Crimean Tatar

Crimean Tatar (Qırımtatarca) is a Turkic language spoken in Crimea in Ukraine, and also Uzbekistan, Turkey, Romania and Bulgaria. At different times during the past century is has been written with the Arabic, Latin and Cyrillic alphabets, and all three alphabets are still used by Crimean Tatars in different countries. At a recent seminar in Simferopol in Ukraine it was proposed that all Crimean Tatar adopt the Latin alphabet, according to this report.

The aim of the common Latin-based orthography is to standardise the written language and to unite Crimean Tatars wherever they live.

This entry was posted in Language.

7 Responses to Crimean Tatar

  1. TJ says:

    If it was for me to vote for this matter, I would vote against.
    What I think is, and in order to make a unique identity for such people, is that they should “produce” a writing system instead of adapting one writing system and put enhancements on it.
    I think the case of Hungarian and Polish are obvious and stated before. Many people testify that Latin is not adequate for either languages.

  2. prase says:

    Why is Latin alphabet not adequate for Hungarian or Polish? If I was to point at a language which uses Latin alphabet in a particularly absurd way, I would say Vietnamese, English, French or Gaelic (Scottish Gaelic is a little bit worse than Irish). Among them, Vietnamese does not fit well together with Latin alphabet because of the tones, which need excessive amounts of accents. The orthographies of the rest are awkward because they are old, which has almost nothing to do with whether Latin alphabet (not the present orthography) is adequate for these languages.

    The other view which you have to take into consideration is the practical one. Completely new alphabet effectively blocks internet activity in the language, makes it more difficult to learn, to print books in it, and in case of Crimean Tatar, it undermines the (supposed) political aim to make the language visually close to other Turkic languages, among which the Turkish Latin-based orthography is a sort of standard. Languages like Crimean Tatar fight for survival, and they can’t afford to make the survival artificially more difficult.

    — More detailed analysis —

    From my point of view, Latin alphabet is adequate for a language whose phonetic inventory corresponds to Latin letters. Problematic sounds (that is those which demand special characters, accents or digraphs) are in Polish (in Polish orthography, I don’t know, how to write IPA here):

    ch cz dż sz ż rz ć dź ś ź ń ł ą ę ó

    Well, that’s a lot, but rz is usually not distinguished from sz or ż, and could be omitted, ó is pronounced the same way as u and can be omitted, ch is pronounced like h and can be omitted, ą, ę are pronounced as on, en (or e) and can be omitted, and we can get rid of ł, which is pronounced [w], by using w (and replacing the contemporary Polish w with v). What remains are 9 “non-Latin” sounds.


    s zs cs ty gy ny ü ö (á é í ó ú ő ű if long vowels are distinguished).

    Counting long vowels is a bit unfair – because then Latin itself has five “non-Latin” sounds – so without them we have the number 8.

    if we count a, é, i, ô=au, ou as “Latin sounds”, then

    ê=ai, o, u, eu open, eu closed, an, on, in, un, (â if still distinguished from a), j, ch,

    i.e. 11-12 non-Latin sounds, and nasal vowels are very frequent.

    Wikipedia lists 13 vowels, so at least 7 of them are “non-Latin” (the English vowel system is a complete mess for me, as I have learned English mainly by reading and am never sure whether i in “fish” is the same as i in “it”, or ee in “bee”). In addition, we have consonants th voiced, th unvoiced, sh, j, s as in “measure”, which together amounts to 11 “non-Latin” sounds, if I have counted correctly.

    From my point of view, Polish and Hungarian are relatively harmless.

  3. prase says:

    As usually, longer reply doesn’t display.

    It would be a nice thing to have here something like a list of forbidden phrases whose presence causes the anti-spam filter to act.

  4. Simon says:

    Prase – your long reply appears now. The list of forbidden phrases is far too long to post here unfortunately.

  5. prase says:

    What a pity. But anyway, better unpredictable spam filter than no spam filter.

  6. Macsen says:

    Cyrilic seems a better alphabet than Latin for consonants at least (though as a Welsh-speaker and contradict myself and note they don’t have a single letter for ‘the’, ‘dd’ or ‘ll – but then, nor does Latin).

  7. Christopher Miller says:

    Not forgetting the argument that using the Latin alphabet would reinforce the linguistic link with other Turkic languages, I think it should be emphasised that *any* script, over time, can become less and less well-suited to the language it is used to write. This is just a predictable result of linguistic change. Think of the multiple superfluous consonants that are no longer pronounced, in the spelling of a typical word in Tibetan orthography. Or the roundabout way tone is represented by original voiced/unvoiced and aspirated/unaspirated consonant series in the Indic scripts used for Southeast Asian languages that developed tone since these scripts were first adopted for earlier versions of their languages. Or how the Batak languages, in the perhaps seven centuries since their script was adopted, have changed so that the fit between their script and some of the languages is now less than ideal. Not to speak of the unsystematic way global sound relationships in complex characters are represented in Chinese logographs… And Korean Han’geul nowadays resorts to a digraph spanning two jamo (blocks of letters) to distinguish intervocalic [l] (syllable-initial and not geminate) as opposed to [r].

    The sound system-writing system mismatch is hardly a characteristic of only the Latin alphabet, and even “indigenous” writing systems eventually get left behind in the process of natural linguistic change.