Estimated native speakers: 83 million
Estimated total speakers: 100 million
Official/de facto official language in: Turkey, Cyprus
Language family: Altaic - Turkic
A brief history:
Modern Turkish came about with the birth of modern Turkey in the early 20th century. Ottoman Turkish, which was a mix of Turkish, Persian, and Arabic, had been Turkey’s official and literary language for the best part of a thousand years since the adoption of Islam around 950AD but was always the language of the educated few. The kaba Türkçe “rough Turkish” on which the modern language is based was the language of the masses and had far fewer foreign influences.
The earliest known Turkic inscriptions are the two monumental Orkhon inscriptions found in modern Mongolia. Erected in honour of the prince Kul Tigin and his brother Emperor Bilge Khan, they date back to sometime between 732AD and 735AD. Turkic expansion during the Early Middle Ages spread the language across Central Asia from Siberia to the Mediterranean.
Under the patronage of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the Turkish Language Association (TDK) was established in 1932. As well as introducing the Latin alphabet, the TDK set about replacing foreign words with native Turkish words. This changed the sound of the language drastically and the Turkish of today bears little resemblance to that spoken a century ago. Even Atatürk’s famous speech to the new parliament in 1927 has to be translated for modern learners as the language has altered so much in the intervening years!