Turkish is the mother tongue of 90 percent of the population of the country. Some 70 other languages and dialects are also spoken, including various dialects of Caucasian and Kurdish as well as Arabic, Greek, Ladino and Armenian. The Turkish language of Turkey represents the southwestern arm of the community of Turkic languages within the Ural-Altay linguistic family that slowly evolved over time. groups speaking these languages spread to the east and northeast out of Central Asia, and particularly to the west. Ever since the very earliest times, Turkish has influenced various dialects of Middle Persian, and turned the Caucasus and Anatolia away from the Indo-European group of languages. With the acceptance of Islam, Arabic on the one hand and Persian on the other had a clear influence on the Turkish language. Since the end of the 19th century such modern Turkic written languages as the Turkish of Turkey itself, Azerbaijan and Kazakh Turkish, based on Turkish dialects, have emerged. Of the 4,000 or so languages currently spoken in the world, Turkish ranks seventh in terms of numbers of speakersand area, being used by around 200 million people.
Ever since the 8th century, the Turks have employed a number of alphabets, although mainly the Göktürk, Uyghur, Arabic and Latin ones. After the foundation of the Republic and the establishment of national unity, and particularly between 1923 and 1928, people began to focus on the alphabet problem in Turkey. The founder of the Republic, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, believed that it was essential to make use of Western culture in order for the country to reach the level of contemporary civilisation, to which end, in 1928, he brought about the acceptance of Latin letters, modified to reflect the sounds of the Turkish language, to replace the Arabic alphabet.
The Language Revolution continued in 1932 with Ataturk’s establishment of the Turkish Language Research Society in order to simplify the language. After its foundation, that body took the name of the Turkish Language Board. Its work produced positive results, and important steps were taken in order to simplify Turkish and rid it of its Arabic and Persian words. The Turkish Language Board is still active today, with amended statutes, within the main body of the Language and History Higher Board. Among the board’s responsibilities are the simplification, enrichment and beautification of the Turkish language. The most important result of the work carried out to date is that while before 1932 Turkish words represented only 35-40 percent of the lexicon, that figure has today reached 75-80 percent. This fact is the greatest proof of the value to the Turkish people of Ataturk’s Language Revolution.