. Onions).Оxford University Press [in English].
  7. Yuldasheva, S. A. (2016). Vliianie vzaimstvovanii na leksiku yazyka [The influence of borrowings on the vocabulary of the language]. Molodoi uchenyi — Young scientist, 12, 49–58 [in Russian].
Year: 2021
City: Karaganda
Category: Philology