LATINIZING RUSSIAN.

Terry Martin’s The Affirmative Action Empire: Nations and Nationalism in the Soviet Union, 1923-1939 has astonished me yet again. Back in 2003 I posted about Eugene Garfield’s 1975 effort to get Russians to “give up their ugly Cyrillic … for the flexible, international Roman alphabet.” Now, in Chapter 5 of Martin, I learn that there was a serious project along those lines decades earlier:

The main obstacle to NA [the new latinized alphabet]‘s world mission, within the Soviet Union at least, was the Russian alphabet. There had been some talk after the Revolution of latinizing the Russian alphabet, but nothing came of it. In 1929, with a second wave of utopian internationalism rising, the subject was again broached. Lunacharskii wrote several articles in support of latinizing Russian. Like Agamali-Ogly [an Azerbaijani revolutionary who led the campaign for latinization of the Turkic languages], he claimed he had Lenin’s endorsement. Most important, Lunacharskii helped put the educational bureaucracy behind the idea. On October 19, 1929, Uchitelskaia gazeta (Teachers’ Newspaper) published a discussion article on the latinization of the Russian alphabet. A month later, Izvestiia announced plans to reform the Russian orthography. Three committees had been formed within the Scientific Department of the Education Commissariat: on orthography, spelling, and the latinization of the Russian alphabet. At the same time, another committee was formed within the Council on Defense and Labor (STO) to deal with the publishing consequences of the proposed reforms. At least one of its members also publicly advocated latinization. The Communist Academy, an early supporter of latinization, hosted an exhibition devoted to the new alphabet, which showed how under the russificatory Tsarist regime the Russian alphabet had expanded outward, and how under the new progressive Soviet regime its domain was continually contracting. This flurry of activity suggested that the latinization of Russian was being seriously considered.

The idea was quickly quashed (in “a laconic Politburo resolution of January 25 1930″), but that it was taken seriously for even a time is amazing.
By the way, as Jongseong Park said in this thread, Korean was one of the languages for which latinization was proposed, as was Chinese:

Objections that this policy would make Soviet Chinese and Korean culture (there were several hundred thousand Koreans and Chinese in the Soviet far east) inaccessible to their compatriots abroad were brushed aside with characteristic bravado: “Not the twenty million strong population of Korea, but the 170 thousand strong Korean population of the Soviet Union should become the advance-guard of the cultural revolution of the Korean people.”
[...] It was eventually decided to form five separate Latin alphabets for five major Chinese dialects. [Footnote: The five dialects, in Russian transcription, were severnoi/shandunskii, guandunskoi, futszianskoi, tsziansu/chzhetsziana, khunaii/tsziansi.] [...] In practice, only a Latin alphabet for the northern Shandunskii dialect was approved and put into use for the Soviet Chinese. Plans for a Latin Korean alphabet were approved but apparently not actualized.

Comments

  1. Cool. Didn’t know that non-Muslim Chinese had their own alphabet. And it’s indeed for the non-Muslims, as Soviet scholars called the dialect of Dungans “Gansu” not “Shandong”.

  2. In reference to that earlier post: Cyrillic could definitely use more ascenders and descenders, for the sake of quick reading. I find about half the characters almost indistinguishable in serif fonts. Of course, this problem could be solved without chucking the whole writing system: all it would take is some concerted long-term pressure on/by font designers.
    Chinese needs, if anything, to develop a native syllabic-featural script that can handle tone elegantly, and ideally be extensible to all the “dialects”*. Something like Japanese (or Korean) minus the kanji, on steroids. Pinyin, despite its vast superiority over other romanization schemes, would just be awful as a native script. I’m looking at you, Vietnamese!
    Anyone who seriously proposes the end of Hangul for Korean lives on a different planet than me.
    *A system in the vein of General Chinese could be interesting, though highly complex itself.

  3. Wikipedia has some good links to encyclopedias, copies of primary materials from the late ’20s – early ’30s, and even a sed script to convert.

  4. I find about half the characters almost indistinguishable in serif fonts.
    I too once complained about that here, but Hat essentially pooh-poohed my complaint. As I remember, he suggested I should wait for the next generation of font designers, whose aesthetic oomph is low since they are still recovering from totalitarianism. Or something like that.
    I had imagined the problem was due to spacing, but someone pointed out that the reason is the relative lack of ascenders and descenders as compared with English print.

  5. I don’t think “Cyrillic is ugly”, it’s just that traditional Russian print fonts are a self-inflicted pain in the ass, like German Fraktur.

  6. As far as I know, Cyrillic doesn’t carry all the political baggage of Fraktur and it’s a lot easier to read.

  7. michael farris says:

    Personally, I find the Greek alphabet far easier to decode than Cyrillic, and it’s probably because in most Cyrillic fonts a lot of the letters are very close (different letters in different fonts – I’m not sure if that helps or hurts).
    If I had a reason to use Cyrillic on a daily basis that might change somewhat, but at present it takes me longer to decode Cyrillic than Greek. A slight exception is all caps Greek and there I think I’m constantly being fooled by H, the only shape shared by Latin, Cyrillic and Greek that has very different values in each one. For some reason I very often initially decode Greek H as Cyrillic.
    Also, while I think international standards for the romanization of various languages that use other writing systems for academic purposes (like pinyin) is a good idea, I can’t help but think the movement to exchange Cyrillic for Latin in central Asia (and/or Mongolia) is deeply, deeply misguided. Fortunately it seems to have run out of steam.

  8. michael farris says:

    While here, I’m curious – did they ever come up with a concrete proposal on how to write Russian in Latin? And if so, was it based on Czech or something else?

  9. Czech out the Wikipedia link provided by MMcM; it shows all the various proposals in a convenient table.

  10. @xyzzyva: I love General Chinese, which conserves the majority of Chinese characters’ benefits, i.e. no need to reject the literary register or to switch to opaque international scientific terminology. My grudge against it is what makes Y.R. Chao proud for it and Gwoyeu Romatzyh and other clever romanizations — no sane people can master how to write the tones.

  11. John Emerson says:

    There’s a lot of controversy as to what the real Nazi font was. Fraktur (blackletter, sometimes called Gothic) was actually banned by Hitler in 1941 as not suitable for international / imperial purposes. Some say that Helvetica (~Arial) is the real fascist font.
    Recent research has found that Nazis used more than one font, so the question remains undecided.

  12. John Emerson says:

    More.

  13. Is that true that the Nazis used Helvetica, John? It must be the most commonly used font for advertising and notices and everything larger than newspaper text, so it wouldn’t really surprise me — except that it’s a modernist, sans-serif font.

  14. there is – or was – at least one version of latinised Russian with a very practical application: to send messages via telex/teletype in Russian. The sender would punch the text using a standard code, for instance э had to be represented by eh. The receiving machine had a decoder which picked up exactly the combination of latin letter punchholes that corresponded to cyrillic letters – and the output would be in Russian script. As a wire news reporter, in the seventies I had to learn the code by heart, but hardly remeber any of it now.

  15. John Emerson says:

    Everything I know is at the links.
    But apparently the Nazis liked some kinds of modernism.
    I like sans-serifs and put my self-published book in sans-serifs, but everyone hated that.

  16. It’s theoretically harder to read text sans serifs, but a lot of architects use it anyway because they can’t bear decoration (i.e. they don’t care if it’s harder for you to read). Oddly, Language seems to have sans serif for his comments but serif for his posts.

  17. I have several modest questions to pose, out of ignorance. Does “latinization” mean “transliteration” ? Wouldn’t “transliteration” almost unavoidably lead to squabbles about the adequacy of the Latin characters to indicate Russian pronunciation (I’m thinking of that little “lentis” b-thing) ?
    Surely, as soon as one single new more-Russian-adequate character has to be added, we will have created a new character set. Does the world need yet another character set ?
    “Printed mathematics” is a notation system that is used in conjunction with a natural-language print. Wouldn’t it be easier all round if people just accepted the fact that you sometimes need more than one thing to do a job, a knife and a band-aid ? Isn’t it high time we take >1-lingualism seriously, not as a favor granted to a few gifted folks ? Also, more-than-one notation systems for varied purposes are hardly new, we already have zillions of them. The problem is in thinking that is second-best.
    What I am getting at: instead of fretting ever and again about “latinization” and such things, we should remember that we just passed through an aeon of conceptually coherent, perfectly-reasonable Endlösungen. You may hope that a new demiurge may turn up to set things straight, but then you should at least be honest about it.

  18. I’m looking at you, Gnostic running-dog recidivists !

  19. Nyet, thanks. Even my daughter, who never even visited Russia, can read Lomonosov’s autograph (scroll to bottom), written roughly 300 years ago. Not being able to read your parents archive or birth certificates is another business.

  20. David Marjanović says:

    Neonazis around the world use lots and lots of Fraktur, but, I mean, they don’t know history by definition…

    shandunskii, guandunskoi, futszianskoi, tsziansu/chzhetsziana, khunaii/tsziansi

    Shandong, Guangdong, Fujian, Jiangsu/Zhejiang, “Hunai” (Hunan, I suppose)/Jiangxi.
    The Russian transcription of Mandarin is remarkably similar to Pinyin, though it’s older, not younger. In a few things, though, it does cater to specifically Russian phonological sensibilities: n/ng are нь/н, because Russian lacks the sound [ŋ] altogether; and s/x are с/сь, which comes very close to the actual pronunciation in Beijing.

    was it based on Czech or something else?

    Judging from that Wikipedia page, it was almost hilariously based on the Soviet Latin alphabets for Turkic languages.

    Chinese needs, if anything, to develop a native syllabic-featural script that can handle tone elegantly, and ideally be extensible to all the “dialects”*. Something like Japanese (or Korean) minus the kanji, on steroids.

    The Korean script was actually designed not just for Korean, but also for… Early Mandarin or whatever. The double consonant letters weren’t needed for Korean at the time; they were invented for the Chinese voiced [b d g], only preserved in Wu anymore.
    Plus, the Middle Korean pitch accent system was written with diacritics.

    Pinyin, despite its vast superiority over other romanization schemes, would just be awful as a native script. I’m looking at you, Vietnamese!

    I think Pinyin is fairly bearable. Vietnamese is three times worse that way, and, well, it’s in actual use…

    I can’t help but think the movement to exchange Cyrillic for Latin in central Asia (and/or Mongolia) is deeply, deeply misguided. Fortunately it seems to have run out of steam.

    It’s a matter of which Cyrillic alphabets and which Latin alphabets. On the one hand, some of the Cyrillic alphabets that were replaced were rather inept at representing the sound systems of their languages. (The worst was probably that for Crimean Tatar. But on the mild side, almost every single Soviet alphabet followed the Cyrillic tradition of representing /j/ with at least four different letters.) On the other hand, there was a drive for orthographic Panturanism – entirely sensible, I think, because the Soviet divide-et-impera alphabets had made the Turkic languages look much less similar than they are. On the third hand, however, some postcommunist dictators used the opportunity to make a name for themselves. The new Turkmen alphabet, reportedly designed by Türkmenbaşy himself, bends over backwards for nothing (/ɯ/ is y, /j/ is ý – I’m not the one who’s kidding!), and the new Uzbek one is littered with apostrophes and diacritic h.
    BTW, the Mongolian ий is [iː], not [ij], right? If so, why isn’t it written ии (in analogy to the other long vowels that are all written with double letters)? Because that would be pronounced [iji] in Russian.

  21. David Marjanović says:

    Does “latinization” mean “transliteration” ?

    Not necessarily. In this context, “to latinize/romanize a language” means “to introduce a Latin-based alphabet for it”. The three schemes proposed for Russian are not strict transliterations, though they’re fairly close.

  22. I don’t understand – why is everybody so angry about everything so suddenly? is it holidays or bad influence of ‘fodder for allusions’? breathe out, folks.

  23. I don’t see anyone being angry here, Sashura. Surely you aren’t taking “Gnostic running-dog recidivists !” as a sign of anger ? It’s a silly joke. Although, if one grew up taking that kind of thing seriously …

  24. Yeah, I don’t see any anger here. Last week, now…

  25. ok, sorry, it must be the panu-russophobes got me going

  26. That deviationist line has been suppressed, comrade.

  27. David Marjanović says:

    If we’re already posting YouTube videos, try this one on the Australian election. Turns out Rudd speaks with a southern accent…

  28. David Marjanović says:
  29. antipodes
    @DM, our ий is ий, just [j] is a bit shorter then in Russian

  30. than

  31. Wikipedia has an article on Sin Wenz, too. Though it has an incomplete reference in footnote 5: it’s quoting Nationalism and Language Reform in China, though much the same material is in part IV of the DeFrancis’s later The Chinese Language: Fact and Fantasy.

  32. Sashura: Tass ? Only us older folks remember telexes now … says a veteran of UPI, Reuters and AP (and a stringer for AFP for a while).

  33. yeah, ten years at Tass, like my father before me. ‘News’ – and I hear the rattle of dozens of machines in teletypenaya hall.

  34. aqilluqqaaq says:

    some of the Cyrillic alphabets that were replaced were rather inept at representing the sound systems of their languages. (The worst was probably that for Crimean Tatar….)
    I don’t follow this. What is it for a script to represent a sound system aptly except actually to be in use (at least in part) to represent that sound system? If, on the other hand, it means that the script requires the extensive use of supplementary characters, then surely there are far worse instances than Crimean Tatar – Nivkh, for example, or worse again, Ubykh. But, even so, what makes, say, ӽъв less apt for /χʕw/ in Ubykh, or гъ for /ɣ/ in Crimean Tatar, than жч (as opposed to щ) for /ɕɕ/ in мужчина – or any character-combination in any language, for that matter?
    I’m all for making phonology transparent in, for example, IPA, but why make that the sole (or even an important) criterion for an apt script? Why not one which marked morphology too, or syntax? But is it really the business of (written) language to be analytically transparent?

  35. What is a stringer? To me, it’s the beam that supports stair treads.

  36. Oh, I see. Never mind. It’s a freelance journalist.

    The etymology of the word is uncertain. Newspapers once paid stringers per inch of printed text they generated, and one theory says the length of this text was measured against a string. The theory given in the Oxford English Dictionary is that a stringer is a person who strings words together, while others use the term because the reporter is “strung along” by a news organization, or kept in a constant state of uncertainty. Another possibility is that the journalist is seen as a “second stringer” where as the staff positions are more of the “first string.”

    Wikipedia. I don’t believe it, though.

  37. AJP, you sound like khatul madaan?

  38. AJP: I don’t believe any of those origins of stringer above any other – though there may be some truth in the “stringing along” theory. A stringer is also a structural component in an aeroplane (usually wooden, but I think it still applies to metal construction).
    Sashura: yes, I worked in small rooms lined with teletypes too – my hearing has suffered ! We had Tass and also Hsinhua – when one of their “385th serious warning” to Taiwan rolled in, we refused to handle it if one take exceeded the 15-foot length of the subs deesk, and it sometimes did…
    Maybe I’d better do something on my Old Hack blog and we can continue the “remember whens” over there, and not impose further on LH’s hospitality.

  39. A lot of people have said that, Sashura, but I don’t even have a cat.
    I’m in awe that you worked for Tass. To someone like me, who grew up during the cold war, it’s almost like saying you were a cosmonaut.

  40. grew up during the cold war
    so did I, everybody misses it, ask Anna Chapman
    cosmonaut
    thanks for another contribution to my ever-growing dictionary of Russian words in English. I can’t source it: some say it was Tikhonravov, others say it was in circulation before – von Braun? Matt Brzhezinsky jokes in ‘Red Moon Rising’ that Americans got ‘stars’ while Russians got the ‘cosmos’.
    don’t even have a cat
    I meant you sometimes seem to be swapping comments with yourself, like that cat on the golden chain.

  41. Paul,
    yeah, Xinhua were terrible, but I remember we weren’t very good at takes and breaks, especially when it was something from the Kremlin.
    Where did you work?

  42. Read, thanks for the clip – I can’t understand the words, but, remembering how Thatcher and Gorbachev talked about Europe from Atlantic to the Pacific, they should apply to join the Eurovision, really.

  43. about Europe from Atlantic to the Pacific
    what? that’s a very insensitive remark, what will happen to the Asian part then?
    the singer sings in Buryat Mongol about her “khuleg” -bystryi skakun and something about shuudert tal – rosistaya step’- the dewy steppe, but honestly i can’t catch the whole sentences too, b/c the dialect is pretty different from ours

  44. I doubt that it was used about the chimps they sent up, so I expect it first became popular in English around the time that Yuri Gagarin became the first person in space, so 1961. In England it was always used for Russians in space: “Soviet cosmonaut” was the usual phrase.

  45. Sashura: that was at British United Press, the UK outlet for UPI. Our job was translating American into English, both in spelling and journalistic style, to sell to British newspapers. Finally it folded when the Brits took the UPI wire direct and did their own re-writes. I worked in a reporting pool at the Melbourne Olympics with a delightful Tass sports guy – we discovered ordinary Russians were humans too, shed a new light on the Cold War !

  46. …though in Melbourne there was the infamous Soviet-Hungarian waterpolo match during the invasion of Hungary.

  47. David Marjanović says:

    I’m all for making phonology transparent in, for example, IPA, but why make that the sole (or even an important) criterion for an apt script? Why not one which marked morphology too, or syntax? But is it really the business of (written) language to be analytically transparent?

    Google is awesome. Six years ago I read this, and its the top Google result for its title… The very first post is by a Crimean Tatar who was born & raised in Uzbekistan. The Crimean Tatar alphabet lacked letters for ü and ö – and lacked any other consistent way of representing them! To cite the examples: dört, öz, söz, köz, göl, kök were written дёрт, озь, сёз, козь, голь, кок. Conversely, ю was able to mean yu, and ü: yurt, yürek, dünya = юрт, юрек, дюнья. The soft sign in that latter word is especially silly, because the language doesn’t do palatalization.
    That spawned 12 pages of delicious, delicious discussion over 3 years.
    So, it absolutely is the business of an orthography to not be that intransparent. :-)
    (And Ubykh was never written except for scientific purposes, and even that only when no more than 2 native speakers were still alive. Did you find a system that was proposed for revitalization?)

    Europe from Atlantic to the Pacific

    To the Urals, right?

  48. Charles Perry says:

    I always thought “Latinize” meant to translate into the Latin language and “Romanize” meant to transliterate into the Roman alphabet.
    But the Latin alphabet? Is that what you kids are calling it these days?

  49. David Marjanović says:

    Is that what you kids are calling it these days?

    Yes, “these days” being decades or centuries for some of us… :-)
    Always been called латиница/latinica in Slavic languages.

  50. In the second post from the top in Poemas del Rio Wang it says “The word “Democracy” written on the banner can be also understood without any knowledge of Azerbaijani (the country changed back for Latin script only after the following independence), which might be of interest for this thread.
    (Sorry, I can’t remember at this late hour after much rosé how to put in the link, but I think most people know it.)

  51. aqilluqqaaq says:

    The soft sign in that latter word is especially silly, because the language doesn’t do palatalization.
    The point is the character ь, for example, is a soft sign if and only if it indicates palatalization, as it does in Russian. For example, in Koryak the same character – ь – is the voiceless glottal plosive, not a soft sign. But we don’t even have to go that far afield. In Old Church Slavonic the character ь is a reduced front vowel. In Nivkh the combination ть is /c~tʃ~ɟ/, never /tʲ/, which even in Russian can also be written дь (грудь).
    It’s no more opaque to a Nenets speaker that ва”ав reads /βaʔβ°/ (whatever a Russian speaker might suppose) than it is to an English speaker that ‘queue’ reads /kjuː/ (not, as in French, /kø/) because the phonetic value of any character (or group of characters) is determined by the work it does in the language in which it is used, not by its use in the language from which it was adopted. Otherwise, ь in Russian would be just as ‘inept’ as a marker of palatalization.

  52. David Marjanović says:

    OK, OK, but that ь in дюнья doesn’t have any other function either, unless Russian rules are presupposed. *Дюня still couldn’t mean anything but dünya.
    In other words, we have the orthographic rules of one language determined by those of another, and those latter rules express phonological phenomena that don’t occur in the first language.

    In Nivkh the combination ть is /c~tʃ~ɟ/, never /tʲ/

    Not that it matters, but [c] and [tʲ] are almost the same thing.

  53. John Emerson says:

    After all, to the Russians Rome was Greece or Turkey.

  54. But the Latin alphabet? Is that what you kids are calling it these days?
    Wikipedia article on the “Latin alphabet”:
    The Latin alphabet, also called the Roman alphabet, is the most widely used alphabetic writing system in the world today.
    As for Latinisation vs Romanisation, well, there is a potential difference in meaning even in this narrow context because “Latin” could refer to either the language or the alphabet, whereas “Roman” refers only to the alphabet. Thus the transformation of 孔夫子 into “Confucius” is an example of Latinisation, not Romanisation.
    Another example: “The Church in Rome used Greek from the beginning. Only gradually was Latin introduced until the fourth century when the Church in Rome was definitely latinized.” In this case “latinisation” refers to the adoption of the Latin language. ‘Romanisation’ would be incorrect.

  55. Incidentally, this article on Latin and Vernacular: Language in the Roman Liturgy is a nice example of linguistic conservatism using various kinds of bogus logic to justify its conclusions. In particular:
    The Popes and the Roman Church have found Latin very suitable for many reasons. It fits a Church which is universal, a Church in which all peoples, languages and cultures should feel at home and no one is regarded as a stranger.
    Moreover, the Latin language has a certain stability which daily spoken languages, where words change often in shades of meaning, cannot have. An example is the translation of the Latin “propagare”. The Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples when it was founded in 1627 was called “Sacra Congregatio de Propaganda Fide”. But at the time of the Second Vatican Council many modern languages use the word “propaganda” in the sense in which we say “political propaganda”. Therefore, there is a preference in the Church today to avoid the expression “de propaganda Fide”, in favour of “the Evangelization of Peoples”.
    His example on ‘propaganda’ seems to contradict his point — Latin, like the modern vernaculars, is subject to semantic contamination!

  56. Тексты песен на бурятском. Адушунай дуун about halfway down. (Of course, all I can tell is that it’s the same song, not any minor variances.)

  57. thank you, MMcM! I can understand almost all words of the song reading its lyrics
    there are a few songs that i recognize there, two songs there are ours and one song is translated from, they say our songs are popular in Buryatia and Inner Mongolia
    my father is Buryat, his favourite song Araaraa modtoi Binderiya – Binderiya mountain with the forest on its north side – is not there, a pity

  58. thanks MMcM.
    the song can be also downloaded (no20) here in the version by Bugotak, the buryat rock-group. They put the title in English as ‘The Cowboy’s Song’. In Russian it’s called “Песня табунщика”

  59. Jongseong Park says:

    @xyzzyva: Cyrillic could definitely use more ascenders and descenders, for the sake of quick reading.
    There is the so-called ‘Bulgarian style’ of Cyrillic typefaces that uses more ascenders and descenders for letters such as в, д, к, and even ю. They also use upright cursive forms, e.g. an и identical in form to a Latin ‘u’. As far as I can tell, a group of Bulgarian type designers have promoted the style as a reaction against the Petrine forms imported from Russia. In Bulgaria, these typefaces seem to be existing side by side with the more traditional Russian-style ones. Read more here.
    @John Emerson, AJP Crown:
    Helvetica was designed in 1957, Arial in 1982, so it is highly anachronistic to suggest that these were used by the Nazis.
    Futura, a Bauhaus-influenced 1927 geometric sans-serif design by Paul Renner, was eventually used by Nazi Germany from 1941 on because people in the conquered territories found the traditional German Fraktur typefaces difficult to read; so the Nazis conveniently found that the Fraktur style was ‘Jewish’ and banned it. The irony is that the Nazis had used Fraktur typefaces extensively up to that point, so much so that to many Germans the Fraktur style is still associated with the Nazi era. Futura was used mainly because it was a popular non-Fraktur typeface that all the printing-houses already had. Futura was and has continued to be popular throughout Europe and North America, with minimal Nazi associations.
    Helvetica and Arial are grotesques, belonging to a different genre of sans-serif designs from Futura, which is geometric.
    @David Marjanović: The Korean script was actually designed not just for Korean, but also for… Early Mandarin or whatever.
    King Sejong, the inventor of hangul, was particularly interested in standardizing the Korean pronunciation of Chinese characters based on the principle of faithfully preserving the phoneme distinctions in Chinese (not sure which variant). Hence the creation of letters specifically for Chinese. Didn’t stick, though.
    @Charles Perry, Bathrobe:
    On the other hand, ‘Latin alphabet’ is generally preferred in typographic circles because ‘roman’ usually means the upright, non-italic style in their parlance.

  60. Yes, having been a proofreader for years I have the ital/roman distinction firmly embedded in my brain.

  61. ignoramus says:

    Most enlightening, very up brain, very academic..
    Why Latinised alphabet?
    It [LA] became popular in trading areas because of the ease and low cost of using simple strokes and spreading the word [religion]to get more money and people under control of the few.
    Basic letters are easy to scratch on/in stone.
    … too many lanquage letter’s are too artistic for time constrained people and time consumming to make a point. [ sorry I do waffle]
    Those that had time on their hands could play games and add whirligigs, twirls, serifs and have their illustrated letters.
    Language has two uses, one to inform and two to keep others in ignorance. Very popular with certain groups, for example Latin was used in England to keep the parishioners in awe of the church laws, the Welsh refusing for centuries to learn English, did not want false masters influencing ths stories of olde.
    Language is to communicate?
    Morse found a simple way to get knowledge of important events quickly from a to z, beats smoke signals and running men and fancy language.
    Thus the evolving teletype, no good for Armenian, not enough letters covered.
    Now the internet [ the whole world] needs a common means of trading thoughts simply.
    United Europe? [no common acceptable lingo] need to use many linguistic versions of the laws passed and hopefully obeyed, world commerce needs a common lingo to get a common money [gold?] to circulate, but the one common point is Self interest of whom should control and they do need to communicate and understand.
    So back to basics.
    Latin was once the common lingo of the Educated classes[?] and clergy.
    What will emerge, it will be texing????????? no need for elaborate lettering.

  62. David Marjanović says:

    After all, to the Russians Rome was Greece or Turkey.

    Maybe, but not to the Serbs. In 1415, IIRC, Stefan Dušan started calling himself “Emperor of the Serbs, Greeks, Albanians and Aromunians”, not “King of the Romans” or suchlike.
    Also, lateinisches Alphabet in German. Römisches Alphabet would be understood as pertaining specificially to the Roman Republic and/or the (Western) Roman Empire, and even that would require a few seconds of thinking first.
    (Lateinschrift, however, is an obsolescent word for “handwriting”. The opposite was Kurrentschrift, the handwritten counterpart to Fraktur.)

    a common money [gold?]

    LOL. That would lead to horrible deflation. There simply isn’t enough gold in the world to pay for everything that has worth.

  63. David Marjanović says:

    So I forgot to mention this yesterday… it’s a forum thread about whether and how to use the Latin alphabet for Russian, and it’s going on right now! :-) And it’s in Russian.
    Other topics on that forum include “Cursive in Serbian/Macedonian Cyrillic”, “The Tibetan alphabet as the/an international one”, “The Georgian alphabet for North Caucasian languages”, “The origin of the Cyrillic handwritten letter T (as opposed to [its usual shape] m“, “The new Serbian and Svan Cyrillic alphabets of the 19th century”…
    I fear I’ll spend a couple of half nights there. Will be even more tiring because that kind of text stretches my Russian to its limit. :-(

  64. To argue for an alphabet change because cyrillic is “difficult” (I won’t even go there on “unattractive”) is somewhat akin to telling all speakers of tonal languages to change to a romanticized form to make it easier on the rest of us, isn’t it?

  65. David Marjanović says:

    “The Tibetan alphabet as the/an international one”

    An international one, it turns out. :-) It’s a brief mention that it has been used for Mongolian.

  66. michael farris says:

    “it has been used for Mongolian”
    What hasn’t?

  67. А пущай английский переходит на арабицу…
    heh, like! and very on topic

  68. David Marjanović says:

    What hasn’t?

    Good question.

  69. What hasn’t?
    Good question.

    so what? we perhaps like to experiment with letters, and hadn’t been only borrowing always from other cultures, we were inventing ours too, soyombo useg or tod bichig iirc
    and still use all of them different letters if only ornamentally
    regarding why we didn’t switch to Tibetan instead of Cyrillic is perhaps who’d want to switch from the middle ages to the middle ages, that was perceived not suitable for the modernization purposes maybe, the revolutionaries wanted to cut the connection between people’s religious mentality and literacy perhaps

  70. A plausible looking Google hit for Араараа модтой Биндэръяа as a song (and not a novel, which I suppose was named after the song) might not be complete. But it looks to mention монгол бичиг. Is that right?

  71. yes, that song, thanks, MMcM! it’s written in Mongolian though, not Buriad and is incomplete
    there is Mongolian wiki, i did not know, and they ask to write the entries, god, so much work, to translate i guess

  72. i forgot to write what about is the song, never knew that it sounds this like ‘politically correct ‘ :)
    my father would just hum it under his nose or if he sings the words are in Buriad and i never paid much attention what it was saying, should ask him to write the whole version of the lyrics
    Араараа модтой Биндэръяа минь
    Аралтай Хурхын чимэг юм.
    Алтанхан vсэггэй монгол бичиг
    Ард бидний чимэг юм.
    /Буриад ардын дуунаас /

    The Binderiya mountain with the forest on its north side
    is decorating the Khurkh river with its islands
    The mongol bichig with its golden letters is a blessing (decoration/ornament)for us, common ard people.
    /Buriad folk song/

  73. David Marjanović says:

    there is Mongolian wiki, i did not know, and they ask to write the entries, god, so much work, to translate i guess

    ^_^
    Have fun!!! :-)
    And have a look at the list of languages that have a Wikipedia. This one might be of particular interest right now. :-)

  74. have a look at the list of languages that have a Wikipedia
    “Deprecated” Wikipedias include the notorious “Siberian” WP:
    “It is now widely agreed upon, that the creation of the Siberian language Wikipedia 2006 was based on a hoax.”
    Heh.

  75. David Marjanović says:

    Well, I wouldn’t say “hoax”. It was one guy who took the Siberian dialects of Russian (or whatever he knew of them) and made an overarching standard for them. All on his own. Complete with ебёна мать, literally “fucked mother”, as “a normal expression of surprise” for use even in poetry. Then he added at least one orthographic peculiarity (replacement of the letter ё by ьо, Bulgarian-style) and wrote a Wikipedia.
    I think this falls under “original research” or something.

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