Monday, November 06, 2017

Everyone wants Kazakh in Latin, just not that Latin

My opinion of the new Kazakh alphabet doesn't matter. It's not my country or my language. But if I did see a name like, for example, "Abai' Kunanbai'uly", and wasn't familiar with that system of written Kazakh, I probably would think those apostrophes were all glottal stops. Also a word with a bunch of apostrophes looks kinda clumky. But I guess everyone would eventually get used to that.

The Kazakhs who post on the online forums I haunt all seem to hate the new system, not because they are attached to the current cyrillic Kazakh alphabet. They seem to want to switch to a Latin alphabet, but hate all the apostrophes and want Kazakh to use a modified Turkish-latin alphabet, like Uzbek and Azeri now uses.

It is clunkier to require two key-strokes to represent sounds that are currently represented by a single letter. (What is now Ғ will be G' (a "G" followed by an apostrophe) in the new system). On the other hand, there are plenty of single sounds that are written with more than one characters in popular Latin-based languages (e.g. the "th" "sh" or "ch" in English), so the idea of having two characters for a single sound is not as outrageous as the objections suggest. The one big advantage the Kazakh-Latin system that is being pushed by the government has is it will not require a specialized keyboard to type in Kazakh. English keyboards and the keyboards of other popular European languages will be able to handle the Ш sound (like an "sh" in English) with an S + apostrophe (S'). Under the most popular version of the Turkish-based Kazakh alphabet, that sound is represented by Ş which is not a character on the keyboards of most other languages.