Yesterday I was watching a Turkish trivia game show on TV when a question came up about the ablative case in Turkish. The question, asked during a part of the show when questions are generally deemed to be quite difficult, went as follows: "What is the correct ending: Ziya Gökalp'dan, Ziya Gökalp'den, Ziya Gökalp'tan or Ziya Gökalp'ten?"
I've had roughly three years of Turkish language lessons and am by no means a competent, let alone good, speaker of the language, nor do I have advanced knowledge of its grammar. Yet this question seemed pretty simple to me: vowel harmony of the "a" in Gökalp dictates that the suffix also have an "a" and the final letter "p" means that it should be "tan". And indeed, the answer turned out to be "Ziya Gökalp'tan".
To my surprise, however, this question genuinely seemed to stump the contestant, a highly educated native speaker. He had, up until that point, answered various fairly arcane trivia question with ease and was evidently (according to me at least) an intelligent person with a grasp of Turkish that quite obviously far exceeds my own. Yet he thought about it for a long time, employed one of the "help lines" that the game show offers, before finally guessing (correctly).
This left me with the following question: why was this question about a seemingly (to me) simple Turkish grammar issue deemed by the game show, and experienced by the contest, to be that difficult?