[lg policy] Kazakhstan to change from Cyrillic to Latin alphabet

Harold Schiffman haroldfs at gmail.com
Tue Jan 16 10:21:27 EST 2018

Kazakhstan to change from Cyrillic to Latin alphabet

The Kazakh language will change from Cyrillic to Latin script as part of a
modernization and development effort. The move is also viewed as an attempt
to distance the language from Russian and promote nationalism.
Kasachstan | Kasachstan wechselt zum lateinischen Alphabet
(REUTERS/illustration/S. Zhumatov)

Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbayev on Friday announced the
country's alphabet will gradually switch from Cyrillic to Latin script.

Kazakh, a Turkic language, currently uses a modified Cyrillic alphabet with
42 letters.

The Latin alphabet will have 32 letters. Certain sounds will be covered by
the use of apostrophes. The change over is scheduled to be fully
implemented by 2025.

Officials said the switch is part of a modernization drive and an attempt
to make use of technology easier. The Kazakh Cyrillic keyboard, for
example, uses all number and punctuation keys in order to cover the 42
letters of Cyrillic alphabet.

The Foreign Ministry said in September that the switch to Latin script
would also benefit Kazakhstan's development.

"[Latin] is used by approximately 70 percent of all countries, making it an
essential part of communicating across the globe, especially in terms of
technology, business, science and education," the ministry said.

The oil-rich republic is a close ally of Russia and has the largest
ethnic-Russian population of the former Soviet republics in Central Asia.
Russian will remain an official language.

Modernization and nationalism
Nursultan Nazarbayev (picture-alliance/Pacific Press/J. Ratz)

Nazarbayev himself uses both Russian and Kazakh in speeches.

The switch is also seen as an attempt by Kazakhstan to distance itself from
Russian influence and promote nationalism.

According to the 2009 census, only 62 percent of the population is fluent
in written and spoken Kazakh.  Some 85 percent of the population is fluent
in Russian.

Kazakh briefly used the Latin script before switching to Cyrillic in 1940.
Prior to 1929, the Arabic script had been used.

The Soviet-era change to Cyrillic was implemented in other Turkic speaking
Central Asian states and Azerbaijan in part to distance the countries from
Turkey, which changed from a Persian-Arabic script to Latin in 1928 as part
of a Westernization drive. Similarly, the switch from Arabic script to
Cyrillic was designed to distance the Muslim Central Asian nations from the
Islamic world.

In an article published in state media in April, Nazarbayev described the
use of the Cyrillic script as "political."

Since the end of the Soviet Union in 1991, other Turkic countries including
Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan have also switched to Latin
Karte Kasachstan Englisch

cw/sms (AFP, dpa, Reuters)
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    Date 27.10.2017
    Related Subjects Vladimir Putin, Russia, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Dmitry
    Keywords Kazakhstan, Cyrillic, Kazakh, Russia, Central Asia, Turkic
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    Permalink http://p.dw.com/p/2meJg

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 Harold F. Schiffman

Professor Emeritus of
 Dravidian Linguistics and Culture
Dept. of South Asia Studies
University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6305

Phone:  (215) 898-7475
Fax:  (215) 573-2138

Email:  haroldfs at gmail.com

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