Languages Similar to Turkish – Explained by a Native Speaker

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In this post, I will review languages similar to Turkish and the degree of mutual intelligibility and grammatical similarity.

As a native Turkish speaker, I feel that the Turkish language’s relations and similarity to other languages are not known.

Most people think that Turkish is similar to the languages of Turkey’s neighboring countries or that Turkish is a unique language on its own.

Yet, Turkish is a vast language with mutual intelligibility with many languages of Central Asia.

1. My Short Answer To Languages Similar to Turkish

Turkish is most similar to Turkic Languages, with a high degree of mutual intelligibility with Azerbaijani and a lesser degree of mutual intelligibility with Turkmen, Uzbek, Uyghur, Tatar, Kazakh, and Kyrgyz languages.

Turkic Countries and Regions

Turkic languages share nearly the same grammar and language structure. For these reasons, some also claim Turkish is not a language but a dialect of Turkic Languages.

After Turkic Languages, French, Persian, Greek, and Arabic are the languages that Turkish shares the most loanwords with.

These loanwords are a result of cultural relations, and there is no structural and grammatical similarity between these languages and the Turkish Language.

Also, many linguists believe that Uralic and Altaic languages have an ancestral connection with the Turkish Language.

Turkish is known to have grammatical similarities between Uralic (Finnish, Estonian) and Altaic (Mongolian, Korean, and Japanese) languages but no mutual intelligibility or similar words.

Let’s delve further…

2. Quick Facts Turkish Language

OriginCentral Asia (Middle Asia)
Language FamilyTurkic Language Family
Turkic Languages (High or Some Degree of Mutual Intelligibility)Azerbaijani, Turkmen, Uzbek, Uyghur, Tatar, Kazakh, Kyrgyz, and other Turkic languages.
Altaic Language Family – Structural and Grammatical Similarity (Source)Turkic Languages, Mongolian, Korean, and Japanese.
Ural-Altaic Language Family Structural and Grammatical Similarity  (Source)Turkic Languages, Altaic Languages, Finnish, Estonian, and Hungarian 
LoanwordsTurkish Vocabulary has 6% Arabic, 5% French, 1% Persian, and less than 1% English and Greek Loanwords.
Official LanguagesThe Turkish language is the official language in Turkey, North Cyprus. Kosovo, North Macedonia, and Iraq Kirkuk region accept Turkish as the official regional language.
Minority LanguageTurkish is the minority language of native populations in Greece, Bulgaria, Romania, and Bosnia.
Turkish is also widely spoken in Germany, Austria, Holland, and other European countries by the Turkish diaspora.
Number of Turkish Speakers88 million Turkish natives speak Turkish (Turkey Turkish or Istanbul Dialect). Source If you include all mutually intelligible Turkic language dialects, there are over 200 million speakers.
World Rank according to the number of speakersThe Turkish Language ranks as the 20th most spoken language in the world. (not including Turkic Languages)
Quick Facts Turkish Language

If you are interested in learning the Turkish language, this is the book that most of my friends use. You can check the book on Amazon.

2. Turkic Languages

Mutual Intelligibility and Word Similarity of Turkic Languages Source

Turkish is a Turkic Language and is highly similar to other Turkic Languages.

Oghuz Turks, ancestors of Turkish people in Turkey, migrated from Central Asia to Turkey about 1000 years ago.

Azerbaijani is the closest language to Turkish.

For example, Azerbaijani spoken in Azerbaijan has slight differences from Azerbaijani spoken in Iran. Yet, they are regarded as dialects of each other.

There is still a high degree of mutual intelligibility between Turkish and Central Asian Turkic Languages.

LanguageNumber of SpeakersCountries with Majority of SpeakersAlphabet
Turkish83 MillionTurkey, North CyprusLatin
Azerbaijani33 MillionAzerbaijan, IranLatin, Perso-Arabic (in Iran)
Uzbek27 MillionUzbekistanLatin
Kazakh14 MillionKazakhstanLatin
Uyghur11 MillionChina (semi-autonomous Uyghur region)Perso-Arabic
Turkmen7 MillionTurkmenistanLatin
Tatar5,5 MillionRussia (Tatarstan Federal Republic)Cyrillic
Kyrgyz5 MillionKyrgyzstanCyrillic
Most Spoken Turkic Languages Source

Moreover, Turkic Languages and Turkish share the same grammar and language structure with minor differences.

It is also a popular idea to claim Turkish is not a language but a dialect of Turkic Languages.

Turkish, spoken in Turkey, also has slight differences from Azerbaijani dialects, but Turkish is regarded as a separate language.

As a native Turkish speaker, when I am speaking with an Azeri, I do not feel like they are speaking a different language, but it is more like a dialect of Turkish.

I can speak a moderate level of Italian and Spanish.

From my own language learning experience, I can say that the differences between Turkish and Turkic languages are similar to the differences between Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese languages. 

Yet, some Turkic languages like Azerbaijani and Turkish are even more similar to be categorized as the same language.

You may want to check out my Is Turkish a Language? and Turkic Languages articles to learn more.

3. Altaic Languages –  (also called Transeurasian Languages)

According to Transeurasian Language theory, the Turkish Language and all Turkic Languages are related to Japonic, Koreanic, Tungusic, and Mongolic Languages.

These languages definitely have similar grammatical, logical, and structural features.

Yet, it is debatable whether these languages share a common ancestry or whether the similarities are the results of cultural exchanges between these languages. source source2

Evolution of Altaic Languages

Sharing ancestral connections does not grant any mutual intelligibility between Altaic languages. Altaic languages separated at least 2 millennia ago and do not have many shared words. 

Yet, like Indo-European Languages, Altaic languages have a comparable way of communicating thoughts.

I believe that Altaic speakers can learn other Altaic languages more easily because their language structure has similar grammar designs.

3.1 Similarities Between Turkish and Japanese

Japanese linguists widely reject Japanese Altaic roots and the Japanese language’s relation to Korean. Yet, Japanese has some similar features to Turkish and other Altaic languages.

Japanese has grammar similarities with Turkish, like agglutination (you can add prefixes to verbs), and sentence structure (Subject-Object-Verb).

Word order comparisons Turkish vs English and Turkish vs Japanese

As you can see from the graphs, Turkish language word order and grammar logic is very similar to Turkish language.

I am not an expert, but my Turkish friends had an easier time learning Japanese than their European peers. My friends agree that there are similarities in grammar structure.

Additionally, Turkish speakers also have an easier time pronouncing Japanese words because the sounds used in Japanese are similar to Turkish sounds. 

Yet, the ancestral connection has not yet been proven, and academics have not reached a consensus on the Japanese language’s relation to Altaic languages. Source

3.2 Similarities Between Turkish and Korean

The Korean language can be more similar to Turkish than Japanese, yet similarities lie primarily in the grammar structures of these languages.

Korean and Turkish share similar grammatical structures like agglutination, sentence structure, the syntax of adjectives and nouns, and vowel harmony.

3.3 Similarities Between Turkish and Mongolian

The Mongolian language is the closest language to Turkic families.

There are strong similarities between Mongolian, Turkish, and other Turkic languages. Mongols even used the old Turkic (Uighur) alphabet to write Mongolian until 1946. Source

Yet, the Mongolian language is distinct from Turkic languages, and there is no mutual intelligibility between languages.

4. Uralic Languages and Hungarian Language

Map of the Altaic, Turkic, and Uralic languages Source

Estonian, Hungarian, Finnish, and Turkic languages have similar grammatical concepts.

For these reasons, some linguists theorize that Turkish and Uralic languages are similar and have a common ancestry.

This theory is widely criticized. Hungary, on the other hand, is a different story.

4.1 Similarities Between Turkish and Hungarian

Hungarians are descendants of the Huns, who were one of the Turkic tribes that migrated from Central Asia.

For these reasons, Hungary is attending the Council of Turkic countries, and Hungary accepts Hungarian to be a Turkic Language.

Yet, Hungarian is the least similar language to Turkish among Turkic Languages and has no mutual intelligibility.

Hungarian and Turkish have similar linguistic features in terms of suffixation, agglutination, and sentence structure.

Hungary recognizes Hungarian as one of the Turkic languages, and Hungary is a part of the Turkic Speaking Countries Assembly.  Source 1 Source 2 Source 3

Turkish and Hungarian historians state that the founding nation of Hungary was the Hunnic Empire, and most Turk and Hungarian historians agree that the Hunnic people are common ancestors of Hungarian and Turkish people.

Additionally, Hungarian and Turkish share 4000 common words.

Yet, most loanwords were formed when Hungary was under Turkish (Ottoman) rule between 1541 and 1699, and there were many cultural exchanges throughout history.

4.2 Similarities Between Turkish and Estonian

Agglutination, suffixation, and vowel harmony are shared features of Turkish, Finnish, and Estonian.

While I have no first-hand experience, my search through Turkish forums revealed many Turkish learners of Finnish and Estonian, confirming some degree of similarity.

5. Loanwords in Turkish

In the Ottoman Empire Era, the official language was Ottoman Turkish which had many Persian and Arabic words.

The administration language was different from the Turkish that ordinary people speak. This created many socio-political issues.

After the reforms in the 1920s, most loanwords in Ottoman Turkish were abandoned, and the Istanbul street language was adopted as the official language of Turkey.

Loanwords in Turkish Source

Today, the Turkish Language still has many loanwords from French, Arabic, Persian, and Greek languages.

Yet, similarities between these languages end here. 86% of the Turkish Language consists of original Turkish words.

Being a Turkic language, Turkish Language origin and grammar are different from Indo-European Languages (French, Persian, and Greek) and Semitic Languages (Arabic).

Turkish Vocabulary has 6% Arabic, 5% French, 1% Persian, and less than 1% English and Greek Loanwords.

Check my guides to learn the similarities and differences between Turkish and Arabic, Turkish and Greek, and Turkish and Persian.

6. How Many Languages Are Spoken in Turkey?

Turkish is the official language and the most spoken language in Turkey.

99% of Turkish people speak some degree of Turkish Language. %93 of Turkish people speak Turkish as their mother tongue, and 6% are non-native speakers and speak Turkish as a second language. 

Minority languages spoken in Turkey are Kurdish (6%), and Arabic (1,2%). Other rarely spoken languages are Greek, Circassian, Armenian, Ladino (Medieval Spanish), and other Balkan languages.

Additionally, 18% of Turkish people speak English, and %4 of Turkish people speak German as their second language. The numbers I mentioned above are compiled from EU stats and BBC.

Check my guides What Language is Spoken in Turkey and in Istanbul to learn more.

2 thoughts on “Languages Similar to Turkish – Explained by a Native Speaker”

  1. I think perhaps it would be worth showing graphs of what is said to be related languages to Turkish
    Japanese Mongolian Korean etc…
    And show how much of there languages is structured and possibly related to Turkish


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