The Grammatology of Nationalism

Nergis Ertürk

in Grammatology and Literary Modernity in Turkey

Published in print October 2011 | ISBN: 9780199746682
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199918775 | DOI:
The Grammatology of Nationalism

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Chapter Two argues that the revolutionary moment of the mid-nineteenth century failed to deliver on its promise of a new egalitarian writing. Although the “freeing” of the Ottoman Turkish language inverted old hierarchies, the late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century rise of Turkish nationalism saw the recoding, through the Orientalist discipline of Turcology, of the freed “vulgar” Turkic linguistic element (in counterposition with “cultivated” Arabic and Persian) as the foundation of Turkish-speaking Muslim identity. My reading of the literary and journalistic writings of Ömer Seyfeddin, along with Republican state documents, suggests that a key goal of Turkish national grammatology during the first half of the twentieth century was to code the communicative and translative travel of the vernacular into and from other languages as death, so as to foreclose on non-national alternative possibilities of being and to unify a religiously identified, heterogeneous, multilingual population as a nation. The chapter surveys several crucial episodes in the growth of Turkish linguistic nationalism, including the alphabet reform of 1928 and the nationwide “word-collection mobilization” of 1932, undertaken to compile all Turkish words currently in use at the time, and the Sun-Language Theory of 1936, which claimed Turkish as the original language of all languages.

Keywords: Ömer Seyfeddin; national literature; nationalism; language reform; Mustafa Kemal Atatürk; vernacularization; phonocentrism; Romanization; Sun-Language Theory

Chapter.  20423 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Literature

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