Turkish latin alphabets

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The Turkish Latin alphabets are a subgroup of the Latin script in which Turkic and other Near Eastern languages ​​such as Kurdish , Circassian and Lasic are written today. They have historically replaced older alphabets, the predecessors of which were also referred to as the uniform alphabet in the languages ​​concerned . The original name of these writing systems - Uniform Turkish Alphabet - was abandoned when non-Turkish peoples also joined the system.

"Ataturk shows the way" - a memorial in Kadıköy dedicated to the introduction of Latin script

Historical development


The Azerbaijani man of letters Mirzä Fätäli Axundov , who was born in Georgia , single-handedly began to develop a Latin alphabet for the Turkotatars of Russia around 1850 . In 1863 he was in Istanbul at a congress of the Turan Society and presented his finished alphabet there. However, this did not meet with the desired response, so that Axundov returned to Georgia disappointed. There he reformed the Arabic alphabet from 1878 .


The Turkish alphabets created in the late 1920s differed only slightly from one another. They had slight Cyrillic modifications of the classical Latin alphabet . So it was a combination font, but the Latin components predominated. Because of its numerous advantages, this written form was soon adopted by the Turkic peoples and other peoples of the Russian Empire . The Latin alphabet was easy to learn and already widely used around the world. There was also an advantage over the Arabic scripts, as each sound was now assigned a unique letter. This enabled foreign speakers to read a text in such a way that a native speaker could understand it. These alphabets also met the respective grammatical rules very well. In addition, people growing up multilingual, such as minorities, only needed to learn a standardized alphabet.

The so-called uniform Turkish alphabet was developed from 1922 in Baku , the capital of Azerbaijan , for the community of Turkic languages. Previously, all of these languages ​​- as far as they were written - were based on the Persian-Arabic alphabet . After the collapse of the Tsarist Empire in 1917, the Russian Tatars turned to the West; As a result, from 1922 onwards, they began to break with the traditional Arab-Persian traditions: Azerbaijan was the first of them to introduce the standardized alphabet for official correspondence; from the school year 1924/25 it was introduced as generally binding. From 1924 Karachay was also written using this alphabet; In 1925 it was decided that the other Turkic peoples of the North Caucasus should also be latinized and written in their languages.

In the period from February 26 to March 5, 1926, a conference of Turkologists was held in Baku. All Turkic minorities of the old tsarist empire took part. The delegation of the Chuvashes was particularly welcomed by the delegates . The president of the congress was Samadagha Aghamalioghlu. Two employees of Kemal Ataturk , Mehmet Fuat Köprülü and Hüseyin Zade Ali Bey , attended the congress from Turkey .

Three main directions developed very quickly:

  • The "traditionalists" or Kadimtschilar under Gamiljan Sharifov pleaded for the retention of the traditional Arabic script. This should guarantee the continued affiliation to the Persian-Arab cultural area.
  • The “radicals” or Jadidists under Sultan Majid Afandiyev wanted the Arabic to be replaced by Latin characters as quickly as possible. This should illustrate the modernization and connection to the West of the Turkic peoples.
  • The "moderates" under Ahmed Baytursun were for both writing systems; they demanded the Latin script for international and private correspondence, while laws and works of high poetry and science continued to be written in Arabic characters. These stood between the first two groups.

Finally the radicals prevailed, and it was decided to introduce a “uniform Turkish alphabet” for all Turkic peoples. In Turkey , the alphabet was introduced under the name New Turkish Alphabet after modifications by Ataturk in 1928 (see below ).

The Latin alphabet also prevailed abroad, although it was slightly adapted to the pronunciation in almost all countries. Especially sibilants and vowels were often provided with special characters or extra provisions. In 1929 the Latinization of the Turkic languages ​​was completed, in 1931 that of the Mongolian languages ​​of the USSR . Languages ​​further north, which were already written in the Cyrillic alphabet, did not participate, as this alphabet was already in phonetic writing. But the Chuvashes did not take part in the latinization either, they were the only Turkic people in Russia to stay with the Cyrillic alphabet.

But finally the Moscow leadership under Josef Stalin decided that compulsory Russian lessons should be introduced in all non-Russian-speaking areas of the Soviet Union and that the Cyrillic alphabet should be introduced for all languages ​​in the USSR. In the years 1936 to 1940, the uniform alphabet in the USSR was gradually pushed back again. The only exceptions were those parts of the USSR that were granted the status of a Soviet Socialist Republic after 1940 . For this reason, the Baltic States and the Karelo-Finnish SSR , unlike the other Union Republics, continued to write with Latin letters.

New Turkish alphabet

The New Turkish Alphabet is very much based on the classical Latin script and can therefore be read effortlessly by Europeans if they know a few special features. The development of this alphabet is attributed to Ataturk himself, who is said to have formulated this as a goal as early as 1919 at the National Congress in Erzurum. The "Uniform Turkish Alphabet" did not go far enough for him because it was a mixed script , so he made some changes. The “ New Turkish Alphabet(Yeni Türk alfabesi) was well received after its publication in 1927 and in 1928 replaced the Arabic script that had been used up until then . It was very easy to learn and made literacy a lot easier . In 1928 it was decided to set up national schools ( Millet Mektepleri ) in order to teach the adult population the script. A year later, more than a million citizens had registered. More than 1.2 million diplomas were issued by 1933. The number of books published also skyrocketed from 1934 onwards. The Latin script also served the state to finally remove the monopoly of education from the Islamic clergy.

A B C Ç D E F G Ð H I İ J K L M N O E P R S Ş T U Ü V Y Z - ( Â Î Û )
a b c ç d e f g ğ h ı i j k l m n o ö p r s ş t u ü v y z - ( â î û )

In the New Turkish Alphabet there are no letters that deviate from Latin, only additional characters that are mostly known from alphabets in other national languages. A special feature, however, is that the I, the unrounded closed front tongue vowel , also has a point in capitalization (İ). This is used to distinguish it from the unrounded closed back vowel [ɯ] , which is similar to the western I, but is always written without a point: ı, I.

In 1990 a summit of all Turkish-speaking ministers of culture from Central Asia and the Caucasus took place in Ankara . The Turkish government at the time suggested that the great Turkic peoples of the USSR should adopt the Turkey-Turkish alphabet for their states over the course of 15 years or use it as the basis for their own development. The smaller Turkic peoples should then also adopt this alphabet at a later (unspecified) time. This also included parts of the population who had already written Latin before the Russian Cyrillic process. The acceptance of the resolutions was generally high and there was a positive attitude towards the Latin script. For the young states of Central Asia, it meant turning away with the introduction of a “western” writing system via Turkey to the west and away from the sinking Soviet Union.

As early as December 1991, Azerbaijan , which is directly adjacent to Turkey, introduced the mandatory Turkey-Turkish alphabet - with five additional characters added - which was also called the "New Turkish Alphabet". The use of the Cyrillic script was however still tolerated by the Azerbaijani government; one justified this with the Russian minority in the country.

The Crimean Tatars , expelled from Crimea in 1944 , also introduced a variant of the Turkey-Turkish alphabet in the 2000s. These Latin-based alphabets are now referred to by all these peoples as the “New Turkish Alphabet” - regardless of whether it was a takeover of a revised version of the Turkey-Turkish alphabet or an in-house development. In the West, one speaks of modified Latin alphabets that have been adapted acoustically to the language in question.

More modern development

The summary of the slightly different alphabets is already emerging. At the Conference of the Permanent Council in 1994, a sample alphabet was presented, the " Common Turkish Alphabet" (Turkish Ortak Türkçe alfabesi ), from which the new writing systems of the Turkic states were to be formed.

For the Uzbek language , a new alphabet was originally developed from this sample alphabet. However, in the course of the same year, Uzbekistan was the only Turkic state to opt for a completely different approach and designed its own script variant from the standard Latin alphabet. The Turkish special characters were not adopted to express special features in the Turkish language, but separate special characters (oʻ and gʻ) were introduced. For the Karakalpak language , which is also at home in Uzbekistan , a new Latin alphabet was adopted in 1997, which is based on the new Uzbek alphabet.

In 1995 Turkmenistan replaced the Cyrillic alphabet with the Latin one, see Turkmen alphabet . The Tatars in Russia began writing in Latin again in 2001. However, the Tatar government had to withdraw this decision as early as 2004, since Russia prescribes the Cyrillic alphabet as the only mandatory alphabet in its republics.

A commission of the ministries of culture in the states of Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan drafted a uniform Kazakh-Kyrgyz Latin alphabet for both states for reasons of cost. In early 2005, the Kazakh state news agency introduced this Latin alphabet alongside the Cyrillic one. In December 2012, the Kazakh government announced that the introduction of the Latin alphabet would be completed by 2015, which did not succeed. On October 27, 2017, Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev ordered his government to replace the Cyrillic alphabet with the Latin Kazakh alphabet by 2025 . The conversion of the written Kyrgyz language discussed after the independence of Kyrgyzstan was not carried out in the end.

Individual evidence

  1. Bilal N. Şimşir: Türk Yazi Devrimi , Ankara 1992, p. 119
  2. Kazakhstan switches to the Latin alphabet , derStandard.at, October 27, 2017, accessed on November 6, 2017
  3. ^ L. Johanson: Kyrgyzstan: Language Situation. In: K. Brown (Ed.): Encyclopedia of Language & Linguistics. 2nd Edition. Elsevier, Oxford 2006, pp. 275-276. doi: 10.1016 / B0-08-044854-2 / ​​01690-4
  4. Rafis Abazov: Historical Dictionary of Kyrgyzstan . Scarecrow Press Forlag, Lanham, Maryland / Oxford 2004, ISBN 0-8108-4868-6 .


  • Heinz F. Wendt: Fischer Lexikon Sprachen , 1961 ISBN 3-596-24561-3
  • Helmut Glück (Ed.), With the collaboration of Friederike Schmöe : Metzler Lexikon Sprache. 3rd, revised edition. Metzler, Stuttgart / Weimar 2005, ISBN 3-476-02056-8 , p. 417 [Note: Under the title “New Turkish Alphabet” the “Uniform Alphabet” is incorrectly described.]
  • Klaus Kreiser : Farewell to Arabic Script (1928). In: Klaus Kreiser (Ed.): Germano-Turcica. On the history of learning Turkish in German-speaking countries , Bamberg University Library, Bamberg 1987, ISBN 3-923507-06-2 , pp. 121–128.
  • Center for Turkish Studies, Essen: Current Situation in the Turkic Republics - Domestic Policy, Security Policy, Economy, Environment, Population (Working Paper 14, 1994)
  • FSP Development Sociology, Bielefeld: Forms of trans-socialization as opposing processes to nation building in Uzbekistan (Working Paper 334, 2000)
  • The Fischer Welt Almanach '94 - Numbers, data, facts , 1993 (p. 846)
  • Mehmet Tütüncü: Alphabets for the Turkish languages
  • Herbert W. Duda: The new Turkish Latin script. I. Historical. In: Orientalistische Literaturzeitung 1929, columns 441–453. - II. Linguistic. In: Orientalistische Literaturzeitung 1930, columns 399-413.
  • FH Weißbach: The Turkish Latin script. In: Archives for writing and book writing 1930, pp. 125–138.

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