Armenian vs. Ottoman Turkish Scripts

One pebble on the beach of history that begs examination might be labeled ‘the advantage of a written language.’

When the Seljuk Turks began their invasion of Armenia, the Armenians had been using their alphabet, had their sacred book the Bible translated into their heart language, and had developed literature in their mother tongue – at least five centuries earlier. The Turks, however, arrived on Armenia’s borders with a spoken language and a borrowed script that didn’t fit Turkish. The Ottoman Turks were hampered in their cultural development and the political organization of their empire by their lack of a written language.

Unfortunately, Arabic was the only script with which the Turks were familiar. Mohammed’s prohibition of the translation of the Muslims’ sacred book the Koran meant that Arabic script and vocabulary became the framework for the written language of the Ottoman Turks. During the Ottoman Empire, Turkish was written in Arabic script, with consonant sounds spelt as they would be in Persian or Arabic and usually with the vowels missing. This system of writing was prohibitively difficult to read.

Most schooling for children during the Ottoman Empire consisted of learning to do sums and memorizing passages of the Koran in Arabic. Verification of a student’s comprehension of the regurgitated phrases was not a priority.

Both the governmental oversight of the wide variety of ethnicities in the Empire and the education of its young proved torturous under the Ottoman Turks’ inadequate script.

The disadvantage of a cumbersome form of written communication continued to plague the Turks for an additional decade beyond the 1915 elimination of Ottoman Turkey’s Armenians – along with their advantage of a written language.