September 06, 2006

Another New Source of Lexical Change

Some time ago I reported my discovery of lexical change through consumer fraud. Well, I've just been reading Geoffrey Lewis' fascinating book The Turkish Language Reform: a Catastrophic Success and have learned of another mechanism of lexical change not listed in the handbooks.

A less obvious example of the influence of English is a new phenomenon: the current greeting Selâm in place of Merhaba. This is not evidence of increasing religiosity, but is due to the prevalence of English-language films on television.

At this point you're probably thinking that he is nuts since in your experience, as in mine, in English-language films people don't greet each other with Selâm any more frequently than they do with Merhaba.

Lewis goes on to explain that he is talking about English-language films as shown on Turkish television, dubbed into Turkish, which results in what is known as dublaj Türkçesi   'dubbing Turkish'.

The aim when dubbing is to use Turkish words requiring lip movements similar to those of the original, and the lip movements for Selâm are closer to those for 'Hello' than to those for Merhaba. Other such phenomena may be on the way. Another instance of television's effect on speech: according to Hasan Pulur, writing in Milliyet of 4 February 1995, Vay anasımı! is no longer the normal way of expressing surprise, its replacement being Vavvvv! 'Wow!'.
Posted by Bill Poser at September 6, 2006 02:06 PM