Articles > Introduction to the Turkish language with the series Hot Skullby Alexis Ulrich
To bring an authentically alien feel to today’s science fiction television series, producers hire linguists to create constructed languages, aka. conlangs, with their own sounds, and sometimes even their own writing system, in addition to their grammar and vocabulary. The Turkish series Hot Skull, produced and released by Netflix in December 2022, does not resort to such methods.
This dystopia, which takes place in a future that we imagine to be close, takes place in Istanbul, Turkey. The posters on the walls, the graffiti and the slogans on the demonstrators’ banners are written in Turkish. For Turkish speakers, the world described is therefore very credible and contemporary, since it uses their own language. For non-Turkish speakers, on the other hand, the messages remain foreign, using letters they are not used to seeing, such as the cedilla s ş or the soft g ğ, which immerses them in a quirky and mysterious world.
I invite you here to dive into this world and discover some aspects of the Turkish language.
The series is called
One immediately thinks of a transposition of the Covid-19 epidemic, even though the series is adapted from the eponymous novel Sıcak Kafa by the Turkish author Afşin Kum published in 2016, still not available in English.
In Turkish, like in English, adjectives are placed before the noun to which they refer. The adjective
Salgınla Mücadele Kurumu
The military structure that took control of the country is called
The root of this word-phrase is the verb
Next is the negation suffix ma, also dependent on vowel harmony, and then the tense suffix di/dı, also dependent on it. This is the observed past tense, used to report on attested historical events, or past events in our lives. It is also a perfective past tense: the action has taken place, it has ended.
In this case, the verb is congruent in the first person singular,
In the end,
This is the first injunction, the only effective barrier against the ARDS virus, that of wearing a headset so as not to hear any jabberer you may come across, and risk being contaminated.
Karşindakinin “hasta” olduğunu düşünuyorsan hemen kulakliğini tak!
The first word in this sentence is
The grammatical structure of this sentence is complex. Indeed, what is expressed in English by means of subordinates is often rendered in Turkish by nominalized sentences, with a genitive subject and a possessive suffix, characterized by a case mark.
Here, we have the subordinate which breaks down as follows: [Karşindakin-in ol-duğ-un]-ü, or [Karşindakin-Genitive be-Nominative-3Sg]-Accusative. It can be translated as that you are in front of a “sick” person, the following word being
The verb in the main proposition is
The other words are
Putting all these grammatical remarks together, we get the following sentence:
[the-person-in-face “sick” that-you-are if-you-think without-delay headset-your put-on!], that is, in the end If you think you are in front of a “sick” person, put on your headset immediately!
Kocaeli yi unut ma!
In this sentence, the verb is
The exercise of translating all these sentences that appear in the settings of this series is very interesting, since it plunges us right away into the complexity of the Turkish language. Turkish being an agglutinative language rich in suffixes, it expresses many nuances with just a few syllables, whereas English would often resort to periphrases.