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International Journal of the Sociology of Language

Ed. by Fishman, Joshua A. / García Otheguy, Ofelia

6 Issues per year

ERIH category 2011: INT2

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Turkey's Kurdish language policy

1The University of Uppsala

Citation Information: . Volume 2012, Issue 217, Pages 99–125, ISSN (Online) 1613-3668, ISSN (Print) 0165-2516, DOI: 10.1515/ijsl-2012-0051, September 2012

Publication History

Published Online:
2012-09-14

Abstract

This article examines the Turkish state's assimilationist policy towards the Kurds and the Kurdish language in Turkey. It studies how the Turkish nationalist elites, the Kemalists, have throughout the 20th century systematically suppressed the Kurdish language as part of their aim to construct a homogenous nation-state of Turkish speakers. It shows that this linguicidal policy was strongly informed by the traumatic collapse of the Ottoman Empire and the consequent Kemalist emphasis on complete ethno-linguistic homogeneity as criteria for being “Turkish”, “Western” and “civilised”. The article discusses the various “Turkification” strategies of the authorities, such as banning the Kurdish language, the denial of the existence of the Kurds, changing the names of towns and villages, the forced re-settlement of Kurds and the assimilation of Kurdish children. It critically analyses the recent developments in Turkey's Kurdish language policy and the reform efforts of the current government as part of the country's EU candidacy. The article reflects however, that whilst looking good on paper, these reforms have had little impact in reality and Kurdish speakers in Turkey are still systematically denied their basic human and linguistic rights.

Keywords: Turkey; Kurds; Kurdish question; Kemalism; linguicide

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