The apple of my eye…

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“This is Allah’s gift” these were the first words the doctor uttered to me in her Dubai surgery. She was wearing a big smile on her face and showing me the sac in the scan. Yes I was pregnant and what made this all the more special was that I received this news on Mother’s day- 11 May, 2014- according to Turkey’s calender. After such a long and exciting journey our prince Mehmet Osman (and first child) was born in January, 2015, in London (same city and borough I was born in). He is already 3 months now and still it has not hit me that I am a mum; despite those sleepless nights. It’s the most challenging, yet rewarding experience in my life. He truly is the apple of our eye and so much wish we had met him long ago. We love him to bits. Raising a child is, I know, no easy task. By default I want him to stand on his own feet and be well educated, but what I want most is for him is to be loving, caring, and merciful to all creations of Allah; that includes humans and animals.  I don’t want him to ever hurt anyone’s feelings and always live with dignity. There’s so much more I want for him and all children…all the very best…

So yes he is indeed Allah’s most beautiful gift and am cherishing every moment with him and feeding him with my endless love.

As a linguist, raising a child is all the more exciting, as I work closely in the areas of child language development and multilingualism. My son has started to giggle and babble but I can’t wait to hear his first syllables and words. Research has shown that children develop their perceptual skills in their mum’s womb and hence perception precedes production. This is why I try to speak in both English and Turkish and vary my intonation when speaking to him. I am an advocate of Cummins’ Linguistic Interdependence Hypothesis, which in principle holds that first language attainment is a prerequisite for second language attainment. One can think of this as the iceberg analogy (Cummin’s Iceberg theory); you can not feed or understand the surface level by neglecting the underlying level. Only with this accomplishment can one navigate between different languages or cultures. So I am hoping my child will be raised as a bilingual, biliterate, bicultural, bipalatal (something I coined) child, and and and very importantly I also hope he will be biscriptal. I am not biscriptal as I can only read and write in the latin/Roman alphabet (e.g. English, Turkish and German). There seems to be this rooted misconception, however, that the Turkish language uses the Arabic script, but in fact it uses the Roman script. During the Ottoman Empire, Ottoman Turkish used the Arabic alphabet, with Persian additions. However, in 1928, following the fall of the Ottoman Empire and the establishment of Republic of Turkey, the “new language” reform introduced by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk replaced the Arabic alphabet with the Latin one and many Persian and Arabic origin loanwords in the language were replaced with their Turkish equivalents. To keep a long story short, I would like my child to also learn different scripts, let it be Arabic, Cyrillic, Greek, etc. All of this, of course, needs to be accomplished before the critical age.

Having said all this, I guess this also explains why I haven’t been on this site for some time. I will try to update you all whenever time permits. In particular, I will report on my son’s language development. If you are interested in collecting naturalistic and longitudinal data your child could be your best resource. Prominent examples of such case studies in child phonology include Smith’s (1973) child Amahl, and Gnanadesikan’s (2004) child Gitanjali. These studies have provided invaluable data which has enhanced our understanding in the area of phonological development. I hope Mehmet Osman will also be a useful resource for those working in child language development in the same way as Amahl and Gitanjali. Mehmet will showcase examples of developmental biliteracy, phonetics and phonology.

Last but not least, I would also like to share some essential information about the origin of my son’s name. You can, I confess, become very fussy with names, especially if you are a linguist and never thought it would be such a challenge.  My husband is a software engineer, so I thought he wouldn’t be fussy as myself, but yes dads can be fussy with names too! It was also my father’s decision to name me Yasemin, so there you go. I am grateful that my name is an international name and comes in various forms- Yasemin, Yasmin, Jasmine, etc. Likewise, my son’s name had to be: traditional, not too funky, no umlauts (yes Turkish names have umlauts), Arabic or Turkish origin, and meaningful. The naming task became all the more difficult when I realized that I and my husband was unable to find a mutual name we BOTH liked. It was therefore my decision that we name our son after our fathers- this way we met in the middle and his name was deeply rooted and meaningful. Mehmet is my father’s name and his middle name, Osman, is my father-in-law’s name. In the Gulf region, Mehmet is mistakenly confused with Mohammed/Muhammed. Mehmet is the Turkishized version of Muhammed but in present-day Turkey its meaning has changed and now means ‘soldier’. My father was initially named as ‘Muhammet’ but back in those days you were not allowed to name your child after prophet Mohammad (s.a.a.w), as it was considered as a sacred holy name, so can understand why through time it was Turkishized. Now in present-day-Turkey Muhammet and Mehmet are used as separate names. Osman, is also of Arabic origin and means ‘honest’ and ‘sincere’. Othman I (Osman) is also who founded the Ottoman Empire and the Ottoman dynasty that ruled Turkey after the 13th century; conquered most of Asia Minor and assumed the title of emir in 1299 (1259-1326). This is why we speak of the Ottoman (derived from Osman) Empire.

As of now I will continue to update you all from this site on a more regular basis, not only as a linguist, but also as a proud mother.

Best wishes,

Yasemin

References

Cummins, J. 1979. Linguistic interdependence and the educational development of bilingual children. Review of Educational Research, 49, 222-251.

Gnanadesikan, A. 2004. Markedness and faithfulness constraints in child phonology. In: René Kager, Joe Pater and Wim Zonneveld (eds.), Constraints in Phonological Acquisition, 73-108. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Smith, N.V. 1973. The Acquisition of Phonology: A Case Study. Cambridge University Press.

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