This year, International Mother Language day which is celebrated every year on February 21 since 2000 also signals the beginning of International Year of Languages declared by United Nations General Assembly. Koichiro Matsuura, the Director General of United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), emphasizing that languages are not just areas of expertise, but also the center of all social, economic and cultural life; underlines the slogan that UNESCO chose for International Year of Languages: Languages Matter.
Turkey’s Language Inventory is not Up-to-date
We compiled the languages spoken in Turkey from ethnologue.com that includes extensive studies on world languages. According to this report, 36 languages including Turkish are spoken in Turkey. But, Ethnologue’s figures are outdated for many languages. Most of them are from 1980’s or 1990’s. This situation indicates that there is a need for contemporary studies.
Abaza: It is spoken by around ten thousand people (1995).
Abkhaz: It is spoken by around 4000 out of 35.000 Abkhazian as their mother language in Coruh, Bolu and Sakarya (1980).
Adyghe (West Circussian): It was determined in 1965 population census that it is spoken by 71000 people as their mother language. A substantial part of them are in Kayseri, Tokat, Kahramanmaras.
Arabic (North Mesopotamia): 400.000 people are speaking this language, mainly in Mardin and Siirt (1992).
Albanian: Around 15.000 thousand out of 65.000 Albanians speak this language (1980).
Azerbaijani (South): It is spoken by more than 530.000 people, most of whom are in Kars (1996).
Bosnian: It is the mother language of 20.000 people mainly in western cities (1980).
Bulgarian: 300.000 people speak this language, including immigrant from Bulgaria.
Romani Languages: The languages that ethnologue.com divides into two as Romani and Dohari are spoken by 50.000 people in total.
Armenian: 40.000 out of 70.000 Armenians speak this language (1980).
Balkan Gagauz Turkish: 327.000 people speak it (1993)
Georgian: It is spoken by more than 40.000 people, mainly in Artvin, Ordu and Sakarya (1980).
Kabardian (Eastern Circussian): 202.000 people speak it, mainly in and around Kayseri.
Kazakh: Around 600 people speak it (1982).
Kyrgyz: More than thousand people speak it in Van and Kars regions.
Crimean Tatar: It is unknown exactly how many people speak this language. It is mainly used in Tatar villages in Polatli district of Ankara.
Kumyk: It is spoken in a few villages.
Kurdish: Ethnologue.com considers Zaza, Dimli (Southern Zaza) and Kurmanji (Northern Kurdish) as separate languages. If all these are collected under Kurdish, it can be said that more than five million people speaks Kurdish as their mother language. According to KONDA’s research in 2007, the number of people who identifies as Kurdish is around 11.5 million.
Judeo-Spanish: 8.000 people, mostly in Istanbul and Izmir, speak this language (1976).
Laz: More than 30.000 people speak it as their mother language (1980). According to KONDA, the number of people who identifies as Laz is around 220.000. It is mainly spoken in east of Rize and in Artvin.
Ossetian: Digor dialect of this language is in locales of Bitlis, Erzurum, Kars and Mugla (1993).
Uzbek: It is the mothe language of almost 2000 people in Hatay, Gaziantep and Urfa (1982).
Greek: Almost 5000 people, most of whom in Istanbul, speaks this language (1993).
Syriac: Syriac, whose Turoyo and Hértevin dialects are assessed separately by ethnologu.com, faces the risk of being extinct. Hértevin dialect is spoken by around 1000 people in Siirt (1999). Turoyo is spoken by 3000 people as their mother language in Mardin region.
Tatar: It is spoken by Tatars in Istanbul.
Turkish: It is the mother language og 90% of citizens of Turkey. The ratio, according to KONDA, is 85%.
Turkmen: It is spoken by around 1000 people in and around Tokat.
Uyghur: It is spoken by 500 people mainly in Kayseri.