I recently discovered that the Russian informal phone greeting, алё, precisely coincides with the Turkish one. When you hear "алё," you absolutely cannot tell whether it is a Russian or a Turk who is answering. I am unable to spot even a slightest difference in the pronunciation.

If you never heard how Turks answer the phone, just watch the last few seconds of this video: https://youtu.be/923YxvQiJ1I?t=189 . Isn't the coincidence with the Russian алё striking?

My question is this: How come the Russian and Turkish informal phone greetings precisely coincide? Not only the word, but also the exact pronunciation.

I tried to find an answer in Google, but found only the following two things:

(1) The French have a more or less similar phone greeting, allô. You can hear it here: https://youtu.be/i77tOWettrI?t=14 . As compared to the Russian greeting, the French version has a harder л and a shorter ё, which is also less stressed than in Russian.

(2) The formal Russian phone greeting, алло, seems closer to the German phone greeting Hallo than to the French allô. The Russian double л in алло sounds like the English double l in hello and very different from the soft single л in алё.

It seems possible that the Russians started with алло and then themselves developed алё as an informal greeting, not borrowing it from French, or borrowed the informal алё from Turkish. After all, many Turkic people live in Russia, especially the Azerbaijani people, who have cultural and business ties with Turkey. Many Russians regularly spend their vacations in Turkey.

I am curious whether the Russians developed алё themselves (from алло) and, if not, where they borrowed алё from - French or Turkish.

  • 2
    the French voice pronounced it almost like алю, the Turkish one is identical to Russian May 27 '19 at 19:38
  • @БаянКупи-ка Yes, clearly different from алё. At least I would be able to tell whether it is a Russian or French who is answering.
    – Mitsuko
    May 27 '19 at 19:39
  • 2
    How did the Turks get this precise greeting sound, anyway? Maybe THEY borrowed it from Russian? (a ridiculous suggestion, but [sorry] exactly as ridiculous as your question) May 28 '19 at 0:20
  • 1
    Can anyone explain why this question has been downvoted?
    – Mihail
    May 29 '19 at 11:37
  • 1
    @mihail: probably because op's speculations about the reasons resemble folk linguistics.
    – Quassnoi
    May 29 '19 at 16:04

All of such 'phone greetings' are adaptations of the German or English Hallo/Hello/Hullo to the local phonetics. Typically it comes from where the technology was adopted. I can't trace its exact history in Russian, but almost certainly both the Russians and Turks (and most other peoples who use it) got it from the same source. (And if there was a link, it would be more likely the other way round, i.e. Turks borrowing from Russians - with the technology itself).

The fact that it morphed to the same sounds simply suggests that these few sounds are very similar in these two languages, and/or traditionally heard/translated the same way. For example, the final [ou] is uncommon in both, and is simply rendered as [o].

Besides, "алло" is not a formal version of "алё", although it does sound a bit more 'proper'. It's rather personal preference: some people say this way and some that. The formal one is an extended greeting like "Фирма 'Рога и копыта', здравствуйте" or "Андрей Васильевич у телефона, слушаю вас".

  • Why would the Turks get it from Russian? Russia hardly had any technological or cultural influence over Turkey at the time phones were introduced. Germany would be a reasonable common source: I believe first Russian phone systems were made by Siemens, and wouldn't be surprised if it were the same way in Turkey. May 28 '19 at 1:02
  • 1
    @Ivan, of course, and I stated that; it's just that if we were bound to choose a direct link between Turks and Russians (as the question supposes), it would more likely be Russian->Turkish than the opposite in this case. Simply because at that time, Russia was somewhat technologically more advanced between the two.
    – Zeus
    May 28 '19 at 1:11
  • well, luckily we are not bound to choose between two equally improbable options :) Actually, it seems like Turkish has much more French loan words than German ones, so the fact that its variant of "hello" sounds closer to French might be not a coincidence. May 28 '19 at 1:20
  • @IvanMilyakov: words get borrowed all the time in the most strange ways. For instance, Russian has the word папаха for a certain type of hat, which is a Turkic loanword, while Turkish for "hat" is şapka, which is a Slavic loanword, and most probably a Russian one too. So whether the borrowing from Turkish is possible and whether it's probable are two different questions with two different answers.
    – Quassnoi
    May 28 '19 at 11:41
  • @IvanMilyakov looks like Turkey got first phone networks around 1908, while in e.g. Baku they were laid around 1885. So influence is not impossible, altough I'm not claiming it is probable.
    – alamar
    May 28 '19 at 15:11

Your assumption is plain wrong, we don't use Turkish informal phone greeting, алё is just a corrupted version of German "Hallo" - if you'll listen how some Germans pronounce it you'll find that the pronunciation with with very soft l is quite common for this word - so to Russian speaker it's quite close to халё. Also, алё is colloquial form of алло which is in common usage.

  • But why then do you have two different phone greetings - алло and алё? What is the history behind them? Which one appeared in the Russian language first?
    – Mitsuko
    May 27 '19 at 19:05
  • Тhe Russian алё sounds exactly as the Turkish phone greeting and pretty different from the German Hallo. Do you really believe that the Russians and Turks accidentally happened to corrupt the German version in precisely the same way?!
    – Mitsuko
    May 27 '19 at 19:09
  • 3
    @Mitsuko lingustics is not a matter of faith, it's about fact, the fact is that this word end up in Russian and Turkish independently. Also, no offense but something might sound 100% similar to non-native speaker why in blind double test Russian speaker most likely will tell apart Russian pronunciation from the Turkish one.
    – shabunc
    May 27 '19 at 19:12
  • >>Russian speaker most likely will tell apart Russian pronunciation from the Turkish one<< Can you? Watch the last few seconds of this video: youtu.be/923YxvQiJ1I . There you will hear the Turkish phone greeting.
    – Mitsuko
    May 27 '19 at 19:14
  • @Mitsuko I just refuse to make any assumptions base on last two seconds of any youtube music video ) First thing that we should verify is that Turkish people even use this word.
    – shabunc
    May 27 '19 at 19:19

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