Mutual Intelligibility Among the Turkic Languages

Turkic is a large family of about 40 languages stretching from Turkey all the way to China. Most of the languages are pretty close, and it’s often been said that they are all mutually intelligible, and that you can go from Turkey all the way to the Yakut region of Siberia and be understood the whole way.

This is certainly not the case, although there is something to it. That is because the languages, while generally not above 90% mutually intelligible which is the requirement to be dialects, do have varying degrees of intelligibility. That is, there is some intelligibility between most of the Turkic languages but generally below 90%.

The truth is that mutual intelligibility in Turkic is much less than proclaimed.

Azeri is spoken in Azerbaijan. Turkish and Azeri are often said to be completely mutually intelligible, but this is not true, though the situation is interesting. The two are not mutually intelligible. The far eastern dialects of Turkish are closer to Azeri than to Turkish. Turkish has an average of 69% intelligibility with Azeri calculated via three separate studies. After a few weeks of close contact, they can often communicate pretty well. Written intelligibility is much higher and Turks may have up to 95% intelligiblity of written Azeri.

Intelligibility is increasing now now due to increased contact. Nowadays due to exposure to Turkish TV, most Azeri speakers can speak Turkish well, and due to exposure to Azeri TV, Turks understand a lot more Azeri than they used to.

Kazakh and Kirghiz are also close, enough to be one language, with intelligibility over 90%. In addition, they have been growing closer recently. Kazakh is spoken in Kazakhstan, and Kirghiz is spoken in Kyrgyzstan.

Tatar and Bashkir are even closer than Kazakh and Kirghiz and they are best seen as a single language, with intelligibility of over 90%.

Uzbek and Uyghur are fairly close, but they are still probably only 65-70% intelligible. Uzbek is spoken in Uzbekistan, and Uighur is spoken Xinjiang Province, China.

Uzbek and Kazakh are not mutually intelligible, but there is an intelligible dialect between them.

Tofa and Tuvan are not mutually intelligible, but there are intelligible dialects linking them. Both are spoken in Russia in the same region as Altai below.

The truth is that Altai and Uzbek are not even intelligible within themselves.

Altai is spoken in the Altai region of Russia where China, Russia and Mongolia all come together. Altai is split into North Altai and South Altai, separate languages.

Uzbek is split into North Uzbek and South Uzbek, separate languages.

Azeri is split into North Azeri and South Azeri, although the two are mutually intelligible, there are large differences in phonology, morphology, syntax and loan words. Nevertheless, they are very mutually intelligible, with intelligibility at 98%. The split was probably done for political reasons, as North Azeri is the official language of Azerbaijan and South Azeri is a language spoken in Northwest Iran.

The Oghuz languages are said to be fully mutually intelligible, but that’s not really the case. The question of the intelligibility of Turkmen with Azeri and Turkish is controversial, as some sources say that they are mostly mutually intelligible. Intelligibility testing is warranted.

Turkish has uncertain intelligibility with Crimean Tatar. Crimean Tatar speakers say that Turks cannot understand their language (Dokuzlar 2010). However, Turkish speakers say that Turks and Crimean Tatar speakers can converse without too many problems. However, while mutual intelligibility is high, it is probably under 70%. Intelligibility testing is warranted. One problem is that Southern Crimean Tatar is a simply a dialect of Turkish, while Central and Northern Crimean Tatar are part of a separate language from Turkish.

Turkish has high, but not full, intelligiblity of Karaim. Turkish intelligibility of Karaim may be 65-70%. Intelligibility testing is warranted.

The intelligibility of Turkish with South Azeri may be quite high, on the order of 90% (however, some South Azeri speakers say that while they can understand North Azeri just fine, they have a hard time understanding Turkish, which calls the 90% figure into question), higher than between Turkish and North Azeri, which itself is ~70%. Intelligiblity between Turkish and South Azeri is the highest between Turkish and any other language.

The intelligibility of Turkish and Khorasani Turkic is probably around 40%.

Practically speaking, Turkish has low intelligibility with Kazakh (Kipchak Branch), Uyghur and Uzbek (Uyghuric branch) and Khakas (Siberian branch). Turkish-Kazakh intelligibility is surely less than 40%. There is also low intelligibility between Turkish and Bashkir, Nogay, Kyrghyz and Tatar (Kipchak Branch). Turkish has very low written intelligibility of Tatar (~5%) and Kazakh (0%).

Turkic has effectively 0% intelligibility with Yakut or Sakha.

The intelligibility of Turkish with the Central Asian Turkic languages like Uzbek, Kazakh, Kyrghyz and Turkmen is much exaggerated.

Speakers of these languages who went to study in Turkey said they had problems with the Turkish language. It’s true that Turkish TV is not much watched in the Central Asian Turkic nations, but the main reason for that is that Central Asian Turkic speakers can’t understand it. They can’t even understand the simplified Turkish used in these broadcasts. After the fall of the USSR, people from these new nations visited Turkey, but they had to bring interpreters with them to communicate.

In truth, the whole notion of the mutual intelligibility of all Turkish is a pan-Turkic conceit. Pan-Turkism is a noxious form of ultranationalism headquartered in Turkey. It says that all speakers of Turkic languages are part of a Greater Turkey and often uses ominous irredentist language implying that Turkey is going to conquer all the Turkic lands and take them back.

The Pan-Turkics have a snide attitude towards other Turkic speakers, insisting that they all speak dialects of Turkish and not separate languages. This snideness is resented by speakers of other Turkic tongues.

A number of Turkic languages are nothing more than dialects and not full languages.

Ukrainian Urum is a dialect of Crimean Tatar, and Georgian Urum is a dialect of Turkish. Ukrainian Urum is spoken in SE Ukraine, and Crimean Tatar is spoken on the Crimean Peninsula.

Salchuq is an Azeri dialect. It is spoken in Iran.

However, Qashqai, also spoken in Iran, often thought to be an Azeri dialect, is in fact a separate but closely related language with 75-80% intelligibility of South Azeri.

Gagauz has high intelligibility with Turkish. However, Bulgarians say that when Turks visit the Balkan Gaguaz communities in Bulgaria, the two groups have a hard time understanding each other. SIL says that not only Gagauz but also Balkan Gagauz Turkish are separate languages, but one wonders what criteria they are using to split them. The Gagauz are Christians living in Moldavia who strangely enough speak a Turkish language with many Christian Slavic loanwords. The Balkan Gagauz Turks live in Bulgaria, far west Turkey, Greece and Macedonia, but most of them live in Bulgaria.

Kumyk is said to be said to be intelligible with Azeri, which would make it a dialect of Azeri. However, this assertion is yet unproven, so for now, Kumyk should remain a separate language. Kalmyk is spoken in Dagestan.

Karakalpak is so close to Kazakh, with 98% intelligibility, that it is a dialect of Kazakh. Karakalpak is spoken in Western Uzbekistan.

Chulym and Shor are often thought to be dialects of a single language. Not only is this not true, but Shor itself is two separate languages – Mrass Shor and Kondoma Shor – and Chulym is also two separate languages – Lower Chulym and Chulym. Chulym and Shor are spoken north of the Altai Mountains in the Ob River Basin near the city of Novokuznetsk.

Further research regarding the intelligibility of these languages is indicated.


Uygar Dokuzlar, Crimean Tatar speaker. April 2010. Personal communication.

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Filed under Azerbaijani, Balkan Gagauz Turkish, Bashkir, Chulym, Crimean Tatar, Dialectology, Gagauz, Karakalpak, Kazakh, Khakas, Khorasani Turkic, Kipchak, Krymchak, Kumyk, Kyrgyz, Language Families, Linguistics, Nogay, North Altai, North Azerbaijani, North Uzbek, Oghuz, Qashqai, Salchuq, Shor, Siberian, South Altai, South Azerbaijani, South Uzbek, Tatar, Tofa, Turkic, Turkish, Turkmen, Tuvan, Urum, Uyghuric, Uyhghur, Uzbek

132 responses to “Mutual Intelligibility Among the Turkic Languages

  1. Nate

    Robert, I wonder if you saw this recent paper on the “Altaic hypothesis”:

    “Analyzing Genetic Connections between Languages by Matching Consonant Classes” by Peter Turchin, Ilia Peiros, and Murray Gell-Mann

    From the abstract:
    “The idea that the Turkic, Mongolian, Tungusic, Korean, and Japanese languages are genetically related (the “Altaic hypothesis”) remains controversial within the linguistic community. In an effort to resolve such controversies, we propose a simple approach to analyzing genetic connections between languages. The Consonant Class Matching (CCM) method uses strict phonological identification and permits no changes in meanings. This allows us to estimate the probability that the observed similarities between a pair (or more) of languages occurred by chance alone. The CCM procedure yields reliable statistical inferences about historical connections between languages: it classifies languages correctly for well-known families (Indo-European and Semitic) and does not appear to yield false positives. The quantitative patterns of similarity that we document for languages within the Altaic family are similar to those in the non-controversial Indo-European family. Thus, if the Indo-European family is accepted as real, the same conclusion should also apply to the Altaic family.”

    • No, I haven’t but it looks very nice. I’ve been reading up a lot on Altaic and I am convinced that it exists. It’s just messy, that’s all. The controversy is pretty ridiculous if you ask me.

  2. turboratur

    It is strange that these turkic groups show very different genotypes ( and phenotypes ) such as :
    R1a , R1b , I , J2 , G , N , Q , K , P , F , C , …
    but I don’t understand why ?!? and who are actual TURKs ??!
    maybe Turk are not a name of race or nation or tribe !
    I am a Turk too.

    • They are not all Turks. The Turks are Turks. The rest of them are whatever they are. They just speak Turkic languages is all. Language and genes don’t necessarily line up all that well.

    • Kemal

      Sayfanin amaci uzum yemek degil bagci dovmek. Bagci dovme niyetinde bir suru insanda uzum yeme goruntusunde toplanmis. Bir kisim cahilimiz de yazilanlari iyi niyet sanmis.Bir olmayan dir olamaz kardesler. Saglicakla kalin.

  3. turboratur

    Thank you

    but they all nominate themselves TURK .
    why does turkic language be spread between these different races ?
    I think TURK was a common name of Eurasian nomads , even in Sahnameh ( Iranian national book ) Turanian nominate as Turks but Turanian were Aryan nomads similar to Iranian . and then turk nominate to another nonturks such tatars , oghuz , turkaman , … .
    Even Turkaman means : similar Turk !

    • Short answer. They are not all Turks! Who knows why they call themselves Turks. Turks were just the name of a more or less Asiatic tribe (really probably part White and part Asiatic) that spread out from Central Asia and conquered a lot of land all the way to Turkey.

      The Turks were Turkicized, but the people originally living there (you guys) were just regular White people like Greeks or Armenians. The Asiatic Turks bred in with the locals and the locals converted to Islam, but even now, Turks have only 15% Asiatic genes.

      Turanians are terrible people!

      • Meral

        Thank you for calling people who sees similarities between themselves and wants to unite against powers who abuse them… obviously raised by very respectful parents…

      • Tatar

        “regular white people”. What the hell does that mean ? What is “white” ? First of all the Anatolian plateau has never hosted what you call “whites”. Anatolians are anatolians, living North of the Semitic peoples, East of the Greeks ( a collection of many different tribes ) and West of Iranians. They are separate from “Greeks and Armenians”; to name some : Assyrians, Hittites, Frygians, Thracians*, Medians, Lydians*, Cilicians … (*Greeks are different tribes that united under the Greek name. )

        Surely, “white” people must be what is “regular” to you when you never leave your country.

        Chinese archives talk about Turks as mixed peoples, coloured eyed/haired, slanted/almond shaped eyed confederation of nomadic peoples. Being a Turk has little to do with genetic makeup. We are the descendants of those tribes, which united during 552-744 as the Göktürks; which united every single tribe who called themselves a Turk under one banner. The phenotypes varied from East Asians to Central Asians, and gradually changed for those who conquered different peoples. So if “us guys” call ourselves Turks and not “Greeks and Armenians”, it means that we have assimilated those peoples and the not other way around.

        I doubt you know much about Islam, just know that Islam in Turkey is different from that of Wahhabis. Anatolian Islam is heavily mixed with the old ways of the Turks for three out of four branches of Turkish Islam : Alevi, Bektasi, Mevlevi, and for the rest, non-denominational Turkish muslims, many ancient practices from Tengri times can still be found.

        Long live Turks, and one day we will unite.

        • Uyghur

          You are right brother, we are Türks and we proud to be! Though we have different eye colors, hair color or skin colors, we have same heart/ ka lip and same mind/ dil and same spirit / ruh!
          Ne mutlu TÜRKÜM diyene! Biz bir, Biz Türk!

      • uzbek

        why terrible people, i wait for your answer/

        • Uyghur are not pure Turks. The Uyghurs migrated to Xinjiang after the Kyrghyz and them had a fight in Mongolia.The original people of Xinjiang were Tokharian Aryan ,East Iranic people and Uyghur absorbed them that today upto 40-45% of Uyghur are Iranic and of course then the rest Turkic similar with Turkoman and Uzbekhs.The features of Uyghurs tell you they are a Iranic-Turkic mix.

  4. turboratur

    Turks were sons of Turag ( Turak ) king of Turan son of feridon king of Iran .
    feridon had three son : IRAJ king of Iran , TURAJ king of Turan , SARAM king of west or sarmatian .

  5. “Turkish and Crimean Tatar may have a bit higher intelligibility, maybe around 55-60%.”

    As a Crimean living in Turkey, I wouldn’t say so. Crimean languages such as Karai, Tatar are impossible to be understood by Turkish people.

    • Mohammad

      U should know u are representing a real refreshing view on this topic, free from sickening political pseudo-scientific bias. We need more Central Asian and Caucasian Turkic speaking people to speak out against scientific racism, pseudo-science and ideological bias. Thanks!!!!

    • Tatar Balasy

      You liar. Min Turkiyede yasagan bir Qirimtatarman emdi cikip colda qirimtatarca aytsam herkes cevap berir, Karayca Qirimtatarcayla ayni colun colcusu! You little snake, posing as a Crimean and spreading lies !

      • Asya

        Translating this in Turkey Turkish, Ben Türkiyede yaşayan bir Kırım Tatarıyım. Şimdi çıkıp yolda kırım tatarca konuşsam(?) herkes cevap verir, karayca kırım tatarca aynı yolun yolcusu. 😀 it is almost same

  6. Leyla

    We Turks are like Brazillians – pretty much from all over the world-. I do not think there is any one family with no Balkan, Kurdish, Arabic, Cherkes, Laz and even Armenian component. Was Anatolia an empty land when Turks started migrating to the West? Did Turkish immigrants kill all local people of Anatolia when they started settling? My answer to both questions is negative. They intermarried local population. Ottomans spread to the Balkans, Middle East and East Africa facilitated mixing of Turkish genes with neighboring people. Further, when the Republic was established Turkey received enourmous number of immigrants from the Balkans and the Caucasia (Cherkes). The result is the present day Turk, like you and I.

    Regarding how Turkish close to other Turkic languages, I think it is close to Kazak. I have a Kazak friend who also happens to speak fluent Turkish. When she speaks with her friends in Kazak, I do not understand anything. No familiar words, nothing… But actually, we have a lot in common. We say ben for I, they say men. We say burun for nose, they say murun. We say yighit for a young man, they say jighit. The numbers 1 to 10 are almost the same. When she explained further, I noticed that our languages are actually very similar even though Kazak sounds unintelligible. I feel like I can learn Kazak in 3 months if I have to. It is nothing like learning a foreign language.

    Regarding Azeri, it is very much like the Turkish that people from Eastern Anatolia speaks. I do not consider it a seperate language. However, our manmade words invented during the Turkish language reform make communication difficult. For example, when I say okul which means school, Azeris do not this word since it was invented as a result of reform. Oku means to read. So okul was made to mean school. However, in Turkish there is no suffix -l to refer a place. Therefore, Azeri speakers can not guess the meaning of the new word. If you want to know more, check . Also the book by Geoffrey Lewis mentioned in the article is very interesting.

  7. Rifat Asker

    While I generally agree with most of mentioned above there are certain questionable statements. For example, Kumyk is not a dialect of Azeri, it belongs to a completely different sub-group (Kipchak) within Turkic languages while Azeri belongs to Oghuz sub-group. If anything Kumyk is closer to Nogay, Tatar abd Kazakh. Also, North and South Azeri despite being separated over 150 years ago definitely have mutual intelligibility levels over 90 %. I am a native Azeri (North) speaker myself and can confirm that. Obviously, there are certain differences but they are minor. As far as mutual intelligibility of Turkic languages in general, yes it is certainly over-exaggerated. Having said that, almost all Turkic Languages have transitional dialects that create a dialect continuum.
    With regards to who should be considered a Turk or not, keep in mind that Turkic people have always been genetically diverse so the argument that modern day Turks of Turkey, Caucusus or Iran are not “real” does not stand. Peace…

  8. Onur

    Hey, can I ask you something ? Do you speak any of these languages or are you a Turkolog yourself ? or a linguist ? I mean, even if you do speak any of these languages how can you make the distinction between them ? Because in order to write such an article you really need to be an expert in this topic, but seems you are not. I am a native Turkish speaker, and let me tell you that without even knowing any of the major differences say between Azerbaijani Turkic and our language(as if there are) I was able to understand almost everything spoken in their TV broadcasts. As for the language spoken in Iran, FYI it’s already called ”Torki” I watched a video of Khamanei addressing to the crowd in a meeting probably somewhere in Azerbaijani province, speaking it (since himself is an ethnic Azerbaijani) understood clearly everything he said to the public. As for Turkmen, there are different dialects of it, the one spoken in Turkmenistan has different pronunciation of consonants and wovels which make it indeed difficult for a Turkish speaker. But still a careful Turkish speaker can still decipherate it if listened carefully. The same case for Uzbek I do understand a lot of the spoken news briefs in Radio Free Europe Uzbek and Turkmen broadcasts. Turkmen spoken in Afghanistan (by ethnic Turkmens there) is much clearer for us as their dialect is phonologically much closer to native Turkish. This videos was from a Turkish TV program about the political changes in Uzbekistan. Note the lady is Turkish and a native Turkish speaker and interviews with the Uzbek speaker correspondent yes in her own language through 7:50 th minute 🙂

    This video is on Khamanei talking to the crowd in Azerbaijani Turkic :

    And this is from a Turkmen TV broadcasting from Afghanistan.

    How come I understand what is spoken in these videos as a native Turkish then ? Kazakh and Kyrgyz are indeed very difficult to understand due to different morphologic structures but you definitely can not say the same thing for all Turkic languages. Especially when you are not even a NATIVE speaker of any of them.

  9. Onur

    You might also dispute that in the first video the ”subtitles” are given, which would be nothing but a trick, we all know those subtitles are given for morons simply because the correspondent speaks already clear enough and is understandable 🙂

  10. Ahmet

    Dear Sir,
    I read your article and would agree with you if I haven’t been a Turkish speaking person.
    Despite your claims, I can read Uzbek newspapers and understand about 95% of it. Sometimes I’ve to read the sentences twice as there are important differences due to the influence of Persian. Also, there are some minor grammatical differences. However, it is very hard for me to hear Uzbek. In order to speak and hear Uzbek, I’ve to stay in Uzbekistan for 4-6 weeks. Uzbeks do not describe themselves as Turks, they all say that they are Uzbeks. However, being an Uzbek is like being an Ottoman. Probably you know, Ottomans also did seldom use the word “Turk” when describing their identity.
    Turkmen language is closer to Turkish than Uzbek but there are some differences due to Russian influence. Still, for Turkmens, speaking Turkish fluently takes only 2 weeks. Azeri is just Turkish, there is no doubt.
    You are right about Kazak and Kirgiz languages. These languages are not really very close to Turkish but they can learn Turkish in a very short period (if they do know Kazak or Kirgiz because most of them speak Russian). However, the total population of Kazaks and Kirgizs is about 15 million and this makes up only 10% of the whole Turkic people.
    We do not have to unite as a single country but we will have close economical and cultural ties in the future. But who knows what happens in the future. Wait and see my dear

  11. Ahmet

    Bu arada bu herife kafam girsin 🙂

    • Tatar Balasy

      Girsin ! 200 milyon insanin birlesmesinden korktuklari için boyle yapiyorlar, internet coplugunde yaptilari yalan dolan, hile hurdadan nasil uç buçuk attiklari belli

      • Uyghur

        200 milyon insanin Turk namile birlesmesinden korkuyorlar. (Turkish)
        200 Milyon insaning Turk namida birlishidin qorqidubular. (Uyghur)
        200 Miljon adamin Turk ati bila birleshmesidin khorkhupjatir. ( Khazak)
        200 Milyon insoning Turk adi bilan birlashmasidin qurqivdikan. (Uzbek)

        • Asya

          And i will add to this, türk namı ile—> türk adı altında/ türk adı ile in Khazak Türk atı bila
          I found another similarity as a Turkish speaker. And you say we cannot understand each other. If i think a little bit i can relate the words. Bu arada çeviri için sağol, editöre kapağı koymuşsun.

    • Asya

      Aynen kardeşim 😀 elin ingilizi nasıl bilecek?

  12. Onur

    Uygar Dokuzlar what the hell 🙂 just noticed this guy does claim he is a Crimean Tatar speaker too 🙂
    Crimean Tatar is a separate language developed from circa 15th century on from the actual Kazan Tatar, although it has close historical ties with it as we all know. Because the Nogai, Kazan Tatars and Crimeans are all close relatives in that they were all inhabitants of the same Golden Horde of Batu Khan once. Among these the Crimean language has diversified from the others because the Crimean Tatar was heavily infuenced by Anatolian Turkish (due to long years of sovereignity of the Crimean Khanate as a vassal state under the Ottoman Empire) its Kypchak elements very lessened to such a low degree and replaced by Anatolian Turkish characteristics that its mutual intelligibility with Turkish can rise up to even some 80-90%. 🙂 I bet Uygar you do not even speak Crimean Tatar neither are you one of them yourself.
    Otherwise you would not be able to fool all these visitors of this blog (Turks among them) if people did really know what kind of a blunder you made. But you blew it 🙂
    This is a Crimean Tatar broadcast from youtube let the Turkish speakers decide if they can understand or not Uygar, would you ?

    • Maksat

      I am kazakh and I can understand 75% of this Crimean Tatar broadcast, but for me it is difficult to understand turkish.

      • Onur

        I can understand Turkmen and Uzbek fairly well, have difficulties understanding Kazakh and Kyrgyz too.However I don’t have any problem understanding this Crimean Tatar broadcast in basics I mean I do pick the main theme of the news broadcast pretty well.So I would say Crimean Tatar is pretty much a bridge between Turkish and Kazakh.

      • Interesting. I’d heard that same thing about Tatar from Azeri speakers. Maybe not 75%, but still intelligible.

        • Onur

          We have Azerbaijani state TV broadcast here, and I watch it from time to time.Yes I would say I don’t have any difficulties in understanding it.It sounds as if its a different dialect of my native tongue.

      • Asya

        Maksat, i am Turkish and i umderstand this tatar news (haberler) but for me its harder to understand Kazakh language too. How come you understand this but not Turkish? For me this news sounds like turkish spoken with russian accent. But i do understand it.

  13. I’m English, but I lived in Turkey for a couple of years where I picked up Turkish, and then I moved to Azerbaijan, and I was able to communicate relatively easily with the Azeris using the Turkish I knew. It felt as if they were speaking a dialect of Turkish, not a separate language. The Turkish people I knew who were living in Baku could communicate with complete ease with their Azeri friends. If Turkish and Azeri really are different languages then they are only a whisker away from being dialects of the same language IMHO.

    • It may be time for some scientific intelligibility studies on this matter.

      Thx a lot.

    • My experience was the opposite from yours. I lived in Azerbaijan for a couple years and learned Azeri. It is true that in Baku Turks and Azeris communicate fairly easily because the languages are extremely close to one another, but usually it is because the Azeris are intentionally using Turkish words instead of the traditional Azeri words. When I traveled to Turkey I tried speaking Azeri with people and it was almost always met with either confusion or outright laughter, and they would tell me “You speak like a very old Turkish person.” Azeri is more closely related to Ottoman Turkish because it retains many of the Persian and Arabic loanwords (not to mention a great deal of Russian words) that were stripped from Turkish by Ataturk’s language reforms. The fact is, almost all Azeris today understand Turkish because they watch Turkish television ALL THE TIME, but Turks could care less about understanding Azeri. While there is a great deal of mutual intelligibility between the languages, they are definitely separate from one another.

      • I think it also has a lot do to with television and media. For instance in Iran, the Azeris watch a ton of Turkish television via satellite, since Iranian state programming is so damn boring. Thus, many are rather comfortable with Istanbuli Turkish, even if they never met someone from Turkey. Of course, I imagine the reverse isn’t the case.

        • North Azeri and Turkish have 79% intelligibility as measured by two scientific studies. Almost one language. South Azeri and Turkish have over 90% intelligibility, so in a way they are dialects of a single language.

    • Alex

      That’s a common misconception. Azeris have been exposed to a heavy influence from Turkish mass media in the past 25 years, which is why today switching from Azeri to Turkish is not a problem for most Azeris under 40. When they see a foreigner speaking Turkish to them (natively or otherwise), even if their own Turkish isn’t brilliant, they will make their best to give their Azeri a Turkish tune and grammar to accommodate the person. This is because most Azeris show respect for their guests and also because they love showing off their knowledge of Turkish. This is the reason in fact why many Turks think that Azeri and Turkish are the same language: they hear a battered, but still easily intelligible version of Turkish (which is distant from correct Turkish as much as it is distant from Azeri) thinking they are hearing Azeri. As for Azerbaijani TV, programs there are broadcast in the literary standard which was modeled in the ’30s after standard Turkish (with all its embedded relative clause constructions that are never used in spoken Azeri) when pan-Turkism was still in, which once again creates an impression that the languages are extremely close. However, if a Turkish person listens to a random Azeri joe discussing trivial matters with his buddies over a cup of tea, this “over 90%” understanding will fall to right about 30-40%.

  14. Berke Diken

    Azerbaijani – Turkish
    Bu gün, yenə hər sabah olduğu kimi, Bugün, yine her sabah olduğu gibi,
    Oyanmaq istədim öpüşünlə. Uyanmak istedim öpüşünle.
    Amma, yoxsan. Ama, yoksun.
    Ah çəkib yandım, həsrətinlə. Ah çekip yandım, hasretinle.
    Bu gün, dərdə çarə olan dərman kimi, Bugün, derde çare olan derman gibi,
    Aldım rəsmini əlimə. Aldım resmini elime.
    Baxdım, baxdım. Baktım, baktım.
    Ah çəkib yandım, sənsizliyimə. Ah çekip yandım, sensizliğime.
    Hanı o bir cüt bəla dediyim qara gözlərin, Hani o bir çift bela dediğim kara gözlerin,
    Könlümü oxşayan şirin-şirin gülüşlərin. Gönlümü okşayan şirin şirin gülüşlerin.
    Hanı, o əllərimi tutan əllərin, Hani, o ellerimi tutan ellerin,
    Mənə ümid verən o xoş sözlərin. Bana ümit veren o hoş sözlerin.
    Ayrılıq, yenə dərdli başıma gəlib tac oldu, Ayrılık, yine dertli başıma gelip taç oldu,
    Ayrılıq, səni məndən alıb, gözümü yaşlı qoydu. Ayrılık, seni benden alıp, gözümü yaşlı koydu.
    Ayrılıq, yenə dərdli başıma gəlib tac oldu, Ayrılık, yine dertli başıma gelip taç oldu,
    Ayrılıq, səni məndən alıb ümidsiz qoydu. Ayrılık, seni benden alıp ümitsiz koydu.
    Anladım, artıq geri dönməyəcəksən. Anladım, artık geri dönmeyeceksin.
    Amma, bir tək təsəlli var. Ama, bir tek teselli var.
    Səndən mənə, Senden bana,
    Yadigar qalan xatirələr var. Yadigar kalan hatıralar var.

  15. Berke Diken

    Korkma, sönmez bu şafaklarda yüzen al sancak;
    Sönmeden yurdumun üstünde tüten en son ocak.
    O benim milletimin yıldızıdır, parlayacak;
    O benimdir, o benim milletimindir ancak.
    Çatma, kurban olayım, çehreni ey nazlı hilal!
    Kahraman ırkıma bir gül! Ne bu şiddet, bu celal?
    Sana olmaz dökülen kanlarımız sonra helal…
    Hakkıdır, hakk’a tapan, milletimin istiklal!

    Turkish (Common Turkic Alphabet):
    Qorqma, sönmäz bu şafaqlarda yüzän al sancaq,
    Sönmädän yurdumuñ üstündä tütän äñ soñ ocaq.
    O bänim millätimiñ yıldızıdır, parlayacaq,
    O bänimdir, o bänim millätimiñdir ancaq.

    Çatma, qurban olayım çähräñi äy nazlı hilal!
    Qahraman ırqıma bir gül! Nä bu şiddät, bu cälal?
    Saña olmaz dökülän qanlarımız soñra hälal…
    Haqqıdır, Haqq’a tapan millätimiñ istiqlal!

    Translation into Azerbaijani:
    Qorxma, sönməz bu şəfəqlərdə üzən al bayraq;
    Sönmədən yurdumun üstündə yanan ən son ocaq.
    O mənim millətimin ulduzudur, parlayacaq;
    O mənimdir, o mənim millətimindir ancaq.

    Çatma qurbanın olum, çöhrəni ey nazlı hilal!
    Qəhrəman xalqıma bir gül! Nə bu şiddət, bu cəlal?
    Sənə olmaz tökülən qanlarımız sonra halal…
    Haqqıdır, haqqa tapan, millətimin istiqlal!

    Translation into Uzbek:
    Qo’rqma, so’nmas bu shafaqlarda suzgan ol sanjoq,
    So’nmasdan yurtimning ustida yongan eng so’nggi o’choq.
    U manim millatimning yulduzidir porlayajak,
    U manimdir, u manim millatimningdir har choq.

    Uyma, qurbon bo’layin, qoshingga ey, nozli hilol!
    Qahramon irqimga bir kul! Na bu shiddat, bu jalol?
    Sanga bo’lmas to’kilgan qonlarimiz so’ngra halol…
    Haqqi, Haqqa topingan millatimning istiqlol.

  16. Rifat Asker

    In my opinion both Adam Trousers and kjneighbors are right to a certain extent. Turkish and Azeri are mitually intelligible to a high degree but it’s also true that the Azeris are a lot more exposed to Turkish than vice versa. Having said that most Turks of Turkey after moving to Azerbaijan adapt fairly quickly. Also, Eastern Anatolian dialects of Turkish (especially Kars region) are a lot closer to Azeri than a standard version (Istanbul Turkish).

    • I do not agree with this. Eastern Anatolian Kars Turkish and Azeri are not fully intelligible with each other. This is what people who live right on the border say. With Standard Turkish and North Azeri, intelligibility may be around 79% (90% being the boundary of language/dialect).

      • I can’t help but thinking one of the reasons the Western and Southern Turkic dialects/languages are more intelligible amongst each other, and the Kazakh/Kyrgyz not, is perhaps of the heavy Iranian/Persian influence? This languages either replaces Iranian/Persian speakers, or were influenced by their presence. I do not believe that was much the case with he Kazakhs.

        • Onur

          not really.the reason why mutual intelligibility of Turkish with Kazakh and Kyrgyz is low is because there are significant morphologic differences between these languages.Central Asian Turkmen is fairly low in Persian influence in comparison to Turkish and Azerbaijani Turkic, however still higher degrees of mutual intelligibility can be attained between these groups because they are morphologically and grammatically very close to each other.

  17. Rifat Asker

    What complicates matters is often political dimensions of the language vs dialect debate. For example, (correct me if I am wrong) certain Italian “dialects” such as Neapolitan, Sardinian, Sicilian, Piemontese, etc should probably be considered languages in their own right as opposed to dialects as they are often called in Italy for obviously political reasons. I think in this case we are not talking about mutual intelligibility rates over 90 %.

    • Surely the various Italian dialects you discuss above are separate languages. IMHO, there are even multiple languages inside of Neapolitan, Sardinian, Sicilian and Piedmontese. Ethnologue corrects lists all of these as separate languages. Surely intelligibility rates are below 90% between Standard Italian and any of these lects.

      In fact, Sardinian is not even a language. According to Ethnologue, it is four separate languages. I assure you that it is at least that many. They have idiotically tried to take at least 3 of these languages at made a fake “standard language” out of all of them. It’s not working at all because there are 3 totally different languages being mingled together into one standard. No one likes it, and few use it.

      A friend of mine speaks Venetian and Standard Italian. He told me can’t make heads or tails out of Sicilian, Neapolitan, Sardinian or Piedmontese.

  18. Rifat Asker

    Interesting and informative, thank you!

  19. Curt Warner

    I think any serious inquiry about the distance between related languages should investigate not only mutual intelligibility, but also how quickly speakers can learn each other’s languages. Before I started studying Swedish and Russian, I could understand 3% of each. Much more elucidating is that after two months of study I could understand a large amount of Swedish and still only very basic Russian.

  20. Mert

    How can you speak about these Turkic Languages without speaking any of them? An intellectual should have respect for all people of every view. if you can speak any Turkic Languages, give me your Skype, so we can speak in any Turkic Languages you want. If you can not speak any of Turkic Languages, delete all you have written. And don’t write this topic again.

      • Tatar Balasy

        From a fellow,

        Your only reference Uygar Dokuzlar, the “Crimean Tatar speaker” has written that the mutual intelligibility between Crimean Tatar and Turkish is 0%. in a comment above. As a Crimean Tatar speaker living in Turkey, I can tell that he is lying, because it is a well known fact that Turks and Crimean Tatars can converse in their own respective tongue without too many problems. Please do some research before posting anything, because your article is rubbish. You do not speak any of those languages and you dare write about it in a scientific fashion. You seem to have twice my age. Have you got no shame?

      • Tatar Balasy

        ” Personally, I have been described as “otherworldly,”, “beyond highbrow,” “one of those totally out to lunch genius types,” and “off in my own world.” I have a very high IQ, and I’m told that a lot of high-IQ folks are like this. There doesn’t seem to be much I can do about it, but it does cause me problems. Although I am generally opposed to racism, I do hate Gypsies. I would like to clear up my views about race and intelligence. There are presently differences in average intelligence between the races. ”

        Are you 5 ?

  21. Ayhan Eren

    It depends on intention of both sides. Both side should want to understand each other. If they do not then it is even difficult for those speaking the very same lamguage. Basic vocabulary and grammer is the same for all of the turkic languages. Problem is the loan words. Central asia has too many russian loan words and we have arabic and persian. Still for daily needs anyone having turkish as mother language can understand all of the dialects but of course can not argue on politics with them. You said tatars do not understand turkish. İt is not true. Cremean tatar dialect is %100 understandable in turkey for someone having good command of turkish. But kazan tatar dialect is a bit different in pronociation but still you can understand if you have ottoman turkish kmowledge.

  22. Tatar

    Gagauz Turks speak Turkish because they were put there by Ottoman authorities a few hundred years ago. They are the descendants of the Anatolian Turks relocated to the North-West of the Empire. Their clan name was Gök Oğuz (Blue Oğuz – The Oğuz is the clan of Turks of Turkey, Turks of Azerbaycan, Gagauz Turks, etc) and gradually changed to Gagauz.

  23. Tatar

    To quote ” Personally, I think the intelligibility of Turkmen and Turkish is probably around 40%. Turkish has uncertain intelligibility between Crimean Tatar and Karaim. Crimean Tatar speakers say that Turks cannot understand their language (Dokuzlar 2010). ”

    Do you speak Turkish or Turkmen ? Do you speak Crimean Tatar ? I am Crimean Tatar and Karay Tatar is almost the same language as Crimean Tatar except for a few religious loanwords (ex : kenesa for synagogue whereas Crimean Tatars say havra).

    The Difference between Karays and Karaim :

    Karait (“The way of the Kara)”, -im is a plural suffix in Hebrew) is a branch of Judaism founded during the 8th century in Iraq, and its preachers – who were not Turks – found their way, after some time, in the Caucasus, who was then under the control of Turks, more specifically Tatars. A portion of the Tatars embraced it and took the name Karaylar (the Karays).

    Karaylar is the name of the people, Karaim is the name of the religion, like Muslims and Islam. Therefore, the language is the Karay Language, not the Karaim language.

    Your article stinks !

    • Go away Turkish fascist. Go back to your Anatolia where all the other fascists hang out.


      • Татар

        Stop barking like a rabid dog.You clearly do not have any evidence to support your claims.
        Your source, the fake Crimean Tatar Uygar Dokuzlar, couldn’t even answer in his native language.
        You neither have the mental capabilities nor the knowledge to undertake comparative research in the linguistic field. You do not even have the courtesy of learning the languages you wish to examine.

        As for the insult, you showed us that you are nothing more than a racist, fascist and ignorant Linguistics wannabe. For the record, I am not Anatolian but Crimean.

        Савлукман Калыңыз.

  24. Andres Andrade

    Why are you banning them? I’ve read all this thread and being far from any ethnic issues that may arise here I must say your opponents arguments make perfect sense. It appears that especially the Crimean Tatar relation to Turkish is way below the negligible level assumed in your article. Why not simply admit it? What is wrong with absorbing new knowledge guys like Tatar Balasy actually donate you with. Will you ban me too? Am I Turkish too merely because I am convinced by the arguments of the Turks or Tatars?

  25. JR

    Hello! Just a quick note: people in Nanjing (which is a city, not a province) speak Mandarin. I think you might be thinking of Xinjiang!

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  27. Harry

    Haha this is all so funny. How unscientific can you get? You sourced a forum post for an article you started writing after reading a few Wikipedia pages. Then you acted rudely towards the people who tried to correct you. Do you think the great Isaac Newton or Charles Darwin did the same after having their work criticized?

  28. Harald

    The 0% claim in the article aside, how much -can- a speaker of Turkish understand of Yakut if they really make an effort to listen hard? When I read comparison phrases of both languages, they seem truly 0% mutually intelligible, unless you look at numerals, the most commonly shared words and such. But everyday sentences seem to carry no similarity between the two.

  29. jonny propkop'ev

    i speak yakut and can confirm after moving to istanbul that there is roughly 50% muutal intelligabliity

  30. I am studying elementary Turkish in Istanbul and enjoyed the original post.

    Having lived in China for almost 30 years, I can understand why there is so much disagreement over the conclusions in the original post. I learned Mandarin before leaving my home country, and after many years in mainland China, moved to Hong Kong. During the 1980s, the great mass of Cantonese-speaking HK’ers maintained they couldn’t understand much of what they heard from the mouths of Mandarin-speaking mainland visitors, and vice-versa.

    Once in the late 80s when it became evident that there was money to be made by both parties, however, “mutual intelligibility” shot up like a rocket. Interesting, isn’t it?

    I also speak Mandarin very fluently, and a few years ago frequently lectured from 9-5 in Mandarin, taking questions from trainees, etc. I can also easily navigate my way in Hong Kong in Cantonese, order food and chat a bit.

    But I cannot read a newspaper in Cantonese, or understand much of a news broadcast.

    My points:

    1) “Mutual intelligibility” often drops or rises markedly depending on attitudes held by the persons involved;

    2) Language as it is spoken on the street or in films/on TV, and written in the newspaper can all differ radically.

    Therefore I find the original post interesting and probably fairly accurate. Emphasis on fairly.

  31. Speakers will have differing responses to mutual intelligibility. Yesterday on the train going to Shenzhen, China I heard a girl say in Cantonese that Hokkien and Chaozhou were pretty similar. I started to talk to here but when I changed to Hokkien I found I couldn’t understand her Chaozhou and had to go back into Cantonese. Some of the Turkish poster that disagree may be like that. They themselves understand many varieties of Turkic lanuages but their listeners may not and Turkish – less travelled and less linguistically able may not understand other varieties..

    • Yes, Hokkien and Chaozhou are similar but they are not fully mutually intelligible. I have a whole article on the mutual intelligibility of various Chinese lects if you are interested in reading it.

  32. I very much enjoyed your personal input about a very interesting and entertaining topic. I have also read other articles that differ from your data or conclusion quite a bit. Overall, an alright source less article that presents some, nearly negligible, amount of interesting points. Definitely something i would never take seriously. Although your racist insults to certain “commenters” only emphasizes your lack of tertiary education. Hope you die, slowly and painfully mind you.
    I’m sure my last input only reflects modern opinion in terms of racist bigotry.

  33. Sam

    As a speaker of Turkish and Azeri, I have a very difficult time understanding Tatar from Tatarstan; not worth the effort.

    How is the degree of intelligibility judged? Are the methods taking into account differences in uncommonly/rarely used words? I can say with certainty that “North” and “South” Azerbaijani are definitely more similar to each other than Turkish is to either Azerbaijani tongue.

    My mother tongue is Iranian Azeri. I had zero trouble watching and understanding Azerbaijani TV from the former-ASSR. There are (few) loan word differences for modern concepts and technologies, but easily understood based on context.

    Official Turkish (from Turkey) was more difficult to adapt to, not just from a loan word perspective, but also some differences in pronunciation of verbs and suffixes. But the difference is relatively minor, and the languages become intelligible without extra effort once the speaker/listener is sensitised to the differences.

  34. correcter

    As a native Turkish, i can say its just ridiculous to claim Turkish and Crimean Tatar are not mutually intelligible.

    • There are two types of Crimean Tatar. Southern Crimean Tatar is fully intelligible with Turkish. Perhaps that is what you are thinking of. However, there are many reports that say that Northern and Central Crimean Tatar are not fully intelligible with Turkish. I have received enough reports by now that I believe that that is true.

  35. qqqaka

    Dear , before all ,i’d like to say you have to need your high language ability if you want to criticise something like this , and then there is something important you must really get it is about Azeri ; there is no language like this called in this way of.because no nation of named so at this time (by the way , they were not Turkish-speaking nations),.Azerbaijani means the language of Azerbaijan republic and its geographic area where it is spoken . in addition this , after Azerbaijan breaking away from Soviet in 1991 the name of the the country’s language was called Turkish , as how it was until 1937 if i was right about knowing of exactly year . at the end , as a native speaker of Azerbaijani , i can say there is , roughly speaking , no difference between Anotolian and Azerbaijanian Turkish , except for few words originated from other languages , such as French and Russian in whcih of them came to Anotolian Turkish and the other one to Caucasian turk . I would disccus it with you if i have had good English . but at the time i can` t carry discussion

  36. arrowinyourneck

    “The truth is that the mutual intelligibility in Turkic is much less than proclaimed.” By who ? What are you talking about. Find a better reason to start a poor article like this.

  37. Vanya

    Sir, Robert Lindsay, Please can i contact you through E-mail! I am suffering from severe OCD, I need your help. If you are ok with this please send a reply to my e-mail :

    Thank you

  38. Aussie

    Wow, so many people banned!

  39. Rivac4

    What an intolerant blog owner. He banned so many people just because they speak different than him.

    I had enjoyed the article at first but the writer lost all his credit with his behavior in the comments section. Now I don’t trust any thing written in the article either. The whole situation is just stupid.

    You can ban me as well, btw.

  40. Janer

    I think you miss a very great deal of the historical point of view. When you tag the mutual intelligibility claimed by the pan-turkists as exaggerated, I tend to think you have to pick another adjective than “exaggerated”. Let us try to understand what the background of the first pan-turkists were like.

    Most of them were not educated in established modern institutions, even those who received modern western education indeed at some years of their lives attended a traditional institution of education. First of all they were born into either Ottoman or Turkistani sphere of culture, which were at that time not very distant, the network of “alims” were very well interconnected between these regions. In tekke and/or madrasas arabic and farsi were extensively studied. Moreoever, in addition to their native dialects, they also studied Ottoman and Chagatai literature for significant period of time. So the well-educated nationalists at that time had the ability to talk to any other “educated” person from another Turkic community. So yes, it was very natural for them to travel from Danube river to Turpan with no problem of mutual intelligibility. And if the modern education was somehow able to incorporate this common substratum into the curricula, yes this would still be true today.
    Another aspect is that, simple daily tasks could be even easier to conduct in many turkic regions (say, using basic 200 words, which an arbitrary agrarian community may need for most of the daily conversations).
    What is hard today is two modern educated “citizen”s from two Turkic nation state to converse about their profession, political news, sport events. So we can say that, the result of today’s situation is very low mutual intelligibility without any special effort as you said.
    My point, as a Turkish citizen who has no nationalist aspirations at all, is that the panturkists’ mutual intelligibility claims may not apply to today’s world properly; but it was not a mere exaggeration. Life has changed a lot in the last century, and modern human’s lives has been flooded with a lot of words whose meanings evolved, and a lot of new words for new concepts and things.
    As a person who is curious about languages, and as a native turkophone, with a little effort (of course thanks to internet and self-study) I find it easy to understand many turkic languages; I cannot even guess how it could be easier more than a century ago.

  41. Yashar

    I agree with most of the article except the remarks made of the differences between the “north” and the “South” Azeri languages and their combined differences with the Turkish language spoken in Turkey. I am an Azeri myself, and I also speak fluent Turkish. I am also well versed in Arabic and Persian, thus I can recognize how all three Turkic languages above have borrowed intensively from these two totally different languages (Arabic being a Semite language and Persian being an Indo-European language). According to my discretion, the following are the facts about these languages:
    1. The difference between the Southern and Northern Azeri is very remote and this difference is mostly confined to a certain number of modern loan words (such as television, computer software and hardware, …, etc) where Northern Azeri has borrowed from Russian (due to Russian domination in the last 180 years) and Southern Azeri has employed the Persian or the French such loan words. Otherwise the two languages are 98% mutually intelligible, and they share a common literature, culture, and religion. In particular, the two languages are identically pronounced and can not even be considered two different dialects. In fact within South Azeri, there are dialects (such as Qashqayi and Khalaj) whose distance to the standard Southern Azeri is more than that between the Southern and the Northern Azeri.
    2. The main difference between the two Azeri tongues and the Turkish language is in pronunciation and accent. A native Turkish speaker may at first experience some difficulty understanding the Azeri language, but such a problem will cease to exist after a couple of weeks of interaction with Azeri speakers. The same is true for Azeri speakers when they are first exposed to Turkish. An interested Azeri native will need at most one or two months of time before he becomes completely fluent in Turkish.
    3. The intelligibility curve between Azeri and Turkish sharply increases over time. Such an intelligibility may be about 85% in the initial encounter, however it definitely jumps to about 95% after a couple of weeks of interaction.
    4. Due to their familiarity with Persian, most Southern Azeris can quickly recognize the abundance of Persian loan words that are used in Turkish. It is interesting to note that while the standard Turkish uses a large number of Persian loan words, South and North Azeris use their pure Turkish counterparts. For example while Turkish often uses “siyah” (a persian word) for “black”, Azeris strictly use the Turkish “gara” or “kara”; and while Turkish uses “küçük” (Persian Kuchek, meaning small), Azeris strictly use the Turkish “balaca”. Examples such as the above two are numerous in Turkish; particularly in Turkish classical literature.

    • I agree with much of what you wrote here except that there have been three studies of Turkish-Azeri mutual intelligibility. The combined average from the studies is 70%, but it ranges from 49-92%, which is quite a range. Qashqai and Khalaj are surely separate languages. I have a much longer version of this paper (113 pages) that will soon be published in a book. I can email you a copy of it if you wish to see it.

      • Yashar

        Thank you for your reply. I will greatly appreciate it if you Email me this study. From the large width of the interval (49-92%), I Can guess that perhaps the sample was very small for such a study (about at most 20 or 21 speakers for a 95% confidence level). I would definitely recommend a much larger sample size. For example, a sample of 360 would significantly reduce the gap from 43% to about 10%. Again, I appreciate if you can Email me the paper.

      • Yashar

        Okay, got it. The middle figure (79%) seems to be more reasonable than the other two.

      • Abdul Latif

        Would it be possible to get a copy of the longer paper as well?
        Also, curious about how much easier the differing degrees of intelligibility make learning the other languages from your experience and others.

  42. It’s the first time I see that someone suggests that Kumyk is a dialect of Azerbaijani. I’m Azerbaijani.

  43. Muzaffar

    he term Uzbek derives from two words Oghuz Bey meaning the leader of Oghuz which is a term to describe people of turcik descent that populated Central Asia such as Seljuks, Kipchaks, Turcoman, and so on. (There were many tribes both nomadic and sedentary. Please be informed that modern official Uzbek is largely derived from Oghuz and Chagatay languages and was solidified during the rule of Tamerlane. Alisher Nawayiy is the founder of modern Uzbek and Babur is made it more prominent by using Uzbek in his book Baburnama. *(Bobur is the guy who conquered India and establishe Moghul Empire; he was originally from Andijan which is the city in Uzbekistan). Kipchak and Chagatay, although both are turkic languages, differ in many ways and modern Uzbek is a mix of Chagatay and Oghuz languages. There are only two remaining languages that can be considered as languages descended from Chagatay and these are Uzbek and Uyghur. It is true that Persian lnaguage had influence but not to the extent described by the author. In fact, Persian language speakers were not assimilated into mainstream Uzbek in Smarkand and Bukhara as people there still use Tajik or local Persian. Uzbek language has many dialects but the version that is spoken in Fergana Valley is considered to be the most genuine and closes to the language used in Timurid and later Shaybanid dynasty (They were Uzbek tribes that ruled after Tamerlane) As for your examples, the words given there are pronounced differently because of the dialects and not because of morphology.

  44. Eren Gökalp

    Hello Robbert, I am from Turkey. i have practised Uighur Language for 6 months. i can say suffixes %60 same and words also %60 same with uyghur language. even if some words or saying we dont have in uyghur, uyghur sayings can come up in regional accents in Turkey. not in writing language but in oral language. i can give u examples if u need. In turkic languages we have almostly same logic rules, grammar types etc. i watched your videos. afghanistan turkmeni seems interesting to me. i ve never listen and afghan-turkmen dialect before. hmm interesting. i ve never practised but even 10 year old turkish boy can tottally understand believe me i am not exaggerating. for me, turks of turkey can understand azeribaijani %99, gagaus(in moldovia) %90, turkmen language %90 , kirim tatar language %80, karaihm(in lithuania) %65 , uzbek %65 , uyghur %60 , kazakh %45, kyrgyz %40 i dont have any idea other turkic dialects like bashkurt, altai, tuva, chuvash, sibir. they maybe have higher persentage than kyrgyz or lower. i dont have any idea.

  45. Akin Yeni

    I don’t know how mutual intelligibility is measured by the author or his resources. But I’d like to note that there may be multiple ways how people measure this, and I’d agree less with some of these.

    Mutual intelligibility of spoken language: One can argue someone from Turkey will not understand easily when someone from Azerbaycan is speaking on the street. BUT, I can walk around Istanbul (I am a native Istanbul Turkish speaker) or various regions of especially rural Turkey, especially among people with relatively less education (eg farmers), and very often I won’t understand what they are saying. This phenomenon happens all over the world. It is how people speak fast and locally and often without specific attention to talking clearly.
    If I listen to the Azerbaycan news on tv, I’ll understand more.
    But someone explained to me some basic structures and differences, in words, grammar and sounds (vowels and consonants for instance), perhaps for a single day, then I’d start to understand a lot of what’s being spoken.

    My point is, there are perhaps certain filters, in the negative sense, which stand in the way of mutual intelligibility, which I believe should be distinguished from mutual intelligibility itself. I believe this is a very important point in understanding or judging the mutual intelligibility, and I personally suspect the author of this article may have missed.

  46. meis

    Turkish and Uyghur languages are mutually intelligible?

    See this yourself.

  47. Mehr

    This crap about Azerbaijani being a dialect of Turkish is ridiculous. Azerbaijani is a separate language, despite its high mutual intelligibility with Anatolian Turkish. Also, certain grammatical construction found in Anatolian Turkish do not exist in Azerbaijan: example, “gelmish olabilir”

    I have a headache: Anatolian: kafam agriyor
    Azerbaijani: bashim agriyir
    I can’t go is “gedemem” in Anatolian Turkish, “gede bilmirem” in Azerbaijani. They will both understand each other yes, but to say they are both the same language is an exaggeration.

  48. Pingback: Turkic Languages | Imagining Language

  49. I’ve written a little on the topic of Turkic languages, incl. a map of the majority Turkic languages and a link to this article. But most importantly, there is an explanation of how to pronounce “Uyghur”.

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  51. Awesome analysis. Very helpful.

  52. Burak

    We have high intelligibility with Azer, surely higher than %90. Actually it is the same with almost all Oghuz languages, including Crimean Tatar which is highly influenced by Oghuz.

    • I suppose I do not agree with that. I have talked to Turks who say they can only understand 50% of Azeri TV and Azeris who tell me that they can only understand 50% of Turkish TV. Furthermore, Crimean Tatars cannot even understand each other. There is now a separate language called Turkish Crimean Tatar which consists of Crimean Tatars who moved to Turkey a while back. Their Crimean Tatar is now full of Turkish and the Crimean Tatar they left behind is now full of Russian. The Turkish Crimean Tatars and the Crimean Crimean Tatars say they cannot really understand each other. Furthermore, many children of Turkish Crimean Tatar who never learned to speak the language but learned Turkish instead say that they cannot understand their parents when they speak Crimean Tatar.

      There is a dialect of Crimean Tatar called Southern Crimean Tatar which is merely a Turkish dialect and has full intelligibility with Turkish. However, Northern Crimean Tatar and the artificially created koine called Central Crimean Tatar cannot be readily understood by Crimean Tatars. Crimean Tatars regularly report that Turks have a hard time understanding them.

      Three separate intelligibility studies have been done with Azeri and Turkish. The results of these studies showed that Turks have 69% intelligiblity of Azeri, but of course this varies with the individual. Azeris say that Turks can often understand 80% of the Turkified Azeri used on Azeri TV, but that dialect is far from what is spoken on the street. Azeris say that the same Turks who say they can understand Azeri TV pretty well can only understand 30-40% of the typical Azeri spoken in the streets of Baku.

      Turks absolutely do not have full intelligiblity of all of Oghuz, and Crimean Tatar is not even Oghuz. Turks certainly cannot fully understand Qashqai, Afshar, and the three Khorosani Turkic languages. Turkish intelligiblity of Turkmen is low, estimated at 40%.

      Although I agree that Turks can understand some Oghuz languages such as Turkmen, Gaguaz and Georgian Urum which are really just dialects of Turkish. Nevertheless, intelligibility studies on these might be interesting because Balkan Gaguaz in Bulgaria say that Turks cannot understand them.

      Actually I would love to see intelligibility studies on all of Oghuz, not just Turkish and Azeri.

  53. Someone

    My mother comes from a Yörük family in the Taurus Mountains and said she even understood Yakut, but the article says that there is zero intelligibility. She says she understands most of the Turkic languages fairly well, even Kazakh because her village and family spoke “Old Turkish.” To her, they are just speaking with different dialects and accents, not languages. The only language she had a hard time with was Chuvash. What’s up with that? Does my mom somehow know another Turkish language without knowing it?

  54. Selim

    I want to say that we(most of Asian and Middleeasterner poeple) have a different perspective than European/American people. We tent to emphasize the similarities among us while Europeans still try to find differences among each other. The exaggeration about the mutual intelligibility among Turkic people is coming from that distinction. I observe similar tendencies among Arabs from totally different geographies. There is no strong Pan-Turkic idea among Turkish people of Turkey. We, as Anatolian Turks, love the people of Turkistan but we do not want to conquer it. I do not understand why you are so hostile and biased about this particular subject. Many people in Turkey accuses Enver Pasha for being too ‘stargazer’ because of his fruitless activities in Central Asia >
    Plus, Nationalist Parties receive not more than 25% of Turkish voters and those parties does not have any radical agenda towards Central Asian Turkic people.

    I think, South and North Italians, for example, feel less like a one same nation than Azerbaijan Turks and Anatolian Turks. I do not even talk about the current mess in Spain or UK. They are not ‘Azeri’ they are Turks 🙂 Persians called them Turks when they come by. The main reason that we are not the same nation is political issue. Cossacks were a Slavic nation speak a language different from Russian but they quickly became Russian when Russians penetrated into Caucasus. So if Ottoman Turks managed to keep Northern Azerbaijan after WWI, we would easily integrate like a one nation.

    Finally, I couldn’t see anything about the mutual intelligibility of Tatar/Bashkir languages and Kazak/Kırgız languages. I think they must have been quite close.

    • Hello, the paper has recieved a massive update and will be published in the future in an academics linguistics book to be published out of Turkey.

      I spoke to Turkologists in Turkey about both the Tatar/Bashkir and the Kazakh-Kirghiz questions. My conclusion is that there are two languages in this group, one called something like Tatar-Bashkir and the other called something like Kazakh-Kirghiz. These pairs are like Czech and Slovak, which honestly are a single language called Czechoslovak.

  55. sam

    These Turkeys should all go back to Siberia, and reconvert from Islam to Shamanism… They’ll be a much affable distant people we see on national geographic… instead of having to deal with their uppityness.

  56. Berke

    Republic of Turkey was founded in 1923. Modern “Istanbul Turkish” was born in late 19th century. This is the Turkish language of Turkey. It uses revised versions of old Gokturk words and newly invented Turkish words. It has Arabic and Persian loanwords (decreasing) and French (Was Increasing in Ottoman era, stopped increasing in Turkey era). and English (Increasing) loanwords. Ottoman Turkish was another language which was the mixture of Arabic, Persian and Anatolian Turkish. That language is pretty much dead now. But it did not die instantly in 1923. Modern Turkish was born its ashes. Since 1876, “Istanbul Turkish” was born and evolved and became “less Ottoman Turkish influenced”. Simply, Arabic and Persian loanwords were removed majorly.

    I am a law student. Turkish jurisprudence (resolutions of courts) between 1923-1950 is overwhelmingly not understandable. I understand like %20 of what is written there. What I point is, Turkish had and still has a heavy evolution. I am pretty sure that both written and verbal intelligibility of 1923 Turkish and 2017 Turkish are lower than %50. Grammar structure is same, grammar structure was always same for more than 3000 years. What differs is vocabulary. Vocabulary is my point. 1923 Turkish was heavily influenced by Arabic and Persian (just like Azeri and Uzbekh).

    When I hear Azeri, it always reminds me of a Turkish with more (now uncommon but still existing) Arabic and Persian loanwords. I can also understand Arabic and Persian parts of an Uzbekh speech. What I want to say is, intelligibility of Azeri and Uzbekh were much higher in 1923.

    Take a person from Istanbul,1923. That person’s intelligibility of Azeri will be like %95-%99. As Turkish gets rid of more Arabic and Persian words, it becomes more distinct from Azeri.

    • Hi Berke, I have in my notes here that the Omanli Turkish (apparentlhy Ottoman Turkish) still spoken in a certain part of Turkey is ~99% intelligible with Azeri. I could not believe it because it did not make sense to me as I know that Turkish is not fully intelligible with Azeri (intelligibility is 69%).

      But now it all makes so much sense. Thanks so much for this.

  57. Pierrick Jaouen

    The words for numbers, colors, animals are similar between Yakut and Turkish..

  58. Deniz

    I highly recommend that you read about the history of the Turkic People along with studying their language. Doing so shall help you to understand the reason why Turkish people feel that Turkey and “Turkish” is a part of a big Turkic geography stretching from East Asia to Europe. Migrating thousands of kilometers throughout centuries and still speak Turkish and have old Turkic traditions so far away from the mother land explain it well.

  59. ykp

    I think this is the best answer I have ever seen. I agree mostly with the given numbers on that website but I have added my estimated numbers to it. So I guess the numbers given below are the best.

    As it was explained here:
    Which languages are mutually intelligible?

    Between Turkic Languages, there is mutual intelligibilty in varying degrees.
    Turkish-Azeri:……… 80-90 %
    Turkish-Turkmen:… 50-60 %
    Turkish-Uighur:……..30-40 %
    Turkish-Uzbek:………30-40 %
    Turkish-Kazakh:…….20-30 %
    Turkish-Kyrgyz:……..20-30 %
    Kazakh-Kyrgyz:……..70-80 %
    Kazakh-Uzbek:………60-70 %
    Kazakh-Uighur:………50-60 %
    Kazakh-Turkmen:……40-50 %
    Uzbek-Uighur:………..70-80 %

    Even if there is a low degree of mutual intellibility between some Turkic Languages, they still can have a basic conversation in everday-life situations, such as buying, selling, asking way, speaking about weather, asking for help, emergency situations, hospital, pharmacy, ordering a meal at a restaurant, buying ticket and so other basic daily life situations. But they should speak slowly and they should use short sentences.

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