Turkish Language Reform, A Catastrophic Success.

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at ccat.sas.upenn.edu
Wed Jul 30 15:55:06 UTC 2003

I was struck by a passage in this review that has parallels with the ways
some Tamil purists regard words or elements that may or may not be "pure"
Tamil words:

 "Thus, Turkish is one of the main and ancient languages of the world and
it is the origin of so many words (including many borrowings from Arabic
and Persian) in different languages.  Since those foreign words are
originally Turkish, then there is no need to purge them from the

This is one of the justifications Tamil purists use to explain how there
are elements clearly (to western linguistically-trained people, anyway)
borrowed from Sanskrit, such as the Tamil word [aracan] whose root, [rac-]
is obviously borrowed from Sanskrit /raj-/.  The explanation:  Sanskrit
borrowed it from Tamil! So there's no reason to get rid of it.  This
explanation is needed to explain how it is there are borrowed elements
even in the earliest Tamil sources, sources that are supposedly pure and
free of borrowings, which explains why life was beautiful and peaceful in
those times.  It is what I call a 'linguistic garden of Eden' because
there was no strife, no sin, no problems, due to the lack of impure
elements in the language(!)

So Turkish purists use(d) the same argument; I'm wondering whether this is
common among other puristic movements?

Hal Schiffman

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