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LANGUAGE

The official language of Turkey is Turkish which is spoken by the overwhelming majority of the population, the main exception being elderly women in the eastern part of the country.

In the southeast there are areas around Antakya, Mardin and Midyat where many people speak Arabic. Around Midyat there are also a few Syrian Orthodox speakers of Turoyo, a language that evolved from Aramaic. 

However, the main language other than Turkish that you will hear spoken in the southeast and parts of the northeast is Kurdish. There are two main Kurdish dialects spoken in Turkey: Kermanca and Zaza which may or may not be related to it.

Along the Black Sea coast east of Rize you will also hear mainly elderly people speaking Lazca or Hemşince, the languages of the Laz and Hemşin people.

In remote northeastern villages around Camili (Maçahel) near the Georgian border a few people also still speak Georgian. 

On Bozcaada and Gökçeada there are still a few Greek speakers while in some of the remoter valleys of the Black Sea inland from Trabzon there are a few elderly people who still remember the dialect called Pontic Greek.

In İstanbul there are also a few people who still speak Ermenice (Armenian) as their first language. 

Language wars

Unfortunately language has often fallen victim to the fight to create a unified Turkey. Following the coup of 1980 the use of Kurdish was forbidden and speaking it in public was an offence even though for a large majority of the population it was their first language. 

In 1990 the ban on speaking Kurdish was lifted, and in 2002 the law was further relaxed. However it was only from 2010 that written Kurdish started to appear in public places. Officials still sometimes make problems about the use of the alphabetic characters q, x and w that are used in Kurdish but not in Turkish. 

Still today all primary schooling is in Turkish, whether or not the majority of pupils speak it at home, and although there is now a small amount of television broadcasting in Turkish there are still no publicly available Kurdish-language newspapers (although small-circulation bilingual newspapers are produced by the Greek and Armenian communities in İstanbul).DSC03703.000

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