This is somehow related to the question Are some languages known to have taken grammatical features etc rather than just lexicon from their substrate languages?

In the area of today's Turkey, Iran and parts of central Asia, the Arabic language, Persian language and Turkish languages have for a long time coexisted. Apart from lexical (mutual) borrowings of Persian and Turkish and borrowings of both from Arabic (and to a much lesser extent, as far as i know, borrowings from Persian/Middle Persian to Arabic), there are some grammatical features which Persian and Turkish have in common.

For example Persian possessive suffixes: dar (door) -> dar-am (my door), which in the first person singular even (more or less) coincide with the turkish ones. Is this or could this be some sort of grammatical borrowing? Which way?

Other coincidences are the copulative suffixes (if this may be called thus) and - but I do know of only one instance - Persian in kūchulū reminiscent of Turkish kücüklü/kücüklük.

  • 1
    /m/ shows up in first-person pronominal forms quite frequently. It's the first consonant most people learn as babies because the lips are the first speech muscles to develop. English /mi/, Yiddish /mir/ 'we', Finnish /-mme/ 1Plpx, etc. One form is no evidence at all; if you can show that all /m/'s come from the same source, you can publish. But isolated borrowings, even of grammatical forms, are common in all languages. – jlawler Apr 17 '14 at 17:55
  • it's not so much about the first person form. the question is: might attached possessive suffixes and attached copula suffixes be a grammatical borrowing from (or even only: their development in persian have been facilitated by their - i presume - pre-existence in) turkish? – zwiebel Apr 17 '14 at 19:43
  • Maybe; it's certainly not impossible. But unless it's systematic, it's just like having a big nose and wondering whether it comes from your father's side or your mother's side. – jlawler Apr 17 '14 at 19:47
  • 1
    English and Yiddish are both Indo-European, and indeed West Germanic, so they are not really evidence for “common features of unrelated languages”. Yiddish mir “we” belongs to a German dialect bundle where the etymologically “correct” pronoun wir has been replaced by mir, probably by analogy to mir “me (dative)”, which in turn is cognate with English me. – fdb Apr 17 '14 at 23:21
  • 1
    One could consider this possibility if the wir > mir shift were restricted to Eastern German dialects (with possible Slavic substrata). This is, however, not the case. – fdb Apr 20 '14 at 11:35

The –lū suffix in colloquial (not standard) Persian is in fact borrowed from Turkish. The –am suffix for “my” is Middle Persian –am, Old Persian –may, Vedic me: in short, Indo-Iranian and ultimately Indo-European. Middle Persian –am is attested long before the earliest contacts between Persians and Turks. The identity with Turkish –am is coincidence.

  • thanks for your answer, fdb. since what stage are the possessive suffixes real suffixes and not words for themselves or enclitics? this was my main interest: did suffixion of possessive enclitics develop by example of agglutinating turkish? is, for example, mp. -am a suffix? – zwiebel Apr 18 '14 at 11:55
  • No, the suffixing of possessive enclitics did not "develop by example of agglutinating Turkish". As I tried to explain, -am, -at, -aš, etc. are fully functional as suffixes (not enclitics) in Middle Persian in documents from the 3rd century CE onwards. The Persians did not have any contact with Turks until the 6th century. – fdb Apr 18 '14 at 12:11
  • 1
    Just found this: "The copula of the first person singular -(y)Am is usually explained as influenced by the corresponding Persian personal ending -am." – zwiebel Apr 24 '14 at 18:36
  • Here: iranicaonline.org/articles/azerbaijan-ix – zwiebel Apr 24 '14 at 18:37

One thing to keep in mind about this particular pair (probably you already know); present-day Turkish is transformed a lot, most Persian/Arabic suffixes merged with the word itself to form a new Turkish word. On the other hand if you had a chance to see Turkish before 1940-1980 period, you would see more matches of oriental languages, due to the fact that back at those times Turkish was a new-born descendant of Ottoman Turkish, which is heavily influenced by Persian and Arabic. Remnant vocabulary from old Turkish (I guess <1000AD) still could be observed (rarely though) even today.


It is possible that Turkish -im and Persian -am are ultimately related.

Both the Turkish and Persian are Eurasiatic languages (a groupping higher than Indo-European and Altaic) and for Proto-Eurasiatic first person singular personal pronoun reconstructed as men (meaning "I"). So it is natural that possessive adjectives meaning "mine" would use a suffix derived from this root.

  • 2
    A huge caveat should be added here that even just Altaic, much less Eurasiatic is not widely regarded as a valid language family by perhaps the majority of historical linguistics. – limetom Jan 8 '16 at 23:26

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.