Apostrophe Catastrophe in Kazakhstan.

Andrew Higgins reports for the NY Times on a linguistic development currently roiling Kazakhstan:

ALMATY, Kazakhstan — In his 26 years as Kazakhstan’s first and only president, Nursultan A. Nazarbayev has managed to keep a resurgent Russia at bay and navigate the treacherous geopolitical waters around Moscow, Beijing and Washington, keeping on good terms with all three capitals.

The authoritarian leader’s talent for balancing divergent interests, however, suddenly seems to have deserted him over an issue that, at first glance, involves neither great power rivalry nor weighty matters of state: the role of the humble apostrophe in writing down Kazakh words. […]

The shift to the Latin alphabet, to be completed by 2025, has been widely cheered as a long overdue assertion of the country’s full independence from Russia — and its determination to join the wider world. The main objections have come from the Russian Orthodox Church in Moscow and ethnic Russians living in Kazakhstan.

Far less popular, however, has been a decision by the president in October to ignore the advice of specialists and announce a system that uses apostrophes to designate Kazakh sounds that don’t exist in other languages written in the standard Latin script.

The Republic of Kazakhstan, for example, will be written in Kazakh as Qazaqstan Respy’bli’kasy.

In a country where almost nobody challenges the president publicly, Mr. Nazarbayev has found his policy on apostrophes assailed from all sides.

It’s now being discussed at the Log, where Mark Liberman says:

Mr. Higgins also seems to be in the dark about such arcana — he refers to characters (or maybe diacritics) as “markers”, for some reason, and apparently thinks that the Latin alphabet is nothing but good old US ASCII, with none of those furrin umlauts and accents and cedillas and such.

(A few commenters are defending the apostrophes, which just goes to show you can’t assume people will agree about anything, even the ugliness of spellings like “Ay’yl s’ary’as’ylyg’y.”) Thanks, Sven!

Comments

  1. I think that more than an aesthetic issue, the apostrophes should be self-explanatory. So many people have problems with diacritical marks in languages such as Spanish (whose rules change every few years). Who is to say that they will work in Kazak?

    It would be interesting to know what other options are available. In the end, the people of Kazakhstan will mold the rules to their own understanding, and perhaps the language “authorities” will take heed and modify the apostrophe rules.

  2. “The main objections have come from the Russian Orthodox Church in Moscow and ethnic Russians living in Kazakhstan.”

    Why does the Russian Orthodox Church imagine it has anything to say with what other people do with their language, especially in a majority-Muslim nation? Comical…

  3. Four million Russians and Russian speakers live in Kazakhstan. Of course, they are very concerned how their names will be spelled in Kazakh passports from now on.

    I doubt that Ilya Ilyin, a Kazakhstani weightlifter who won four world championships for Kazakhstan, will be thrilled to become I’li’a I’li’n, for example.

  4. Athel Cornish-Bowden says:

    Spanish (whose rules change every few years).

    Really? That is news to me. I haven’t noticed any changes in the rules for using the acute accent (the only common diacritical mark that Spanish has, though I suppose one should add the diaeresis) since I started reading things in Spanish 40 years ago. The rules for alphabetical order seem to have changed, but I’m not sure if many people pay any attention, or, indeed, “have problems”. What sort of problems do you have in mind?

  5. Stu Clayton says:

    What’s this about rules for diacritic marks in Spanish “changing every few years” ? They are still exactly as they were 55 years ago when I learned them.

    The French, now, have been discarding accents circonflexes right and left, but it was high time for that anyway.

  6. A few years ago the RAE mandated (although I think it may have been a “soft” mandate with something of the nature of a suggestion) that the accents should be removed from éste/-a, ése/-a, aquél/-lla and sólo except where necessary for clarity, and also from words traditionally considered disyllabic like rió and guión. Personally I don’t care for this idea, so I stick to the old practice (as do many Spanish speakers).

  7. Ксёнѕ Фаўст says:

    Every proposed Kazakh spelling I see is uglier and more dysfunctional. The first one was with strange Esperanto-esque diacritics (on rarely used letters, though), then there was one filled with ambiguous digraphs, now here comes a storm of arbitrary apostrophes that make you think about Klingon. Apostrophes are also no good in many computer environments as they are ‘functional’ characters. Interesting how they carefully steer around anything remotely Turkish or Azeri-like. Politics, meh.

  8. As for Spanish: Since I learned it, buho has become búho, which makes no sense at all. (Americans may need to be told that that’s the European word for tecolote.)

  9. That is.. very weird. I wonder what the rationale is?

  10. Buho is used in Argentina, at least. Tecolote, unsurprisingly, is Central American.

  11. January First-of-May says:

    Previously on LH.

    The true loser in the Kazakh reform Is the Wikipedia, which is currently Уикипедия, but under the new reform will apparently be stuck with the ludicrous name Y’i’ki’pedi’i’a that sounds a bit over the top even for a fantasy starfish alien (never mind an online encyclopedia).

    Funnily enough, there apparently already is a Latin orthography for Kazakh used on the Kazakh Wikipedia (supposedly to be used in Turkey); under that orthography, the name comes out as Wïkïpedïya.

  12. I wonder what the rationale is?

    As best I can tell, the RAE’s current approach in is to treat h as if it isn’t there (so buho needs to be buhó) and to treat i and u as consonantal if it’s at all possible (so rió and truhán need to be rio and truhan). The latter point especially bothers me, because those words are still very often disyllabic in speech.

  13. Stu Clayton says:

    I must admit that I’m not an RAE watcher. What has not changed is the orthography of what I read in newspapers and books. Accent mark for clarity (si, sí) and when the stress is not penultimate. No messin’ round.

  14. J.W. Brewer says:

    To the extent Kazakhstan has two official languages and a majority of its residents are (at present) to some degree bilingual, it seems a practical convenience for both languages to be written in more or less the same script. Not so much so that you would necessarily push for one of the two to change if that was not the status quo that the existing bilingual-and-literate population was already habituated to, but enough so that one might wonder about the motivations of those seeking to change that status quo and, if a Russophone by preference, might have some concerns about future policy regarding the status of that language and ask whatever the Russian equivalent of “cui bono?” might be.

  15. ask whatever the Russian equivalent of “cui bono?” might be.

    I fear the cultural equivalent is “кто кого?” ‘who [beats up/defeats] who?’

  16. J.W. Brewer says:

    So w/o getting all pop-Whorfian, Russophones may for cultural-historical reasons be particularly interested in the question of whether ones own group (whether defined ethnically, linguistically, or otherwise) is on track to be the кто or the кого, I presume.

  17. Sorry, I meant “búho” rather than “buhó” in my last comment, of course. Another troublesome case is huí, which as far as I know is almost always pronounced [uˈi], even though they’d have you spell it hui as if it were [wi].

  18. Jim Doyle says:

    SFReader,
    “Four million Russians and Russian speakers live in Kazakhstan. Of course, they are very concerned how their names will be spelled in Kazakh passports from now on.”

    If they have passports, that makes them Kazakh citizens. If they are Kazakh citizens, they can take Kazakh names. Or perhaps they can just Kazakhify their Russian names, the same way Kazakhs for so long were expected to Russify theirs.

    But if this really is just an esthetic concern over an ugly orthography, I see their point.

  19. ə de vivre says:

    If they have passports, that makes them Kazakh citizens. If they are Kazakh citizens, they can take Kazakh names. Or perhaps they can just Kazakhify their Russian names, the same way Kazakhs for so long were expected to Russify theirs.

    So they should integrate or go home?

  20. marie-lucie says:

    Stu: The French, now, have been discarding accents circonflexes right and left, but it was high time for that anyway.

    Not for me! but of course I am an old lady now, so my opinion does not count.

    To me the circumflex does mean something as it signals a different pronunciation from the plain vowel. But with the considerable internal regional mixing in France, plus the large number of immigrants, especially in the Paris area, a lot of people no longer make what to me are crucial pronunciation differences. (And those differences are alive and well in Canada).

    The circumflex was declared out of date and useless, but maintained “in cases where omitting it would create misunderstandings”. But people for whom there is no difference in pronunciation use it apparently randomly. Here is an example I came across just a few days ago, I think in a Facebook posting: the topic was “insects”, and I read that insects have six pâtes, which means ‘six pieces of pasta’, or ‘six types of paste or dough’, while the writer should have written six pattes ‘six (animal) legs’.

  21. Russian remaining an official language in Kazakhstan, it’s not as if Cyrillic is going away.

  22. So they should integrate or go home?

    I wonder what home means for people of, say, Ust’-Kamenogorsk which was settled by Russians in 18th century – some sixty years before US Declaration of Independence…

    I am afraid if the Kazakh government takes the approach that ethnic Russians are the enemy which must be subjugated or expelled, the people of northern and north-eastern Kazakhstan will take the third option…

  23. they can take Kazakh names

    and convert to Islam…

  24. According to Wikipedia, Uzbek and Karakalpak already have Latin orthographies with marks resembling apostrophes.

  25. > A few commenters are defending the apostrophes, which just goes to show you can’t assume people will agree about anything, even the ugliness of spellings like “Ay’yl s’ary’as’ylyg’y.”

    Speaking as one of those commenters . . . I agree that that spelling looks ungainly, but people also say the same about Polish with all its Zs, and about Vietnamese with its horned Os and multiply stacked diacritics, and so on and so forth. I bet somewhere there’s a cuneiform tablet mocking the repurposing of logograms for syllabic signs. (“What, are they paid by the character?”) What matters is how native speakers feel about it once they’ve gotten used to it.

    (Also, I was assuming — and maybe I’m totally wrong about this — but I was assuming that examples like “Ay’yl s’ary’as’ylyg’y” are not really representative examples, but rather are specifically chosen for their high density of apostrophes.)

  26. First paragraph of Kazakh Wikipedia article about Kazakhstan in new Kazakh Latin looks like this:

    Qazaqstan (Dybysy Qazaqstan [qɑzɑqˈstɑn]), tolyq atay’y Qazaqstan Respy’bli’kasy (Dybysy Qazaqstan Respy’bli’kasy) — S’yg’ys Ey’ropa men Ortalyq Azi’i’ada ornalasqan memleket. Batysynda Edildin’ to’mengi ag’ysynan, s’yg’ysynda Altai’ tay’laryna dei’in 3000 km-ge, soltu’stiktegi Batys Sibir jazyg’ynan, on’tu’stiktegi Qyzylqum s’o’li men Ti’an-S’an tay’ ju’i’esine 1 600 km-ge sozylyp jatyr. Qazaqstan Kaspi’i’ ten’izi arqyly A’zirbai’jan, I’ran elderine, Edil o’zeni ja’ne Edil-Don kanaly arqyly Azov ja’ne Qara ten’izderge s’yg’a alady. Muhi’tqa tikelei’ s’yg’a almai’tyn memleketterdin’ is’inde Qazaqstan – en’ u’lkeni.

  27. Apostrophes are also no good in many computer environments as they are ‘functional’ characters.

    Oof, that’s going to be annoying in Unix shell.

    For less technical folks, the problem they’ll run into is “smart quotes”. It will be a horrid alternation of open and close single quotes like the legs of a scurrying centipede.

    It sounds like the president-for-life is designing the system for the convenience of computer use, but computers circa Wargames.

  28. It looks like someone said, “Let’s create a script for the Internet age,” but what they actually meant was an ASCII-compliant aplhabet (limited to the core set: 0-127 in, 128-255 out). In 2018, it reads like a relic from the times of FidoNet and old Usenet. “Computers circa Wargames,” as tangent says.

    The choice against digraphs has added more apostrophes to the alphabet. Uzbek only has two apostrophized characters, o’ and g’. In the Kazakh Wiki text above, there are six more: a’, i’, n’, s’, u’, y’. Even Karakalpak uses sh where the new Kazakh script uses s’.

    As long as Russian remains an official language, I doubt Russian names will be required to be transliterated via Kazakh. I would also expect those Kazakh names that would become completely unreadable by non-Kazakhs to be spelled differently for international use.

  29. but people also say the same about Polish with all its Zs

    Polish orthography developed over the course of centuries, and like English or French, is suboptimal. If someone were converting Polish from a Cyrillic alphabet today it would probably look a lot more like Slovak or Czech.

  30. If they have passports, that makes them Kazakh citizens. If they are Kazakh citizens, they can take Kazakh names. Or perhaps they can just Kazakhify their Russian names, the same way Kazakhs for so long were expected to Russify theirs.
    In general, like most post-Soviet Republics, Kazakhstan distiguishes between citizenship and ethnicity. A citizen of Kazakhstan is (in Russian) a Kazakhstanec (often anglicised as Kazakhstani), while only ethnic Kazakhs are called Kazakh. In the current setup, passports are in Cyrillc with a Latin transliteration (for purposes of international travel) that, as far as I know, has been unchanged since Soviet times and uses digraphs (e.g. “kh” for “x”). I don’t think that many ethnic Russians in Kazakhstan care much about how their names will be transliterated, but they will care about that their names will now not be written in Cyrillic anymore, but in an alphabet (Roman) they don’t know or at least don’t feel at home in.
    And then ther’s the point that only a minority of Kazakhs is really burning to switch to the Roman alphabet – it’s a hobby horse of nationalists, but most Kazakhs I know couldn’t care less. Many Kazakhs even don’t know their own language well and feel more comfortable in Russian. So for them the switch to the Roman alphabet will mean an extra hurdle to reading and writing Kazakh, as it will be written in a different language to the alphabet they’re using for their language of everyday business – Russian.
    As long as Russian remains an official language, I doubt Russian names will be required to be transliterated via Kazakh.
    Maintaining two different transliteration schemes would be an effort, so I don’t think that’s likely.
    I would also expect those Kazakh names that would become completely unreadable by non-Kazakhs to be spelled differently for international use.
    I don’t see why anyone would bother.

  31. ə de vivre says:

    I wonder what home means for people of, say, Ust’-Kamenogorsk which was settled by Russians in 18th century – some sixty years before US Declaration of Independence…

    Exactly. Maybe I’m displaying my ignorance of the specifics of the Kazakhstani context, but I suspect that any Russophone plutocrats there will do just fine for themselves no matter what the official script.

  32. Kazakh passports for foreign travel (загранпаспорт) stopped displaying names in Cyrillic long time ago. Cyrillic and Latin names are still shown on national ID cards which are valid within the country.

    I meant to post proof, but apparently after Cyrillic, WordPress banned links too.

  33. What matters is how native speakers feel about it once they’ve gotten used to it.

    So you might as well choose the worst available option because people will get used to it? People will get used to anything; that hardly seems like a good standard.

  34. Kazakh passports for foreign travel (загранпаспорт) stopped displaying names in Cyrillic long time ago.
    Oh, somehow I missed that. Probably the ones I looked at in the last couple of years were older ones, or my memory tricks me and I mixed them up with the ID cards.

  35. So you might as well choose the worst available option because people will get used to it? People will get used to anything; that hardly seems like a good standard.

    What I’m saying is that apostrophes may not be any worse than the other options. Apostrophes seem stranger than digraphs and diacritics, but perhaps only because we’ve already gotten used to digraphs and diacritics.

  36. David Marjanović says:

    Using single quotes would become impossible.

  37. What I’m saying is that apostrophes may not be any worse than the other options. Apostrophes seem stranger than digraphs and diacritics, but perhaps only because we’ve already gotten used to digraphs and diacritics.

    But we’re used to apostrophes too; it’s not like they’re some strange new phenomenon we need to accustom our eyes to. If you’re going to maintain that they’re no worse as diacritics than anything else, you have to explain the near-universal revulsion at the sight of the new spelling.

  38. Polish orthography developed over the course of centuries, and like English or French, is suboptimal. If someone were converting Polish from a Cyrillic alphabet today it would probably look a lot more like Slovak or Czech.

    Polish orthography was not converted from Cyrillic but developed directly from Mediaeval attempts to represent the West Slavic languages using the Latin alphabet. Actually, early Czech spelling (before the háček was invented) was just like Polish, with z used — rather inconsistently — as a digraph modifier (the way that h is employed in English ch, sh, zh, gh, ph, th). The Polish system was intially rather messy, but the modifying z (in sz, cz, rz) came to consistently mark a postalveolar (retroflex) articulation. In order to avoid using z to modify another z, the dotted ż was introduced for the sound [ʐ] (and in the digraph for the corresponding voiced affricate, ). Today, ż and rz have the same pronunciation, but the latter originally stood for the same trilled fricative as Czech ř. The historical contrast is visible in some positions: drz is a cluster, not an affricate (unlike , at least in Warsaw-type accents), and rz is devoiced to [ʂ] after the voiceless obstruents p, t, k, ch.

    By the way, the Polish-looking international spelling of Czech(ia) actually harks back to the pre-háček period.

  39. < If you’re going to maintain that they’re no worse as diacritics than anything else, you have to explain the near-universal revulsion at the sight of the new spelling.

    If it’s really true that people are more revolted, or more likely to be revolted, on first exposure to a highly-apostrophized spelling than a highly-diacriticked spelling, then OK; but I’m not convinced that it’s really true. I’ve seen plenty of people laugh about Polish spelling and Vietnamese spelling and Hebrew spelling and even The New Yorker‘s spelling. I think — and I could of course be wrong — but I think the big difference with the proposed Kazakh spelling is that we’re all being exposed to it at once, so we’re all feeling that feeling at once. (It’s also probably relevant that this is a government decision, attributable to a single authoritarian president; we might feel a bit boorish laughing at the well-established writing system of a foreign country, but we — rightly — feel no compunctions laughing at politicians. Because whatever our opinions about the orthography itself, I’m sure we all find it revolting that Nazarbayev made the decision unilaterally.)

  40. @Ran: For my part, I definitely find spellings like “Ay’yl s’ary’as’ylyg’y” and “I’ndi’ra ko’s’ege s’yqty” to be uglier and harder to parse than “Auyl śaruaśylyğy” and “İndira kóśege śyqty”, and you’ll just have to take my word that I’d feel the same way regardless of who was proposing them. As Hat points out, if anything, you’d expect Anglophones like us to be more welcoming of apostrophes than diacritics – and that aside, Kazakhs don’t appear to like this proposal any more than we do.

  41. Melvyn Hunt says:

    Apostrophes break up the regular letter spacing whereas diacritics don’t. One reason why people (including me) don’t like so many apostrophes is that it makes it a bit harder to segment text into words when reading.

  42. In Friday, I was talking with a friend, and I happened to mention the name of a fantasy character with an apostrophe in his name, and we discovered that we disagreed about how the name ought to be pronounced. He was for ignoring it for purposes of pronunciation, while I interpreted it as an unwritten schwa-like vowel. I think that I would have pronounced the name the same way even before I became a regular synagogue-goer, but nowadays, having gotten used to reading Hebrew in transliteration (my reading of Hebrew characters is still too slow to be used during prayers), I almost always interpret an apostrophe in an unknown word as, depending on the surrounding letters, a hiatus or a short central vowel.

  43. More on apostrophes in fantasy and science fiction names (though it does misspell R’lyeh and Cthulhu, and it omits Wade-Giles when mentioning non-English names).

  44. David Eddyshaw says:

    Only one state ruler has ever personally come up with a decent orthography for his own language. In general Supreme Leaders should stick to rewarding their sycophants, impoverishing the people, threatening the neighbours, and other such ruler-y pursuits. Non omnia possumus omnes.

  45. Hmm, I’m surprised no hatter has pointed out that the subject had been discussed earlier here:

    http://languagehat.com/nobody-is-really-too-keen-on-a-cyrillic-nta/

    Especially relevant to this thread: Michael Farris made a nice point (which I agreed with), to the effect that Russian and English will be the winners as a result of the lack of stability of Kazakh spelling.

    David Eddyshaw: okay, I’ll bite. Whom are you talking about? Ataturk, or King Sejong?

  46. David Eddyshaw says:

    Sejong. I’ll give you Atatürk as an Honourable Mention, though. Forgot about him. (Not in the same league as Sejong, though. And an orthography doesn’t have to be brilliant to be a great improvement on the Ottoman system, after all.)

    Nazarbayev perhaps wishes to emulate his Altaic brethren … (OK, I admit it, I’m trolling here …)

    Apropos of nothing much, I see that Wyk’yped’ya claims that “Kyrgyz was originally written in the Turkic runes.” Surely all parties could compromise on that?

  47. David Marjanović says:

    Only one state ruler has ever personally come up with a decent orthography for his own language.

    And that one seems to have had interesting motivations.

  48. David Marjanović says:

    How much personal input did Atatürk have? And the use of j for the rare loanword phoneme /ʒ/, necessitating c for the very common /dʒ/, subtracts one point.

  49. David Eddyshaw says:

    The Turkish orthography has to do peculiar things with circumflexes to accommodate vowel length and variations in the quality of of velars and l in the loanwords that remain despite the efforts of the Great Language Purifiers. That’s fairly venial, though. Not sure that the use of ğ doesn’t merit another point off, mind.

    Re interesting motivations: my sympathies are with Sejong. Who hasn’t wished to push his peevish ideas about how to pronounce Chinese characters correctly? I shall not be among those to cast the first stone …

  50. I almost always interpret an apostrophe in an unknown [Hebrew] word as, depending on the surrounding letters, a hiatus or a short central vowel.

    In Modern Hebrew the mobile schwa, formerly [ə], is merged with /ɛ/. I prefer lechayim over l’chayim.

    Confusingly, people also use an apostrophe between two consonants (simple schwa), between two vowels not separated by a glottal stop (furtive patakh), and standing in for any vowel after the various waw morphemes.

    I suspect that the overuse of apostrophes in Hebrew is motivated by trying to exoticize the language, as in Sci Fi languages.

  51. In Modern Hebrew the mobile schwa, formerly [ə], is merged with /ɛ/.

    The things I learn around here! How long has this been going on?

  52. David Marjanović says:

    Not sure that the use of ğ doesn’t merit another point off, mind.

    Reportedly it’s still [ʁ] in unspecified eastern dialects, so the decision to write it at all may not be purely historical (in an otherwise deliberately ahistorical writing system). But the Early Soviet letter Ƣƣ, invented 6 years earlier, might have been a better idea…

    peculiar things with circumflexes

    Long vowels only occur in Arabic/Persian words, and I’m not sure how consistently they’re pronounced there. But why “peculiar”? Only â, î, û seem to occur, by far the most common one is â (helâl, İslâm, the given name Neclâ…), which can’t be confused with anything (e.g. i, ü).

    The things I learn around here! How long has this been going on?

    Since the resurrection of the language at least, or so I thought. Of the few sources I’ve read, all ascribe five vowels to Modern Hebrew; and what I’ve heard of Israeli politicians on TV or radio (for a few seconds before voice-over sets in) or tourists (in acoustically suboptimal settings, and likewise for short times) has never led me to suspect there might be a sixth.

  53. David Eddyshaw says:

    why “peculiar”?

    According to G L Lewis

    It cannot be overemphasized that the primary function of the circumflex is to indicate palatalization and not vowel length; eg in mütalâa ‘observation’ the first and not the second a is long.

    Thus kaatil “murderer”, not *kâtil, because that would wrongly show that the k was palatalised.
    He goes on to say that in the latest edition of Yeni İmlâ Kılavuzu (as of 1967, this is – old book) the recommendation is that the circumflex should only be used on a after l in Arabic and Persian loans (i.e. not French etc) and only if the vowel is also long.

    (To confuse matters a bit, when Lewis says “palatalised” of l, he actually means the normal “clear” [l] of French and Arabic, as opposed to [ɫ], which is what the same letter signifies in native Turkish words before back vowels.)

    I gather that yer actual modern Young Turks have basically given up the circumflex as a bad job. Who shall blame them?

  54. How long has this been going on?

    At least as long as I have been around, for all age groups I’ve heard, at least among L1 Ashkenazis. There is an expected slight reduction of all vowels in unstressed position, but that’s all. The extra-short vowels (ḥatafim) have also merged with their corresponding sisters.

  55. Huh. Well, now I know!

  56. > In Modern Hebrew the mobile schwa, formerly [ə], is merged with /ɛ/.

    That’s not completely true; it’s fine to pronounce it as [ɛ] (except in the many cases where it’s now simply silent), but it’s also common to pronounce it in a much more reduced way than is ever done with /ɛ/.

  57. Ran,

    I would say בְּסֵדֶר ‘all right’ as [bɛˈsɛdɛr] in all but the most casual pronunciation. In very fast speech I might say something like [bǝˈsɛdɛr] or [pˈsɛdɛr]. But this is just vowel reduction, same as in, say, tǝlɐˌviv] instead of [tɛl ʔaviv].

    All in all, I don’t have much correlation between where I have a reduced vowel and where the orthographic mobile schwa belongs. Of course I have awareness of the schwa and it has some influence on my speech, and when I speak extra carefully I imagine the printed words in front of me, but I wouldn’t say that I have a schwa as a clear independent phoneme (whatever that means).

  58. It appears Nazarbayev has had second thoughts: https://akipress.com/news:602573/

  59. they now introduced acute – á, ǵ, ń, ó, ú, ú – and new letter ı alongside straight i.

    The capitalized form of ı and i is the same – I.

    There is some method in this madness, but can’t figure it out.

  60. David Marjanović says:

    new letter ı

    Bending over backwards to avoid any resemblance to Turkish, this ı means [i] and [j]! The new i is [ɪ] (much more common than [i]), and the sound written ı in Turkish is y.

    Has anyone other than most IEists ever used the letter ǵ before?

  61. The Unicode name list, which contains much information of this kind, says that ǵ is used in “Serbian and Macedonian transliteration”. A little digging in Wikipedia shows that in the Macedonian Latin alphabet, ǵ and ḱ are used instead of the ć and đ of Gaj’s Latin alphabet (used for Croatian, Serbian, and Bosnian, and also for Slovene, where the alveopalatal affricates do not occur). However, this usage is a recent development.

    The spread of ı will cause yet more minim-confusion in handwriting: the sequence “mınımum”, for example, is basically 15 consecutive humps or zigzags in looped and italic hands respectively.

  62. >The capitalized form of ı and i is the same – I.

    Does anyone know enough to comment on this decision? Does one of the phonemes usually not occur in initial position (kinda like Russian ы), or is the difference somehow neutralized? Will it cause any confusion in practice?

  63. и and i both can occur in initial positions.

    I suppose Kazakh verbs “Oblige” and “Catch up” can be confused if capitalized – both would be written as Iligú.

    But they would still retain distinction in lower case – ıligú vs iligú

  64. David Marjanović says:

    Found it: of the several standards for transcribing Macedonian, one with ǵ and ḱ (ISO 9:1995) has been taught in schools since 2013 using a textbook titled Da čitame i pišuvame Latinica. Curiouser and curiouser.

  65. Ксёнѕ Фаўст says:

    Apparently Klingons visited president Nazarbayev and said he can’t rip off their style anymore 😉 Calling all apostrophes, report to the base letter!

  66. So, if I’ve understood correctly, the change is mostly a transliteration. I think someone told me that the orthography is already fairly phonemic, but whether that’s the case or not, that won’t change for the better or worse with near-to-one-to-one mapping. I guess the ı-i thing and the digraphs will make it slightly worse.

    But apart from the political/symbolical value, is there any actual benefit? Wikipedia says that literacy increased after Atatürk introduced the Latin alphabet. I don’t know the Arabic script or how it was used in Turkey, but I’m guessing that change was much more than a simple one-to-one mapping. Are there any subtleties I’m missing?

  67. All Kazakhs will become functionally illiterate in their own language for many years to come and new generations will be no longer able to read the vast literature published in Kazakh Cyrillic in 1940-2020.

    Domination of Russian as the primary language of reading for Kazakhs now seems assured.

    Is it what Nazarbayev wanted all along?

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  1. […] Language Hat notes how the use of the apostrophe in the newly Latin script-using Kazakh language is controversial. http://languagehat.com/apostrophe-catastrophe-in-kazakhstan/ […]

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