Languages do not exist independently of the people, families, and communities that use them. For languages to survive and thrive, they must be integrated into the lives of their speakers.
One of the countries that's realizing this is Kazakhstan - a country and language that is largely unknown outside its region. The world is gradually becoming aware of Kazakhstan, largely thanks to its oil, a growing economy, and, yes, even Borat.
Kazakh is the official language. Russian is also an official language in Kazakhstan; it has been designated as the "language of inter-ethnic communication" and is used in much of the government and in everyday business.
in the late 1920s, Soviet policy dictated that Kazakh writing, along with that of other Turkic languages of the USSR, shift from Arabic to Latin letters. This was the first of two fundamental breaks that affected Kazakh; the second, a decade after Latinization, was the shift to modified versions of the Russian Cyrillic alphabet.
In October 2006, Kazakhstan's President brought up the topic of using the Latin alphabet instead of the Cyrillic alphabet as the official script for Kazakh. A Cyrillic-Latin alphabet change is not a new concept in the region. Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan -- whose languages belong to the same Turkic language group as Kazakh, and who also had Cyrillic imposed on them when part of the Soviet Union -- have already switched back to the Latin script.
But why change alphabets?
Along with the usual arguments (in particular, promoting the country's integration into the global economy), officials have argued that a Latin alphabet could help Kazakhstan forge a more cohesive national identity, moving it out from under Russia's shadow.
One of the most notable facts about Kazakhstan is that the public is well aware of the role of language and ethnic identity in social, cultural, and political life. This understanding of the need for equilibrium between linguistic role and identity repertoires has helped to develop policies on ethnicity and language which are more or less even-handed and conciliatory.
For more details, read our entire article on Associated Content.
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