LINGUIST List 5.739

Sun 26 Jun 1994

Sum: Turkic Writing systems

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  1. "STEVE SEEGMILLER", SUM: Turkic Writing systems

Message 1: SUM: Turkic Writing systems

Date: 25 Jun 94 17:47:00 EST
Subject: SUM: Turkic Writing systems

 A few weeks ago, I posted a request for information about
the plans in several Turkic-speaking republics of the former
Soviet Union to discard their Cyrillic alphabets and replace them
with Latin-based alphabets. Since the query was posted to
several lists, the summary will be as well. I apologize to
anyone who receives it more than once.

 Replies were received from the following people: Bernard
Comrie, Lance Eccles, Bob Hoberman, Bjorn Jernudd, Edward Jajko,
Christina Paulston, Andras Riedlmayer, Meena Sridhar, and Jan
Olof Svantesson. My thanks go to all of them.

 Since some of the replies were quite long, and since I
received more than one message from several people, after I asked
for clarification or additional information, I will summarize or
excerpt the replies rather than reproducing them in their
entirety. If my summary distorts the intentions of any of the
respondents, I hope they will let me or the list know. One or
two replies have been omitted from the summary, since they
contained information of interest to me but probably not to the
entire list.

 Any further information on this topic will be welcome.


 Christina Paulston informed me that an article on the Turkic
alphabet change appeared in the Chicago Tribune on June 18, 1992.

 Bernard Comrie wrote to say that he was currently working on
some material that is to appear in William Bright and Peter
Daniel's The World's Writing systems, and promised to send me a
copy. (He did.)

 Lance Eccles sent three excerpts from the SBS World Guide
(Melbourne, 1994):

 "The government of Kygyzystan, along with other Turkic
 Central Asian republics, is a signatory to the March 1993
 Ankara agreement on the adoption of a 34-letter alphabet."

 "Turkmenistan views Turkey as its natural ally beyond the
 CIS. Following the adoption of a 34-letter Latin-based
 alphabet, to replace the present Cyrillic, in Mar. 1993, a
 joint Turkmen-Turkish journal was established in Aug. 1993."

 Under UZBEKISTAN: "A 34-letter Latin alphabet was introduced
 in Oct.1993 in pre-schools, with transition expected to be
 completed in Sept. 2000."

He also referred to a chapter in Reinhard Hahn's book Spoken
Uyghur (U. of Washington Press, 1991) which provides a history of
Uyghur orthography in China.

 Jan Olof Svantesson pointed out the parallel between the
Turkic languages of the CIS and Mongolian. The government opf
Mongolia has decided to reintroduce the traditional Mongolain
script in 1994. While most publications are still in Cyrillic
script, efforts are underway to teach Mongolian script to the
population. Svantesson has written a paper on the topic:
"Tradition and Reform in China's Minority Languages,"
International Journal of Applied Linguistics 1, 70-88, 1991. He
also referred me to Birgit Nilsson-Schlyter at the Oriental
Institute, Stockholm University, who is working on a project on
the language situation in Uzbekistan.

 Bjorn Jernudd suggested checking back issues of the LANGUAGE
PLANNING NEWSLETTER and the New York Times Index. He also
indluded the folowing request, which may be of interest to other

M%9e=UI1%MQ%9Q%U form of
 AGENCIES that have been constituted for the purpose of
{GX managing language (for "implementing language policy "), I'd
 be very grateful if you would share with me those agencies'
 names and locations (perhaps addresses?). I'm compiling a
 list with basic information (a kind of directory) of
 language planning agencies and what you would supply would
 help build that list."

 Andras Riedlmayer sent a long and very interesting
description of his January 1994 visit to Azerbaijan. Some
excerpts follow.

 "Azerbaijani Turkish (popularly referred to by my hosts NOT
 as Tu"rkCe or Azerbaycanca but as M"usl"umanca!), is the one
 language in the ex-USSR for which implementation of the
 change from Cyrillic to a Latin-based alphabet has actually
 made some headway. While Turkmenistan and other Central
 Asian republics have made some committments in principle to
 romanize their orthographies, implementation of the changes
 seems to be a fairly low priority -- the president of the
 Turkmen writers' federation gave an interview during my
 visit, in the course of which he mentioned 1999 as a
 possible date for the beginning of the changeover. In
 addition to various other factors (ranging from the costs
 and the inconvenience, to reservations on the part of the
 present Russian-educated elite,...), I have heard another
 reason for a "go-slow" attitude mentioned by some Uzbeks
 I've talked to on this issue: "Having been rendered
 illiterate by fiat three times in this century, we're not at
 all eager to relive such a cultural trauma." They voiced
 opposition to any drastic and sudden changeover, and seemed
 pleased by the experimentation encouraged by the current
 situation: the freedom to publish in a variety of forms
 (though not content, of course) with Latin, Cyrillic and
 even Arabic-based alphabets appearing side-by-side. "

 "In Baku, official proclamations, posters, shop signs, the
 currency, and a small but growing number of new books
 (including recent children's books) are now entirely in
 Romanized script. Newspapers have a variety of Romanized
 content, ranging from just the masthead, to masthead +
 headlines, to the bulk of the text. Even books and pamphlets
 with wholly Cyrillic contents now usually have a
 Latin-script title page. The new alphabet has already
 undergone at least one small reform: the a-umlaut has been
 dropped in favor of the shwa sign."

 Edward Jajko forwarded two news items. The first was a
March, 1993, article from the RFE-RL daily report:

 ITAR-TASS, quoting the Anatolian News Agency, reported on 11
 March that participants in a conference on Turkic
 orthography had agreed on the adoption of a common alphabet
 by Turkey, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan,
 and Uzbekistan. Representatives of all these countries had
 taken part in the conference in Ankara, organized by
 Turkey's Foreign Ministry and the Turkish Agency for
 Cooperation and Development. In a declaration at the end of
 the gathering, participants announced that they had decided
 on a 34-letter alphabet. (Turkey's present Latin-based
 script has 29 letters.) Azerbaijan introduced the use of
 Latin script in 1992. The other Turkic countries have been
 discussing such a step. The conference's decision must be
 confirmed by the heads of the Turkic states. Bess Brown,
 RFE/RL, Inc.

The second was a summary with excerpts of an article from a Dutch

 In the Dutch Newspaper NRC Handelsblad of Thursday 8 April
 there was an article about the proposed Ortak T<u">rk
 Alfabes<i'> (Shared Turkish or simply Turkic Alphabet). In
 it the Turkologist Sema Barut<c,>u of the TICA, the Turkish
 Republic's government Agency for Cooperation and Development
 coordinating aid to Central Asia is quoted as a source. She
 was charged with organizing the conference that is referred
 to above.

 "The Turkic Alphabet consists of 34 Latin or extended-Latin
 characters and serves as an inventory for the individual
 Turkic languages for composing their own alphabets. So the
 Turkish will remain as it is with a subset 29 characters,
v: and Azerbaijan already introduced an orthography that uses
 32 and the Kirgiz orthography will be based on a subset of
 28 out of the 34 character pool.

 "The long term strategy is to achieve linguistic recognition
 through bundling the Turkic languages. Defining a shared
 alphabet is a first step. In a later phase users of each
 subset will have to be familiarized with the remainder of
 the alphabet.

 However the quantum leap is going to be "straightening out
 the orthographic and morphologic differences between the
 various Turkish languages. A new Turkic dictionary is also
 envisaged in this step. The final step is claiming Turkic a
 an official language at the United Nations. After all there
 are some 185 million speakers of Turkic (unified or not)
 from the Adriatic to [Western] China.

 There is an illustration in the article from which I draw
 the following conclusions:

 Aa Bb Cc <C cedilla> <c cedilla> Dd Ee <capital letter
 schwa><small letter schwa> Ff Gg <G breve><g breve> Hh Xx <I
 without dot><i without dot> <I dot above><i dot above> Jj Kk
 Qq Ll Mm Nn <N tilde><n tilde> Oo <O umlaut><o umlaut> Pp Rr
 Ss <S cedilla><s cedilla> Tt Uu <U umlaut><u umlaut> Vv Ww
 Yy Zz

 The letter schwa denotes a" (fronted e); the letter x
 denotes a guttural fricative close to h, which is follows in
 the sorting order; the letter k denotes a front k or palatal
 k; the letter q denotes a back k or velar k and it follows k
 in sorting order; the letter n tilde denotes a nasalised
 velar occlusive sound, like ng in English.

 The alphabet essentially reiterates the Turkish Republic's
 alphabet with the following five additions:

 <schwa> x q <n tilde> Ww


Once again, my sincere thanks go to all of those who responded to
the query.

Steve Seegmiller
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