Turkish inspires several languages in Africa

By Hassan Isilow

JOHANNESBURG (AA) – Turkish people’s early presence in Africa has left signs of linguistic influence on several languages there, a Turkish historian said.

Halim Gencoglu, a researcher at the University of Cape Town, said the Turkish presence in Africa began with the migration of people from the Tulunid Dynasty in the period 868-905 AD.

He said African languages such as Kiswahili which is widely spoken on the continent as well as IsiXhosa, a major language in South Africa, have similar words like the ones in Turkish.

“In Turkish, yes is evet and no is hayır. Similarly, in IsiXhosa yes is ewe and no is hayı,” Gencoglu told Anadolu Agency shortly after presenting a paper on the Afro-Asia project at Wits University in Johannesburg.

The academic also said in both Turkish and Swahili languages the word ‘Baba’ refers to father. “Additionally, some surnames in the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Africa are etymologically Turkish in origin, for example Denisova and Chimusa,” he added.

Gencoglu said there was an important Asian migration to Africa in the Middle Ages and the population left a cultural legacy that influenced local languages in Africa.

He said the Turkish presence in some ways inspired African nations through its language, history and cultural heritage.

For instance, the historian said, in the 1800s, a prominent Turkish scholar Sheikh Abu Bakr Effendi was sent by Ottoman Sultan Abdulaziz.

Gencoglu said Effendi also visited the Mozambican capital Maputo in 1866. According to the academician, Effendi himself mentioned that he performed Friday prayers at a mosque in Maputo established by Turkish Sultan Selim in the 16th century.

Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TIKA), Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH) and Yunus Emre Institute has launched several development and humanitarian projects across Africa over the past decade.

The Turkish government has also donated millions of dollars for infrastructural development on the continent and sponsored hundreds of African students as part of the country’s cooperation with Africa.