A spa project of Peace Corps Turkmenistan

Contents of the Appendix

1.0 Brief Introduction to the Turkmen Language

1.1 The Alphabets

1.2 Brief Dicussion of the Alphabets

1.3 Learning the New Alphabet

1.4 Learning the Cyrillic Alphabet

1.5 Vowel Harmony

1.6 Long and Short Vowels

1.7 Vocal Transformations

2.0 The Case System

2.1 Cases of Pronouns

3.0 Verbs

3.1a- Present Comprehensive, long form

3.1b - Present Comprehensive, short form

3.2a - Present Perfect

3.2b - Present Perfect (negative)/Habitual Present (negative)

3.3 - Future Certain

3.4 - Future Indefinite

3.5 - Conditional

3.6 - Past Definite

3.7 - Obligatory Form

3.8 - Imperative Forms

3.9 - Intentional Form

4.0 Relative Clauses

5.0 Cases and their suffixes

5.1 Possessive Suffixes

6.0 The Absolute Posessive

7.0 Nouns in Direct Relation

8.0 Coparatives & Superlatives

9.0 Some Unusual Structures in Turkmen Grammar

10.0 Go?ylmalar

10.1 Passive

10.2 Reflexive

10.3 Reciprocal

10.4 Causitive

11.0 Four Important Modal Verbs: otyr, ÿatyr, dur, ÿör

12.0 Selected Suffixes and Prefixes

12.1 -çy/-çi

12.2 -dar

12.3 -ke?

12.4 -siz/-suz/-syz

12.5 -lik/-lük/-lyk/-luk

12.6 The prefix bi-

12.7 -daky/-däki

13.0 Expressing Needs and Desires

14.0 Indicating Possibility: mümkin

15.0 -dygy/ digi

16.0 Double Verbs

16.1 Expressing Ability: -p/-yp/-ip bilmek

16.2 Doing an Action for Someone: -p/-yp/-ip bermek

16.3 Attempted Action: -p/-yp/-ip görmek

16.4 Anticipated Action: -jak/-jek bolmak

1.0: Brief Introduction to the Turkmen Language

The Turkmen Language belongs to the greater family of Turkic languages. The Turkic languages, together with the Mongolian and Manchu-Tungus languages, form the Altaic language group. Specifically, Turkmen is included in the sub-group of Southern Turkic languages, along with Turkish and Azeri. Among all the Turkic languages, there are similar grammatical structures, similar phonetics and some shared vocabulary.

In some ways Turkmen is an easy language to learn. Unlike Russian or Spanish, Turkmen has no genders. There are no irregular verbs. For the most parts, words are written exactly as they are pronounced. Finally, Turkmen's grammatical case system is remarkably simple once understood, and has almost no exceptions.

The greatest difficulty for beginning Turkmen speakers will probably be adapting to Turkmen's elaborate system of grammatical suffixes, or "tag words" and learning to re-order their speech so that the predicate (verb) is the last thing spoken. Also, many simple English grammatical structures (such as "to have", "to need", or "to be able to") are handled differently in Turkmen.

1.1 The Alphabets

Täze ElipbiTkmn CyrillicEnglish Equivalent

Aa Aa a, as in father

Ää ‰´ a, as in cat

Bb Bb b

Çç Hh ch

Dd Dd d

Ee ?/ e, as in egg

Ff Ff f

Gg Gg when starting a word, voiced like the English "g" in "go". Within words, voiced like the throaty "g" in "bag"

Hh Xx h

Ii Ii ee, as in see

Jj Ú… j

Kk Kk k

Ll Ll l

Mm Mm m

Nn Nn n

Oo Oo o, as in go

Öö Øø oo, as in good (approximately)

Pp Pp p

Rr Rr r, pronounced with a trill, as in Russian or Spanish

Ss Ss s

Tt Tt t

Uu Uu u, as in flute

Üü Á¥ like u, but pronounced with rounded lips and higher in the throat

Ww Vv w (in Russian words, as v)

Yy Yy i, as in sit

Ÿÿ Jj y, as in yes

Zz Zz z

Ññ ?§ ng, as in song

£¡ "' zh, as in pleasure (only found in Russian words)

? Ww sh, as in wash

?? }] sch, as in fresh cheese (only found in Russian words)

(ÿe) Ee ye, as in yes

(ÿo) |\ yo, as in yo-yo

(ÿa) Qq ya, as in yacht

(ts) Cc ts, as in hats

1.2 Brief Dicussion of the Alphabets

The Turkmen alphabet was first written in Arabic, until about 1930, when a Latin script was introducted. The Latin script was replaced in 1940 when all Turkic people in the Soviet Union were required to adopt the Cyrillic script. Finally, in 1995, the "Täze Elipbiÿi" or New Alphabet, was formally introduced by the President to re-align Turkmenistan with the non-Soviet world. (Similar new alphabets have been introduced in Uzbekiztan and other republics.)

The New Alphabet is currently used for street signs and political slogans, but there is a severe deficit of other reading materials. Almost all Turkmen books in print use the Cyrillic alphabet, and despite the national-wide trainings that have taken place, and televised instructional programs, the New Alphabet has yet to gain popular acceptance.

1.3 Learning the New Alphabet

The new alphabet is much easier for native English speakers to read and understand than is the Cyrillic, and also seems better suited to the Turkmen language. For this reason we have used it in the grammar discussions of this text. Most all letters are pronounced more or less like their English counterparts. The unusual letters are as follows:

New TurkmenEnglish Equivalent

Aa always the long a, as in "father"

Ää always the short a, as in "cat"

Çç ch, as in "cheese"

Gg when starting a word, voiced like the English "g" in "go". Within words, voiced like the throaty "g" in "bag"

Ii ee, as in see

Oo always the long o, as in go

Öö oo, as in good but rounder

Rr r, pronounced with a slight trill

Uu always the long u, as in flute

Üü like u, but pronounced with rounded lips and higher in the throat

Ww w, as in "water" (in Russian words, v, as in "very")

Yy i, as in sit

Ÿÿ y, as in yes

Ññ ng, as in song

£¡ zh, as in pleasure (only found in Russian words)

? sh, as in wash

1.4 Learning the Cyrillic Alphabet

The Cyrillic Alphabet is a little disorienting at first, since many of the letters seem like English counterparts, but they're actually not. The Cyrillic alphabet is also not ideally suited to Turkmen, and as a solution to this, several distinctly Turkic characters are present in the Turkmen Cyrillic alphabet that not present in Russian Cyrillic. Also, several Russian Cyrillic characters are only found in words taken from Russian.

Five characters look and sound approximately like their English counterparts. These are:

Cyrillic English

Aa long a, as in "father"

Kk k

Mm m

Oo long o, as in "go"

Tt t

The following eight characters might look like English letters, but unfortunately they're different.

Cyrillic English

Vv w, as in "water" (in Russian words, as v, as in "very")

Ss s, as in "see"

Ee at the beginning of a word, ye, as in yes (with the "y") In the middle or at the end of the word, usually as e, as in "egg"

Nn n, as in "no"

Rr r, pronounced with a trill, as in Spanish

Xx h, as in "hot", but throatier

Uu long u, as in "flute"

Á¥ like u, but pronounced with rounded lips and higher in the throat

The following 22 characters look unlike anything in seen in written English, though some bear striking resemblance to kindergarten experiments:

‰´ short a, as in "cat"

Bb b, as in "ball"

Hh ch, as in "cheese"

Dd d, as in "dog"

?/ e, as in "egg" (almost exclusively used at the beginning of words)

Ff f, as in "fire"

Gg when starting a word, voiced like the English "g" in "go". Within words, voiced like the throaty "g" in "bag"

Ii ee, as in "see"

Ú… j, as in "jump"

Ll l, as in "lye"

Øø oo, as in good, but rounder (approximately)

Pp p, as in "pi"

Yy i, as in "sit"

Jj y, as in "yes"

Zz z, as in "zoo"

?§ ng, as in "song"

"' zh, as in "pleasure" (only found in Russian words)

Ww sh, as in "wash"

}] shch, as in "fresh cheese" (only found in Russian words)

|\ yo, as in "yo-yo"

Qq ya, as in "yacht"

Cc ts, as in "hats"

1.5 Vowel Harmony

One very interesting feature of Turkmen is that all vowels can be divided into two groups, the front vowels (inçe çekimli sesler) and the back vowels (ÿogyn çekimli sesler). Front vowels are pronounced higher in the throat and are more nasal, while back vowels are pronounced lower in the throat and are more guttural. The front vowels are ä, e, i, ö, and ü. The back vowels are a, y, o, and u. The "harmony" lies in the fact that all Turkmen words of Turkic origin are pronounced either entirely with front vowels, like kädi (pumpkin) or köwü? (shoes), or with back vowels, like doganlyk (brotherhood) or mugallym (teacher). Grammatical and verb suffixes also follow vowel harmony, being divided into two groups for front-vowel words and back-vowel words. For example, the front-vowel plural suffix -ler would be added to kädi to form the word for "pumpkins," whereas the back-vowel plural suffix -lar would be added to mugallym to produce "teachers." In short, front vowels go with front vowels and back vowels with back. Subsequent suffix appendices will more completely explain applications of this rule.

Turkmen has many Russian words, such as telewizor (television) and radio (radio), that have simply been incorporated into the language. These are spelled exactly according to the original Russian and often have both front and back vowels within one word. Such is true for the numerous Turkmen words of Persian and Arabic origin, such as kitap (book), dükan (shop), and serdar (leader). In these cases, consistent with the general rule for vowel harmony in Turkmen, the final vowel of the word determines the vowel harmony for suffixation.

Verbs in Turkmen adhere consistently to vowel harmony. All verbs belong to one of two groups determined by their infinitive forms: those ending in -mak, and those ending in -mek. The suffixes for all -mak verbs have only back vowels, whereas only front vowels will be found in the suffixes of -mek verbs. Examples of this will follow in the explanations of verb tenses.

1.6 Long and Short Vowels

Another interesting feature of Turkmen is the use of long and short vowels. Short vowels are like those in English, like the a in "bar." Long vowels simply require pronouncing short vowels for the duration of two vowels. Often this difference in duration is all that distinguishes the meanings of two words, as in the pairs below:


at horse at name

gyz get excited! (imperative) gyz girl

bil know! (imperative) bil waist

ot grass ot fire

öç extinguish! (imperative) öç revenge

gurt curd, dry cheese gurt wolf, worm

dü? come down! (imperative) düÿ? dream

1.7 Vocal Transformations

Certain consonat combinations are rendered differently in spoken Turkmen than their written forms would indicate. For example, the nd of mende (on my person) is pronounced "nn" when spoken (menne). The following chart will illustrate these combinations and examples with the spoken transformations rendered in the new alphabet.

Written Spoken Written Spoken Translation_________________

n + d nn sende senne on your person

l + d ll aldym allym I took

z + d zz agyzda agyzza in the mouth

s + d ss bäsde? bäsde? rival

s + t ss üsti üssi top, surface

? + j ?? go?jak go??ak will add

z + s ss ÿazsyn ÿassyn let him write

t + s ss gitse gisse if she goes

t + ç çç parahatçylyk parahaççylyk peace

ç + s ?s açsa a?sa if it opens

ç + l ?l açlyk a?lyk hunger, famine

ç + d ?d geçdik ge?dik we passed

ç + j ?? içjek i??ek will drink

g + b gw bagban bagwan gardener

2.0 The Case System

Like Russian or German, Turkic languages have a system of grammatical cases. Cases are defined by changes that occur to a word when it is placed in different grammatical context. English has cases for personal prounouns. For example: "I see him", "He sees me". Not: "Me sees he", "Him sees I". Turkmen, however, has six cases, and these cases are used for all words, not just personal prounouns. The six Turkmen cases are: the nominative, used for the subject of the sentence; the possessive, similar to English possessives; the dative, used to show directed action; the accusative, which is similar to the English "direct object"; the time/place, which shows locality; and the instrumental, which is used to show origin.

While six cases might seem a bit overwhelming at first, it should be noted that the case suffixes simply replace our English prepositions such as "from," "at," "with," "in," "on," and "to". Also, the rules for their use are remarkably simple and inflexible, unlike those of the Russian cases.

2.1 Cases of Pronouns

These follow fairly straightforwardly from the regular case endings. The only unusual exceptions being the mutation of ol to on in all cases, and the dative pronouns maña, saña, and oña.





you (singular informal)


he, she, it




you (plural or formal)









his, her, its









˜to me


˜to you


˜to him, her, it


˜to us


˜to you


˜to them



˜ me


˜ you


˜ him, her, it


˜ us


˜ you


˜ them



˜ upon me


˜ upon you


˜ upon him, her, it


˜ upon us


˜ upon you


˜ upon them



˜ from me


˜ from you


˜ from him, her, it


˜ from us


˜ from you


˜ from them

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