The Committee for Scientific Terminology (Istılahat-ı İlmiye Encümeni, 1913-1919) and the Introduction of Modern Terms in Philosophy, Science, and Technology to TurkeyEbubekir Keklik
The modern philosophical, scientific, and technological terms used in Western languages began to enter Turkish at the end of the 18th century. The introduction of modern medicine into Turkey, the emergence of new issues in the fields of law and politics, and the translations of Western astronomical, geographical, geological, and economic works into Turkish accelerated the introduction of terms related to these sciences into Turkish. Some of these terms entered daily language through the press and textbooks. However, these terms either passed into Ottoman Turkish as they were or saw everyone coin different terms for each foreign one. These made the books translated from Western languages very difficult to read and caused various semantic problems. For this reason, the need for a common terminology in philosophy and science became one of the issues on which Ottoman intellectuals focused. This issue was formally discussed for the first time during the Second Constitutional Era. In 1913, the Istılahat-ı İlmiye Encümeni [Committee for Scientific Terminology] was established in order to find the Turkish equivalents for many scientific terms and concepts in modern philosophy, science, and technology terms. The members of the committee included eminent scientists, philosophers, and thinkers of the period such as Emrullah Efendi, Rıza Tevfik, Salih Zeki, and Ziya Gökalp. At the same time, the Committee aimed to prepare a full-fledged Turkish dictionary of scientific terms for scientific words of Western origin. The committee was active until the beginning of 1919 and published three terminology dictionaries: one on philosophy, one on the arts, and one on the general sciences, the latter included only the terms that start with the letter A.
Modern Felsefe, Bilim ve Teknoloji Terimlerinin Türkiye’ye Girişi Çerçevesinde Istılahat-ı İlmiye Encümeni (1913-1919)Ebubekir Keklik
Başta Fransızca olmak üzere, Batı dillerinde kullanılan modern felsefe, bilim ve teknoloji terimleri on sekizinci yüzyılın sonlarından itibaren Türkçeye girmeye başladı. Modern tıbbın Osmanlı ülkesine girmeye başlaması, hukuk ve siyaset alanında yeni terimlerin ortaya çıkışı, Batı dillerinde yazılan astronomi, coğrafya, jeoloji ve iktisatla ilgili eserlerin Türkçeye çevrilmesi, bu bilimlere ait terimlerin Türkçeye girişini hızlandırdı. Bu terimlerin bir kısmı basın-yayın ve ders kitapları yoluyla günlük konuşma diline de girdi. Ne var ki bu terimler Türkçeye ya aynen aktarılıyor ya da herkes yeni terimlere kendine göre bir karşılık buluyordu. Bu durum, hem Batı dillerinden tercüme edilen kitapların okunmasını çok zorlaştırıyor hem de çeşitli anlam karışıklıklarına sebep oluyordu. Bu sebeple ortak bir felsefe ve bilim diline duyulan ihtiyaç son dönem Osmanlı aydınlarının üzerinde önemle durdukları bir konu oldu. Bu konu ilk defa resmen II. Meşrutiyet döneminde ele alındı; bu dönemde doğrudan Maarif Nezareti tarafından, modern felsefe, bilim ve teknoloji terimlerine Türkçe karşılıklar bulmak ve tanımlar yapmak amacıyla 1913’te Istılahat-ı İlmiye Encümeni kuruldu. Üyeleri arasında Emrullah Efendi, Rıza Tevfik, Salih Zeki ve Ziya Gökalp gibi dönemin önde gelen bilim adamı, felsefeci ve düşünürlerinin bulunduğu Istılahat-ı İlmiye Encümeninin amacı Batı dillerinde kullanılan birçok bilimsel kavram ve terime Türkçe karşılıklar bulmak ve dört başı mamur bir Kamus-ı Istılahat hazırlamaktı. Encümen 1919 yılı başlarına kadar çalışmalarına aralıksız devam etti ve biri felsefeye, biri güzel sanatlara biri de genel bilimlere ait terimlerin bulunduğu üç farklı terimler sözlüğü yayımlandı. Sonuncusunda yalnızca A harfi ile başlayan terimler yer almaktaydı.
The modern terms in philosophy, science, and technology that are used in Western languages began to enter Turkish at the end of the 18th century. The introduction of modern medicine into Turkey, the emergence of new issues in the fields of law and politics, and the translation of Western astronomical, geographical, geological, and economic terms into Turkish accelerated the process. The intensification of relations with the West and the beginning of translations from Western languages, especially after the Tanzimat, led Ottomans to recognize many new concepts of Western origin. Some of these terms also entered daily language through the press and textbooks. However, these terms either passed into Turkish as they were, or several different terms ended up being coined in Turkish by various individuals for one individual Western term. These made the books translated from Western languages very difficult to read and caused a number of semantic problems. For this reason, the need for a common philosophical and scientific language became one of the issues on which Ottoman intellectuals focused. This issue was formally discussed for the first time during the Second Constitutional Era. In 1913, the Istılahat-ı İlmiye Encümeni [Committee for Scientific Terminology] was established in order to decide how to find the Turkish equivalents for the many new terms and concepts in modern philosophy, science, and technology.
The Committee for Scientific Terminology was established within the Ministry of Education under the chairmanship of Emrullah Efendi, a former Minister of Education. The Committee had to focus on coining Turkish terms related to fine arts, science, and technology, especially areas related to philosophy. According to the third article of the Committee’s regulations, the following branches of science were to be focused on for coining Turkish terms: philosophy, mathematics, physics, history, geography, natural sciences, medical sciences, law, politics, linguistics, military arts, navigation, literature, art, music, agriculture, engineering, technology, mechanical engineering, mining engineering, and industry. Experts from all branches of science took place on the Committee as members based on their fields of expertise.
In the beginning, the committee met once a week in the Darülfünun [University] library, with members being paid one lira for each meeting. In addition, a bonus of half a lira would be paid to members for each chapter published. The committee met every two weeks after 1917. Changes in members of the committee were observed to occur over time for various reasons. The chairman of the committee was elected by a secret election among the members. One of three members who received the most votes in the secret election was appointed by the Minister of Education as the chairman of the committee. Members who did not attend three consecutive meetings were deemed to have resigned, and new members were appointed according to their fields of expertise.
According to Rıza Tevfik, a member of the Committee for Scientific Terminology, the committee’s aim was to find Turkish equivalents for many scientific concepts and terms used in developed languages and to prepare a dictionary for Turkish scientific terms.
The committee examined ancient works in order to determine whether pre-existing Turkish equivalents could be found for the terms of Western origin. The members of the committee grew in number over time, with new members also joining the committee based on their field of expertise. The committee also endeavored to find terms regarding the military arts and religious sciences. The studies the Committee for Scientific Terminology carried out should also be noted to involve important steps that were taken toward creating a common scientific language in Turkey. However, the results expected from the committee’s work were not obtained, and no common scientific language could be established.
The Committee for Scientific Terminology continued its work without interruption until the beginning of 1919 and published three glossaries: one for philosophy, one for the arts, and one for general science. Why the committee did not publish other glossaries than the ones mentioned above is unclear. However, the committee members were known to be experts in all branches of science and to have deliberated on how to determine the scientific terms. The work of the committee officially ended on March 16, 1919.
The Committee for Scientific Terminology prepared the following three dictionaries: a dictionary of philosophy terms; a dictionary of art terms, and a dictionary of general science terms including only those starting with the letter A.