A student grammar of Turkish

A student grammar of Turkish. By F. Nihan Ketrez. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012. Pp. 334. ISBN 9780521149648. $36.99.

Reviewed by Louisa Buckingham, University of Nizwa

Learners of Turkish have traditionally had little choice on the market when seeking a comprehensive, modern pedagogic, descriptive grammar written in English. While speakers of German have been better served with a wider variety of autodidactic materials for Turkish as a foreign language, for English speakers publications have typically focused on the absolute beginner level and Turkish for tourists. In this book, the author combines sound linguistic knowledge with extensive pedagogic experience to provide pre-intermediate- to intermediate-level learners with clear descriptions of form with practice exercises (the key is provided in an appendix).

The book consists of forty short chapters. Beginning with Turkish phonology (accompanying audio files would be an asset here), several chapters covering features of the noun phrase follow. These are followed by topics at the level of the complex clause, such as conditionals, relative clauses, and coordination. The book finishes with an assortment of topics such as punctuation and common idiomatic expressions. The final chapter, ‘Conversation’, would arguably be better termed ‘Greetings and terms of address’. Several verb conjugation charts appear in the appendices.

The reviewer has only a few queries and suggestions. The first concerns the order of topics. Negation and interrogative forms, for example, two topics a learner would usually wish to consult while studying the noun and verb phrase, occur late in the book, after topics covering the complex clause. The second query concerns the focus on grammar at the phrase and clause level. The learner would find it pedagogically very beneficial to have a short reading text at the end of each chapter, which contains features discussed in the chapter and which also serves as a listening exercise. Modern didactic materials are often accompanied by audio files accessible on the publishing company’s website. Considering the prestigious nature of this publishing company, it would not be unreasonable to expect additional online material. Perhaps these suggestions will be considered when preparations for a second edition are undertaken.

A final consideration also concerns the absence of text grammar. A final chapter on how to write a basic email message or letter would be most useful, and would be a step toward preparing students to use the linguistic input they receive. It would be quite conceivable to include a set of stock phrases used to, for instance, apply for a job, request information, or, on a more personal note, send friendly greetings to an acquaintance, and demonstrate how they may be used in an email or formal letter. Ending the book on this note could feasibly bring together much of the grammar discussed in previous chapters for a realistic communicative purpose.

Despite the aforementioned points, the reviewer does not by any means question the value of this book. It is and remains a most welcome addition to the still small selection of books available to promote the learning of Turkish, and it will doubtlessly be received appreciatively by university students and autodidactic learners.