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Foreign Influences on Turkish Culture

Foreign Influences on Turkish Culture

Throughout the history, there have always been foreign influences on every culture. When it comes to the Turkish culture, having a wide geographic area, being located between Europe and Asia, playing a role as a host to hundreds of cultures are determiner factors for Turkish culture to be influenced by foreign cultures. In today’s world interaction between cultures happens more easily and quickly because of the mass media, guest workers living in foreign countries, TV series, literature, and music culture.

Chinese, Arabic, Persian and Western civilizations have had great impact on Turkish culture since Turks began to appear on history scene. First of all, both eastern and western countries have left a permanent mark on the Turkish language. After the adaptation of Islam with Seljuk Turks, who are the cultural ancestors of Ottoman Empire, Turkish language borrowed a great number of words from Arabic to use in many fields such as administration, literature, philosophy, and law. In addition to Arabic, Turkish also acquired non-Arabic Persian words: Chagatai can be shown as a main example for languages influenced by Perso-Arabic language.

In Ottoman Age which lasted more than six hundred years (1299-1922) the language used for literature and official administration that is called Ottoman Turkish was a mixture of Turkish, Persian and Arabic, whereas the colloquial language was different and less sophisticated. Since the Constitutional Period that began in 1839 with the return of some young Turks from the Europe, French and English have become effective in Turkish language. Some types of literature are adapted from French literature such as novel, tale, and article.

For example “Taassuk-? Talat ve Fitnat” is the first Turkish novel written by Semseddin Sami who is one of those Young Turks in 1873 (Yapucu 7). After the foundation of Turkish Republic, westernization in language seemed to happen more voluntarily. Turkish government changed the alphabet on the first years of Republic in order to be more familiar with western world. There are a lot of English words that are used in every day and social life because of the technological, scientific, economic power of the USA and Europe countries.

The influence became so significant that Turkish Language Association (TDK) tried to omit words from Arabic, French, Persian, English, and Latin languages to make the language purer. Although the vocabulary of Turkish is the area showing the most prominent foreign influence, it is not the only area of Turkish culture that is adapted from outside. Eating habits are another field shaped by foreign impact. Arab cuisine is very important for Turkish eating habits. For example coffee that Turkish people never give up is from Arabic countries.

Because of the acceptance of Islam, Arab cuisine effects on Turkish foods started to be felt more (Baysal 1993 cited in Guler). It can be easily seen that Arab influence on Turkish cuisine is very outstanding especially on foods peculiar to Southeast part of Turkey. Overuse of spices, especially using hot pepper is one of the Arabic influences on Turkish cuisine (Guler 4). With the influence of western culture it is possible to see French meals in the Ottoman age.

Potato, tomato, pepper, zucchini and a lot of other vegetables types that Turkish people use and like started to be used and became popular after the discovery of America (Samanc? and Croxford 2006 cited in Guler). Fast food is the production of fast western life style. The eating styles have also changed. For example, while eating on the ground was normal a couple of decades, now table and chairs are used to eat. In addition to the language and eating habits, social life is also shaped by foreign influences.

Our music culture contains both eastern parts such as arabesque and also western parts like pop, rap or R&B; for example, Sadettin Kaynak, who was an expert at theology and Turkish Art Music, brought a new composition style that is known as fantazi in Turkish Art Music. He adapted this style in the 1950s having been inspired by Arab films of the 1930s and 1940s (Tekelioglu 17). In 1960s Turkish people who are mainly rich and live in big cities met with another music style because of westernization policies and republican institutions.

Turkish official television channel supported the songs that were arranged from popular European and American songs, just as they supported South American Tango songs before (19). Turkish music was not just influenced after the foundation of Republic. Because of the cultural and ethnical diversity and vastness of the borders Ottoman music had been influenced in many ways; for instance, some studies prove that when Ottoman secular music influenced Greek Byzantine music, it was also influenced by Greek Byzantine music.

Walter Feldman states that Greek Church music may have possibly influenced Turkish Hicaz and other musical types composed by Ottomans (Manuel 8). Celebrations of some special days are mostly from Western culture. To illustrate we can state the Valentine’s Day, Christmas, and Mothers’ Day. On the other hand Turks celebrate “Nevruz” that means the beginning of the spring like other people do in other eastern countries. The clothes that Turkish people wear today are completely western although people living in Anatolia used to wear fez or turban hundreds year ago.

In conclusion, it can be easily seen from these few examples that eastern and western cultures have many influences on Turkish language, literature, eating habits, social life. It is a well-known fact that Turkish culture has many prominent influences on many cultures; similarly it has been influenced by many eastern and western cultures. Although Turkish culture is under the pressure of nearly all kinds of cultures in the world, these varieties may be assumed as its richness. Variety of influences interaction is an indication of cultural fusion. References Guler, Sibel “Turk Mutfak Kulturu ve Yeme Icme Al? skanl? klar? ” •Manuel, Peter “Modal Harmony in Andalusian, Eastern European, and Turkish Syncretic Music” International Council for Traditional Music. Yearbook for Traditional Music, 1989 •Tekelioglu, Orhan “The Rise of Spontaneous Synthesis: The Historical Background of Turkish popular Music” Middle Eastern Studies. 1996. Taylor&Francis Group, Apr. 1996 •Yapucu, Murat “Tanzimattan Gunumuze Roman Anlay? s? ve Roman Ornekleri”, 2002 Turk Dili ve Edebiyat Dersi Y? ll? k Projesi. •http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Influence_of_Arabic_on_other_languages