Transcription Rules: Vowels

The web site features easily understood transcriptions of the major versions of the Ottoman Turkish Bible for those who cannot read the Arabic letters. Except for exceptions specified below, the transcription is accurate letter-for-letter, reflecting precisely what the Ottoman Turkish translators wrote. They were the translators, we are only their transcribers, their secretaries. With these principles in mind the following rules were followed:

1. Words of Turkic origin are written with front and back vowels according to the spelling rules of Modern Turkish, without distinguishing the Arabic long and short vowels when they appear in Turkish words; so we write baba not bâbâ; bütün not bütûn; durur not dûrur. Using the Arabic long vowels â î û in words of Turkic origin would be confusing for today's Turkish readers.

2. In transcribing words of Arabic and Farsi origin the transcription uses Arabic's 3 long and 3 short vowels a â i î u û but also the additional Turkish front and back vowels e ı o ö ü which were not available to writers of Ottoman Turkish; thus: bâtıl, ebedî, ıttılâ, kabûl, töhmet, ʿubûdiyet, ümmet. Transcription of Hebrew and Aramaic proper names in the Ottoman Turkish text approximates the ancient languages using the Ottoman Turkish letters. In Greek proper names the Arabic long vowels in the text are usually ignored.

3. A special vowel rule for pointed texts (Ali Bey 1665 and Kieffer 1827): When strictly transliterated, Turkish words vocalized with Arabic vowel points yield such spellings as altun (for altın), ani, anlar (for onu, onlar), diyü (for diye), eyü (for iyi), gümiş (for gümüş), içün (for için), iderim (for ederim), kendü (for kendi), etc. We know that the Ottoman pronunciation of such words was similar to today's pronunciation, so this kind of pedantic transliteration misrepresents the words. Therefore, we have used special vowels such as ė, ỉ, ȯ, ủ, ű in such words, e.g. altᵼn, ȯnủ, ȯnlar, diyẻ, íyỉ, güműş, içỉn, ėderim, kendỉ, as a way of both mimicking Modern Turkish spelling and faithfully representing the Ottoman spelling. In this way the reader is given clues that these words of Turkish origin were written differently in fully pointed texts of the Ottoman period (see the Alphabet Key or the pop-up screen of Special Letters).

4. Arabic words that include the Arabic short vowels a and u are written today with a wider range of four vowels: a e and ü; thus, cesâret, harâret, sürur, vücud. This convention is applied here by following Ottoman Turkish dictionaries that follow Modern Turkish spelling.

5. Transliterating the Arabic vowels in Turkish endings results in unnecessary annoyance for the reader. Therefore, modern Turkish spelling rules have been applied to Turkish endings without reference to the Arabic vowels used in Ottoman Turkish. This applies to Turkish endings on words both of Turkic and foreign origin. Thus the vowels in the Ottoman Turkish endings such words as gereklü and kaldürub were ignored and written gerekli and kaldırıp as in Modern Turkish, though special characters were applied to such common words as diyė and ȯnủ. We know that the final vowel in a word like gereklü was pronounced more like -li than lü, despite the Arabic vowel. Many such spellings of Turkish endings are transcribed as they are to avoid confusion with Arabic and Farsi grammatical forms. 

6. Turkish words that were run together in Ottoman Turkish are separated as in Modern Turkish, thus: where the text reads bilmedüḡiçün, gelinceyedek, söyledikdensoŋra, etc., they are transcribed here in the Modern Turkish forms bilmediḡi içỉn, gelinceye dek, söyledikden soŋra. On other hand some words and particles thatt were written separately in Ottoman Turkish have been combined in the Modern Turkish way, thus: birbirine for bir birine, deḡildir for deḡil dir, öbir (meaning öbür) for o bir and ol bir, etc.

7. So as not to exhaust the reader's patience the Arabic word âdem has been transcribed âdam in Ottoman Turkish texts that show the Arabic vowel points, but adam in unpointed texts, except that Âdem is the first man, and benî âdem shows the relationship of this expression to Adam. 

8. Like all languages written in Arabic script, Ottoman Turkish had no punctuation. Printed Bibles in the late 19th century used a mid-line dot • to separate sentences; this convention has been applied to all texts transcribed here to avoid run-on sentences. The apostrophe is used in transcription only to indicate elision of the initial vowel in the Arabic definite article el-; thus bi'l-cümle, bi'z-zât, Rûhü'l-Kudüs (not bi el-cümle, bi el-zât or Rûh el-Kuds as written in Arabic). The Arabic consonants ayin and hemze are transcribed with the hooks ʿ for ayin and ʾ for hemze, but the apostrophe is never used for this purpose.

Underlined words in the transcriptions feature a pop-up note showing a definition and etymology. Commonly agreed international transliteration of Arabic letters, not the Modern Turkish alphabet, is applied in the pop-up notes. 

By showing the original texts along with our transcription we let the advanced reader check the transcription for accuracy. Corrections are welcome at yorum