Word of the Week: Afyonkarahisarlılaştıramadıklarımızdan

Where to even start with that one… Coming from Turkish, the Word of the Week this week is Afyonkarahisarlılaştıramadıklarımızdan. There is definitely no single English word that we might equate to this mammoth one. However, the source of this strange word is not some deep concept at the heart of Turkish culture; instead, the culprit is Turkish grammar.

One of the first Fun Facts about Turkish, as identified by the Yale Turkish Program, is that Turkish is an agglutinative language. This means that in Turkish you can add additional syllables to the ends of words to change their meanings. In this case, we begin with Afyonkarahisar, which is a provincial capital city in western Turkey. According to the Yale Turkish Program, by adding additional suffixes to produce Afyonkarahisarlılaştıramadıklarımızdan, the meaning of the word becomes, “One of those people whom we tried to make resemble the citizens of Afyonkarahisar but we failed.” In theory, you could add on infinitely more suffixes if you don’t mind the meaning of your word becoming arbitrary (though still technically grammatical).

Of course, every language has long words. Even in English, we have plenty of words as long as Afyonkarahisarlılaştıramadıklarımızdan, but most of them only exist to fit very specific medical or scientific niches. In a sense, this is not too different from in Turkish. It seems that the longer a word becomes, the more unique and specific the situations become in which it is appropriate.

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