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Erika Gilson

  • Near Eastern Studies
Position: Lecturer
Title: Senior Lecturer, Retired
Office: 110 Jones Hall


I am a native of Istanbul; while studying languages at the University of Heidelberg, kismet decreed that I should be transported to the Pinelands of South Jersey. I was ready to resume my studies in German philology when I found out that the possibility existed at the University of Pennsylvania of studying Turkology instead. At the University of Pennsylvania, I studied with Osman Nedim Tuna, and did my dissertation under the supervision of Tibor Halasi-Kun at Columbia University. Since receiving my degree in 1981, I have been teaching all levels of Turkish and Introductory Ottoman, first at Columbia University and, since 1989, at Princeton.

I have always felt that the teaching practices of the truly 'foreign' languages in the academic setting left something to be desired; thus I have become rather heavily involved in the efforts at the national level to improve Turkish language instruction as well as the teaching of less commonly taught languages in general. My current projects all reflect this involvement. I am a founding member of the American Association of Teachers of Turkic Languages and the National Council of Organizations of Less Commonly Taught Languages.

In 2008, in recognition for this work I received the A. Ronald Walton Award for Distinguished Service in the Field of LCTLs, awarded yearly by the National Council of Less Commonly Taught Languages. I was also given the Jere L. Bacharach Service Award at the 2012 MESA Annual Meeting held in Denver, CO. The Award “recognizes the contributions of individuals through their outstanding service to MESA or the profession.

As a Turkologist I intend to continue researching the historical development of Anatolian Turkish, tracing words and grammatical forms.

Some representative publications:

"Turkish and AATT Today and Twenty Years Ago: The Building of a Language Field," AATT Bulletin 20th Anniversary Special Issue, 35-36, 2006, pp. 19-36 [also available online:]

Intermediate Turkish II: Manual for Individualized Study, Ohio State University Foreign Language Publications 80 and 80A, (1994)

The Turkish Grammar of Thomas Vaughan: Ottoman Turkish at the End of the XVIIth Century According to an English Transkriptionstext, Near and Middle East Monographs, N.S. II (Wiesbaden: Otto Harrassowitz, 1987)

"Writing Systems Using the Arabic Alphabet: a Preliminary Look at Two Current Turkic Applications," Turks, Hungarians, and Kipchaks: A Festschrift in Honor of Tibor Halasi-Kun, ed. P. Oberling, Harvard University Journal of Turkish Studies, 8 (1985)

I was the major contributor and editor of the Newsletter/Bulletin for the American Association of Teachers of Turkic Languages from its initial publication in 1985 until 1996 and have continued to be a major contributor since then.