In his study of Ottoman poetry, what struck Gibb from the outset was how distant written Ottoman Turkish, both literary and non-literary, was from the spoken language and from the early language of thirteenth-century Asia Minor and Central Asia. After leaving university and devoting himself entirely to the study of Persian and Turkish, he began publishing translations of Turkish prose and poetry. Any student of Turkish soon realizes how much Turkish has changed in the last 150, and particularly in the last eighty, years. In Western works, the changes are referred to as the language reforms – revolution would be more accurate. No sooner were the Ottomans masters of Constantinople than they began to produce literature; at first poetry and eventually prose. The prose, like the poetry, looked to Persia not only for models but for its vocabulary and indeed whole phrases. The following is a portion of Turkish prose from the sixteenth century. The Turkish elements (in italics) are drowning in a mass of Persian and Arabic:
Çun sani’-i sana’i’-i beda’i’-i umur-i kulliyat ve mudevvir-i deva’ir eflaki tibak-i seb’a-i semavat ve kassam-i erzak-i murtezikat-i mevcudat, suradikat-i kibab-i gayb ve seraperde-i mukaddere-i la-reybden bir vaz’- i pesendide vu ma’kul ve bir eser-i sayeste vu makbul zuhura geturub
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