Turkish language institute mobilizes against loanwords

SAFURE CANTÜRK
ANKARA
Published

Mustafa Kaçalin, head of the Turkish Language Institute (TDK), the country's official language body, said the Turkish language was harmed every day by the inclusion of foreign words. "Make no mistake. This is a life and death struggle. Just the way our Parliament was bombed on July 15, our language faces bombing each and every day," he said.

Professor Kaçalin said Turkish texts dating back to the 1930s were practically illegible by the majority of the current generation. No such tragedy exists for Germans. In order to compete with Germans, you need to focus on your language rather than technology. People ask what the TDK is doing. The TDK cannot correct the mistakes committed by 80 million people. We can protect our language only if all state agencies cooperate and 80 million people join in this fight."

He describes the use of words like "arena, tower and mall" as the height of language corruption. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan last week criticized these words, arguing for the use of "stadyum" or "spor stadyumu," derived from sports stadium instead. "Some argue that both 'spor' and 'stadyum' are borrowed words. However, through their popular use, they have become Turkish. And then someone comes and says 'I'll use arena' instead. The people introduce a word to the popular use, and if it gradually comes to be accepted, it is included in the vocabulary. Some are trying to force-feed words from the top. We are also against the use of 'tower' rather than 'kule.' The president thankfully has highlighted this problem."

The government has issued a directive, calling on municipalities, nongovernmental organizations, the Education, Sports, Family and Social Affairs and the Culture ministries to cooperate to fight the flood of foreign words corrupting the Turkish language, he said.

He said the TDK will soon be meeting with municipalities, proposing several measures that will discourage the use of foreign words by businesses. "We want foreign language signboards to be replaced by Turkish ones. One measure may be the tripling of municipal taxes for foreign language signboards."

He also said that 100 municipalities were rewarded with a Service to Turkish Language Honor Certificate for passing a directive making Turkish language signboards mandatory.

There may be a hotline for people to ask if a word is being used correctly on television or not, he suggested. He also said that the protection of a language could not be described as a racist act. "We are just against the corruption of Turkish."

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