Islamic Studies Turkish Language, Literature, and Islam
A.C.S. Peacock
  • LAST REVIEWED: 22 September 2021
  • LAST MODIFIED: 22 September 2021
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195390155-0281


Literary Turkish has a history that dates back to the Orhon inscriptions in Mongolia of the 8th century CE, and has been used as a literary language in the Islamic world since the 11th century in the wake of the rise of the first Turkish Muslim dynasty in Central Asia, the Qarakhanids. Although today “Turkish” refers to the language of the Republic of Turkey, historically the term can be used to refer to a wide variety of dialects and languages of the Turkic language family used across Central and Western Asia, with around 200 million speakers today. Their main literary forms are a western Turkic dialect known as Ottoman, the ancestor of modern Turkish of Turkey, and an eastern one generally known as Chaghatay, the ancestor of languages such as modern Uzbek and Uighur. Until the early 20th century, both Ottoman and Chaghatay were normally written in the Arabic script. However, there was no standardized form of either Ottoman or Chaghatay, and frequently eastern and western forms were used interchangeably in the same text, while the literatures of both dialects had a substantial mutual influence. Although this bibliography will concentrate on Ottoman and modern Turkish language and literature, some basic information about Chaghatay and its predecessors will also be provided as necessary to understand the genesis of Ottoman.

General Overviews

Valuable introductions to the main Turkic-speaking peoples and their languages are given in Bainbridge 1993 and Johanson and Csató 1998, respectively. Their history is covered in Golden 1992 and Finley 2004, with Golden concentrating on the early history of Turkic speakers down to the 14th century, and Finley giving more weight to later periods and the transition to modernity. However, the starting point for research on the Turkic languages and literatures remains the excellent, if now sometimes somewhat dated, essays in Bazin, et al. 1959–1964, which cover the historical philology of the main Turkish written languages.

  • Bainbridge, Margaret, ed. The Turkic Peoples of the World. London: Kegan Paul, 1993.

    Offers chapters on each of the main Turkic-speaking sociolinguistic groups in the contemporary world.

  • Bazin, Louis, Pertev Naili Boratav, and Jean Deny, eds. Philologiae Turcicae Fundamenta. 2 vols. Wiesbaden, Germany: Harrassowitz, 1959–1964.

    The standard survey of the main literary dialects and their literatures (articles mainly in German and French).

  • Finley, Carter Vaughan. The Turks in World History. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004.

    An overview of Turkish history from pre-Islamic Central Asian origins to modern times.

  • Golden, Peter B. An Introduction to the History of the Turkic Peoples: Ethnogenesis in Medieval and Early Modern Eurasia and the Middle East. Wiesbaden, Germany: Harrassowitz, 1992.

    An overview of the early history of Turkic peoples by a leading expert, drawing on sources in an impressive range of languages.

  • Johanson, Lars, and Éva Ágnes Csató. The Turkic Languages. Abingdon, UK: Routledge, 1998.

    An overview of the main features of the Turkic languages from a linguistic perspective.

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