Turkish Consonant Mutation

Consonant Mutation
Changes in spelling to reflect changes in pronunciation.

In Turkish the spelling of the words is changed when the pronunciation changes.

English does not change spelling when pronounciation changes.

English changes the spelling when the pronunciation is the same so that we can recognize the meaning.

A number of words can easily show this: meet vs meat, feet vs feat, right vs write, main vs mane, sea vs see

If English were written phonetically the word "does" should be spelt "duz"

Turkish however being a phonetically written language will make these changes in spelling.

The reason for the changes in pronunciation are for ease of speaking.

Turkish consonant change is mainly between voiced and unvoiced consonants.

Voicing of Consonants

Turkish Unvoiced Consonants: p ç t k f h s ş
The voice is silent and only air is expelled.
Turkish Voiced Consonants: b c d g
The voice is used to produce the sound.

Final consonants in Turkish words are Un-Voiced: p ç t k f h s ş

There are a few exeptions in foreign imported vocabulary. A few words end in b, d.

letter mektup
my letter is mektubum [mektub-um]
the terminal -p has changed to -b-

Prounciation is easier n its Voiced form between vowels b

Turkish spelling must reflect this change for the rules of phonetics to operate.

Turkish Terminal Consonants are Unvoiced. p ç t k f h s ş

Words can not end with the voiced consonants b, c, d, g.

Words must end in the equivalent unvoiced forms p, ç, t, k to finish pronunciation without continuity.

This helps the listener to determine word breaks in conversation.

kebab cooked meat is wrong kebap is correct.

The name Mehmed is wrong Mehmet is correct.

Beach Pub Sign

In the photograph Turkish has written Sahil Pup [Beach Pub.]

The English word Pub [public house] ends unvoiced in the Tukish spelling Pup.

A real-life example
The Turkish writer has used the natural un-voiced P on the end of the English word LAMB

Consonant Equivalents

  • UnVoiced ↔ Voiced
  • p ↔ b
  • ç ↔ c
  • t ↔ d
  • k ↔ ğ
  • s ≠ −
  • ş ≠ −
  • h ≠ −

The letters s, ş, h do not have a unvoiced form.

They are not true voiced consonants but but they do affect added suffixes.

  • nefis deliciousnefistir it is delicious
    [not nefisdir.]
  • sabah morningsabahtan from morning
    [not sabahdan]
  • güneş sungüneşten from the sun
    [not güneşden]

Change of terminal -k to soft ğ

Terminal letter -k changes to when a vowel is suffixed to he word.

  • gelecek will comegeleceğim I will come
    [geleceğ + im]

This change occurs both in suffixes and verb tense and mood endings.

The exceptions where no change is made are very few.

Change K ↔ Ğ is widespread as many Turkish words end in a terminal -K

Turkısh Consonant Mutation K ↔ Ğ
köpekdogköpeğim [köpek + im]my dog
bacaklegbacağın [bacak + ın]your leg
topukankletopuğu [topuk + u]his ankle
bilekwristbileğimizour wrists
gözlükspectaclesgözlüğünüzyour spectacles
durakbus stopdurağato the bus stop
görecekwill seegöreceğimI shall see
yaptıkwe didyaptığımızthat which we did
bardakglass (tumbler)bardağıhis glass
Turkish K ↔ G Exception

Terminal -nk changes to -ng [NOT -nğ]

The letter cluster -nğ plus an added vowel is unpronounceable:

  • denk bale, equation
    dengim my bale
  • ahenk harmony, accord
    ahengi its harmony
  • kepenk shutter
    kepenginiz your shutter
  • renk color
    rengimiz our colour

Other Turkish Consonant Changes

Other unvoiced consonants which change to their voiced form in front of suffixed vowels:

  • UnVoiced ↔ Voiced
  • -p-b
  • -c
  • -t-d

Examples of Turkish Consonant Change

  • kitap book
    kitabın your book
  • öğüt advice
    öğüdüm my advice
  • tat taste
    tadı its taste
  • ilaç medicine
    ilacı his medicine
  • ağaç tree
    ağacın the tree's

Non-mutating Turkish Words

These single syllable words do not change their final consonant.

Non-mutatingTurkish Words
akwhiteakıthe white/his white
athorseatıthe horse/his horse
ekadditionekithe addition/its addition
etmeatetithe meat/his, her, its meat
göçmigrationgöçüthe migration
ipropeipithe rope
kaç?how many?kaçıncı?which one?
kökrootköküthe root/its root
okarrowokuthe arrow/his arrow
otgrassotuthe grass/its grass
saçhairsaçıthe hair/his, her hair
saphandlesapıthe handle/its handle
suçfaultsuçuthe fault/his,her, its fault
sütmilksütüthe milk/his, her its milk
üçthreeüçü the three/trio

Mutating Turkish Words

These single syllable words do change their final consonant.

Mutating Turkish Words
butthighbuduthe thigh/his,her,its thigh
dipbottom/basedibithe bottom/the base/its bottom
çoka lot/much/veryçoğuthe lot/his, her, its lot
gökskygöğüthe sky/its sky
kapvessel (utensil)kabıthe vessel/his vessel
kurtworm/wolfkurduthe worm, the wolf/his wolf
point/tip/enducuthe point/his, her, its point
yurttent, villageyurdu the tent, the village

Turkish Single Syllable Exceptions:

There are a few words which do end in voiced consonants.

This is to make their meaning recognizable from similar words termonating in an unvoiced consonant.

These few words are exceptions to the general rule.

ad name, at horse
od fire, to grass
sac sheet iron, saç hair

Proper Names:

Proper Names do not change in writing.

Memed'in is only valid in spoken language.

It is written as Mehmet'in but is pronounced Memedin

The letter -h- is always articulated and pronounced in Turkish.

The name Mehmet is an exception.

It is always pronounced as Memed through constant usage.

Burak'ın (as written) Burağın (as spoken).

Mutation of Turkish Suffixes

  • Turkish Suffix Mutation
  • Unvoiced p ↔ Voiced b
  • Unvoiced ç ↔ Voiced c
  • Unvoiced t↔ Voiced d
  • Unvoiced k ↔ Voiced ğ
  • Unvoiced s-
  • Unvoiced ş-
  • Unvoiced h-
  • Words ending in -p -ç -t -k change to -b -c -d -ğ when suffixed with a vowel:
  • The word root mutates:
  • dolap cupboard
    dolabınız your cupboard.
  • kağıt paper
    kağıdı the paper. (obj.)
  • Suffixes beginning with -d-t when added to words teminating in -p -ç -t -k.
  • The suffix mutates:
  • -de/-da in/on/at-te/-ta
  • ayak footayakta on the foot.
  • -den/-dan from, via-ten/-tan
  • ağaç treeağaçtan from the tree.

Turkish Suffix Mutation Examples

  • kitap book
    kitapta in the book
    [NOT kitap-da]
  • otobüs bus
    otobüstü it was a bus
    [NOT otobüs-dü]
  • dolmuş dolmush (small bus)
    dolmuşta in the dolmush
    [NOT dolmuş-da]
  • ilaç medicine
    ilaçta in the medicine
    [NOT ilaç-da]
  • sabah morning
    sabahtan from morning
    [NOT sabah-dan]
  • kibrit match
    kibritten from the match
    [NOT kibrit-den]

kibritkibritten. preserves a double letter -tt- when adding -ten

Two separate words match and from being joined together.

Each word retains its full form.

Some words from Arabic that terminate -at are exceptions: Saat hour, time, clock becomes saatte on the clock, saatler clocks.

This word from Arabic obeys neither consonant mutation or vowel harmony rules.

Mutation of words ending in Unvoiced Consonants (‑p ‑ç ‑t ‑k.):

Adding a suffix which begins with a consonant.
kitaptı [kitap-tı] it was a book

Kitap ends in unvoiced -p → kitap-tı.
The suffix -tı takes its unvoiced form from the noun ending.

The same example when adding a Suffix which begins with a Vowel:

kitabınız [kitab-ınız] your book
Suffix -ınız begins with a vowel so kitap beomes kitab-ınız

kitabınızda [kitab-ınız-da] in your book
Extended word ends in voiced -z thus kitabınız-da

The suffix reverts to its voiced form when:

  • 1. added to words ending in an voiced (-b -c -d) consonant.
  • 2. added to the plural -ler/-lar.
  • 3. added to words ending in a vowel.
  • 4. added to already suffixed (extended) word which end in a wowel.

Examples of Nouns changing to Voiced Form when adding suffixes beginning with a vowel or the Plural Suffix -lar/-ler

  • köpekten from the dog
    köpeğinden from his dog
  • ilaçta in the medicine
    ilacında in his medicine
  • otobüsten from the bus
    otobüslerden from the buses
  • sokaktan from the street
    sokaklardan from the streets

In the last two examples above the voiced -r ending of the plural suffix -ler/-lar forces the subsequent suffix to take its voiced (-d) form.

Turkish Complete Consonant Mutation Rules
  • 1. If the word ends in any of these Unvoiced Consonants [p ç t k] :
    When adding a suffix beginning with a vowel, the last letter of the root word changes to its voiced form:
    p ↔ b ç ↔ c t ↔ d k ↔ ğ
  • kitap book
    kitabı his book
  • kazanç profit
    kazancı his profit
  • kilit lock
    kilidi his lock
  • köpek dog
    köpeğiniz Your dog
  • 2. If the word ends in an Unvoiced Consonant: [p ç t k f h s ş]
    When adding a suffix beginning with a consonant, the suffix changes to its unvoiced form [d ↔ t]
    t ↔ d
  • tıkaç plug, stopper
    tıkaçtan from the plug
  • kitap book
    kitaptan from the book
  • kilit lock
    kilitte in the lock
  • köpek dog
    köpekten from the dog
  • sabah morning
    sabahtan from the morning
  • domates tomato
    domatesten from the tomato(es)
  • giriş exit
    girişte at the exit
  • raf shelf
    raftan from the shelf