The Conquest of Istanbul (1453) was an important turning point in the historical process of the development of the Turkish of Turkey. After this date Turkish had an opportunity to develop as the elite language of science and art, having become an element to bear civilization. During this process, the post-twentieth-century can be considered as a new period. Therefore, three basic periods can be identified in the history of the Turkish of Turkey: Pre-conquest, post-conquest and post-twentieth-century.

The pre-conquest period witnessed the settlement process of Anatolia and the Balkans by the Turks. Turkish, which did not develop as a written language for the first hundred or hundred and fifty years, began its development as a written language with the fall of the Seljuk Dynasty. The first texts naturally contain different characteristics of dialect, and at least three regional dialects can be identified when carefully analyzed. Nevertheless, a dialect based mainly on West Anatolian dialects gradually began to acquire the features of a standardized language/literary language from the beginning of the 15th century. The Azerbaijani dialect that is seen in the language of Nasimi (d. 1432) and the Central Anatolian dialect used by Veled Çelebi (d. 1312) and Kadi Burhan al-Din (d. 1398) gradually diminished, and the basic phonetic and morphological structure was used in their place. Education in madrasas and other cultural centers brought the languages of the intelligentsia closer to one another and the standard language based on the common language essentially took its shape in the early fifteenth century. The aquisition of intellectual thought that had been cultivated around the Ottoman Palace well before the conquest of Istanbul can be assumed as the basis of this standard form. Nonetheless, this was not a development that was dependent on a single center. Amasya, Manisa, Kütahya, Bursa and Edirne, as centers where both the sultan’s sons and all the learned were raised, also contributed to the development of this language. We have no information at hand suggesting that language planning was carried out by any institution or organization. Nevertheless, works written in the Turkish language do not differ greatly in phonetic and morphological terms between Anatolia and the Balkans. There are certain nuances that might only be of interest in the field of linguistics. This may be taken as indicating that both Turkish settlements in Turkey displayed quite a homogenous character and also that cultural development and standardization had rapidly progressed. The languages used by Sultan Veled in the following lines lost its ability to develop as a written language after a few centuries:

Bu cihândan kim çıkarsa bizi ol bile ki nevüz
Yolumuza kim girerse bile kuş bigi uçavuz
Yarı koyuban gidevüz bu halâyıkı kıyavuz
İsî’nun yolın dutavuz yokaru göğe ağavuz
Yolumuzu kim urursa ileyümüze durursa
Duravuz çalış kılavuz dartavuz kılıç uravuz

The dialects that had developed in the far West, the regions of the Ottoman principality, and in Central Anatolia formed the basis of the standard language, and the Turkish language became more expressive with the influence of the Arabic and Persian languages and literature. Sultans like Murad II (1421-1451) played an important role in giving importance to translation and compilation activities and had the works of languages which had not been satisfactory translated redone.

When Istanbul was conquered, dynasty members and military-civil bureaucrats, who had made an imperial center, and the scholars had a common written language. We can cite the works of Sinan Pasha (d. 1486) as good examples of this, and many other such works that had similar phonological, morphological and lexical standards were written. The conquest of Istanbul can be considered a turning point, for the Turkish of Turkey acquired an imperial significance and richness. In other words, the standard language had already reached its basic uniformity and the basic forms of spelling had already been established at least fifty years before.

Language Variations

All languages develop various forms over time, which depends on varying geographical and social characteristics in particular. While linguistic variations emerging from geographical diversities are called dialects, those emerging from varying social characteristics are called sociolect. The fact that many different linguistic forms have emerged in capital cities with a central political, commercial and cultural position, and that these forms have co-existed is a natural phenomenon. By the beginning of the fifteenth century, a somewhat standardized Turkish language had been formed, while various dialects and sociolects continued to exist. As Istanbul began to manifest itself as the new cultural capital of the Ottoman Empire, the intellectuals tended to write and speak in the nascent standard Turkish language, while on the other hand linguistic variations continued to be used and proliferate. In the Anatolian and Rumelian regions, a good number of dialects continued to evolve. The intelligentsia (military men, the ulama and the bureaucrats), who lived in the empire’s capital, developed their own standard of writing as well as of the spoken language. The following examples of the spoken language of the seventeenth to eighteenth centuries more or less display these structural characteristics. Evliya Çelebi (d. 1683?) conveys his own speech in the standard Turkish language used by the intelligentsia, while at the same time reflecting the linguistic differences of people (common man, intellectual, bureaucrat) who lived in Istanbul and used different spoken languages. The figures about which he writes speak in the “Kurdish dialect” or the “Bosniac dialect”, etc., as differing forms of the Turkish language. At times he includes the differences in the spoken language and vocabulary of the local people of Istanbul. These linguistic variations encountered throughout the imperial territory were also used in traditional dramatic forms such as low comedy (ortaoyunu) and shadow plays (karagöz) as a major element of humour. By the twentieth century, the context of language rarely differed.

As for the modern period, especially from the beginning of the second half of the nineteenth century, modernization became a current issue which also included the language. The modernization of the alphabet and of orthographic rules began to be discussed within the scope of the purification of the language. When the elimination of the discrepancy between the common language and the language of the intelligentsia became an intellectual and political requisite at the beginning of the twentieth century, there were new attempts at standardization. There were proposals to bring the standardized language closer to the common language but the problem was that what is called the common language consisted of various dialects and sociolects. The first constitutional parliament effectively brought variations in the common language to light. The spoken language used by the intelligentsia had already been differentiated from the common language, exceeding the general public’s level of understanding. Searching for a solution to this Istanbul-centred problem of scientific and cultural life outside Istanbul was considered unrealistic. Therefore, it was decided by the parliament that the most feasible language for standardization was Istanbul Turkish. In 1911, the “New Language” manifesto was published in the Genç Kalemler journal in Thessaloniki, and in the manifesto it was emphasized as a principle that “the national language should be developed on the basis of the Istanbul dialect.” This dialect was defined as the one used by the ladies of Istanbul. In his famous poem “Lisan” (Language) Ziya Gökalp (d. 1924) explained this as follows:

Güzel dil Türkçe bize
Başka dil gece bize
İstanbul konuşması
En saf en ince bize

(For us, the eloquent language is Turkish
Another language is like a dark night to us
And what is most eloquent and purest for us,
It is the Istanbul dialect)

We can say that from this historic moment, it was generally accepted that the new Turkish language would be planned on the basis of what is called the Istanbul dialect or Istanbul Turkish. The Language Committee orientated its actions subsequent to the 1928 dated Alphabet Reform in line with this basic principle.

In addition, there was no consensus on what kind of variation Istanbul Turkish was. For instance, Tahirülmevlevî writes in his memoirs: “I do not agree with the decisions taken by the Language Committee. They say, from now on Turkish will be written in compliance with Istanbul Turkish. But in their articles they still use expressions like “gelmiştir,” “yedi buçuk kuruştur,” etc. I am a third generation Istanbulite and I have heard the Istanbul dialect for half a century. However, I will not condescend to sycophanticly advocate such phrases as “gelmiştir,” “olmuştur,” which I have never heard from any Istanbulites.”1

Another objection to the “Istanbul Turkish” approach of the Language Committee and its proponents came from a lawyer, Mahmud Afîf. In his work Nasıl Konuştuğumuzu Bilelim: İstanbul Şivesinin Hususiyetleri Hakkında İlmî Bir Tedkik2 Afîf tries to shed some light on discussions about the written language/Istanbul Turkish initiated before the alphabet reform and to demonstrate the inappropriateness of orthographic rules posited by the Language Committee as “Istanbul Turkish” to the spoken language of Istanbulites. Afîf’s objections coincide with the above-mentioned objections of Tahirülmevlevî:

Until today no Turkish dialect has been written with western letters. This time, although our government asserts that the Istanbul dialect is to be accepted as the basis of the new Turkish alphabet to be written as said, the articles published by the members of the Language Committee and newspaper columnists are not written as they are used in the common language/speech at all.3

Although Tahirülmevlevî did not give us a full definition as to what Istanbul Turkish was, he warned that the way the intelligentsia used the language did not comply with it. Mahmud Afîf gave noteworthy information about the phonetic characteristics of spoken Istanbul Turkish and outlined the phonological characteristics of this variation. When an existing written language variation was to be changed to a spoken language variation, a problem arose as to which speech-form it would be based on. It is clear that there cannot be a single spoken language variation in a multilingual, multicultural, multi-ethnic capital city such as Istanbul, where various vertical and horizontal social groups and classes are intertwined. This being the case, what did the members of the journal Genç Kalemler and of the Language Committee mean by Istanbul Turkish or Istanbul Speech?

It was stated that the lingual form referred to was the “dialect spoken in the districts of Aksaray and Fatih, and used by the bureaucrats, the madrasa ulama, students and teachers.”4 Ömer Seyfettin’s (d. 1920) answer to the question “Which one is Istanbul Turkish? Is it the Arabic-Persian amalgamation spoken by the religious fanatics or the stereotypical Bâbıâli language used by old, conservatist civil servants or the language used by the public?” or perhaps “it is the natural and pure Turkish language spoken by the local ladies of Istanbul.”5 Nevertheless, what was meant by Istanbul Turkish when it first began to be discussed must have been somewhat different from Seyfettin’s definition. In the 1911 dated (vol. 2, no. 1) “New Language Manifesto” of the journal Genç Kalemler, it was advocated that it should be based on the common spoken language of the Turkish intelligentsia, against a purist perspective aiming at lingual purification through a return to Central Asian Turkish. What was meant by Istanbul Turkish was the very language defended by the writers of Genç Kalemler. “How is it to be done? Shall we follow the Society blindly and go to our fellow tribal people who live in a most fearful darkness and in great ignorance like they did a dozen centuries before to move towards a sterile reactionism? Istanbul Turkish is the most natural language of all…”6

Ziya Gökalp also had the same anxiety when claiming that the new Turkish language should be grounded on Istanbul Turkish in terms of phonetics, morphology and vocabulary, and no words, prepositions, verb inflection rules and phrases should be taken from any of the other Turkish dialects.7

That is to say, the phrase “Istanbul Turkish” proposed essentially to express the standard speech-form of western Turkish as opposed to that of eastern Turkish, gradually began to be defined as the “speech-form of the local ladies of Istanbul” as a solution to the question of the manner of this speech-form. That is what Tahirülmevlevî, whose family resided in Istanbul for several generations, understands the phrase. However, the founding members of the Language Committee in 1928, namely Falih Rıfkı (d. 1971), Yakup Kadri (d. 1974), Mehmet Emin (d. 1944), Fazıl Ahmed, Ruşen Eşref (d. 1959), etc., generally used this phrase to refer to the standard spoken language developed on the basis of the written language of Ottoman intelligentsia. This first grammar constituted the basis of language education in the Republican period; in the phrase “the euphonic rules of our Turkish, after undergoing codifications and examples from the literary Istanbul dialect,”8 the dialect referred to was the standard Turkish of Turkey. This is also understood from the fact that forms such as “almîm, gelicîm, alseymiş, olmuşdur, yokdur”, which were cited as part of Istanbul Turkish/speech in various sources were changed into “almayayım, geleceğim, alsaymış, olmuştur, yoktur” respectively in this first grammar project.

In which case, to put an end to a contradiction in terms, what is understood from “Istanbul Turkish” should be put forward first: What the Language Committee and those who planned the language with the purpose of education and standardization understood from the phrase Istanbul Turkish, was the “common written language that has developed in Anatolia, particularly in the Ottoman territory for almost five hundred years. As for the variation Tahirülmevlevî and Mahmud Afîf mentioned, it was the “Istanbul dialect” as a spoken language. It is not correct to use the phrase “Istanbul Turkish” to refer to the standard Turkish spoken in Turkey today. Instead, what is meant by the term “Istanbul Turkish” is the Istanbul dialect as a spoken language.

How did Istanbul Turkish Evolve?

Istanbul Turkish should certainly be considered as one dialect of the Turkish of Turkey. However, since dialect studies in Turkey seek the phenomenon of “dialect” outside the center, namely in the periphery, and in a sense, consider every dialect used in Istanbul as standard and therefore correct, it cannot be claimed that not enough material was collected in dialect studies when this variation was still used by the locals. As for the settlements following the conquest of Istanbul, the linguistic variety of the city inevitably enhanced by the new settlers of Istanbul who lived in various groupings, and by the city continually letting in immigrants who spoke in different languages and dialects. The Turks and non-Turks who resided in Istanbul after the conquest encouraged the evolution of these new variations. Yet, as getting closer to the court and to the cultural institutions that were under the tutelage of the court, the language of the elements that constitute the centre must have been accepted in time. This was the standard language that had developed long before the Conquest. Naturally, there are differences between the spoken and written forms of this standard language, but in the pre-conquest period the standard written language that had shaped cultural centres such as Bursa, Edirne, Amasya and Manisa, etc. constituted the basic written language of the Istanbul intelligentsia. Examples of Murad IV’s (1623-1640) speeches, cited by Evliya Çelebi are the best examples of this:

SM: “Kaç sâ‘atde hatm‑i şerîf edebilirsin” dediler.

EÇ: “Pâdişâh’ım sür‘at etsem yedi sâ‘atde ederim, ammâ lahn‑i hafî ve lahn‑i celî olmasın içün ne ifrât ve ne tefrît olmadan sekiz sâ‘atde inşâ’allâhu Ta‘â­lâ hatm‑i şerîf ederim”

SM: “İnşâ’allâh merhûm sa‘îd [u] şehîd Mûsâ’mın yerine yed‑i beyzâ gibi yed‑i tûlâsını ayân edüp musâhibim olur”

SM: “Bir şey oku” dediler.

EÇ: “Pâdişâhım yetmiş iki ulûmden Fârisî mi ve Arabî mi ve Rûmî ve İbrânî ve Süryânî ve Yûnânî ve Türkî ve Şarkî ve Varsağı ve kâr u nakş ve savt ü zecel ve amel ü zikr ve tasnîfât ve kavl ve haznegîr veyâhûd ebyât‑ı eş‘ârdan bahr‑i tavîl ve kasâyid ve tercî‘‑i bend ve terkîb‑i bend ve mersiye ve ıydiyye ve mu‘aşşer ve müsemmen [ve] müsebba‘ ve müseddes ve muhammes ve penc-beyt ve gazâliyyât ve kıt‘a ve müselles [ve] {dübeyt} ve müfredât ve ma‘niyyât‑ı ilâhiyyâtdan ne murâd‑ı şerîfiniz olursa be-ser [u] çeşm buyurun okuyayım”

1- Evliya Çelebi, <em>Seyahatname</em> (Süleymaniye Manuscripts Library)

SM: “Bire şu rencîl ne acâyib da‘vâ‑yı merd etdi. Acabâ işidir revânî midir yohsa bu takrîr etdiklerin icrâ etmeğe kâdir midir?”

EÇ: “Pâdişâhım eğer afv ile mu‘âmele edüp serbest ü ma‘zûr ederseniz inşâ’allâh pâdişâhımın huzû­runda meclis‑i emânet olmak üzre nedîm‑i hâslık edüp pâdişâhımı eğlendiririm”

SM: “Nedîmlik ne demekdir?” dediler.

EÇ: “Pâdişâhım bir âdem herkes ile hüsn‑i ülfet edüp musâhabet etse ana nedîm derler ve şarâb meclisine dâhil olup musâhabet edenlere dahi nedîm‑i nâb derler, bu lügatın iştikâkı münâ­dim­dendir ki lafzen müdâminden maklûbdur ve müdâm lügatda şarâba derler, pes nedâmete ma‘nâsı şarâb içmek demek olur, ya‘nî mest [ü] müdâm derler. Hâsıl‑ı kelâm musâhib ma‘nâsına gelir kim nedîm‑i şehriyârî derler. Allâh pâdişâhıma ömürler versin”

SM: “Âferîm işidir revânî değil imiş”

EÇ: “Pâdişâhım işidir revânî ve yerin Revân’ı vâkı‘a­da görür Revânî bu Revân hân’ı Yûsuf Paşa kulundur”

SM: “Mîrgûne ne dersin şu şeytân çerâğına?!”

Revan Şahı: “Hey şâhım bu tıflı göresin Kayser-zemîn ve Îrân ve Tûrân ve Sûrân-zemîn halkını mât u müte­hay­yir kılsa gerekdir. Zîrâ görürsün gözleri sâ‘at rakkâsı kimi ca‘al‑ı belh oynar.”

EÇ: “Belî Rûm halkı sâ’ir memleket kavmin Rûm’a getirüp sâ‘at rakkâsı gibi oynadır”

SM: “Hay veled ne aceb hâzır cevâb imiş” deyüp hande edüp safâsından,

SM: “Çakır getirin” dediler.

Çakır anların ıstılâhında bâdeye derler idi. Bir câm bâde nûş edüp buyurdular kim,

SM: “Evliyâ şimden gerü mahrem‑i râz‑ı nihânı­mız­sın, fâş mekün.” buyurdular.

SM: “Evliyâ demin huzûrumda bu kadar ulûm [u] ma‘rifetler kim dedin şimdi ilm‑i edvârdan bir şey oku” dediler. ...9

The only element diverging from the standard spoken language is the word “çakır” to which Evliya Çelebi directs our attention. From the context, it can be understood that this is a word peculiar to the language of the court, probably to that of the dynasty.

However, the people of Istanbul did not have a homogenous ethnicity, and likewise a homogenous lingual structure. This richness included the distorted Turkish of non-Turks as well as various spoken dialects of Turkish. Among those who used this distorted Turkish were not only Jewish or European merchants, but also viziers. The famous vizier Kılıç Ali Pasha (d. 1587) was one of them:

{Menâkıb‑ı Alî Paşa}: Zürefâ mâbeyninde meşhûrdur kim Kılıç Alî Paşa uluç âdemîsi olmağile lisânı Freng lehcesi imiş, bu câmi‘i itmâm buldukda cemî‘i vüzerâ [ve] vükelâ ibtidâ cum‘asında câmi‘e cem‘ olup na‘thân ifrât üzre {teğannî ile} na‘t‑ı şerîf tilâvet ederken hemân Alî Paşa ayağ üzre kal­kup na‘thâna hitâben:

“Nedir bu gu gu gu ve hinku ku bu meyhâne mi, yâ cânım bozahâne mi?” deyü feryâd eder. Yanındaki vüzerâlar:

“Sultânım bizim Hazret‑i Peygamberi medh eder” dedükde:

“Ya bizim Muhammed Efendi bu gu gu gu medh eder kâyil mi?” der.

“Kâyildir sultânım” derler.

“Ya bu kaç akçe ulûfe yazdım, baka defter” der.

“Sultânım on akçe” derler.

“Ya bu minberde bizim hünkârcı Murâd Sultân medh eder kaç akçe yapar?”

“Kırk akçe yapar” derler.

“Yâ hünkârcı mı büyük yoksa bizim Hazret‑i Muhammed Efendici büyük?” der.

“Sultânım Hazret‑i Muhammed büyükdür” der­ler.

2- The first pages of Evliya Çelebi, <em>Seyahatname</em> (Süleymaniye Manuscripts Library)

“Tîz Muhammed Efendi gu gu gucı hünkâr gu gu gucı berâber kırk açan olsun ve bizim Portakal Bunduki altun ulûfe alsın” dedikleri latîfeler ile ile’l-ân zürefâlar mâbeyninde dâstândır. Böyle bir mu‘tekid uluç âdemi imiş her cum‘a câmi‘in taşra yan soffasında oturup {cümle} fukarâya bir kîse ta­sadduk edermiş (Seyahatnâme, Vol. 1, vr. 132b)

The Seyahatnâme of Evliya Çelebi is an important source which best reflects the linguistic richness of Istanbul during that period. In the first volume of the work, examples of the spoken language of various groups in Istanbul are given. Evliya tries to use a particular spelling when citing these. A few examples of this linguistic richness are as follows:

Esnâf‑ı pâsbân-ı nigehbân‑ı İslâmbol: ... ellerinde ucu demirli sopalar ile bel­lerinde kılıçlar ve teber-kemânlar ile ve palâs palâs esbâblar geyüp başlarında mahûf ucbe-likâ kurd derilerinden tâclar ve sivri gûnâ-gûn külâhlar geyüp birbirlerine sopa urarak gûyâ hırsız kaçarmış şek­linde “Bire koma, kaşdı ha vardı ha, bire koma, gitdi gi­di, vardı gidi, işte gidi” deyü ba‘zı temâşâcıları gösterirler ve seyirciler mâbeynine ol ucbe-likâ ile girüp halkı korkudurlar... (Seyahatnâme, Vol. 1, vr. 155a).

Bâğbânlar: ... ellerinde gûnâ-gûn kazmalar ve çapalar ve yabalar ve beller ve baş­la­rın­da teller ve çapa taraklar ve tırmıklar ve küsküler ve aşlama destereleri ve keserler ve gûnâ-gûn bâğ­bâ­nân âletleri ve niçe bin kınalı bostân dollâbları sığır­ların tezyîn edüp “Oha diha babam” diyüp “Allâh Allâh rahmet ver yâ Mevlâ, bereket ver yâ Mevlâ, kuvvet ver yâ Mevlâ” deyü feryâd [ü] figân edüp... (Seyahatnâme, Vol. 1, vr. 159a)

Ve şehriyyeciler dahi se­yis­hâneler üzre dükkânların şamata varakları ve gûnâ-gûn teller ile zeyn edüp “Şehriyye nefâyis cânım” deyü şehriyye satarak ubûr ederler (Seyahatnâme, Vol. 1, vr. 160a).

sakkâlar siyâh çizme ve siyâh meşin dolama­larla ... “Sakkâ sebîlillâh, şehîdân‑ı deşt‑i Kerbelâ ervâhlarıyçün sebîl” deyü feryâd ederler (Seyahatnâme, Vol. 1, vr. 160a).

Esnâf‑ı tâ’ife‑i kalafatcıyân: ... ba‘zı gemileri kalafat karinası edüp funda ile yakarak ve gemileri yağlayarak ve câ-be-câ malalar ile seyrâncıları, “Sakın yoldan yoldaş” deyü yağlayup funda âteşiyle yakup yol açarak “Allâh yol vere, eyyâm {bol} vere” deyüp gavgâ ve feryâd ederek ve top u tüfenglerin atarak saf saf ubûr ederler (Seyahatnâme, Vol. 1, vr. 162a).

Bu kah­veciyân, cümle pür-silâh olup tahtırevânlar üzre fer­de ferde kahveleri kîleler ile ölçerek “Ala bin gu­ruş ve­re yüz guruş” deyü gûyâ kahve fürûht ede­rek ubûr ederler. (Seyahatnâme, Vol. 1, vr. 166b).

Esnâf‑ı vasılcıyân ya‘nî ayıcıyân: ... Karyağdı ve Avra ve Duracak ve Binbe­reket ve Yazıoğlu ve Sürioğlu ve Hayvânoğlu nâm Çin­gâ­neler ayıların çatal zencîrler ile keşân-ber-keşân çe­ke­rek ellerinde sopaları ve dâ’ireleriyle ubûr eder­ken kâhîce ayılarına,

Kalk-a beri yâ Vasıl
Ye necişden bir fasıl
Seni dağda dutdular
Adam deyü oynatdılar,
Kur yayını dîvâna
Bahçada dolap döner
Sen de dön e görsünler

deyü bu elfâz‑ı mühmelâtlar ile Alayköşkü dibinde her bir vasılcıyân birer gûne şakalar ederek ubûr ederler (Seyahatnâme, Vol. 1, vr. 169a).

Bu başcı hirfeti ... pâk olmuş za‘ferânlı sığır kelleleri ve koyun ve kuzu kelleleri ve pâk beyâz olmuş sığır ve koyun ve kuzu paçaları şişler üzre ve gûnâ-gûn bahârlar ile her başcı başların zeyn edüp dükkânları içre “Ala cânım yağlıca eyle, sirkeli ve sarımsaklıca eyle” deyüp arz‑ı kâlâ ederek ve gûnâ-gûn şakalar ile pür-silâh ubûr ederler (Seyahatnâme, Vol. 1, vr. 169b).

Bu ciğerciler cümle Ohri ve Görice ve Horpuşta Arnavudlarıdır. Niçe bin tâze ciğeri kırkar ellişer dânesin, yüreği, böbreği ve şirdeni ve mumbârıyla sırıklara dizüp “Ey koyun ciğeri” deyü feryâd eder­ler. Ba‘zı şehir oğlanları bu Arnavudlara “Ulla ba geldi mi Arab karısı“ deyü ulaşırlar (Seyahatnâme, Vol. 1, vr. 170a).

Bu esnâf arabalar üzre dükkânların gûnâ-gûn fıçılarla ve katremîz şîşelerle zeyn edüp piyâde­le­ri­nin arkalarında varullar ile sirke taşıyup “Ey sirke” de­yü halk üzre sirke nisâr ederek bir hây-hû ile: “Ey sirke, keskin İngilis sirkesi lâzım olur, berekâtlı sirke” diyerek ubûr ederler (Seyahatnâme, Vol. 1, vr. 170b).

âşbâzlar ellerinde kepçeler ile ta‘âm kotararak gi­derken ba‘zı ehl‑i cû‘ ol izdihâmda dükkâna gi­rince âşcılar çavuşu feryâd edüp eydir: “Yaşlı müşterî geldi, ekmeğ ile kotara, beş akçe herse pilâv yağlıca ve nevâlelice ve çevrilişce [çevrişlice] eyle” deyü usûl ü âheng ile teğannî eder (Seyahatnâme, Vol. 1, vr. 171a).

Bu şerbetciler dahi, “Câna safâ, rûha gıdâ verir şerbetim cânım” deyü halka şerbet bezl ederek ubûr ederler (Seyahatnâme, Vol. 1, vr. 172a).

Sa‘lebciyân: ... sük­kerle pâlûde gibi pişirüp bakır ibrîklerin altında âteşler ile musanna‘ yapılmış ibrîkler ile bahârlı ve gülâblı “Râhat‑ı cân sıhhatü’l-ebdân sa‘lebim nefâ­yis” deyüp feryâd ederek ubûr ederler (Seyahatnâme, Vol. 1, 172a).

Esnâf‑ı südciyân‑ı sûhteyân: Neferât üç yüz, bun­ların dahi dükkânları yokdur. Hemân şeker şerbetcileri gibi bakracları âteş üzre gezdirüp ale’s-sabâh “Kuvâ‑yı beden verir şekerli südüm, cânım südüm” deyü şâhrâhlar üzre leben‑i hâlis fürûht ederler... (Seyahatnâme, Vol. 1, vr. 172b).

Esnâf‑ı ağda tüccârı: ... bun­lar dâ’imâ ağda satup ağda yemeğile dağdaki vahşî hayvânları datlı dillerince râm ederler. Meselâ mahalle içlerinde tenhâca sokaklarda zengûle makâ­mından,

Ağdalı süzelim,
Ay gibi yüzelim,
Nâzlı güzelim,
Tatlıca tatlı,
Ağda yeyelim,
Bâğa gidelim,
Safâ edelim,
Ammâ ne ağda,
Sevdiğim bâğda,
Üzümü bağda.

deyüp bu gûne manzûm terennümâtlar ederek ba‘zı havâtînlerin ırkına girüp ağ yırtup ağındaki metâ‘ın ağdaya değişüp bu gûne kâr eder Türk veled‑i zinâları ağdacılar vardır (Seyahatnâme, Vol. 1, vr. 172b).

Esnâf‑ı tüccârân‑ı yağcıyân: Neferât 1000, bun­lar ankâ bâzergânlardır. Pîrleri (‑‑‑) (‑‑‑) (‑‑‑) (‑‑‑). Bunlar arabalar üzre dükkânların taştlar içre tereyağı ve sarı [say] yağı ile zeyn edüp pür-silâh ubûr ederken ba‘zı seyrâncı dilberânların gör­dük­de “Çelebi seni yağlarım gerice dur, üstüne ya­ğım bulaşmasın” deyü ubûr ederler (Seyahatnâme, Vol. 1, vr. 175b).

Esnâf‑ı gümüş arayıcıyân: Ağa bir, neferât üç yüz, bunların kârhânesi darbhâne ve kârhâne‑i ku­yumcubaşı ve tamgacıbaşı kârhânesidir. Yeniçeri oca­ğın­dan on aded elleri hezârân deyenekli yol­daş­lar ile İslâmbol içre kol dolaşup herkesin kîsesine nazar edüp eğer kalb akçesi var ise,

Bu kalb akçeyi kimden aldın?” deyü dutup hâkime götürüp haklarından gelirler ve kallâbı bu­lup iki ellerin kesüp ıslâh‑ı âlem içün salb ederler. Bunlar dahi üç yüz nefer ile pâk müsellah olup se­yircilerin içlerine girüp“Lütf eyle kardaş kesene bakalım” deyü alay­köşkü dibinde pâdişâh huzûrunda dahi halkın kîse­lerine nazar ederek ubûr ederler (Seyahatnâme, Vol. 1, vr. 177a).

Ba‘dehu Yahûdî simsârlar ve arayıcılar “Kaçkın gümrük var mı?” deyü temâşâcılar mâbeynine girüp yük ararlar, ba‘zı dilber oğlanlara sarılup, “Sende kaçkın gümrük esbâbı vardır, yükiŋe şiş salalım” derler, fakîr gulâm, “Bende yük yokdur” deyü yemîn etdikde, “Sus yemîn etme, ya bu ardındaki boğça nedir kim bu kadar kuyruk yağı saklamışsın” deyü latîfe ile ubûr ederler. Ve dîdebânlar dahi esbâb gözederek ve kâtibler atlar üzre kitâbet ederek ve yeniçeri yasakcıları sarrâfbaşıları himâye ederek ubûr ederler. Ve kantârcılar arabalar üzre yükleri kantâra urup, “Ala kırk kantâr, beş lodora yaza, elli kantâr kettân Halîl Çelebi’nin” deyü tüccârların metâ‘ların vezn ederek ubûr eder (Seyahatnâme, Vol. 1, vr. 178b).

Esnâf-ı Kazancıyân: ... Bunlar dahi dükkânların kalaylı pâk bakır âvân­larıyla zeyn edüp ubûr ederler. Ammâ bunlar cümle Laz tâ’ifesidir, “Tavalar, tençereler pakur avadan­lık­larına hurtavâtlar alırum” deyü Laz kavmi lehcesiyle feryâd [u] figân ederek geçerler (Seyahatnâme, Vol. 1, vr. 185b).

Bu ta‘lîmhâneciler tahtırevânlar üzre ta‘lîm­hâ­neler inşâ edüp ba‘zı kemândârân ok atar­ken ta‘lîmhâneci,

Ok elinden bir, olasın kemâl pîr
Ok elinden iki, sana lâzım yayın peki
Ok elinden üç, görmesin bazûların güç
Ok elinden dörd, düşmenin bağrına derd
Ok elinden beş, olasın pîrlere eş

Netîce on iki oka varınca,
On iki İmâm‑ı hümâm aşkına okların oldu tamâm

deyüp on iki okda bir akçe alup tablaya urulan zîzânları alup bir san‘at ile kemândâra red edüp ta‘lîmhânesinin çanları çınkırdayarak böyle alay gösterüp giderler (Seyahatnâme, Vol. 1, 189b).

Bunlar seyishâneler üzre dükkânların zeyn edüp dellâlları tablalar içre kütâne ve zergerdân ve zenâne ve lorta pabuclar ile tablaları zeyn edüp: “Pabucum rûzgâr ulusı, üç yüz kırk ve beş yüz elli ve bin beş yüz” deyü nidâ ederek kavvâflara ma‘lûm bir hisâbdır kim müşterî bu ilimden ha­berdâr değildir, ammâ hilâf etmeyüp aldığı pabuc mestlere hisâbları üzre rakam edüp satdıkda,

Şîvesi budur, mü’min karındaş. Alimallâh şehi­dal­lâh” deyü vardığı Ka‘be’ye yemîn edüp her pa­buc başına beş akçeye razı değil bir alay bıyığı tırâş, başı misvâklı ve gözleri sürmeli tâ’ife‑i Kadızâ­del­idir. Bâzâr edüp akçesin alırken hisâbında müş­terîye kan ağladup müşterî gitdikden sonra,

Gidiyi ey yakdım” deyü tefâhur kesb eder bî-insâf kavmdir. Ammâ ne çâre cümle kavm bunlara muhtâclardır (Seyahatnâme, Vol. 1, 195b).

Bu hammâmcılar cümlesi küheylân atlara süvâr olup huddâmları arabalar üzre keçeden hammâmlar edüp münevver câmlar ile müzeyyen edüp, “Gele Vefâ hammâmına cânım, gire Hacı Kadın hammâmına hânım, göre Çinili hammâmı cânım” deyü ... böyle nidâ ederek ham­mâm­larıyla bile ubûr ederler (Seyahatnâme, vol. 1, vr. 198b).

Taş çekici eşekciler ... beş altı yüz eşekci Ermenî­ler “Çüş bire, andıra halası çüş” deyüp Ermenîce türkîler yırlayup geçerler (Seyahatnâme, vol. 1, vr. 205a).

Badanacı Ermenîler dahi arkalarında destiler ile mermer kirecinden cüllâb olmuş beyâz badana ile ellerinde uzun sırıklar ucunda domuz fırçalarıyla “Kararmış evleri ve dîvârları ağardarak seksen ahçanı alup ağardıram, yatmiş ahça disan olmaz” deyü Ermenî lehcesiyle kelimât ederek geçerler (Seyahatnâme, vol. 1, vr. 205a).

Kavm‑i ammâlîn ya‘nî fukarâ‑yı ırgadân el­lerinde kazma ve omuzlarında kürek­leri ve küfe ve zenbîller ile “İşleyelim çalışalım, hakkımıza barışalım, sonra işe karışalım” deyü silâhları kürek ve kazma ile ubûr eder bir alay ecnâs‑ı mahlûkât fukarâlardır (Seyahatnâme, vol. 1, vr. 205b).

Lağımcı Ermenîler dahi ırgatlar gibi dükkânları yokdur, ancak köşeden köşeye durup ve karârgâh‑ı kadîmleri Parmakkapu’da ırgat bâzârıdır, andan lağımcılar alayda

Şurada bir kâriz vardır, açup ayırdlasah, çoh kâriz bâdâmı çıhardı, harnımız acdur bâdâm yisah” deyü Ermenî elfâzıyla kelimât ederek ayaklarında şapşal siyâh çizmeler ile ve hırka‑i mülevvesleriyle omuzlarında Ferhâdî hazmalar ve lopatayî palalı Bartın kürekleriyle ve necâset gerdelleri içinde to­humlanmış çekirdeği içinde öter sarı hıyârlar ve turp ve şalgamları tekne ve gerdellerinden çıkarup yiye­rek ubûr ederler. Gerçi mezmûm ü mülevves kavm­dir, ammâ Mısır ile İslâmbol’da lâzımlı kavm­dir. Bu mülevves kavmin hizmetiyle İslâmbol pâk olur (Seyahatnâme, vol. 1, vr. 205b).

These examples, which have been selected from the first volume of The Seyahatnâme, are expressions mostly used by craftsmen groups. Since these groups are generally composed of people who were from surrounding regions and can be considered as belonging to the same linguistic group. As is evident, Evliya recorded pieces of speech which were different from his own spoken or written language, considering them as elements of humour. To give an idea about the lingual characteristics of the period that was almost a hundred years subsequent to that of Evliya, passages selected from the work of Pierre-François Viguier (d. 1821) and Cosimo Comidas de Carbognano can be given as examples of the characteristics of the spoken language written in the Latin alphabet:10

From P. F. Viguer (Éléments de langue Turque, Istanbul: L’Imprimerie du Palais de France, 1790):

On üçüncü Mükâleme: Kahvede şahitler kavl edib, fermane nizam verib ve Kazesker Efendiye el altından da‘vayı bildirmesi üzerine Kahveci:

[The thirteenth discourse: The witnesses came to terms with the edict in the coffeehouse and stealthily informs the qadi al-askar about this. Hearing this the owner of the coffeehouse says:

-Hey gentlemen, we will assign Osman Çavuş Aga as the bailiff for the case. ]

- Ey efendiler da’vaye mübaşir işte bizim Osman Çavuş Ağayı ederiz. Ben da’vayı ağnattım. Koynunda böyle da‘valara müteallık ne kadar ferman var. Olmaz mı Osman Çavus Ağa o fermanın biri?

Osman Çavuş:

- Olmaz. Bir fermanı kaça yaparlar? Şurda arzuhalcının birine beş paraya bir arzuhal yazdırırım, on para da bir kâğıt kavasının eline verir, buyurtdururum. Ferman yapdırma güç bir şey mi? Siz Kazesker tarafını yapın.

Efendinin Biri:

- Osman Ağa siz buyurun işinize. Ben de Kazesker Efendinin kâhyasına giderim. Allaha ısmarladık ben çapık gelirim, inşa Allah... (Kazesker Efendinin Kâhyasına): Selamün aleyküm ‘Ali Efendi, sultanım.

‘Ali Efendi: - Ve aleykümüs selam, yalan şahidlerin piri. A okkabaz senin Allah bir dediyine inanırım, gayrısına inanmam.


- Efendım, benim size ne zaman yalan söylediyim var?

‘Ali Efendi:

- Doğru söyler olaydın, yalan şahidi olmazdın. Be, neyleyelim ol lakırdıyı. Bize biraz para var mı?

C. C. Carbognano’dan (Gramatica Turca, Roma: Propoganda Fide, 1794):

İkinci Mükâleme: Baba ile oğul arasındadır.

Ey oğul iste ben ihtiyarlandım, bakayım sen ne yapacaksın?

Ben senin sözünden çıkmam. Babamsın ve ben sana ‘ıtaat etmeliim.

Bak oğul, eğer sen dünyada rahat geçinmek istersen benim nasıhatlarımı bir eyice tutmalısın.

Benim de öyle etmekdir muradım.

Berhordar ol oğul; Allah senin her işini rast getirsin.

Allah sana da çok ‘umr versin ki sen de beni istediğin gibi görüp hazzedesin.

Bak oğul her şey Allah’a bağlıdır. Sen Allah’ı sev ve Allah korkusunu yüreginden boş bırakma ve her işin Allah’ın keremi ile rast gelecekdir.

Öyledir, zira ben de bu dedigini bir kaç kere tecrübe etmişim.

Arthur Lumley Davids gives examples of daily language practices at the end of his work Grammaire Turkewhich was published nearly fifty years after this. These examples are comprised of ones written with Arabic letters, written with Latin letters according to French spelling and French translations. Here, we present a shopping conversation, which is the transcription into the Latin alphabet of Davids, by adapting it to present-day Turkish alphabet:

- Gel Çelebi, bir şey lâzım mı? - Lâzımdur; ammâ sizde var mı bilmem. - Söyleŋiz ne lâzımdur, ne istersiz? - Bir güzel ve eyü çuka isterim. - Buyur içerü: İstambuluŋ eŋ eyü çukaleri bunda bulunur. Ben malimden utanmam. - Eŋ iyisini çıkar. - İşte saŋa bir eyü çuka. Eyüdur, ancak rengini beyenmedim. - İşte daha açık. - Bu rengi beyendim, ammâ çuhası yufkadur. .... - Çok bâzergan gördüm, ammâ sencileyin pahalıcı görmedüm. Gel bâzârı bozma, sonra peşiman olursen. Üçden ziyâde vermem. - Hay hay! Ne öyle pek Ademsiz. Emr Allah’ın bugün bir şey satmadım, bari sizden istiftah olsun. Allah bilür ki bir akça fayde etmedüm! Bolayki bir daha gelesin, bir fayde gösteresin. ‑De şundan iki arşın kes!11

[- Come on, Çelebi. Do you need anything? –Yes, I do but I’m not sure you have it. –Please say, what do you need? – I want drapery, a good quality one. –Then, come inside. The best drapery of Istanbul is found in this store. I am proud of my goods –Take out the best for me then. –Here is the best drapery for you. – It really seems good but I do not like the colour. –Here, look at this, it is a lighter colour. –This time I like the colour but the feel of the drapery is too soft for me… – I have seen many merchants but I haven’t seen a swindler such as you. Come on, say yes, I am not paying more than three liras. –Ok, then! I have not sold anything today, this is the first sale of the day, so I accept. God knows I haven’t profited by even a coin from this deal! I hope you come again and pay properly. –Ok, then cut me two yards!]

Istanbul Turkish in the Twentieth Century

Since the 1911-dated publication of the “New Language Manifesto” in Genç Kalemler, spoken Istanbul Turkish was accepted as the basis on which the standards of new Turkish would be grounded. However, as we have shown in the above-mentioned examples, there has never been a homogenous and uniform spoken Istanbul Turkish. Instead, we may well say that in a city like Istanbul, which accommodated many immigrants in the twentieth century, this diversity of variations increased with time. Nevertheless, the intelligentsia and planners of the language policy based it on the spoken language of the high-class people of Istanbul in terms of speech-form, syntax and vocabulary. Yet, the execution of the policy took a different approach, except for issues relating to its purification, and the standards of the existing written language in the areas of phonology, morphology, syntax and lexicology were accepted. We can illustrate this with the following example: the leading characteristic propounded in the limited studies on Istanbul Turkish is that the gradual narrowing in the way of speaking is remarkable. For example, the imperative suffix in the first person singular has evolved in the form of “al-ayım, gel-eyim, alma-y-ayım, gelme-y-eyim.” In Istanbul dialect, these structures took on the form of “al-îm, gel-îm, almîm, gelmîm”, and the verb inflections in the future tense are “kalicîm, kalicîn or gidicêm, kalıcâm, gelecak.”12 These examples are in the form of “alayım, geleyim, almayayım, gelmeyeyim, kalacağım, kalacaksın, gideceğim, kalacağım, gelecek” respectively in the standard language, and are nothing more than the written forms of these verb inflections.

Mahmud Afîf was the one who gave the first systematic information about Istanbul Turkish. Having expressed that it was improper to name the written language that was standardized by the Language Committee and their opponents as Istanbul Turkish and that it differed from the way the Istanboulites spoke, Afîf propounded these phonological differences in 10 articles.

Another study on this way of speaking is Gotthelf Bergsträsser’s Türk Fonetiği13 [Turkish Phonetics]. Since it was mentioned at the beginning of the study that it was prepared “according to the intellectuals of Istanbul”, we can regard this as a study conducted on the basis of Istanbul Turkish.

Seyhan14 and Yalçıner15 also propounded the phonetic and morphological characteristics of the Istanbul dialect along with their findings.

We can list some of these characteristics as follows:


ile (with) preposition or +lA suffix expressing the medium statement is prevalently in the form of +nAn: Alînen Veli, Ahmetnen Mehmet, kitapnan kalem, etc.

nl > nn nasalization: yanlış > yannış, yalnız > yannız, anlamak > annamak, odunluk > odunnuk, koyunlar > koyunnar, etc.

rl > ll paromasis: koşuşuyorlar > koşuşuyollar, sökerler > sökeller, hatırladım > hatılladım, tutarlar > tutallar, giderlerdi > gidellerdi, etc.

nb > mb labialization: çarşanba > çarşamba, anbar > ambar, işkenbe > işkembe, kanbur > kambur, anber > amber, etc.

çt > şt diffusion: kaçtı > kaştı, açtı > aştı, içtihad > iştihad, üç tane > üştane, kırbaçtan > kırbaştan, etc.

Phonologic Deletions

Prepalatal g phonems of r, h, l are deleted in many cases, giving way to vocalic alternations: bir kere > bi kere, râhat > rāt, kabahat > kabāt, imtihan > imtān, Ahmet > āmet, ağır > ār, ağarmak > ārmak, dağınık > dānık, doğurmak > dōrmak, etc.

Vocalic syntesis: Vocalic synteses and alternations, except the aforementioned ones, are characteristic. Imperative and future tense verb inflection in the first person singular in particular are explicit: al-ayım > alîm, almayayım > almîm, kalacağım > kalicîm, kalacaksın > kalicîn, kalacak > kalicî, etc.

Vovel dissonance: Vocalic synthesis and vowel dissonances in the inflection of some tenses and gerundials are characteristic. In the inflection of the future tense: kalicîn, kalicî, etc. In the inflection of the imperative: alîm, kalîm, kalmîm, etc. The gerundials of -dIk and –AcAk: aldîm, aldîn, aldî, aldîmiz, aldîniz, aldıkları; alicîm, alicîn, alicî, alicîmiz, alicîniz, alicikleri, etc. The same synthesis and vowel dissonance phenomenon is seen in compound tenses: aliciktim, aliciktin, alicikti, etc.; aldîdim, aldîdin, aldîdi, aldîdik, etc.; alseydim, alseydin, alseydi, alseydik, etc.

The conclusion derived from the comparison of the data showing only part of the constitutive characteristics of Istanbul dialect along with the standard lingual studies conducted by the Language Committee in the early Republican period is that the new standard form was based not on Istanbul dialect as claimed but on the literary language that evolved through the ages, namely the Standard Turkish of Turkey. Of course, this standard language was prevalently used and taught in Istanbul, as the cultural capital. In this case, the term Istanbul Turkish is significant only as part of the terminology of dialect studies that referred to the Istanbulites’ way of speaking. It is not correct to call the standard Turkish of Turkey Istanbul Turkish because the former is a second order language variation which began to evolve even before the conquest of Istanbul and culminated in the imperial territories, the center of which was Istanbul.


1 Tâhirülmevlevî, Matbuat Âlemindeki Hayatım ve İstiklal Mahkemeleri, ed. Sadık Albayrak, Istanbul: Nehir Yayınları, 1990, pp. 354-355.

2 Istanbul: İkdam Matbaası, 1928.

3 Afîf, Nasıl Konuştuğumuzu Bilelim, p. 2.

4 Tanju Oral-Seyhan, “İstanbul Türkçesi”, DBİst.A, vol.4, p. 243.

5 Yusuf Ziya Öksüz, Türkçenin Sadeleşme Tarihi Genç Kalemler ve Yeni Lisan Hareketi, Ankara: Türk Dil Kurumu, 1995, pp. 139-140.

6 Öksüz, Türkçenin Sadeleşme Tarihi, p. 89.

7 Öksüz, Türkçenin Sadeleşme Tarihi, p. 152.

8 Muhtasar Türkçe Gramer, Istanbul: İstanbul Devlet Matbaası, 1928, s. 5.

9 Evliya Çelebi, Evliya Çelebi Seyahatnâmesi, ed. Robert Dankoff, Seyit Ali Kahraman and Yücel Dağlı, Istanbul: Yapı Kredi Yayınları, 2006, vol. 169b-70a. Quoted as Seyahatnâme, vol. 1 in the following pages of the article.

10 These examples are taken from: Mehmet Gümüşkılıç, “18. Yüzyıl İstanbul Ağzı Hakkında Bazı Gözlemler”, Turkish Studies, 2008, vol. 3, no. 3, pp. 398-399.

11 Arthur Lumley Davids, Grammaire Turke, London: W. H. Allen & co., 1836, pp. 165-167.

12 Oral and Seyhan, “İstanbul Türkçesi”, p. 245.

13 Tr. M. Şükrü Akkaya, Istanbul: Türk Dil Kurumu, 1936.

14 Oral and Seyhan, “İstanbul Türkçesi”.

15 Necla Yalçıner, “İstanbul Türkçesi Konuşma Dili Hakkında Bir Araştırma: 1930-1950 Yılları Arası”, TDl., no. 609 (2002), pp. 712-723.

This article was translated from Turkish version of History of Istanbul with some editions to be published in a digitalized form in 2019.