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Central Asian Languages: a renewed source of linguistic interest
Thread poster: Alp Berker

Alp Berker  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 00:04
Turkish to English
+ ...
Sep 30, 2007

After the geopolitical happenings of 1991, several new nations were born in Central Asia. Most of these nations shared a common framework for languge and this being Turkic based languages such as Azerbaijani, Turkmen, Kazakh, Krygyz, Uzbek and Uygur. There may also be other Turkic based languages in the region.
As a Turkish Speaker, it would be interesting to find out about developments and the future of these languages. The impact of Turkish from Turkey and Russian language in regards to the region would also be interesting perhaps as a sub-topic to this thread.
It would be good to hear about the developments from translators in this region in regard to development of these languages and development of relations between translators of the region.


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doritoniac
United States
Local time: 00:04
Some of them are "endangered" languages Oct 1, 2007

Alp Berker wrote:

After the geopolitical happenings of 1991, several new nations were born in Central Asia. Most of these nations shared a common framework for languge and this being Turkic based languages such as Azerbaijani, Turkmen, Kazakh, Krygyz, Uzbek and Uygur. There may also be other Turkic based languages in the region.
As a Turkish Speaker, it would be interesting to find out about developments and the future of these languages. The impact of Turkish from Turkey and Russian language in regards to the region would also be interesting perhaps as a sub-topic to this thread.
It would be good to hear about the developments from translators in this region in regard to development of these languages and development of relations between translators of the region.

As for the future of those languages I wouldn't bet for Kazakh and Kyrgyz. I read some report on endangered languages, these two languages were listed as endangered.
The problem here is very strong influence of Russian, which is used widely not only in official proceedings but also in daily affairs.
On the surface the reason is that the majority (especally the elites) in these countries speak mainly Russian.
Kazakhstan has a considerable Russian minority and has been under tremendous Russian cultural influence (which is not -by no means- unequivocally negative), but a serious (and decently funded) state programs to improve the standing of Kazakh.
Kyrgyzstan has less of Russian influence, but the government is too weak to implement any radical policy (well, transferring all official paperwork done in Russian to Kyrgyz, or some bilingual system would be a radical step). Moreover Kyrgyzstan has much more acute economic and social problems to deal with in the first place.
These are my personal views on these languages. Will write more later.


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Yaotl Altan  Identity Verified
Mexico
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Russian influence Oct 1, 2007

Which are the countries most and less influenced by russian language from this list of Central Asian countries?

Which are the most powerful among them in terms of social and political stability so they can perform the kind of changes Bakhram described?


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Tsogt Gombosuren  Identity Verified
Canada
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Popularity and future of Kazakh Oct 1, 2007

doritoniac wrote:

As for the future of those languages I wouldn't bet for Kazakh and Kyrgyz. I read some report on endangered languages, these two languages were listed as endangered.
The problem here is very strong influence of Russian, which is used widely not only in official proceedings but also in daily affairs.
On the surface the reason is that the majority (especally the elites) in these countries speak mainly Russian.
Kazakhstan has a considerable Russian minority and has been under tremendous Russian cultural influence (which is not -by no means- unequivocally negative), but a serious (and decently funded) state programs to improve the standing of Kazakh.
Kyrgyzstan has less of Russian influence, but the government is too weak to implement any radical policy (well, transferring all official paperwork done in Russian to Kyrgyz, or some bilingual system would be a radical step). Moreover Kyrgyzstan has much more acute economic and social problems to deal with in the first place.
These are my personal views on these languages. Will write more later.


I don't think that Kazakh and Kyrgyz will eventually become extinct. I believe that those nations will someday revive their languages (I think it already started happening).
In case of Kazakh, there are 1 million speakers in China and 150 thousand speakers in Mongolia. Mongolian Kazakhs have not been affected by Russian influence and there are many Kazakh people who don't speak Mongolian and Russian, but only Kazakh. Kazakh language is becoming more and more popular. e.g. Windows is localized into Kazakh. Mobile phones are localized into Kazakh as well.


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Alan R King
Local time: 06:04
Basque to English
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A future for endangered languages Oct 1, 2007

doritoniac wrote:
As for the future of those languages I wouldn't bet for Kazakh and Kyrgyz. I read some report on endangered languages, these two languages were listed as endangered.

doritoniac, you make the mistake of assuming that "endangered language" means a language that is going to die. Endangered languages need not die and will only become extinct if nothing (or not enough) is done to stop that from happening.

The fatalistic view that certain languages are "doomed to extinction" (like the dinosaurs, some would like to add) is a belief or ideological position that actually serves to encourage its fulfilment (if enough people can be made to believe it) but which has many times been demonstrated empirically false, witness the successful language recovery movements.

By saying this, I do not mean to advocate complacent euphoria: it still remains true that languages can die and many unfortunately are doing just that as we write. Rather, I am making a plea for action, and for active support for language recovery movements, as opposed to glib statements that such-and-such a language "has no future". I also say it so as to point out (as Tsogt Gombosuren already has, for Kazakh and Kyrgyz) that such statements may be factually incorrect - based on inaccurate (and possibly even tendentious) information.

Alan


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Csaba Ban  Identity Verified
Hungary
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alphabet usage Oct 1, 2007

I think a related subject is the usage of Cyrillic vs (modified) Latin script in Central Asian Turkic languages.

Historically, all of these used Arabic (or rather, Persian) script. With the Russian advance in the 2nd half of the 19th century, they were forced to adapt a slightly modified version of Cyrillic Russian script. Historical and political issues aside, Cyrillic script is not fully suitable for Turkic languages, given the different set of phonemes.

After 1991, some languages attempted to break away from Cyrillic and adopt a modified Latin script instead, identical or very similar to the one used in Turkey since the 1920's. This would be much more suitable for writing Turkic languages. Russia, of course, still considers the Central Asian republics (and Azerbaijan) as "near abroad", i.e. its sphere of influence, and is not too happy with these nations abandoning the Russian Cyrillic script.

When I travelled in the region in 2001, Kyrgyz and Kazakh still used Cyrillic, while Uzbekistan officially already used Latin. Government billboards and announcements were using Latin, but commercials used Cyrillic. The local elite read locally edited Russian language papers.

The choice of script is most probably a political decision rather than a linguistic one.

It would be interesting to know if vocabulary is also affected by political decisions.

(There are numerous examples to this: language reformation movements in Czech and Hungarian in the 19th century aimed at getting rid of German words, Croatians now forcibly distinguish their language from Serbian by introducing new words or re-introducing old ones, Romanians constantly refreshing their vocabulary using Italian and French analogies, Turkish eliminating Arabic and Persian words en masse ever since Ataturk's reforms, etc.)

Csaba


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Umutay Midinova
Kyrgyzstan
Local time: 10:04
English to Russian
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Russian influence Oct 1, 2007

Though the Russian influence for Kyrgyz, in this case, couldn't be denied there is a trend not to recognise it in public. May be between scholars only. Translation of technical terms was easy earlier just by using the existing Russian word. Now it is a sign of good manners to use word with Persian or Arabic origin instead of it. Since for people not knowing these languages it creates problems for understanding, sometimes it is avoided by giving the Russian widely-spread denoting in brackets after this so called translation.
And be careful in presence of the Kyrgyz to talk about their speaking an endangered or extinct language. It is unpleasant per se, besides they are inclined to fight tooth and nail for their identity.


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Alp Berker  Identity Verified
United States
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TOPIC STARTER
Thanks for the information from Kyrgzistan Oct 1, 2007

That's good that the Kyrgyz are trying to put the language on more practical terms. But your post gave conflicting signals - from what you said it looks like the day to day language may end up being more confusing since using Persian and Arabic words (Which are not Turkic languages) will make it harder for people to communicate with one another. These words will be used with Russian ones, perhaps eliminating actual Krygz Words or having different languages mean the same thing.
In my opinion the only way for the language to retain it's character is a government and/or a grassroots sponsored campaign to go back to the orginal Kyrgyz words - before the other lingustic influences entered the area. That way the language will retain more of it's character and meaning and make more sense instead of being a mishmash of different languages from what I understand in your post.
Of course if decided that these other languages should be integrated into the Kyrgyz language, and there is nothing wrong with that, but it should be done in a way where everyone understands what is going on and keeping within the Krygyz grammer etc. I havn't seen many Kyrgyz->English reference books available in the West and the current situation there may explain why - unless I am wrong (and please correct me if I am).
I realize all the countries in the region are going through a transition and reference books and dictionaries are hard to come by.
regards,
Alp Berker

Umutay Midinova wrote:

Though the Russian influence for Kyrgyz, in this case, couldn't be denied there is a trend not to recognise it in public. May be between scholars only. Translation of technical terms was easy earlier just by using the existing Russian word. Now it is a sign of good manners to use word with Persian or Arabic origin instead of it. Since for people not knowing these languages it creates problems for understanding, sometimes it is avoided by giving the Russian widely-spread denoting in brackets after this so called translation.
And be careful in presence of the Kyrgyz to talk about their speaking an endangered or extinct language. It is unpleasant per se, besides they are inclined to fight tooth and nail for their identity.


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Yaotl Altan  Identity Verified
Mexico
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Member (2006)
English to Spanish
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Chinese Oct 1, 2007

How about Chinese? Does it impact on the Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan languages?

As far as I know, Western China has an important Muslim element in society.


http://www.lib.utexas.edu/maps/commonwealth/commonwealth_islamic_groups.jpg

[Edited at 2007-10-01 15:13]


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Umutay Midinova
Kyrgyzstan
Local time: 10:04
English to Russian
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Insider's view Oct 1, 2007

I suppose that I have avoided in the previous message necessary explanations. When I said about seeking replacements from Arabic and Farsi, I need to say that it was an usual way to enlarge the vocabulary by words which were absent in use for description high levels of human activity: religious, mental, feelings. Even when there were appropriate words in Kyrgyz preferable use of foreign words was a privilige of educated people. So, when applying to these languages just the ancient tradition is resumed. The heavy undeniable Russian influence is rejected by this strange paradoxical manner. But of course the reason of it is the need for words, when there is no genuine Kyrgyz words and this absence is explained by late joining to fruits of civilisation. And what before the revolution were mostly culturology words now become terms technical and scientific.

About China. The influence of our neighbour is explained by the fact that not just Islamic but namely Kyrgyz people live there. Now the share of TV time is given to movies from China life but dubbed by local artists (Kyrgyz from China). I need to say that they speak a very pure and idiomatic Kyrgyz, which is heard rarely at least in this volume on even Kyrgyz TV itself.


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Alp Berker  Identity Verified
United States
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Turkish to English
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TOPIC STARTER
Some items.. Oct 1, 2007

Hello Yaotl,
Thank you for your comments. In Tajikistan, they speak Tajik which is actually a language with similarities to Persian. They are the only country in Central Asia that has a Non-Turkic language. As far the trends go, maybe a Tajik speaker or someone from Tajikistan could enlighten us on this.
As far as China goes, the Uygur are the main Turkic speaking minority there and I am sure that there is a profound influence also. Same goes for a Uygur speaker to enlighten us on this.
Alp


Yaotl Altan wrote:

How about Chinese? Does it impact on the Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan languages?

As far as I know, Western China has an important Muslim element in society.


http://www.lib.utexas.edu/maps/commonwealth/commonwealth_islamic_groups.jpg

[Edited at 2007-10-01 15:13]


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Csaba Ban  Identity Verified
Hungary
Local time: 06:04
Member (2002)
English to Hungarian
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Turkish? Oct 1, 2007

Is there any attempt in the Central Asian Turkic languages to introduce new words from (Anatolian) Turkish? They started reforming/purifying their language some 80 years ago, reducing the number of words of Arabic and Persian origin, and introducing new words of Turkic origin, or even creating new words from Turkic elements.

I understand the intention to get rid of Russian loan words, but it does not seem to a very good approach to replace them with Arabic / Persian words, as the cultural influence of these languages in the region declined a long time ago.

Also, from a purely linguistically point of view, it's always much easier to incorporate new words that are built up from native elements (easier to conjugate, add suffixes, etc.).


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Fabio Descalzi  Identity Verified
Uruguay
Local time: 01:04
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German to Spanish
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Regarding Tajik Oct 1, 2007

Alp Berker wrote:
Hello Yaotl,
Thank you for your comments. In Tajikistan, they speak Tajik which is actually a language with similarities to Persian. They are the only country in Central Asia that has a Non-Turkic language. As far the trends go, maybe a Tajik speaker or someone from Tajikistan could enlighten us on this.
As far as China goes, the Uygur are the main Turkic speaking minority there and I am sure that there is a profound influence also. Same goes for a Uygur speaker to enlighten us on this.

There is something important concerning Tajik.
As Alp rightly puts it, it's not a Turkic language, but an Indo-European language.

I propose to take two facts into consideration:
1) For purely practical purposes, if in this thread we talk about Tajik, let's treat it as "an important language from Central Asia", or as "an official language in Central Asia". Be it for sociogeographical reasons, for terminological influence, etc. That is: the same way you are talking about Russian, Chinese, Persian, etc - an "influence", be it big or small.

BUT...

2) For concretely linguistic purposes, please, avoid talking about Tajik here. It belongs to a subgroup of the Iranian languages. It deserves special consideration, maybe yet another topic similar to "Turkish and other related languages" in importance - only that in this case, it is naturally together with Persian and Dari. So, if you have any interest in Tajik, look at this thread: http://www.proz.com/topic/86800

[Edited at 2008-04-26 01:15]


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Alp Berker  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 00:04
Turkish to English
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TOPIC STARTER
Few items.. Oct 1, 2007

Hi Csaba,
You have to keep in mind that Anatolian Turkish spoken in Turkey orginated from Central Asia. So the root of the language is from the region. Lingustic research will determine what the root Turkic words for the languages could be. But reality dictates that current trends and influences need to kept in mid also. What is good for one country may not be good or acceptable for another.
Purging is not necessarily what I meant, each country needs to determine what they are going to do with their language in the long term. they may not wish to purge and keep there links with Russian or Arabic or Persian.
The move to latin characters is a think a way that some of the countries wish to integrate themselves more with English and to an extent with modern day Turkish.
Alp

Csaba Ban wrote:

Is there any attempt in the Central Asian Turkic languages to introduce new words from (Anatolian) Turkish? They started reforming/purifying their language some 80 years ago, reducing the number of words of Arabic and Persian origin, and introducing new words of Turkic origin, or even creating new words from Turkic elements.

I understand the intention to get rid of Russian loan words, but it does not seem to a very good approach to replace them with Arabic / Persian words, as the cultural influence of these languages in the region declined a long time ago.

Also, from a purely linguistically point of view, it's always much easier to incorporate new words that are built up from native elements (easier to conjugate, add suffixes, etc.).


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doritoniac
United States
Local time: 00:04
Least Russian influence Oct 1, 2007

Yaotl Altan wrote:

Which are the countries most and less influenced by russian language from this list of Central Asian countries?

Which are the most powerful among them in terms of social and political stability so they can perform the kind of changes Bakhram described?


My impression is that Turkmens and Tajiks have the least Russian influence, but Russian influence is not the only determining factor. There are inherent differences between the languages themselves - like national awareness (for example I've heard stories that in Tajikistan Russians spoke Tajik with Tajiks, not vice versa, which is tha natural way in KG and KZ), literary heritage, and wealth of vocabulary.

In terms of political stability and willingness to change things I guess Kazakhstan is in a more favorable ground, but still it has a way to go to catch up say Uzbekistan, where everyone speaks Uzbek, and native culture is so popular amongst the citizens and beyond.

[Edited at 2007-10-01 20:17]


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