Excuse me if this is a very novice question, but there are pairs in Turkish like "yağma" /ja:ma/ (plunder) and "yama" /jama/ (patch), or "olan" /olan/ (one that's there) and "oğlan" /o:lan/ (boy) where vowel length is the only differing element. Why do we consider vowel length not to be phonemic?

  • Can you clarify, it's not considered phonemic by whom? Nov 5, 2023 at 6:56

1 Answer 1


Linguists do understand that vowel length is phonemic in Turkish, but that understanding is probably not shared by Turkish speakers generally. The Turkish govt. dictionary does note the length of <i:> in hakikat = [haki:kat] "truth", and this article discusses the role of vowel length in stress computation. This is not marked in spelling, which probably explains why people don't think about it.

As for yumuşak ge, it is notated with the consonant letter ğ, and phonologically is in fact an abstract consonant, not a vowel, but it can be phonetically realized as increased vowel duration as in yağma. Additionally, it is not actually silent in all dialects although it is in the standard dialect.

Then of course, most Turkish speakers, or speakers of any language, don't typically understand the concept of a "phoneme", so one should not expect them to realize that technically, vowel length is phonemic in Turkish.

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