The president of Kazakhstan (or is it Qazaqstan now?) signs the latinisation edict

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/oct/26/kazakhstan-switch-official-alphabet-cyrillic-latin

The alphabet that has been chosen is probably the blandest Turkic alphabet ever, its only redeeming quality is 100% ASCII compatibility: http://www.akorda.kz/upload/media/files/d9bc81021d59a7eaa9835fdae9069532.docx

Comments

  • I’m a bit perplexed about why they would use <c’> to represent ч given that they aren’t using <c> without an apostrophe for anything.
  • I’m a bit perplexed about why they would use <c’> to represent ч given that they aren’t using <c> without an apostrophe for anything.
    Maybe because <c> might suggest [ts] to many Slavic readers? But then again, <j> for what's presumably [ʒ] is also against Slavic tradition of using it for [j].

    I'm also not impressed with using <a'> for [ə]. IMHO, a schwa should not take up more conceptual space than the full vowels. I also find the Albanian Latinization really weird for that reason.
  • Clearly Borat is in charge over there...
    ".... wary of Russia’s ambitions to maintain its political influence throughout the region."
    Out of the flying pan, into the fire. But there's more money in it.
  • John SavardJohn Savard Posts: 131
    edited October 27
    I'm just surprised that Kazakhstan is becoming Qazaqstan and not Qazaq'stan, since that seems to imply that the differentiation between "k" and "kh" is being lost. (The Wikipedia article on the Kazakh alphabet shows the Russian kh letter going to "h" in the Latinization; some letter pairs are getting mapped to only one letter, but only a single letter is going to "q"; thus since they're not becoming Qazahstan, presumably "Kazakhstan" was an incorrect transliteration all along.)

    While I view Western influence as being benign, and Russia's current government as malevolent, though, I think that changing alphabets is not worth the trouble, and not really relevant to that particular political issue anyways. Going away from Cyrillic will not suddenly make English, French, Spanish, German, or Italian somehow understandable to Kazakh speakers - an alphabet barrier is trivial compared to a language barrier.

    However, on further reflection, there is Turkey, a Western country with a Turkic language that uses the Latin alphabet. Although it is a NATO member, though, its current government emphasizes the Islamic nature of the country, so it is not entirely "Western" from a cultural point of view, and that, rather than the American influence which Hrant is correct in categorizing as very pervasive and effective, could plausibly be what the government is seeking.

    Letting people buy cheaper computer keyboards, though, I guess that will work. Smartphones? The keyboard is drawn on the screen!

    I don't know enough about the political situation in Kazakhstan to form a conspiracy theory about how this is being done, say, for the purpose of pretending to thumb one's nose at Russia, while still actually being aligned strongly with it, but that is what I would be disposed to suspect from such silliness.

    Although I don't object to a "bland" alphabet; as a new user of the Latin alphabet, it's perfectly understandable that they didn't want to wait for fonts while the Unicode Consortium sorted out new accents just for them - and perhaps the option of using a subset of the diacritics from French, Polish, Czech, or whatever would not have worked. Of course, there's still the Turkish alphabet, and those of their neighbors undergoing the same transition. It may be that c' is used and c is left unused - instead of following Italian - for interoperability with the other Latin Turkic alphabets.
  • Ray LarabieRay Larabie Posts: 662
    Wasn't Ұұ only used in in Qazaq? Could this be classified as a historical character now?
  • John SavardJohn Savard Posts: 131
    edited October 28
    Wasn't Ұұ only used in in Qazaq? Could this be classified as a historical character now?
    I think you would have to wait until 2025, the target date is noted in the Wikipedia article; the conversion to the Latin alphabet will be a gradual one, people there are not expected to learn to read it overnight.
  • Kent LewKent Lew Posts: 649
    I'm just surprised that Kazakhstan is becoming Qazaqstan and not Qazaq'stan, since that seems to imply that the differentiation between "k" and "kh" is being lost.
    “Kazakhstan” is a transliteration of the Russian name for the country, Казахстан, where you find a difference between the first and fifth letters.

    But in the Қазақ language, the name of the republic is Қазақстан. And thus the transliteration to Qazaqstan, according to the newly declared orthography.
  • Kent LewKent Lew Posts: 649
    And so we go from this:


    to this:


    You’re right, Ray — all that custom work adding Ұұ to extended Cyrillic fonts is probably going to dry up over the next 8 years. ;-)

  • An earlier draft of the alphabet used digraphs instead of the apostrophe combinations. So they had ae, ng, sh for a', n', s'. So c' was ch in the earlier draft, if you're wondering. Though if they're going down this route, why unify two different sounds (the kh-sound from Russian and Arabic/Persian and the h-sound from Arabic/Persian) as h? Couldn't they have used h' for one of them? I get that both are non-native sounds for Kazakh, but they are distinguished in the current Cyrillic.

    The early draft had w do the work of Cyrillic у, which can be a vowel (in Russian the same letter is romanized as u). So it would have been somewhat like Welsh. Now they are representing this by y', which is somewhat counterintuitive when it is supposed to represent either a w-like sound or an oo-like sound. It would be weird to see Тимур (Timur) written as Ti'my'r.

    Oh, and I'm sure you're all joking, but just to be clear, it's the Kazakh name Қазақстан that is changing to Qazaqstan. The English name is still going to be Kazakhstan, unless they decide they want to change that as well.
  • John SavardJohn Savard Posts: 131
    Kent Lew said:
    “Kazakhstan” is a transliteration of the Russian name for the country, Казахстан, where you find a difference between the first and fifth letters.

    But in the Қазақ language, the name of the republic is Қазақстан. And thus the transliteration to Qazaqstan, according to the newly declared orthography.
    Ah, so the Russians failed to transliterate the name of the country correctly, and we relied on their work. Of course, that made some sense when it was part of the former Soviet Union instead of an independent nation.

    So I think it probably will be changed to Qazaqstan in English, if historical precedent is anything to go by.

    Also, I will thank Jongseong Park for his informative and insightful post.
  • According to Wikipedia, it started from a Russian convention in the 17th century to distinguish Steppe Kazakhs from the Cossacks of the Russian Imperial military, which probably comes from the same root word: Казах Kazakh for the Kazakhs as opposed to Казак Kazak for the Cossacks.

    As for historical precedent, I don't know if any country has successfully lobbied its English name to be changed except for Belarus (formerly Belorussia or Byelorussia). We don't generally use native forms of the names for countries anyway. Armenia for example comes from the Ancient Greek name; the native name is Hayk' or Hayastan. But if big linguistic decisions depend on the whim of an authoritarian ruler, it certainly can't be ruled out.

    I'll miss Ұұ, but if historical precedent is anything to go by, it will continue to be used for many years to come. Many Kazakhs seem to be attached to their Cyrillic.
  • As for historical precedent, I don't know if any country has successfully lobbied its English name to be changed except for Belarus (formerly Belorussia or Byelorussia).
    Well, there's things like Burma > Myanmar and Bombay > Mumbai, right?
  • I don't know if any country has successfully lobbied its English name to be changed except for Belarus
    Does "Czech Republic" switching to "Czechia" count too?
    But if big linguistic decisions depend on the whim of an authoritarian ruler, it certainly can't be ruled out.
    You mean like the introduction of Hangul, the best writing system on the planet? :->  Populism doesn't exactly promote cultural progress...
  • John SavardJohn Savard Posts: 131
    edited October 29
    But if big linguistic decisions depend on the whim of an authoritarian ruler, it certainly can't be ruled out.
    You mean like the introduction of Hangul, the best writing system on the planet? :->  Populism doesn't exactly promote cultural progress...
    While the principle is sound enough, Hangul may not be the best example of that.

    King Sejong certainly wasn't elected. But he was a kindly king, concerned with the common people, which is why he had Hangul developed.

    But it then languished for hundreds of years, because the nobles wished to retain their power and privilege. It was indeed popular pressure that led to the eventual victory of Hangul.

    (At least, this is the narrative that circulates in South Korea at present. Perhaps it was adapted to please the United States, a land that loves liberty, and which aids that country in keeping the regime in the North at bay, and for all I know, the real truth is that the nobles were put in their place by a subsequent Korean king who was reminiscent of, at least, Henry VIII, if not Ivan the Terrible or Joseph Stalin who felt a need for mass literacy to better mobilize the country against, say, the threat of an invasion from China.)
  • Hrant H. PapazianHrant H. Papazian Posts: 847
    edited October 29
    King Sejong certainly wasn't elected. But he was a kindly king
    Because he wasn't elected.
    If this Kazakhstan decision had been left to the people, it would have happened way earlier, and have been way more bland. Like those pesky apostrophes, ewww... And capitalization?! Sheesh. The heart of public communication is texting...
  • John SavardJohn Savard Posts: 131
    edited October 29
    Checking further, Yeonsangun, in 1504, banned Hangul because he feared the Korean masses, so authoritarianism has its minuses; in the latter part of the 16th Century, Hangul's revival began, but Wikipedia provided no details.

    As for apostrophes, Mont Follick proposed that they be used in a phonetic spelling for English to break up pairs of vowels where they indicated two distinct vowel sounds instead of a dipthong.
  • authoritarianism has its minuses
    Of course. It's like a roller-coaster ride. In contrast, populism is a slow descent. Slow enough to escape realization... But we digress.
  • The German name of Kazakhstan is Kasachstan, the Polish name is Kazachstan, the English name is Kazakhstan. I don't think either of those would need to change because the Kazakh spelling of the name changes. Languages that use the Latin alphabet usually have different names for different countries. Sweden is called Sverige in Swedish, Schweden in German, Szwecja in Polish and Sweden in English. 
  • John SavardJohn Savard Posts: 131
    edited November 6
    The German name of Kazakhstan is Kasachstan, the Polish name is Kazachstan, the English name is Kazakhstan. I don't think either of those would need to change because the Kazakh spelling of the name changes. Languages that use the Latin alphabet usually have different names for different countries. Sweden is called Sverige in Swedish, Schweden in German, Szwecja in Polish and Sweden in English. 
    It's true that we don't call Sweden Sveriges in English, despite seeing that is its real name from their postage stamps.

    But it is a common practice in English to take foreign words and retain their original foreign spellings - this is why English spelling is so hard to learn. We use one set of rules to spell native English words, and a different set of rules for words borrowed from Latin and Greek.

    Sweden and Germany, Vienna and Florence, are places known to English speakers from long ago - so it's too late to switch to Sveriges, Deutschland, Wien, and Firenze. Kazakhstan, on the other hand, really hasn't been present in the consciousness of the English-speaking world for nearly as long. Thus, I think that the spelling of its name is vulnerable to change, just as today we refer to Beijing instead of Peking in China.

    I agree that it's by no means certain that we will start writing Qazaqstan instead of Kazakhstan in English, but it is a very real possibility.
  • I think the change from Beijing Peking wasn’t an isolated change but part of a comprehensive update of the English romanization of Chinese languages. 

    It is likely that English will switch the spelling of cities and other proper names (including surnames) to the new Kazakh orthography. Since the late 20th crntury, it is indeed the common practice to spell personal names of people in the original way if they use the Latin alphabet. So the spelling of names of Kazakh officials, writers, actors etc. will most likely change to the official Latin spelling — not just in English but in other languages.  

    The same will be true for lesser-known cities and other proper names. This all happened when Turkey adopted the Latin alphabet.

    Virtually all Latin-script-based languges spells Atatürk "Atatürk" (if they bother to use diacritics), just like they spell Lech Wałęsa, Heinrich Müller or William Shakespeare using the original spelling.. In the early 20th century and before, it was common to transcribe even personal names phonetically (so old Polish books refer to Wiliam Szekspir). 

    But for countries, the rules are different. Old spelling is kept unless countries are actually renamed or the old romanization is politically teinted — though the latter remains contested (Myanmar vs. Burma).

    I would be surprised if Nazarbayev would lobby for the change of the spelling of the country's English name. Or even the spelling of his own name (under the new rules it's Nazarbaev). 
  • John HudsonJohn Hudson Posts: 1,228
    [Dibs on 'Szekspir' as a font name.]
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