2 December 2010

Type and Nation, 5

Cyrillic Kazakh

Via Language Log I found this bit on Another battle of the alphabets shaping up in Central Asia:

“A statement by a Kazakhstan minister that his country will eventually shift from a Cyrillic-based alphabet to a Latin-based script and reports that some scholars in Dushanbe are considering dropping another four Russian letters from the Tajik alphabet suggest that a new battle of the alphabets may again be shaping up in Central Asia.

Russian commentators have reacted by suggesting that this is yet another effort by nationalists in those countries to reduce the role of the Russian language and hence of the influence of Russian culture, but in fact the controversy over any such change is far more complicated than that.”

Not a new story, Kazakhstan conducted a feasibility study on the switch back in 2007, but it seems to be gaining momentum. And not just a matter of international geopolitics either — Kazakhstan has a sizable Russian population in the north, a source of tension within the country.

While Cyrillic is the official script of Kazakhstan, the Latin alphabet is already used by the Kazakh diaspora in Turkey, Western Europe and the US, while Kazakhs in China use a modified Arabic alphabet. There’s more on Kazakh alphabets on Wikipedia and more on typography and nationalism here.