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Ottoman Turkish Language

Ottoman Turkish was a Turkis language highly influenced by Persian and Arabic. The Ottomans had three influential languages: Turkish, spoken by the majority of the people in Anatolia and by the majority of Muslims of the Balkans except in Albania and Bosnia, Persian, only spoken by the educated and Arabic, spoken mainly in Arabia, North Africa, Iraq, Kuwait and the Levant. Throughout the vast Ottoman bureaucracy Ottoman Turkish language was the official language, a version of Turkish, albeit with a vast mixture of both Arabic and Persian grammar and vocabulary.

If the basic grammar was still largely Turkish, the inclusion of almost any word in Arabic or Persian in Ottoman made it a language that was essentially incomprehensible to any ethnic Turkish Ottoman subject who had not mastered Arabic, Persian or both. Because of a low literacy rate among the public, ordinary people had to hire special "request-writers" to be able to communicate with the government. Educated Ottoman Turks spoke Arabic and Persian. In the last two centuries, French and English emerged as popular languages, especially among the Christian Levantine communities. The elite learned French at school, and used European products as a fashion statement. The use of Turkish grew steadily under the Ottomans, but, since they were still interested in their two other official languages, they kept these in use as well. Usage of these became limited, though, and specific: Persian served mainly as a literary language for the educated, while Arabic was used for religious rites.