Andrew Linn, Pro Vice-Chancellor, Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities and Professor of Language, History and Society, has written an article for The Conversation about Kazakhstan changing its alphabet, replacing the Russian Cyrillic script with the Roman alphabet. The article was republished by The Independent's app version.

Offering an insight into the history of scripts in Kazakhstan, Professor Linn wrote: “Kazakhstan occupies a strategic position in Central Asia and shifting allegiances can be clearly charted in the history of script reform. Early Runic scripts were gradually replaced by the Arabic script following the introduction of Islam in the 8th century. In 1924, the inherited Arabic script was modified to better reflect the sounds of Kazakh, which gave way to a Roman-based script in 1929. This, in turn, was replaced by Cyrillic in 1940, under the Soviet-era policy of russification.

“Following the break-up of the Soviet Union, neighbouring Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan quickly adopted the Roman script. Kazakhstan, the last of the former Soviet republics to declare independence, was politically more cautious. The economic situation in the early 1990s didn’t permit the luxury of alphabet reform, but a rapid upturn in the economic fortunes of the nation since 2000 has meant an increasing commitment to Western ideals, to communication with the West, to learning English and to adopting its script.

Professor Linn also pointed out that the act of language planning is not unique to Kazakhstan: Germany, Norway, Iceland, France have all experienced similar interventions.

He added: “In Kazakhstan, it is unlikely that the direction of influence in language planning will change very soon. Language policy will continue to be pursued in the post-Soviet regions ‘as a central vector for change in the reconfiguring sociopolitical constellations for some time to come’. In other words, it’s more about politics than language.”

Read Professor Linn’s full article on The Conversation’s website.

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