Initially it was composed in Arabic. Enter the Soviet Union who in 1929 got rid of Arabic and presented Latin – just to 11 years after the fact move to the Cyrillic letter set to have the republic more in accordance with whatever is left of the USSR.
The Kazakh form of Cyrillic has 33 Russian letters and nine Kazakh ones, while the Latin content just has 26.
No. The Latin alphabet has far fewer letters: There will need to be creative combinations with apostrophes to catch all the sounds needed for the Kazakh language.
None of the alphabets that exist seem like a perfect fit or have a long enough tradition to be the uncontested host for its language.
Before you get lost in translation, here are a few spellings of the country’s name just to give you an idea:
President Nursultan Nazarbayev has given a lengthy explanation: There are many reasons like of modernizing Kazakhstan, but also determined by “specific political reasons”.
Political pundits see it as step to weaken the historical ties to Russia: Shedding not only the Russian alphabet, the thinking goes, but also the influence Moscow still likes to exert over its post-Soviet backyard in central Asia.
There are also more immediate practical reasons: The hope is that Latin letters will make it easier to push for modernizationt in a global and digital world.
Of the other four Former Soviet Republics in Central Asia, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan still use Cyrillic while Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan are using the Latin alphabet.
This discussion is not new: The change to the Latin alphabet has been mooted several times since the country’s independence after the end of the Soviet Union, but so far has failed to garner widespread support.
If even the name of the country would change from Kazakhstan to Qazaqstan, just imagine the potential for confusion in people’s daily lives?
Let’s look at the innocent carrot for an example: The Kazakh word for carrot is “сәбіз” and would traditionally be spelled “sabeez” in Latin. In new Latin alphabet though, it will end up as “sa’biz”.
This, again, is awfully close to the Latin spelling of an extremely rude Russian swear word.
Not all the mix-ups are as delicate as this one: But there’s ample discussion online of people confused and amused by how they now should write their own names and whether the change will work out well nor not.
While some see it as a right step out of the shadows of the Soviet past and of present Russian influence, others warn it’s a politically motivated move which will disconnect future generations from the country’s written past century.
By the end of the year there will a finalised official Latin spelling. By next year teacher training is to begin and new textbooks will be developed.
Come 2025, all official paperwork and publications in the Kazakh language will be in the new Latin script. President Nazarbayev indicated though there would be a transition period where Cyrillic might still be used as well.
Given that Russian is the country’s second official language, signs and official documents will though remain bilingual: in the Kazakh with Latin letters and in Russian with the Cyrillic alphabet.