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Ŧ¥¶ØGЯ@¶Ħ¥ i₪ Đ£₪Ŧi∩¥, part 3: a Turkmen Firdowsi in Berdimuhammedov’s Court?
Written by , Friday, 5 Nov, 2010 – 1:00 | No Comment

Court of Mahmoud of Ghazni.

Editor’s note: Since the Niyazov era, Turkmenistan has seen itself as the rejuvenator of the Turkic language family. neweurasia’s Timur Niroomand doesn’t think this ambition is mad, but he sees important lessons arising from the history of the Turkic languages’ historical rival, Farsi. [Note: pictured on the left is Mahmud of Ghazni's court. Click on it to read more about the history of the Ghaznavnids.]

“Henceforth I shall not die, alive I shall remain, For I was he who spread the seeds of speech again.” — Firdowsi

Annasoltan initiated this post series, “Typography is Destiny”, to explore the many upheavals, both past and present, that surround Turkmenistan’s alphabet. Who would have thought that something so simple could be so controversial and politicized? And yet, script is indeed so fundamental to societies, because if language is the key to identity, then the alphabet is the key to language.

But there’s a bigger story beyond the Turkmen alphabet. History shows that analogous to the adventures of the Turkmen alphabet have been the travails of Persian script. The story begins with the Ghaznavid Dynasty, led by Mahmud Ghaznawi, who conquered of much of the Turkic Samanids that succeeded the Arabo-Farsic Abbasids. Mahmud’s foresight about the power of the written word, and the powerful role of government behind it, serves as a foil for today’s leadership in Turkmenistan.

Read the full story »

Ŧ¥¶ØGЯ@¶Ħ¥ i₪ Đ£₪Ŧi∩¥, part 2: the palmistry of generations
Written by , Wednesday, 13 Jan, 2010 – 9:00 | No Comment
Photograph by Flickr user Dave Fayram (CC-usage).

Photograph by Flickr user Dave Fayram (CC-usage).

Editor’s note: Is typography destiny?  neweurasia’s Annasoltan explores the ramifications of Turkmenistan’s project to Latinize its alphabet.  This is the latest in neweurasia’s ongoing coverage of the battle for control of Central Asia’s alphabets.  Also, make sure to check out Mirsulzshan’s post on the ICANN’s decision to “de-Latinize” URLs on the Web.

Fortune-tellers examine our palms to peer into our pasts and futures.  In a similar way, one shall soon be able to determine the generation to which a Turkmen belongs by examining their writing style, specifically the letters they use.

In my last post I explored the geopolitics behind Niyazov’s decision to Latinize the Turkmen alphabet, and some of the wackiness that has resulted.  In this post I will explore how Latinization has divided the nation according to writing styles, with the younger generations using the Latin script and the older ones still using the Cyrillic.   Indeed, the changeover has been quick that some Turkmen never learned how to properly write in either alphabet.

Read the full story »

Ŧ¥¶ØGЯ@¶Ħ¥ i₪ Đ£₪Ŧi∩¥, part 1: between Moscow and Istanbul
Written by , Monday, 11 Jan, 2010 – 9:00 | 3 Comments
Return of the Roman Empire?  Photograph by Flickr user ajburgess (CC-usage).

Photograph by Flickr user ajburgess (CC-usage).

Editor’s note: Is typography destiny?  neweurasia’s Annasoltan explores the ramifications of Turkmenistan’s project to Latinize its alphabet.  This is the latest in neweurasia’s ongoing coverage of the battle for control of Central Asia’s alphabets.  Also, make sure to check out Mirsulzshan’s post on the ICANN’s decision to “de-Latinize” URLs on the Web.

The shifting of the Turkmen alphabet from Cyrillic to Latin script in Turkmenistan, which began in 1993, was one of the most profound changes in the post-Soviet period.  It not only changed the written form of the language but strengthened the position of the Turkmen language vis-à-vis Russian, establishing a bridge for Turkmens to learn Turkish, English, and other important languages that use the Latin alphabet.  But how deep has the change gone in the Turkmen psyche?

Read the full story »

Attack of the alphabets: will Cyber-Cyrillic threaten global online unity?
Written by , Monday, 2 Nov, 2009 – 10:00 | 19 Comments
ICANN has announced plans to de-Latinize the internet.  Will the move threaten global online unity?  Photograph by Flickr user Kecko (CC-usage).

ICANN has announced plans to de-Latinize the internet. Will the move threaten global online unity? Photograph by Flickr user Kecko (CC-usage).

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), which coordinates the Internet’s global system of unique identifiers (URLS, domain names, etc.), has announced (ENG) that it will soon be possible to register domain names with non-Latin characters, including the Cyrillic alphabet.

At a conference in the South Korean capital, Seoul, the corporation’s CEO and President, Rod Beckstrum, remarked, “Of the 1.6 billion internet users today worldwide, more than half use languages that have scripts that are not Latin-based.”  He adds that this change is very much necessary also for future potential users as the internet continues to spread (a video of the conference is available on ICANN’s website; read the announcement here).

On the one hand, this story isn’t new.  Back in December 2008, the Ukraine started distributing the domain names .Укр and .БЛОГ for only $12.  This was followed by Bulgaria, whose domain service Register.bg, announced two months ago that any company which wants a .bg domain name will be able to register a Cyrillic address as well.  Meanwhile, Russias domain service webnames.ru began registering versions of  .CC, .TV,.COM, .NET and .SU in Cyrillic.

And let’s not forget neweurasia itself, which since 2005 has been using Cyrillic in much of its blog URLs.  Of course, none of this represents a total “Cyrillization” of domain names, but it is to point out that using the script isn’t that revolutionary.

On the other hand, it does have some dangerous potential to break apart the global online community.  Since Russia has been a major player in the drive toward the “de-Latinization” of the internet, we need to ask whether the Russian government realizes this or not.

Read the full story »

Uzbekistan: Unwanted Changes
Written by , Monday, 12 May, 2008 – 9:20 | 2 Comments

After the disintegration of the USSR, the Soviet communist identity and ideology ceased to exist and the new countries confronted the vital problems of defining new identities and ideologies. Most of the ex-Soviet countries were quick to give up the past and embrace the new life with new national values and ideas. Uzbekistan was one of the few countries where a process of defining a new identity and setting up new national values went in a very rapid manner.

The changing cultural and political atmosphere was first reflected throughout Uzbekistan through renaming of squares, streets and parks from Soviet-type names into symbols of  either independence or national identity. All Soviet monuments were dismantled, being replaced with the heroes of Uzbek history. For the last two weeks, the Uzbek blogosphere discussed changes that were happenning in the post-Soviet period in Uzbekistan. Read the full story »

The Russian Language in Turkmenistan
Written by , Tuesday, 26 Feb, 2008 – 21:29 | 6 Comments

The author of the Nähili.com blog I have already written about devoted one of his posts to the problem of the Russian language in Turkmenistan. He wonders why many Turkmen use the Russian rather than their native Turkmen language in their everyday life. Indeed, it was one of the things that struck me when I was in Turkmenistan. Almost all the signs and inscriptions that I could see everywhere in the streets were written in Turkmen (using the Latin alphabet) but everyone in Ashgabat spoke Russian!

The roots of inappropriate speaking of Russian in Turkmen families or Turkmen workplaces:
· older generation’s Russian education;
· wanting to be Russian, and feeling a second-class human being;
· laziness to force oneself to learn Turkmen better after Independence.

I think that there is one more reason. After Turkmenistan became independent in 1991, its authorities started to eliminate the Russian language from public use (and at the same time violate the rights of the Russian minority) hastily replacing it with the Turkmen language. But as it turned out, the Turkmen people were not ready for this. The inhabitants of big cities accustomed to the Russian language out of spite refused to speak Turkmen. When something is forced upon people, the result is often contrary to what it is expected to be.

What should the people who really care about the development of the Turkmen language do in this situation?

My suggestion to patriotic Turkmens on how to fix this;
· create technical Turkmen dictionaries;
· digitize and spread existing Turkmen dictionaries;
· read Turkmen literature and promote it;
· show everyone advanced Turkmen technical achievements (you’re the tech savvy ones).

I fully agree with this. But is a natural, spontaneous development of a language possible in a country that controls every aspect of social life and does not allow writers, journalists and artist to freely express themselves? I think it is not, because it is difficult to develop a language by repeatedly reprinting the “Ruhnama” or writing another article extolling the president’s achievements.

Cyrillic vs Roman?
Written by , Thursday, 14 Feb, 2008 – 22:36 | 3 Comments

BPC asked Tashboo Jumagulov, the chairman of the National Commission of state language, and the parliamentarian Zainidin Kurmanov to give their comments about the discussions in the parliament about switching the Kyrgyz alphabet from Cyrillic to Roman. The chairman of the national commission says that sooner or later Kyrgyzstan should be using Roman letters, since all of Turkic people except Kyrgyzstan use Roman, and Kazakhstan will complete switching to it by 2010. In addition, continues Jumagulov, about 85% of Kyrgyzstan population speaks Turkic languages, and 80% of the world use Roman, and the most important thing, it is more appropriate to Kyrgyz language than Cyrillic. Kyrgyz people had been using Roman letters for 18 years before using Cyrillic. At the same time, only 10 countries in the world use Cyrillic and 9 of them are Slavic people.

The parliamentarian Kurmanov thinks that it is not the right time for Kyrgyzstan for changing its alphabet because it is quite expensive and there are more important problems to be solved. Though he notes that most Turkic countries are changing to Roman, and it is an inevitable process. Both of them also indicate that it is a matter of economic situation in Kyrgyzstan.

It seems that Kyrgyzstan can learn the experience of neighbor countries, carefully analyzing pros and cons of such a big transformation. Also, changing the alphabet can cause much confusion for Russian speaking people who study Kyrgyz language, and a huge misunderstanding between generations who taught different alphabets.

Debates over Latinization of Kazakh Language
Written by , Tuesday, 25 Dec, 2007 – 13:13 | 4 Comments

Kazakhstan intends to switch the state language to the Latin script. It was announced that the transition will take 12-15 years. As adam_kesher writes, the plan stirred many disputes and arguments – in particular, Russia and a part of Kazakhstan’s Russian-speaking population considers switching to Latin is an adverse move against them. However, the blogger is more favorable towards the prospect:

“It may allow for simplification of Kazakh grammar, reduce the number of letters, as well as ease up digitization of the language, making it more readable throughout the world, giving an educational raise within the country – providing that Russian language retains its status”.

But he points out two concerns: Firstly, the government’s calculation is very underestimated, obviously not taking into account scientific research, monitoring, control and translation of Kazakh and world literature classics into new Kazakh. Secondly – for some reason – the most unsuccessful Uzbek model was chosen for the transition. Read the full story »

Latinization of the Kazakh Language
Written by , Wednesday, 12 Dec, 2007 – 14:04 | 18 Comments

Kazakhstan intends to switch the state language to the Latin script. This transition will take 12-15 years and be based on the experience of Turkey, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. It will be implemented in 6 stages.

This plan stirred many disputes and arguments – in particular, Russia and a part of Kazakhstan’s Russian-speaking population considers switching to Latin as an adverse move against them, as the Latin alphabet supposedly is less understandable than the Cyrillic one. The ones who support it refer to closer integration into the world information space and reform of Kazakh language, which historically has already had three alphabets – Latin, Cyrillic and Arabic.

Adam Kesher in his personal blog writes [ru] that switching Kazakh to Latin can be a benefit since the language will get the chance to become more flexible and functional.

“It may allow for simplification of Kazakh grammar and reduce the number of letters, as well as ease up digitization, which is very important at this IT-driven epoch. Kazakh language can become readable throughout the world and give an educational raise within the country by promoting the level of literacy of the population and its willingness to study languages where Latin alphabet is used – consequently enriching the intellectual potential, providing that Russian language retains its status”, he says.

But still there are two things that he is concerned about: Read the full story »

Kyrgyz Russian Language Attitude Survey – Pilot Study
Written by , Monday, 14 May, 2007 – 18:11 | 13 Comments

Hi Everyone,

My name is Regina and I’m a PH.D. candidate at Boston Unviversity, Boston, MA, US.  My main focus is on Kyrgyz language reform, planning and purism.  Below is the description and preliminary results of my pilot study on Kyrgyz Russian Language Contact and Attitudes.  The goal of this post is to solicit as much opinions and critique as possible. 

Since the Perestroika era in Russia, many minority languages and cultures have undergone reverse Russification (adoption and integration of the Russian language and its attributes, voluntarily or not, by non-Russian communities1). For example, if we look at the Baltic languages—Latvian, Lithuanian, and Estonian—after their respective countries became independent and joined Wester Europe, they re-emerged and began being spoken widely, if not exclusively. A new wave of nationalism, especially in the cultural, religious, and linguistic spheres of life, re-appeared, giving the peoples of those countries a new chance to celebrate their ethnic heritage: publicly and openly speaking in the language that used to be spoken only in their households, singing pop and rock songs in their own language, producing films reflecting new and old national identity and attitude, promoting patriotism, generating new slang in their native tongue, observing religious and cultural traditions and holidays that earlier were not widely acknowledged or accepted.

The facts and attributes, that defined the indigenous peoples of those countries but were forgotten, were now welcomed. Construction, or to be precise, re-construction of the national identities, however, has been co-occurring with the linguistic revival and further development. The two phenomena have been virtually inseparable from one another.

If the Baltic countries were successful in their complete and more or less smooth transition from being a part of the USSR to becoming Western European countries, it certainly was not the case with the Central Asian countries. The latter still have strong economic and political ties with the Russian Federation which may be the ruling factors in their linguistic and cultural transitions. Additionally, due to the lack of thorough language planning and standardization procedures, Central Asian languages remain severely undescribed and understudied by local and foreign linguists and anthropologists.

The planning that has been done so far in these countries is merely a slow integration of the indigenous languages into the mass media, school systems (K-12 mostly but not at a University level) as well as in a service sphere (transportation, local government offices such as town halls, and hospital administration are now including these languages in their daily operation). Lack of economic resources to facilitate adequate language planning and its implementation may be the major reason why Central Asian languages are not fully integrated in the contemporary Central Asian societies (Korth 2003). However, what the policies and planning that are currently in effect do not gauge is that the ethnical minorities are now excluded from those nations (Kuchekeeva and O’Loughlin 2003)—language suddenly became not only a symbol of emerging national identity but also a cultural and linguistic barrier for the peoples within those nations.

I would like to focus strictly on Kyrgyzstan and its political and linguistic situations after it gained independence from Russia in 1991. Read the full story »