Who Declared Turkish the Official Language in the Era of the Seljuqs of Rum?
Keywords: Sultanate of Rum, Turkish, Official Language, History, Turkey
Accompanying recent occasions of the formal observance on 13 May of the adoption of Turkish as the official language of the Republic of Turkey have been misleading statements that award the honor of the designation of Turkish as the official tongue to Qaramanid Mehmed Beg (r. 1261-78). This attribution has occurred both in the printed and broadcast media in connection with the celebration of the "Language Holiday" and appears in textbooks. This being the case, we should inquire into how this circumstance arose or who formulated this assertion. The present writer holds that this interpretation was first suggested by the late Professor Emeritus Fuad Köprülü. Subsequently, a number of contributors-whether historian or linguist-on the subject of Turkish as the official language of the Republic of Turkey has concurred in this view. To this end, a review of the Seljuqid primary sources is in order to gain a closer understanding of the actual situation. Neither Aksarayî nor the Persian Seljuqnâme of unknown authorship nor the History of Shikâri contains any information to this effect. Alone among all the contemporary and later scholars who refer to this event is Ibn Bibi, an eyewitness observer of the Seljuq period. In his work titled "El-Evamirü'l-Alâ'iye Fi'l-Umur il-Alâ'iye," Ibn Bibî touches on the subject of this decision. But, the name of Qaramanid Mehmed Beg fails to appear in his account. According to Ibn Bibî, the Seljuqid council of state as a body was responsible for the decision that Turkish should be declared the official language. Thus, it seems appropriate that this misapprehension be corrected to reflect the fact that the decision to make Turkish the official language was actually taken by the Seljuqid council of state.