WASHINGTON—The State Department has complied with the Turkish government’s request to change its official spelling and pronunciation of the country’s name to Türkiye, weeks before an anticipated visit to Washington by the country’s foreign minister.
The State Department had been a holdout within the U.S. government after other departments and agencies, including the White House, made the change several months ago.
On Thursday, the State Department released a statement announcing joint action by the U.S. and Türkiye—rather than the anglicized version, Turkey—to disrupt financing to the Islamic State militant group. Spokesman
later said the decision had been taken to accommodate Ankara’s preference.
“The Turkish embassy did request that we use this spelling in our communications,” Mr. Price said. “This is a change that was, as is always the case, approved by the U.S. Board on Geographic Names. It did approve the change of the spelling. This is a process.”
The Turkish Embassy in Washington didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
In April, Turkish President
Recep Tayyip Erdogan
asked the international community to recognize his nation by its traditional, Turkish-language name, spelled Türkiye and pronounced tour-key-yeh. His government promoted the shift as an effort to instill national pride—and silence associations with the Thanksgiving bird and pejorative uses of the word turkey.
Only one State Department statement issued from Washington used the term, a Sept. 10 reference to a visit to Türkiye by Rashad Hussain, U.S. ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom. Statements that followed reverted to the anglicized version, Turkey, even as all other U.S. agencies remained consistent in their use of Türkiye.
Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu is scheduled to visit Washington later this month as the U.S. looks to work with Turkey, a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, on a range of pressing national security issues. They include the war in Ukraine, the global food crisis and Turkey’s ongoing tensions with Kurdish groups in Syria.
Mr. Price said the State Department’s large size often prompts delays in the adoption of such changes and that the agency will henceforth use Türkiye in most formal diplomatic and bilateral contexts, including in public communications.
“The conventional name can also be used if it is in furtherance of broader public understanding,” Mr. Price said.
The Board on Geographic Names, a government body within the Department of Interior tasked with establishing and maintaining uniform usage of geographic names, will continue to use both Turkey and Republic of Turkey since they are more widely understood by the American public, Mr. Price said.
While many countries throughout history have changed their names, the request by the government in Ankara was unusual. It involves the difference between what linguists call the exonym—the name for a place or thing in other languages, and the endonym—the local name.
Mr. Erdogan’s government didn’t change Turkey’s name but instead demanded countries use the Turkish spelling and pronunciation rather than render the name in their own languages.
Most U.S. media organizations, including The Wall Street Journal, continue to spell the country’s name the anglicized way.
Write to Vivian Salama at [email protected]
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