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Review of  A Dictionary of Turkish Verbs

Reviewer: Deniz Zeyrek
Book Title: A Dictionary of Turkish Verbs
Book Author: Ralph Jaeckel
Publisher: Georgetown University Press
Linguistic Field(s): Typology
Language Acquisition
Subject Language(s): Turkish
Issue Number: 18.177

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AUTHORS: Ralph Jaeckel and Gülnur Doğanata Erciyeş
TITLE: A Dictionary of Turkish Verbs
SUBTITLE: In Context and By Theme
PUBLISHER: Georgetown University Press
YEAR: 2006

Deniz Zeyrek, Department of Foreign Language Education, Middle East
Technical University, Ankara, Turkey

This volume contains approximately 1000 Turkish verbs and has the stated
aim of serving as a reference tool for nonnative learners of Turkish at all
proficiency levels. The criterion used in the selection of the verbs is
stated as the ''communicative'' or ''functional-notional'' approach broadly
conceived; which means that the verbs were chosen by determining which
situations the learners are likely to participate in, and what
communicative functions, concepts and ideas of the language they would like
to express in those situations.


The volume begins with an introduction which provides a general description
of the aim, target audience, scope, and the criteria for the selection of
the content. It describes how the book should be used and explains the
organization and contents of the major parts of the book. The introduction
continues with a section on how the dictionary was compiled from the core
verbs from various sources, a short section inviting detailed suggestions
for corrections and improvements, and a bibliography of the sources
consulted. It ends with a synopsis of abbreviations and symbols.

After the introduction, the volume is composed of five major parts: 1) A
Turkish-English dictionary of verbs, 2) An English-Turkish index, 3)
Turkish verbs by theme (A Thesaurus which uses Roget's categories), 4)
Proverbs, and 5) Turkish verb-forming suffixes. Part 1 provides detailed
explanations of how the entries are presented and illustrated, and how they
are cross-referenced to synonyms, antonyms and other related words. The
stated aim of Part 2, the English-Turkish index, is to serve as a guide to
Part 1. Part 3 introduces the Thesaurus, with the stated aim of providing
insights on the Turkish language and access to the resources for expression
in Turkish. Part 4 emphasizes the role of proverbs in the Turkish culture,
explaining how the entries (approximately 250) are listed in the
dictionary. Part 5 briefly describes how verb-forming suffixes are presented.


There are several strengths of this volume: Firstly, all entries contain
example sentences and/or natural conversational sequences reflecting the
use of the Turkish language in meaningful and cultural contexts. A related
point is that some entries contain warnings against potential
mistranslations of Turkish phrases or sentences. The authors rely on their
teaching experience in determining such cases and provide both the
unacceptable and acceptable translation. In this way they refer the user to
the correct meaning. The Thesaurus is another important addition to the
volume which affords the learners a further point of access to a verb's
meaning. The inclusion of conversation samples, mistranslations and the
Thesaurus reflects a concerted effort to give the learners a chance to
synthesize the actual, colloquial use of Turkish in social interactions and
is compatible with the recent trends in second language teaching.

The next point concerns the attention paid to grammar. The Turkish verb is
a morphological complex in which a wide range of grammatical and modal
relations are encoded. Acknowledging this characteristic of the Turkish
verb, the authors include a major part on verb-forming suffixes and in
other parts of the dictionary where appropriate, they point to these
suffixes by separating them from the base. For example, in Part 1, under
the entry eğil- 'bend,' we find that the verb is derived from the base form
eğ- 'bow, bend, tip' with the reflexive suffix as the following analysis
shows: eğil- eğ + refl. suf. -Il . In addition to showing the morphological
organization of the verb, information about the case required by the verb
is provided. Although no attempt is made to describe whether the case
marker is required for an argument or adjunct of the verb, this addition
nevertheless makes a positive contribution to the dictionary. (The
accusative constitutes an exception because the authors state that they
show it only when students might have difficulty with its use). For
example, the fact that the verb bahset- 'mention' requires the ablative
suffix –DAn and that this suffix corresponds to English 'about' is shown as
follows: bahset-/DAn/ 'talk /ABOUT/'. Finally, to the extent possible and
where it is deemed necessary, grammatical explanations are provided. These
explanations are often short but accurate and do not contain technical
vocabulary. They are therefore largely accessible to the learner.

Despite these strengths, there are some points of criticisms that may be
mentioned. First of all, while grammatical notes are a welcome addition,
their layout appears to be a weakness. These notes would have been much
more accessible if they could be shown in a conspicuous format rather than
marked with a raised dot mark. They could also be listed in the contents
page with their respective page numbers. Although the purpose of the volume
is not to provide a comprehensive grammar, the explanation of certain
important verbal suffixes might be improved. For example, the subject
relativizer –An could be treated separately in addition to the explanations
about its use with the auxiliary verb ol-. Similarly, the suffix –DIk
deserves a separate treatment in this book due to its role in forming
object relative clauses and noun clauses.

My second remark relates to notation. Most of the symbols used in the
dictionary are standard in linguistics, e.g., slashes, square brackets,
curly brackets, asterisks, arrows, etc. However, the use of most of these
symbols in the dictionary is incompatible with their use in linguistics.
Although the book is not intended to be used by linguists per se, employing
the symbols in their standard linguistic function would be descriptively
satisfying and thus enhance the dictionary's effectiveness. For example,
morpheme separation can easily be shown by dashes instead of periods or the
plus sign, ungrammaticality by an asterisk, semantic or pragmatic
ill-formedness by the pound sign, etc. Thirdly, the use of a typeface or
symbol to show more than one function appears somewhat problematic.

Two such usages are notable. One is the use of uppercase boldface letters
to show a) how case suffixes vary with rules of vowel and consonant harmony
(as is the standard procedure in Turkish linguistics), and b) to mark
potential usage problems in Turkish examples. The former use will be
welcomed by linguists and users already familiar with Turkish grammars.
However, using uppercase boldface also for the purpose of highlighting
potential usage problems, which may range from a suffix to a full word,
might confuse and mislead at least some users. It would be more productive
to show potential usage problems with a different typeface. The second
problem is the circumflex used to indicate a) the palatalization of a g, k,
or l preceding the vowel a as in kâbus 'nightmare' (as is standardly used
in Turkish orthography), and b) to denote a pronunciation not reflected in
the orthography, namely the lengthening of the first vowel as in ağabey
'older brother.' To tease apart these different phenomena, the circumflex
may be reserved for the orthographical form, the standard linguistic
symbols for palatalization and vowel lengthening may be employed to denote
respective pronunciations.

Another problem is the inconsistent separation of suffixes from the base
form. For example, under the entry söyle- 'say, tell,' the –DIk suffix is
separated (with a period) as in the example 'Ne soyle.diğ ban.A söyle'
('Tell me what he said'). On the other hand, under the entry katıl- 'be
added to, be mixed with, by' the –DIk suffix is not separated: 'Kavga.yA
katılma, bilmediğin iş.E atılma' ('Don't get involved in a fight and don't
venture into a matter you don't understand). It is not totally clear to me
why the same suffix is separated from the base in one instance and not in
the other.

Summing up, I think that the volume under review will be a valuable source
of information for learners and teachers of Turkish as a second language
and for all those interested in the Turkish language. When used in
combination with other resources, as it is intended to be, it will help
users to understand the structural and cultural aspects of the Turkish
language better.

Deniz Zeyrek is Professor at the Department of Foreign Language Education
at Middle East Technical University in Ankara, Turkey. Her research
interests include Turkish morphology, Turkish discourse, acquisition of
Turkish as a second language, acquisition of English by Turkish learners,
and intercultural pragmatics. She teaches courses on Turkish phonology and
morphology, applied linguistics, and language acquisition.

Format: Paperback
ISBN: 1589010574
ISBN-13: N/A
Pages: 768
Prices: U.S. $ 49.95