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About Kyrghyz Language

Kyrgyz or Kirghiz (Кыргыз тили, Kyrgyz tili, قىرعىز ٴتىلى) is a Turkic language and, together with Russian, an official language of Kyrgyzstan. Genetically it is most closely related to Altay and more distantly so to Kazakh; however, modern-day language convergence has resulted in an increasing degree of mutual intelligibility between Kyrgyz and Kazakh.

Kyrgyz is spoken by about 4 million people in Kyrgyzstan, China, Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Turkey, Uzbekistan, Pakistan and Russia. Kyrgyz was originally written in a modified Perso-Arabic script until the mid-20th century, when a Latin script was briefly used. However, due to Soviet influence, a modified form of the Cyrillic alphabet eventually became standardized and has remained so to this day (although the Arabic script is still used among some Kyrgyz). When Kyrgyzstan became independent following the Soviet Union's collapse in 1991, there was a popular idea among some Kyrgyz politicians to return the language back to the Latin alphabet. However, this plan has never been implemented.

Post-Soviet dynamics

One important difference between Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan is that the Kyrgyz people's mastery of their own language is almost universal, whereas the linguistic phase of national identity is not as clear in the much larger area and population of Kazakhstan. As in Kazakhstan, mastery of the "titular" language among the resident Europeans of Kyrgyzstan is very rare. In the early 1990s, the Akayev government pursued an aggressive policy of introducing Kyrgyz as the official language, forcing the remaining European population to use Kyrgyz in most public situations. Public pressure to enforce this change was sufficiently strong that a Russian member of President Akayev's staff created a public scandal in 1992 by threatening to resign to dramatize the pressure for "Kyrgyzification" of the non-native population. A 1992 law called for the conduct of all public business to be converted fully to Kyrgyz by 1997. But in March 1996, Kyrgyzstan's parliament adopted a resolution making Russian an official language alongside Kyrgyz and marking a reversal of earlier sentiment. Substantial pressure from Russia was a strong factor in this change, which was part of a general rapprochement with Russia urged by Akayev.

The Kyrgyz alphabets are the alphabets used to write the Kyrgyz language. The Kyrgyz language uses the following alphabets:

  • The Cyrillic alphabet is officially used in the Republic of Kyrgyzstan
  • The Arabic alphabet is officially used in People's Republic of China in the Kyzylsu Kyrgyz Autonomous Prefecture and the Ili Kazakh Autonomous Prefecture of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.
  • The Arabic alphabet was traditionally used to write Kyrgyz before the introduction of the first Latin-based scripts in 1927. Today a modified Arabic alphabet is used in China. The Uniform Turkic Alphabet was used in the USSR in the 1930s until its replacement by a Cyrillic script. The Kyrgyz Cyrillic alphabet is the alphabet used in Kyrgyzstan. It contains 36 letters: 33 from the Russian alphabet with 3 additional letters for sounds of the Kyrgyz language: Ң, Ү, Ө.

Writing system

The Kyrgyz in Kyrgyzstan use a modified Cyrillic alphabet which uses all the Russian letters as well as these additions (ң, ү, ө)

In Xinjiang, a modified Arabic alphabet is used.


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