I’ve recently returned from a stay in Istanbul. There’s one aspect of the Turkish language that I find particularly interesting and can’t help but wonder what the result would be if the Québécois applied this same aspect to the French of Québec.
Turkish uses a large number of words borrowed from French — regular words, not technical ones.
For example (Turkish words in italics):
sinema = cinéma (cinema)
jeton = jeton (token)
klavye = clavier (keyboard)
pil = pile (battery)
randevu = rendez-vous (appointment)
tren = train (train)
park = parc (park)
pantolon = pantalon (trouser)
avukat = avocat (lawyer)
asansör = ascenseur (lift, elevator)
kuaför = coiffeur (hairdresser)
okul = école (school)
spor = sport (sport)
sabun = savon (soap)
büro = bureau (office)
bisküvi = biscuit (biscuit)
kalite = qualité (quality)
lamba = lampe (lamp)
garaj = garage (garage)
makine = machine (machine)
Turkish has also borrowed a large number of words from Arabic and Persian.
Look at the words on the sign in the image — lots of loanwords in there. How many do you understand without even knowing Turkish?
Borrowed words in Turkish haven’t been without their controversy. There have been attempts to render Turkish more “pure” by replacing foreign words with Turkish ones. There are now cases where two words exist to describe the same thing, for example, one Turkish in origin and the other Arabic.
Of the French words that are in use in modern Turkish, there are a few points we can take away from them:
1. Québécois French is not unique in its borrowings from another language (in this case, English).
2. The French loanwords used in Turkish are “everyday” in nature (not technical jargon) and are standard usages. This is different to English loanwords used in the French of Québec: most sit at the informal level and don’t become standard.
3. Turkish has integrated French loanwords by applying Turkish spelling to them.
It’s especially this third point that I find interesting.
There are those in Québec who wish to see English loanwords eliminated and replaced by French ones. Others have less of a problem with English loanwords.
I can’t help but wonder what would happen if those in the second camp began applying French spelling to English loanwords…
tchomme (chum, boyfriend)
Does applying French spelling help to integrate loanwords? Does it help to “claim” them by taking away their foreignness?
Are loanwords using French spelling more likely to be perceived as belonging to the French of Québec rather than intruders from English?
Or do loanwords using French spelling just look ridiculous, even to those who use these words in conversation and have no problem with their presence in French?
If loanwords using French spelling do appear ridiculous, why then don’t the loanwords integrated into the Turkish spelling system appear ridiculous to the Turkish?