Almanca Tuhfe/Deutsches Geschenk (1916): The Only Versified Turkish-German Dictionary

with an Introduction on Versified Dictionaries as Coursebooks

by Güler Dogan Averbek (Author) Harald Bichlmeier (Author)
Monographs 258 Pages

Table Of Content

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Acknowledgments
  • Contents
  • Introduction
  • Part I
  • 1. Versified dictionaries as coursebooks
  • 1.1 Using versified texts in education
  • 1.2 The emergence of the genre of versified dictionaries
  • 1.3 Using versified dictionaries in education
  • Part II
  • 2. The Turkish-German versified dictionary Almanca Tuhfe/Deutsches Geschenk [The Gift of German]
  • 2.1 Why did the Ottomans need this dictionary?
  • 2.2 Almanca Tuhfe/Deutsches Geschenk
  • 2.3 On the Aljamiado literature
  • 2.4 Structure and content of the Almanca Tuhfe/Deutsches Geschenk
  • 2.5 Metrics
  • 2.6 On the lexicon
  • 2.7 The system of transliteration for German words in Almanca Tuhfe/Deutsches Geschenk
  • 2.7.1 German-Arabic correspondences
  • 2.7.2 Further ‘spelling rules’
  • Geminates
  • Cw-clusters
  • Cl-clusters
  • Other clusters
  • The spelling of /e/
  • Other general rules
  • Homographic words
  • Words with spelling variants
  • Part III
  • 3. Text and Facsimile of Almanca Tuhfe/Deutsches Geschenk
  • 3.1 Notes on the edition
  • 3.2 Edition and Facsimile
  • 4. Word index
  • 4.1 Turkish-German index
  • 4.2 German-Turkish index
  • References

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Versified dictionaries are bilingual/multilingual dictionaries written in verse form to teach essential words in any foreign language. In Islamic culture, such dictionaries were produced to teach Arabic to the young generations of Muslim communities whose native language was other than Arabic. Over time, many bilingual/multilingual versified dictionaries were written in various languages throughout the Islamic world.

Versified dictionaries were written in the carūḍ meter1 according to tradition and usually composed of three parts. Muqaddima, the first part, always starts with the basmala (which indicates the key formula of Islam, “In the name of God, the Beneficent, the Merciful”), followed by the ḥamdala (the saying of the formula al-ḥamdu li’llāh, “All praise is due to God alone”) and the ṣalwala (a phrase containing the salutation upon the prophet of Islam),2 and ending with the sabab-i naẓm (i.e., the reason for writing the poem). In this part, the poet, while listing the reasons for writing, talks about many topical issues ranging from the sources explored to the problems in previous versified dictionaries. Here he tells how the work has been created, and generally mentions the dictionary’s name alongside his.3 Generally, the poet here also tries to explain his methodology together with the reasons and sometimes the numbering used in the work. They generally use the same numbers from one to nine to indicate equivalence in the languages of the dictionary.

←11 | 12→

The second part of the dictionary consists of many staves. The number of staves depends on the poet. The baḥrs, the meter groups of carūḍ, and the meters of the staves are independent of each other. Each stave’s meter, akin to the style of Farāḥī who pioneered this form of dictionary in Persian-Arabic, is repeated in a line, and sometimes the remaining part of the couplet indicates the baḥr and technical characteristics of the meter. Usually, the couplet (sometimes two couplets) that comes immediately before or after the metered couplet generally includes some advice. Using Farāḥī’s style, this couplet contains statements like that of bards, and in dictionaries they reflect an account that offers advice, generally religious in nature. The educational mission of the dictionary genre is strengthened this way.4 The main objective of this practice is to overcome monotony.5

Nevertheless, some versified dictionaries classify the staves in the second section, which contain the words and their explanations, according to their rhymes in alphabetical order.6 We have seen only one single example among the versified dictionaries to classify the words alphabetically.7 Furthermore, most versified dictionaries do not arrange their staves according to topic. However, despite being a rare instance, poets may try to be careful about such a distinction in certain works.8

The last part, called the ḫātima [epilogue], informs the reader about the end of the dictionary. This section again mentions the name of the dictionary, and the book ends with prayers and dates.9

While the first and third parts of versified dictionaries are written in the maṯnawī form (a poem written in rhyming couplets), the second part is generally written in the qaṣīda form.10

←12 | 13→

One important issue with these dictionaries is their use as a tool in education. These books were used as coursebooks, especially in elementary schools. Although the main objective of such dictionaries is to educate small children, the poets wished adults to use their dictionaries as well. Other examples of such dictionaries also exist that were written with different intentions. Some of these texts, which do not include Arabic or Persian, were primarily written for other purposes. In the last chapter of Tuhfetü’l-Uşşâk (1815),11 a Turkish-Greek versified dictionary, Ahmed Fevzî (19th cent.) wrote that his work is for the fame and fun of his friends:

Alup hâme ele Fevzî didüm târîhini böyle

Murâdum bu bula şöhret ola yârâna eglence12

“Lo, I, Fevzî, take pen in hand and write its date; my desire being that this book catch on and become enjoyment for friends!”

In Makbûl-i ‘Ârif (1631–32),13 which is known as the only Turkish-Bosnian versified dictionary, Muhammed Hevâ’î (1601–51) talks about his desire to write a never-considered booklet.14 In Dürre-i Manzûme (1835),15 a Turkish-Albanian versified dictionary, the poet Mahmud (according to the dictionary, probably an Albanian soldier in the 19th-century Ottoman army) states in the explanation of the reasons for writing the work that Ottoman soldiers serving in Shkodra/Skutari did not speak Albanian nor did the locals speak Turkish.

During the Ottoman era, the language selection for versified dictionaries is undoubtedly directly related to cultural interaction. For this reason, changes in the parties of cultural communication can be traced through such dictionaries. ←13 | 14→According to Yûsuf Hâlis Efendi (d. 1882), the poet of the Turkish-French versified dictionary, French was en vogue at that time. It had become an obligation to study foreign sciences, and French being the language of education, learning it was required.16

Before writing a versified dictionary, poets study previously written works, benefitting from previous ones, prose dictionaries, or the main literary texts of the Islamic civilization when choosing their words.17 There are muqaddimas which include madḥiya and munāǧāt sections as well.18

When these dictionaries are investigated, Tuhfe-i Şâhidî, which has the formal characteristics of Niṣāb al-Ṣibyān, clearly appears as a dictionary that acted as an example with its form for those who produce such dictionaries in the Turkish literature. Tuhfe-i Şâhidî was influential in developing this kind of dictionary for Persian and other languages, and most of the time their poets acknowledged this.19 Therefore, arguing that Mawlawīs, who had a prolonged effect on Anatolia for centuries, served as a driving power in producing these dictionaries would not be a mistake. The most famous example after Şâhidî is Sünbülzâde Vehbî, who wrote two books in this form.

Their sizes also vary. The smallest versified dictionary in size belongs to the Albanian poet Nezim Frakulla, who wrote poems under the pseudonym Nazîm. ←14 | 15→This Turkish-Albanian versified dictionary contains only 10 couplets.20 Another small-sized dictionary is Tuhfe-i Mukaddimetü’l-Luga of Halîmî, which has 84 couplets in 4 staves and contains the Turkish meanings of 250 Persian words.21 On the other hand, the longest versified dictionary is Nûbihara Mezinan of Dilbikulé Cizîrî, which has 3,297 couplets and Kurdish matches for 8,268 Turkish words.22 As these examples indicate, the number of words included in versified dictionaries quite varies in parallel with their size. Apart from rare exceptions, poets do not announce how many words they place in their works.

Versified dictionaries have a significant position in lexicology, educational sciences, and children’s literature and involve a research field that deserves attention with utmost care. These dictionaries, which were actively used in the Ottoman educational institutions and special education activities and taught in the vocabulary information as one of the most required courses of the education system, did not, however, get the attention they deserved in earlier academic studies.23

Versified dictionaries are not written for finding the meaning of a word and, hence, do not serve this purpose. Unlike prose dictionaries, versified dictionaries are not reference books. The main objective of versified dictionaries is to help students improve their vocabulary in a foreign language by building upon the advantages of poetry.

One of the biggest problems for the poets of versified dictionaries is the necessity for meter and rhyme. Due to these, the poet may not provide the meaning for a word in the way he wants. According to what we infer from our examinations of the texts, this is one of the reasons why versified dictionaries include archaic words in terms of their age. When the authors get stuck looking for an archaic word, feel anxious about archaic words being misunderstood, or have metrical concerns, the poets can sometimes be observed to provide matches for the target language among well-known Arabic or Persian words instead of Turkish ones.

Poets in the versified dictionary tradition can sometimes be seen to write supplements for overcoming insufficiencies/mistakes or for completing their versified dictionaries.24 In addition, commentaries are written for some versified dictionaries in order to clarify incoherent issues in later periods. Discoveries of various versified dictionary collections in some libraries containing multiple ←15 | 16→versified dictionaries demonstrate that these pieces have been compiled for different purposes of use. As some versified dictionaries became admired, parallels were also written for them, with some dictionaries being additionally redressed.25 After the extensive use of the press, the most popular versified dictionaries were printed several times and also used as coursebooks. This is demonstrated by the fact that the most popular book in published lithography was Tuhfe-i Vehbî, with Sübha-i Sıbyân being a popular second.26


1 This metered system had been developed by Arabs since pre-Islamic times and was systematized by al-Ḫalīl b. Aḥmad. It is based on harmonious sequences of long or short, closed or open syllables in poetry. It has been transferred to the literature of other nations, including Persian and Turkish literatures, and had been widely used throughout the Islamic world up to the 20th century. For further information, cf. Çetin 1991, 424–437.

2 In Islamic culture, starting from the 9th century, the muqaddima became an independent part and developed a stereotyped form. For detailed information, cf. Freimark 1960 [2002], 495–496; Durmuş 2006, 115–117.

3 Cf. Doğan Averbek 2019, 69–70. As one of the remarkable names in the versified dictionary tradition with his Turkish-Arabic, Turkish-Persian and Turkish-Arabic-Persian dictionaries, Osmân Şâkir provides valuable information in his muqaddimas about the methods he applied in his works while criticizing the others. For details, cf. Özkan 2013, 428–462.

4 Cf. Doğan Averbek 2019, 71.

5 Cf. Aksoy 1959a, 218.

6 For instance Doğan 2016; Yûsuf Hâlis 2006; Halil İbrahim Yakar 2009; Osman Şâkir Bozokî 2014; Tanyıldız 2013; Düzenli 2015; Gözitok 2016; Boran 2016; Nazmü’l-Cevâhir.

7 For this method which is very difficult, the poet says he excluded 8 letters which are not present in Persian. He delimited the letters and stated that he used this method not to cause difficulty in finding a word (for the text see Turan 2012, 2951; Eken 2015).

8 For example in Tuhfetü’l-Hâfız, the sections are classified according to the conjugations and their topics (for the text see Düzenli 2015, 338–363).

9 Cf. Doğan Averbek 2019, 71–72.

10 This issue has not been clarified yet. Some scholars consider the number of couplets and conclude that the staves are written in ġazal or qaṣīda, while other researchers concentrate on the rhymes only. However, looking at the history of the qaṣīda form in Arabic poetry, it seems that the number of couplets is not a determining issue. Consequently, the point is to qualify poems with the aa, xa, or xa rhymes frequently applied in such staves as the qaṣīda form (cf. Doğan Averbek 2019, 69). For further information on qaṣīda, cf. Elmalı 2001, 562–564.

11 For a list of Turkish-Greek versified dictionaries, see Doğan Averbek 2018a, 110–111. The text of this one has not yet been studied entirely, but there are three different studies on it by same scholar: cf. Ölker 2004; Ölker 2005; Ölker 2009, 856–872.

12 Cf. Ölker 2009, 861.

13 Because it is considered as the first dictionary which uses the term “Bosnian”, this versified dictionary is the most studied one that has Turkish as one of the languages. It is also worth mentioning that it is the first text studied among this kind of text (cf. Blau 1868). Up to now, there are more than 25 works on it (for a bibliographic list see Doğan Averbek 2018a, 99–101).

14 Cf. Hevai 2001, [np].

15 For a detailed list of Turkish-Albanian versified dictionaries, see Doğan Averbek 2018b, 226–227.

16 Cf. Güleç/Doğan Averbek 2019, 68.

17 Maybe Aynî is the one providing the most abundant information about this subject. While compiling the words in Nazmü’l-Cevâhir, he claims to take advantage of previous sources (for the aforementioned couplet please see Aksoy 1959b, 13). In Kân-ı Ma’ânî, Hasan Rızâyî indicates that he used the words from Tuhfe-i Şâhidî, and he picked words from Uknûm-ı Acem (cf. Turan 2012, 2951; Düzenli 2015, 338). It is apparent that Dürrî makes use of Nuhbe-i Vehbî and Tuhfe-i Vehbî in Güher-rîz (cf. Selçuk/Algül 2015, 151–152). Çelebizâde Ali İlmî says he makes use of Mütercim Âsım Efendi’s Burhān-ı Qāṭic translation and Şeyhülislâm Es’ad Efendi’s Lehcetü’l-Lugat dictionary (cf. Gözitok 2016, 140–141). Abdülmezîdzâde Hâfız Efendi states that he knows the works of Şâhidî, Ferişteoğlu and Şeyh Ahmed; and he indicates that he benefitted from Cevherî’s dictionary and Ahterî-i Kebîr (cf. Yakar 2009, 1008). Sünbülzâde Vehbî indicates that he reviewed around 120 dictionaries prior to preparing Nuhbe-i Vehbî (for this couplet please see Civelek 2000, 288–289). Şâhidî states he read many versified dictionaries including Tuhfe-i Hüsâm when he was young (cf. Kılıç 2007c, 518). Ahmed Resmî indicates that he read and taught many dictionaries (cf. Kaya 2017, 129). On the other hand, in Manzûme-i Keskin, Mustafâ b. Osmân Keskin says he first memorised Tuhfe-i Şâhidî, and then he read some dictionaries (cf. Mustafa b. Osman Keskin 2009, 37).

18 For munāǧāt see Osman Şâkir Bozokî 2014, 32–33; Ayar 2016, 50–51.

19 For example see Düzenli 2015, 338–363.

20 Cf. Doğan Averbek 2018b, 227.

21 For the text see Kaçar 2017, 131–146; Kaplan 2017, 213–236.

22 For detailed information, see Ertekin 2017, 89–106.

23 Trushke (2012, 636) argues that the same situation exists in Sanskrit-Persian versified dictionaries as well.

24 For detailed information see Ölker 2013, 2014.

25 For the redressed example see Öztürk 2012, 197–220.

26 Cf. Kahraman 2011, 145.

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1. Versified dictionaries as coursebooks

Abstract: Part I of our work examines the history of bilingual/multilingual versified dictionaries in the Turkish literature, starting with the first versified dictionaries. This part will review the early Turkish versified dictionaries with emphasis on the history of versified dictionaries in the Islamic and Turkish literatures, discussing the contributions versified dictionaries made to the Ottoman education system. Part I will additionally address the relationship between versified dictionaries and the urǧūza style in Arabic literature and provide information about the first and last versified dictionaries.

Keywords: bilingual/multilingual versified dictionaries, Turkish literature, urdjuza, foreign language teaching

Long before the Arabs began to write dictionaries, different cultures such as the Greeks in the West and the Indians and Chinese in the East saw the tradition of writing dictionaries come into existence. Just as is the case in many other fields of knowledge, studies in the field of dictionaries started after the rise of Islam among the Arabs. Everything that appeared is apparently a response to a need. Scholarly studies after the adoption of Islam began for protecting, understanding better, and teaching the Qur’ān, the holy book of Islam. According to general opinion, language studies were first conducted by Abu al-Aswad al-Du’alī for the sake of protecting the orthography and icrāb of the Holy Qur’ān to prevent it from being misunderstood. Studies continued in the forms of “Ġarā’ib al-Qur’ān” and “Ġarā’ib al-Aḥādiṯ”, which explained the words that pose a challenge in understanding or that are foreign in the Qur’ān and in quotes from the Prophet. Kitābu Ġarīb al-Qur’ān, written by Ibn cAbbās is considered to be the first dictionary of the Arabic language and aimed at explaining the difficult-to-understand words mentioned in the Qur’ān. While such works were carried out, the meanings of the words mentioned in the Qur’ān that are hard to understand for native Arabic speakers were sought in the Bedouin and old Arabic languages; as a result, linguistic studies were conducted hand in hand with the literary tradition from the very beginning.

In the non-native Arabic speaking societies that adopted Islam, Arabic education appeared necessary for understanding and teaching the Qur’ān. In addition, as Qur’ānic studies were also in Arabic, one of the first lessons taught in educational institutions in such societies was on Arabic. Furthermore, the translation ←19 | 20→of books into Arabic from different cultures increased the perceived necessity for non-Arabic Muslims to learn Arabic.

Repeating and memorizing are known to have an important part in the tradition of Islamic education. Books containing the subjects the students need to learn are prepared in poetical form (i.e. rhymes and meter) so the student can easily memorize it regardless of length. In societies whose native language is not Arabic, bilingual versified dictionaries are primarily used in teaching the language to convey knowledge of the vocabulary. Investigating when versified texts started to be used in education needs to occur before looking at the emergence of versified dictionaries in Islamic civilization.

1.1 Using versified texts in education

Being the source of the carūḍ, as systematized by al-Ḫalīl, raǧaz is the name of an carūḍ baḥr, and a folkloric poetic form.27 Although we do not know when it emerged, it is derived from poetic statements in the pre-Islamic age. According to one perspective, all poems in the Arabic literature indeed have the form of raǧaz (i.e., short stanzas), and this type was transformed into qaṣīdas by Muhalhil and Imru’ al-Qays during the reign of Hāšim ibn cAbd Manāf.28 According to Goldziher, the field where raǧaz is used extends in time to cover fighting an enemy, insulting him, or organizing call and response duets.29 In the pre-Islamic Arabic literature, the raǧaz is improvised for daily occurrences. During the Umayyad period, with the support of the caliphates, its form turned into long poems of the qaṣīda form, called urǧūza. The first person to create an example of urǧūza by extending the raǧaz is accepted as al-Aġlab al-cIǧlī, a Muḫadramūn poet. On the other hand, al-cAǧǧaǧ is the poet most influential in developing urǧūza into the qaṣīda form.30

Under the Umayyads, grammar studies began to simplify the teaching and understanding of the Holy Qur’ān in new Muslim societies that did not speak Arabic and helped preserve the Arabic language. As a significant development in this period, the didactic rhymed texts called taclīmī poems started to be composed in the urǧūza form. In the Umayyad period, the urǧūzas concentrated on recording the words used by Bedouin Arabs. In the Abbasid period in which more readable texts are seen, urǧūza became an important type used for didactic ←20 | 21→poems. Most consist of rhymed muzdaviǧ couplets, which became the source of maṯnawīs according to some scholars.31

According to Tuzcu, various difficulties occurred in teaching the books that had been prepared in the first centuries of Islam, and methods were investigated to simplify learning for the students.

As a consequence, didactic urǧūzas were composed from rhymed couplets, as this was thought to be easier for memorizing than prose texts. In the education field, urǧūzas were first prepared on language and grammar topics, and later on they started to appear in almost all fields, from religious disciplines to positive sciences.32 The most famous didactic urǧūzas are the Alfiya of Ibn Mālik explaining Arabic grammar, al-Muqaddima of al-Ǧazarī, which is about taǧwīd, and Tuḥfat al-Ḥukkām of Ibn Āṣim which discusses the Maliki fiqh.33

For Arabs, who have a tradition rooted in poetry, the urǧūza form refers to the poems in the raǧaz baḥr of the carūḍ prosody. Later on, this scope extended to cover the works in different baḥrs, which were prepared for memorization and were about the positive and religious sciences in the Islamic tradition.34 The reason why raǧaz was chosen in memorable texts is attributed to the metrical convenience of this baḥr.35


Poetic books have been used for centuries in the tradition of Islamic education. Namely, it benefits from the quality rhymed and metered texts have of easily being remembered, aiming for students to easily acquire information using texts of this type, as well as for the information to permanently stay in the student’s memory. The area covered by the versified dictionaries that had begun being written for children whose native language was not Arabic for the purpose of better understanding the Qur’an, the sacred book of Islam, expanded over time, and versified dictionaries were written in various languages for various reasons. The work presented in this study for the fi rst time to the scientific world through an academic perspective is Almanca Tuhfe/Deutsches Geschenk (The Gift of German), which was published in Istanbul in 1916.


ISBN (Book)
Publication date
2021 (January)
Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien, 2020. 258 pp., 1 fig. b/w, 1 tables.

Biographical notes

Güler Dogan Averbek (Author) Harald Bichlmeier (Author)

Güler Dog˘an Averbek graduated from Bog˘aziçi University. She holds an MA from Bog˘aziçi University and a PhD from Marmara University. She has conducted research, particularly in the area of Turkish classical literature. Between 2000 and 2013, she worked as a researcher at the Research Centre for Islamic History, Art and Culture (OIC-IRCICA). Now she is a faculty member at Istanbul Medeniyet University. Harald Bichlmeier studied at the universities at Würzburg and Prague, got his Dr.phil. from the University of Würzburg and his habilitation from the University Halle-Wittenberg. Since 1998, he has held positions in several university departments and worked in various projects at academies and universities. Since 2009, he has been the co-author of the Etymological Dictionary of Old High German (Saxonian Academy of Sciences).


Title: Almanca Tuhfe/Deutsches Geschenk (1916): The Only Versified Turkish-German Dictionary