Nihal Yetkin: A Pragmatic Analysis of Derogation in the Discourse of


Nihal Yetkin: A Pragmatic Analysis of Derogation in the Discourse of
Modern Türklük
Araştırmaları Dergisi
Cilt 3, Sayı 1 (Mart 2006)
Mak. #6, ss. 48-59
Telif Hakkı©Ankara Üniversitesi
Ankara Üniversitesi Dil ve Tarih-Coğrafya Fakültesi
Çağdaş Türk Lehçeleri ve Edebiyatları Bölümü
A Pragmatic Analysis of Derogation in the
Discourse of Political Criticism in the Turkish
Grand National Assembly
Nihal Yetkin
Başkent Üniversitesi, Eğitim Fakültesi
Bu edimbilimsel çalışmada değer indirgeyici dil kullanım özellikleri Türkiye Büyük Millet
Meclisi’nde (TBMM) yapılan 12 görüşmenin tutanağı kullanılarak incelenmiştir. Amaçlar
incelik stratejileri üzerine yapılan dilsel incelemeleri incelik-karşıtı bir incelemeyle
dengelemek ve iletişim etnoğrafyası bakımından meclisimizdeki eleştiri söyleminin
niteliğine ışık tutmaktır. Bu çerçevede, Edimbilimsel Perspektif dahilinde İncelik-karşıtı
Stratejiler ve Değer İndirgeme Odağı çözümlenmiştir. Bulgularda özellikle Toplumsal
Yüz’e yönelik tehditler yoluyla kullanılan Olumlu ve Gizli (Off-record) İncelik Karşıtı
stratejilere ait çok sayıda ve çeşitli örnekler olduğu dikkat çekmiştir.
Parlamenter söylemi, incelik-karşıtı stratejiler, değer indirgeme odağı
This pragmatic study examined the derogatory linguistic uses through a total of 12
minutes of the meetings held in Turkish Grand National Assembly (TBMM). The aims
were to counterbalance the politeness strategy-based analyses with one on
impoliteness strategies as well as to throw light on the character of our parliamentary
criticism discourse in terms of ethnography of communication. Within this framework,
Impoliteness Strategies and Focus of Derogation were analyzed under Pragmatic
Perspective. The findings highlighted many and varied instances of Positive Impoliteness
as well as Off-record Impoliteness strategies through threats to Public Face, in particular.
Parliamentary discourse, impoliteness strategies, focus of derogation
A Pragmatic Analysis of Derogation in the Discourse of Political Criticism
Nihal Yetkin
1. Introduction
As it is known, parliamentary discourse is part of political discourse, which is “a form
of public discourse which is predominantly the language of political and professional
processes and institutions as opposed to private language with its subjective
individual and emotional expressions (van Zoonen and Holtz-Bacha, as cited in van
der Valk 2003: 313). The parliamentary discourse studies were started surprisingly as
late as 1990s, to name but a few, by Carbó, 1992; Harris, 2001, Rojo and Van Dijk,
1997; Seidel 1988, 1989; Ter Wal, 2000; Van Dijk, 2000c; Van der Valk, 2000; Wilson,
1990 in van der Valk 2003.
In Turkey, two doctoral dissertations, namely of A. Boyer’s “Linguistic Analysis
of Turkish Political Language”, (1996), and of M. Özüdoğru’s “Therapeutic Political
Discourse: The Art of Drawing a Rosy Picture in Turkish Politics” (2000) account for
the first comprehensive core political studies, which have utilized Content Analysis
and Critical Discourse Analysis, respectively. This pragmatic study is complementary
to them, focusing on the setting of the Turkish parliament of today to scrutinize one of
the indispensable linguistic strategies of Negative-other presentation in parliamentary
debates: derogation.
The basic aims of this study were to counterbalance the politeness strategy-based
analyses with one on impoliteness strategies as well as to throw light on the character
of Turkish parliamentary criticism discourse in terms of ethnography of
2.Theoretical Background
2.1.Derogatory Expressions
Derogatory expressions show what a low opinion somebody has of someone or
something (Collins Cobuild 1987: 380). In broad sense, there are basically three foci of
derogations: physical impairments, low intellectual capacity, and moral shortcomings
(Ilie 2001: 250). Parliamentary derogations have the following end-goals: to score
points by silencing, embarrassing and/or humiliating political adversaries who are
known to express different ideological views; to challenge the authority and
institutional role of political adversaries, and to redress the political balance, strengthen
group cohesion (Ilie 2001: 253-4).
In this study, derogations were analyzed with a Pragmatic perspective under
Impoliteness Strategies and Focus of Derogation. At this point, it would be
appropriate to have a brief look at the present state of the relevant studies.
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2.1.1. Derogation and Impoliteness Strategies
This study adheres to Culpeper’s Impoliteness Strategies to examine how derogation
finds verbal expression. What Culpeper has brought to the pragmatics arena in this
regard is that he has extended Brown and Levinson’s politeness strategies (1987), and
attempted to approach the matter in an opposite orientation to face. (Culpeper,
Bousfield and Wichmann 2003: 1554). Likewise, his definition evolved in contrast with
the way politeness strategies had been described: these strategies are “communicative
strategies designed to attack face, and thereby cause social conflict and disharmony”
(Culpeper et al. 2003: 1546). Such obscure terms turned out to be problematic, rather
than serving as a facilitator as the definition suffered from a defect which had also put
an unfavorable imprint to the Brown and Levinson’s said work: speaker bias. Such
awareness resulted in a revised definition developed by Culpeper himself, which read
as “Impoliteness comes about when: (1) the speaker communicates face-attack
intentionally, or (2) the hearer perceives and/or constructs behavior as intentionally
face-attacking, or a combination of (1) and (2).” (2005: 38).
In light of the above considerations, Culpeper (2003: 1554-5) suggested a model
with the following strategies. For the purposes of the study, the last category in his
original model, Withhold Politeness (2003: 1555) (to be silent or fail to do an expected
polite act) was excluded since the context did not provide one with any obvious data.
The definitions of the analyzed impoliteness strategies are submitted below,
accompanied by the principles adopted in the study, where necessary:
1. Bald on record Impoliteness: “typically used where there is much face at stake, and
where there is an intention on the part of the speaker to attack the face of the hearer.” It
is manifested in the form of directives and modal “must”.
2. Positive Impoliteness: “designed to damage the addressee’s positive face wants
(‘ignore, snub the other’, ‘exclude the other from the activity’, ‘dissociate from the
other’, ‘be disinterested, unconcerned, unsympathetic’, ‘use inappropriate identity
markers’, ‘use obscure or secretive language’, ‘seek disagreement’, ‘make the other feel
uncomfortable (e.g. do not avoid silence, joke, or use small talk)’, ‘use taboo words’,
‘call the other names’, etc.). Indeed, all FTA’s are included in this category in a sense,
but for ease of description, some delimitations traceable to Culpeper have been used,
paying due attention that the target of the criticism was evident, and that the
utterances were of assertive/expressive type, unlike Bald on Record Impoliteness. As a
result, the expressions of inappropriate address form, inappropriate identity marker,
and seeking disagreement unsympathetically, were retained.
3. Negative Impoliteness: “designed to damage the addressee’s negative face wants
(‘frighten’, ‘condescend, scorn or ridicule’, ‘invade the other’s space’, ‘explicitly
A Pragmatic Analysis of Derogation in the Discourse of Political Criticism
Nihal Yetkin
associate the other with a negative aspect’, ‘put the other’s indebtedness on record’,
‘hinder or block the other-physically or linguistically, etc.”) In his most recently
published work, Culpeper abandons the distinctions of Positive and Negative
Impoliteness, and suggests to revise them to fit Spencer-Oatey’s categorization of face
or rapport management, covering Quality Face impoliteness, Social Identity Face
impoliteness, Social Identity impoliteness, Equity Rights impoliteness and Association
rights impoliteness (2002: 540-2). Under this study, this kind of combination of both
approaches was avoided. The blurry situation was attempted to be minimized by
limiting the scope of Negative Impoliteness to ‘invade the other’s space’, ‘explicitly
associate the other with a negative aspect’, ‘put the other’s indebtedness on record’,
‘hinder or block the other-physically or linguistically, etc.”, and to include the rest of
the above definition to that of Positive Impoliteness.
4. Sarcasm or mock politeness: Statements of impolite beliefs, disguised in a polite
5. Off-record impoliteness: Culpeper has also managed to separate Off-record
Impoliteness from Sarcasm, which he calls meta-strategy in his most recent study:
whereas Sarcasm makes use of politeness for impoliteness, Off-record Impoliteness
does not; the impolite belief is conveyed by implication “in such a way that one
attributable intention clearly outweighs any others.” (2005:44) Off-record impoliteness
embraces rhetorical questions, if-conditionals, and sentences, in which the subject
distances himself/herself from the act, where no concern for politeness is shown.
2.1.2. Derogation and Face
Face is a key element in politeness matters and can be roughly described as
“individuals’ self esteem”. Regarding Face Threatening Acts (FTAs), Brown and
Levinson’s ambitious and comprehensive book “Politeness-Some Universals in
Language Usage” (1987) have been criticized primarily for two reasons: First,
perceptions of politeness, consequently, face wants, and tolerances to impoliteness
strategies vary cross-culturally (Mao 1994: 451). Second, as Harris has stated these
principles’ and in turn, responses’ variability has not been examined in relation to
institutional settings (Harris 2001: 452). Lakoff, to illustrate that the theories of linguistic
politeness must be extended to cover an explanation for the varying discourse types in
different institutions, used “Courtroom discourse and “Psychotherapy” (1989 as cited
in Harris 2001: 453). Within this framework, parliamentary discourse is a good
example how important institution is in politeness perception. As mentioned before,
much of this discourse is intentionally replete with FTAs at the propositional,
interactional, turn-taking, nonverbal and paralinguistic behaviour levels. Negative
politeness and threats to the hearer’s positive face may be observed concurrently
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(Harris 2001: 462-3). Unlike many other institutions, such FTAs hardly cause a
breakdown in interpersonal relationships. Yet, as battle of wits rules here, overtly
aggressive linguistic behaviour is less attractive and effective (Harris 2001: 467). What
is highly valued is “kind and soft destruction, out of which “parliamentary
institutionalized hypocrisy” emerges (Pérez de Ayala 2001: 165).
In this study, focus of derogation was analyzed in terms of threats to Personal
Face and Public Face. Threats to Personal Face contained derogatory remarks about
the member of the parliament himself/herself, whereas threats to Public Face
comprised derogatory remarks about the member of the parliament, underlining
his/her professional stance.
3. The Study
3.1 Research Questions
The research questions in this study are as follows: How is derogation expressed in the
current Turkish parliament from the pragmaticperspective? What is the distribution of
derogatory language uses between the ruling party and the main opposition party?
3.2. Method
3.2.1. Data Collection
The corpus was selected out of the Minutes of TBMM noted in different sessions (via
internet) of 12 Meetings held on 6 April, 24 June, 29 June, 1 July, 7 July, 8 July, 9 July,
17 September, 26 September, 7 October, 27 December, and 29 December 2004. Driven
by a qualitative approach, natural speeches/ conversations were analyzed. For
practical reasons, a document analysis was preferred, after having confirmed through
the Minutes Department of the TBMM that no change was made to the statements of
the deputies. As sampling, Purposive Sampling was used as a subcategory of
Nonprobability Sampling. Criterion Sampling was found most appropriate as a
subcategory of Purposive Sampling, as criteria were identified beforehand for the
analysis (Yıldırım & Şimşek 2003: 73). The basic criterion was to choose a period in
which the ruling party and the main opposition party were from different wings,
namely, rightist and leftist. To this end, the Minutes of the current parliamentary
sessions were chosen, as only two political parties are represented in the Turkish
parliament as a result of a parliamentary election (out of 20 parties) held in Turkey on
3 November 2002. (AKP became the ruling party with 363 seats, whereas CHP
became the opposition party with 179 seats.) The criticisms raised to persons,
institutions were excluded.Regarding content-based decisions; unit of analysis was
A Pragmatic Analysis of Derogation in the Discourse of Political Criticism
Nihal Yetkin
taken as an idea unit, reflecting the examined language uses, it varied from one word
to sequences of utterances (Edwards 2001: 330-1). As far as limitations are concerned;
as the study utilized data obtained from written texts, intonational, suprasegmental,
nonlinguistic changes emerging through the criticisms raised were out of scope, and
the findings can be generalized to reflect the current parliamentary tendency on
derogatory remarks, binding on only the two parties concerned, in the light of the data
3.2.2.Data Analysis and Discussion
In this part, firstly the frequency of findings to each category under Impoliteness
Strategies as well as Focus of Derogation was mentioned, discussing why, which was
followed by an instance to each, along with the translations into English. For further
instances, one may see the unpublished thesis of the author on “Analyzing the
Discourse of Political Criticism in the Turkish Parliament: Linguistic Reflections of
Prejudice and Derogation.”(2005). Strategies
1. Bald on record Impoliteness (comprising use of directives and Modal “must”)
Generally speaking, it was not found many in number as parliamentary
atmosphere requires indirect utterances, while making unfavorable utterances.
Instance (1) of directives:
“Sizi uyarıyorum; bilmediğiniz, okumadığınız bir metni kalkıp savunmaya kalkmayın
siyasi düzeyde”, “I warn you; do not try to defend, at the political level, a text, which you do not
know, which you have not read at all.” , the speaker was quoted as saying, regarding the
text finalized by UN Secretary General, K. Annan in Bürgenstock about the future of
Instance (2) of Modal “must”:
“..belediye başkanlarını, biraz önce anlattığım, tek adam gibi, imparator gibi, aşiret reisi gibi
bir konuma getiriyoruz, getirmemeliyi. “, “We are bringing the mayors of big cities to a position,
say, of a single man, a commander, an emperor and a chief of a tribe.., we must not.”, the
speaker was quoted as saying, regarding the authorities to be gained by the mayors if
the draft bill is passed.
2. Positive Impoliteness: (comprising the use of inappropriate address form,
inappropriate identity marker, and seeking disagreement unsympathetically)
Widely found, as might be expected from such of community of practice.
Instance (3) of inappropriate address form:
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“Ben, bunu anlatmaya çalıştım; ama, maalesef, AKP milletvekili arkadaşlarımız, kurşun
asker gibi her şeyi reddeden, önlerine gelen her şeye ʺevetʺ diyen bir anlayıştalar.” “I tried to tell
this (to you); but, unfortunately, our friends, AKP deputies have an understanding of a YesMan and reject all as a pawn.”, the speaker was quoted as saying after having asked if
“there is any legal regulation made by himself/them up to date which does not bear an
IMF patent, a World Bank patent, an international capital patent?!”
Instance (4) of inappropriate identity marker:
profesör patentli bir arkadaşımız diyelim ve yine, aynı şekilde, Meclis koridorlarında,
milletvekili iki kişiden birisi, diğerine ʺkuş beyinlilerin de bunu anlayabileceğiʺ mahiyetinde bir
cümle sarf etti. “Let’s call him a friend with a professor patent (meaning “title” here-authors
note), and likewise, one of the two deputies, in the Assembly corridors, told the other that would
boil down to the fact that even a birdbrained person would understand it.”, the speaker was
quoted as saying, regarding the proffessor who reportedly said that even a
birdbrained would understand the issue.
Instance (5) of seeking disagreement unsympathetically:
“Başbakan, herhalde, belli güçleri, çıkar çevrelerini, içerideki ve dışarıdaki Türkiyeʹye emir
veren çevreleri aşamıyor.” “Perhaps, the Prime Minister cannot object to the words of certain
powers, circles of interest, circles which orders to Turkey both at home and abroad.” , the
speaker was quoted as saying, after having pointed out that Mr. Prime Minister is far
behind the point he has promised to reach.
3. Negative Impoliteness: (comprising the use of Interruptions and Impositions)
Such impoliteness was not found many in number. Interruptions were far more
than impositions. Only interruptions which bore obvious derogatory stances were
included. In fact, even if the rest of the interruptions were also included, the total figure
would not have exceeded that of Positive, Negative and Off-record Impoliteness
Instance (6) of Interruption:
“Kendini tarif etme, kendi partinle alakalı konuş!.” “Do not describe yourself, do talk about
your own party.“, the speaker was quoted as saying in response to some unfavorable
Instance (7) of Imposition:
İnanıyorum ve biliyorum ki, evinizde çok iyi bir babasınız; ama, lütfen, şu doğuda,
güneydoğuda ve diğer yörelerde afet altında ezilen insanlarımıza bir iyilik yapın, onlara da bir
babalık yapın.” regarding those suffer in the southeastern region, “I believe and know that you
are a good father, but, please, do a favor to our people suffering from the catastrophe in the
southern, southeastern and other regions, play the father figure for them.”, the speaker was
quoted as saying, as to those who suffer in the southeastern region.
A Pragmatic Analysis of Derogation in the Discourse of Political Criticism
Nihal Yetkin
4. Sarcasm or mock politeness: (comprising the use of insincere politeness strategy)
Statements of impolite beliefs, disguised in a polite manner were observed to be
little in number. Sarcasm is harsh and strong in tone, so ironical uses, mitigating the
style seem to have been preferred.
Instance (8) of sarcasm:
“Çok güzel söylediniz değerli arkadaşım; size teşekkür ediyorum” “You said it so
beautifully my dear friend; thank you.”, the speaker was quoted as saying, regarding the
support given to the AKP party.
5. Off-record impoliteness: (comprising the use of rhetorical questions, distancing
strategy and if-conditionals)
Widely seen, in almost equal number to that of Positive Impoliteness. Distancing
strategy seems to be effectively used in the Turkish parliament in that deputies often
state something as absolute truth, though it is his/her subjective view. Rhetorical
questions, if-conditionals, and assertions where impolite implicatures exist, do occupy
a substantial place in this strategy. It may be because the speakers may well withdraw
their impolite statements, if they receive a harsh reaction from the addressee(s). For
example, upon a denial to or request for excuse made by the addressee(s) to an
utterance in which the off-record impoliteness strategy is used, for example, in an
assertive/expressive derogatory utterance beginning with nobody (including the
hearer implicitly), the speaker may readily say that why the person, raising such
criticism is taking it personally, and argues that this is because he/she must have done
something wrong, thus denying any responsibility for making any excuse through
such disclaimer. So, off-record impoliteness strategy has proven to be a rich ground to
disguise impolite beliefs.
Instance of (9) rhetorical questions:
Allahaşkına, göreve geldiğinizden, iktidara geldiğinizden bu yana, siz eğitim üzerinde
kurcalamadık bir yer bıraktınız mı?! “For God’s sake, is there any educational matter which you
have left untouched ever since you have risen to power?!”, the speaker was quoted as
saying, as a counterargument to the motion on classification of teachers.
Instance (10) of distancing strategy:
“…çünkü, böyle bir uygulama, şimdiye kadar Millet Meclisi tarihinde yok.”, the speaker
said, “…; such an implementation has not been made so far throughout the history of the
National Assembly.”, upon the press news that Mr. Prime Minister has reportedly told
before going to Brussels not to examine the application made by the CHP before any
news to be conveyed by them.
Instance (11) of if-conditionals:
“Bu yasa tasarısını hazırlayan arkadaşlarımız, kroki ile harita arasındaki farkı eğer hâlâ
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öğrenemedilerse, bu belediyeciliği de bıraksınlar.”“If our friends still do not know the difference
between a sketch and a map, let them quit working at municipalities.”, the speaker was
quoted as saying, regarding the municipality affairs and mapping. Focus of Derogation
Due attention was paid to see which face was threatened: Public or Personal Face
together with the origin/target of derogation like ethics, character, intelligence etc.
1) Public Face: It was widely threatened in terms of ethics.
Instance (12) of Public Face:
“O bakımdan, bence, bu yapılan çalışma son derece talihsiz olmuştur.” Claiming that the
ruling party has not kept its promise not to give motion on the issues, on which no
consensus has been reached by both parties; the speaker was quoted as saying, “In this
sense, this study has been most unfortunate.”
2) Personal Face: It was threatened less than Public Face,abiding by the relevant
article of the internal regulations of TBMM (Article 65, Internal Resolution, n.d.), which
forbids to tease character during the meetings,among other things. But the focus of
derogation was seen to be diverse. These aspects are submitted below in order of
Instance (13) of threat to character: “Sayın Yeni, otomatik laf atma
makinesi gibisin maşallah, kutluyorum seni!”, “Mr. Yeni, you are
like an automatic teasing machine,God bless you, congratulations!”
, the speaker was quoted as saying in reply to Mr. Yeni who said
“What matters is to give money.”
Instance (14) of ethics: “Değerli arkadaşlarım, üzerinize, laf atmakta
ve rakamları tersyüz etmekte hiç kimse yok.”,“Dear friends,
nobody compares to you in teasing and distorting the figures.”,
quoted during a verbal argument.
Instance (15) of threat to intelligence: “Şimdi, sizin aklınız bunlara
ermez, kolay değil!”, “these are beyond your intellectual capacity, it
is hard (for you to comprehend them)”, the speaker was quoted as
saying, concerning the argument over where to get the resource to
fund the salaries.
d. Instance (16) of threat to talking style: ʺŞimdi, bir değerli
arkadaşımızın -ki, kendisini şahsen çok takdir ederim, fikirlerine de
hep itibar ederim; ama, üslubunu hiçbir zaman tasvip
etmedim…burada yüksek sesle konuşuyor olması, çok haklı
olduğu, çok doğru şeyler söylediği anlamına gelmez.”,“Now, the
A Pragmatic Analysis of Derogation in the Discourse of Political Criticism
Nihal Yetkin
fact that-a dear friend of ours-whose actions I appreciate in person
and whose ideas I always rely upon-but whose style I have never
approved-that he talks loudly, does not mean that he is quite right
and that he tells quite right things.”,the speaker was quoted as
saying as a rebuke to another member of the parliament.
Instance (17) of threat to sexual power: “İktidarsız İktidar
“,“Impotent ruling party”, the speaker was quoted as saying in a
fierce mood.
4. Conclusion
This pragmatics-based study analyzed Culpeper’s impoliteness strategies and focus of
derogation in the TBMM through a 12-minute corpus, and illustrated the findings
through the 17 instances given above. In sum, the following may be underlined:
Regarding Impoliteness Strategies, the findings pointed out that Turkish
parliamentarians made wide use of Positive Impoliteness and Off-record Impoliteness
strategies as opposed to rare use of Bald on Record Impoliteness, Negative
Impoliteness and Sarcasm strategies.
As for the Focus of Derogation, the findings indicated that Turkish
parliamentarians made wide use of threat to Public Face, which was threatened in
terms of ethics. It is evident that the institutional etiquette made it necessary to avoid
threatening Personal Face. However, though seen in negligible number when
compared to that of Public Face, threats to Personal Face displayed a noticeable
diversity, namely, character, ethics, intelligence, talking style and sexual power. These
surfaced points lead one to think that they are important cultural features in the
Turkish society.
In all categories, it was seen that the main opposition party made more
derogatory remarks than the ruling party did. This was not attributed to the nature of
the party, but the position it held. That is to say, it was supposed that being from the
main opposition party brought with it the perceived need to rebuke the ruling party
so as to beat it in the next election.Besides, the great difference in the number of
derogatory remarks between the parties suggested that the ruling party’s and the
main opposition party’s being from different political wings further exacerbated the
already prejudiced approaches taken due to inherent adversarial political roles, which
were reflected in many and varied derogatory remarks.
5. Suggestion for further research
Research can be made by collecting data through recording of the minutes, which
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would include intonational, suprasegmental and non-linguistic changes to occur
during the criticisms raised.Besides, derogatory remarks of parties of the same political
wing (left/right) may be analyzed to see if there is any recurrent pattern in derogations.
Last but not least, cross-cultural parliamentary tendencies in terms of derogation may
be compared and contrasted.
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Nihal Yetkin
Hacettepe Üniversitesi, Sosyal Bilimler Enstitüsü, İngiliz Dil Bilimi Doktora öğrencisi.
Yazar Başkent Üniversitesi, Eğitim Fakültesi, Yabancı Diller Eğitimi Bölümü üyesidir. İlgi
alanı siyasî söylem, edimbilim, çeviribilim ve retoriktir.
Adres: Başkent Üniversitesi, Eğitim Fakültesi, Yabancı Diller Eğitimi Bölümü. Bağlıca
Kampusu Eskisehir Yolu 20. km Bağlıca 06530 Ankara.
Tel.: (+90312) 234 10 10 / 1075
E-posta: [email protected]
Yazı bilgisi :
Alındığı tarih: 15 Ocak 2006
Yayına kabul edildiği tarih: 20 Şubat 2006
E-yayın tarihi: 27 Mart 2006
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Kaynak sayısı: 21

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