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Vowel harmony in Laz Turkish: a case study in language contact and language change

  • Neşe Demir EMAIL logo
From the journal Linguistics Vanguard


Laz Turkish (LT) is a nonstandard variety of Turkish mainly spoken in the North East of Turkey. LT emerged due to language contact between Turkish (Turkic) and Laz (Kartvelian). Laz has a smaller vowel system compared to Turkish and this has impacted the vowel harmony (VH) system in LT. In contrast to ST, which has a productive VH system, LT has only partially productive VH. Based on a corpus of fieldwork data collected in Rize, Turkey, this study investigates how LT displays partial harmony. The results show that (i) /ɯ, y, œ/ are rare in LT, and ST /ɯ, y, œ/ correspond to /i, u, o/ in LT respectively, (ii) open syllables in LT tend to have /i/ compared to closed syllables which tend to occur with /u/, and (iii) the smaller vowel system has led to disharmony with respect to preceding vowels, but /i u o/ still trigger harmony on following vowels, so VH does not peter out across the word.

Corresponding author: Neşe Demir, Department of Linguistics, UC San Diego, La Jolla, CA, USA, E-mail:


I would like to thank Sharon Rose, Farrell Ackerman, Eric Baković, Marc Garellek, John Haviland, Öner Özçelik, and two anonymous reviewers.

  1. Research funding: This study was funded by the University of California San Diego Friends of the International Center Fellowship. The study was approved by the Social and Behavioral Sciences Institutional Review Board at the University of California San Diego and informed consent was obtained from all participants.


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Received: 2021-04-02
Accepted: 2021-04-12
Published Online: 2022-04-11

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