Shala-Kazakh phenomenon


Хочу сені, хочу полюбить,

Жаным сени не могу забыть,

Қайта қайта думаю тебя,

Шын ғашыкпын, че там говорить.

These are the lyrics of modern Kazakh song, the name of which can be translated as “I want to love you or Shala Kazakh kyz”. This song is performed by a man and a woman as a conversation between them. The main idea of the songs is the love story between the man who speaks in Kazakh language and the woman who doesn’t know the Kazakh language properly and is considered as “shala Kazakh”. Therefore, in the song are used Kazakh and Russian languages by mixing them in the sentence and word structures. Currently, in Kazakhstani society, the number of such songs is growing and they are getting their popularity among youth. Moreover, in society the usage of ‘shala kazakh’ language is becoming popular not only in informal speech but also in TV programmers and in official channels, in addition, some celebrities in their speech mix Kazakh and Russian languages. Therefore, below we will discuss this issue.

Firstly, coming back to the song, generally, the whole song is a mixture of Kazakh and Russian languages. The exception is the first part which sings the man but in other parts, he uses style shifting in order to communicate with his partner. According to Labov (as cited in Jaspers, 2010) “style shifting is speakers’ capacity to change something about their way of speaking was related to social parameters and to situations where these parameters mattered” (p. 8). In this case, the man also mixes languages in order to feel himself on the same wave with the woman.  As it is given in the song the woman uses “shala Kazakh” language. In the song can be found the language mixing in sentence and word structure levels, for instance, in the sentence “хочу сені, хочу полюбить” (want you, want to love) three words in Russian while one from Kazakh language or in the phrase “жігіт молодой” (a man young) has N+Ad structure while in Kazakh language usually is used Ad+N structure for such phrases. Regarding sentence structure, “Не по теме сойлемеші” (out of theme don’t speak) sentence starts in Russian and ends with Kazakh verb as in Kazakh a verb stays always at the end of the sentence. In general, this song contains a hundred word while 59 of them in Kazakh language and 41 in Russian respectively. From this proportion, it can be clearly noticed that this song represents “Shala Kazakh” phenomena in Kazakhstani society by completely mixing two languages. Moreover, the implicit and hidden meaning of this song is to mock young population who doesn’t speak in pure Kazakh and mixes it with Russian. However, the main purpose is not only criticizing but to encourage them to speak in pure Kazakh and to save their national identity.

Unfortunately, in the recent years, such examples are appearing frequently not only in songs and TV shows but because of such phenomena speaking in “shala Kazakh” becoming popular. For instance, recently in Astana was meeting of “shala Kazakhs”.

Currently, in the Kazakhstani society “shala Kazakh” phenomenon is a heated discussion. In most cases, it is not just a joke but the serious problem for Kazakhs who don’t know their native language in high level. Thus, in society, it is associated with negative interpretation. I deem that such separation doesn’t solve the issue but makes it worse. Therefore, we have to support and to encourage each other to speak purely.



Jaspers, J. (2010). Style and Styling. Language and Variation (pp. 177-204).


One thought on “Shala-Kazakh phenomenon

  1. Nice post, Gulzhaina (4.5/5). This topic has become popular with students this term, and I would encourage you to acknowledge the discussion that has gone on before you. How does your post relate to/support/contradict the previous ones? There are also a few grammatical and stylistic comments I would like to address:

    1) Firstly, coming back to the song, generally, …
    2) From this proportion, it can be clearly noticed …
    Word order:
    3) The exception is the first part which sings the man…
    Word choice:
    4) As it is given in the song the woman uses “shala Kazakh” language.

    Any suggestions about how you might re-word these phrases?


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