What historical events affected its formation? I am quite acquainted with the comparisons for the word “Kazakh” like “The Land of the Great Steppe”, “The Alash”, “The Land of Nomads” and “The Eternal Country”. However the comparison with “Chinese-looking Muslims speaking Russian” was quite unusual, yet it sounded right! The reason why Kazakh look Chinese is because of the Mongol Invasion in 13th century, Kazakh are Muslims because of the Arab missionary activities which started in 8th century Kazakh also speak Russian because Kazakhstan has been a part of the USSR, where the state language was Russian. Kazakh alphabet changed 4 times: ancient Turkic runic writing (3-8 centuries), Arabic script until 1920-s, Latin alphabet was used in 1929 and current Cyrillic alphabet since 1940. Due to this issue the parallel can be made with a relatively deliberate process of linguistic imperialism of Russian over Kazakh which occurred through specific policies as well as discursive practices (Phillipson, 1992).
What’s so special about Kazakh language? What is the current situation with it? Kazakh language is unique in its own way. It is the state language of the Republic of Kazakhstan. It is estimated that it is spoken by 64.4% of the country’s 18-million population with its use strongly promoted by the government. Today the estimated number of its speakers reached for 15 million people (CIA World Factbook, 2017). It turns out that there are quite a large number of people who even think that Kazakh is a dialect of Russian! Kazakh and Russian languages are totally different languages. Kazakh belongs to Altaic languages being a part of the Turkic language group while Russian belongs to Indo-European languages being a part of the Slavic language group. The current Cyrillic alphabet contains 42 letters, 33 of them taken from the Russian alphabet and 9 specifically designed to represent Kazakh sounds (Thompson, 2014).
What is the future of Kazakh language? The President Nazarbayev addressed to the people of Kazakhstan “Strategy Kazakhstan-2050” (2012) that the Cyrillic-based would be replaced by a Latin-based script with a presumption time that the change would take place by 2025. The Latin script is believed to lead Kazakhstan to greater global integration. Nowadays it is very important to promote Kazakh language especially among youth. Every citizen of Kazakhstan must remember that Kazakh language is the treasure of our ancestors for all people living in Kazakhstan which should be carefully appreciated and left to the future generation to be inherited with pride!
CIA World Factbook. (2017). Central Asia: Kazakhstan. Retrieved from https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/kz.html.
Phillipson, R. (1992). Linguistic imperialism. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Photo credits to http://unravellingmag.com/articles/langprofile-kazakh/.
Strategy “Kazakhstan-2050”. (2012). Retrieved from: http://www.akorda.kz/en.
Thompson, I. (2014). Kazakh. Retrieved from http://aboutworldlanguages.com/kazakh.
Video retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zvwjdOueSIA.
Video retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CQnltnDDldo.