Topic: Western Asia
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Languages of the Ottoman Empire
The language of the court and government of the Ottoman Empire was Ottoman Turkish, but many other languages were in contemporary use in parts of the empire. Although the minorities of the Ottoman Empire were free to use their language amongst themselves, if they needed to communicate with the government they had to use Ottoman Turkish.
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, Bosnia, and various Aegean Sea islands; Persian, initially used by the educated in northern portions of the Ottoman Empire before being displaced by Ottoman Turkish; and Arabic, used in southern portions of the Ottoman Empire; Arabic was spoken mainly in Arabia, North Africa, Mesopotamia 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.
Virtually all intellectual and literate pursuits were taken in Turkish language. Some ordinary people had to hire special "request-writers" (arzuhâlcis) to be able to communicate with the government. The ethnic groups continued to speak within their families and neighborhoods (mahalles) with their own languages (e.g., Jews, Greeks, Armenians, etc.) In villages where two or more populations lived together, the inhabitants would often speak each other's language. In cosmopolitan cities, people often spoke their family languages, many non-ethnic Turks spoke Turkish as a second language. Educated Ottoman Turks spoke Arabic and Persian, as these were the main foreign languages in the pre-Tanzimat era, with the former being used for science and the latter for literary affairs.
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 Ottoman Turkish for science and literature grew steadily under the Ottomans, while Persian declined in those functions. Ottoman Turkish, during the period, gained many loanwords from Arabic and Persian. Up to 88% of the vocabulary of a particular work would be borrowed from those two languages.
Linguistic groups were varied and overlapping. In the Balkan Peninsula, Slavic, Greek and Albanian speakers were the majority, but there were substantial minorities of Turks and Romance-speaking Vlachs. In most of Anatolia, Turkish was the majority language, but Greek, Armenian and, in the east and southeast, Kurdish were also spoken. In Syria, Iraq, Arabia, Egypt and north Africa, most of the population spoke varieties of Arabic with, above them, a Turkish-speaking elite. However, in no province of the Empire was there a unique language.
- "Languages of the Ottoman Empire" | 2020-02-22 | 87 Upvotes 18 Comments
Highway of Death
The Highway of Death (Arabic: طريق الموت ṭarīq al-mawt) is a six-lane highway between Kuwait and Iraq, officially known as Highway 80. It runs from Kuwait City to the border town of Safwan in Iraq and then on to the Iraqi city of Basra. The road was used by Iraqi armored divisions for the 1990 invasion of Kuwait. It was repaired after the Gulf War and used by U.S. and British forces in the initial stages of the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
During the American-led coalition offensive in the Persian Gulf War, American, Canadian, British and French aircraft and ground forces attacked retreating Iraqi military personnel attempting to leave Kuwait on the night of February 26–27, 1991, resulting in the destruction of hundreds of vehicles and the deaths of many of their occupants. Between 1,400 and 2,000 vehicles were hit or abandoned on the main Highway 80 north of Al Jahra.
The scenes of devastation on the road are some of the most recognizable images of the war, and it has been suggested that they were a factor in President George H. W. Bush's decision to declare a cessation of hostilities the next day. Many Iraqi forces successfully escaped across the Euphrates river, and the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency estimated that upwards of 70,000 to 80,000 troops from defeated divisions in Kuwait might have fled into Basra, evading capture.