Kazakh Alphabets
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Kazakh Alphabets
A 1902 Kazakh text in both Arabic and Cyrillic scripts. In modern orthography: «? ?, ?, ?. , ? ?. ? , -- ,, ? -- ? ! , ?, , ? ?!" -- , .» Translieration: «Bur?ñ ötken zamanda, bir danpan kisi, Ba?dat ?ahar?n?ñ bir ülken qaz?s?n?ñ üyine kelip qon?pt?. Qaz?menen söylesip, qaz?n? sözge jeñe beripti. Sonda qaz? qorq?p, - "Bul ma?an kelgen bala - meniñ qaz?lmd? tart?p alsa kerek! Ne de bolsa, bu?an jal?n?p, s?y berip, orn?mda qalay?n!" - dep, qat?n?na aq?ldas?pt?.» Note the differences between the older Cyrillic here and the current Cyrillic alphabet.
Kazakh Arabic and Latin script in 1924

Three alphabets are used to write the Kazakh language: in the Cyrillic, Latin and Arabic scripts. The Cyrillic script is used in Kazakhstan and Mongolia. An October 2017 Presidential Decree in Kazakhstan ordered that the transition from Cyrillic to a Latin script be completed by 2025.[1] The Arabic script is used in parts of China, Iran and Afghanistan.

Cyrillic script

The Kazakh Cyrillic alphabet is used in Kazakhstan and the Bayan-Ölgiy Province in Mongolia. It is also used by Kazakh populations in Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, as well as diasporas in other countries of the former USSR. It was introduced during the Russian Empire period in the 1800s, and then adapted by the Soviet Union in 1940.[2]

In the nineteenth century, Ibrahim Altynsarin, a prominent Kazakh educator, first introduced a Cyrillic alphabet for transcribing Kazakh. Russian missionary activity, as well as Russian-sponsored schools, further encouraged the use of Cyrillic in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The alphabet was reworked by Sarsen Amanzholov and accepted in its current form in 1940. It contains 42 letters: 33 from the Russian alphabet with 9 additional letters for sounds of the Kazakh language, ?, ?, ?, ?, ?, ?, ?, ? (until 1957 ? was used instead of ?). Initially, Kazakh letters came after letters from the Russian alphabet, but now they are placed after Russian letters similar in sound or shape.

The letters ?, ? (since 1957), ?, ?, ?, ?, ?, ?, ? and ? are not used in native Kazakh words. Of these, ?, ?, ?, ?, ?, ?, ?, are used only in words borrowed from Russian or through the Russian language which are written according to Russian orthographic rules. The letter ? in conversational speech is pronounced similar to ?. The letter ? is used only in Arabic-Persian borrowings and is often pronounced like an unvoiced ? (as /h/, or a voiceless glottal fricative).

The letter ? represents the tense vowel [i] obtained from the combinations /?j/ and /?j/. The letter ? represents /w/ and the tense vowel [u] obtained from the combinations /?w/, /?w/, /?w/ and /?w/. Additionally, ? and ? are retained in words borrowed from Russian, where they represent the simple vowels [i] and [u] respectively.


The switch from a Latin alphabet to a Cyrillic one was likely in an attempt to distance the then-Soviet Kazakhstan from Turkey.[] This was likely in part due to weakening Turkish-Soviet relations and the Turkish Straits crisis.[]

In effort to consolidate its national identity, Kazakhstan started a phased transition from the Cyrillic alphabet to the Latin alphabet in 2017. The Kazakh government drafted a seven-year process until the full implementation of the new alphabet, sub-divided into various phases.[3]


Before the spread of operating systems and text editors with support for Unicode, Cyrillic Kazakh often failed to fit on a keyboard because of both the problem with 8-bit encoding, which was not supported at the system level, and the absence of standard computer fonts. More than 20 variations of 8-bit encoding for Kazakh Cyrillic have been suggested, including the following government standards (note that the following are historical code pages and that modern systems use Unicode Encoding, such as UTF-8):

  • 920-91 for DOS (a modification of code page 866)
  • 1048--2002 for Windows (a modification of code page 1251)

1048--2002 was confirmed in 2002, well after the introduction of different Windows character sets. Some Internet resources in part used the government information agency QazAqparat before the encoding of this standard. Today the encoding UTF-8 is being accepted.


The standard Windows keyboard layout used for Cyrillic Kazakh in Kazakhstan is a modification of the standard Russian keyboard, with characters found in Kazakh but not in Russian located on the number keys.

The Kazakh keyboard.

Latin script

A Kazakh newspaper Socialist Kazakhstan (Sosaldy Qaza?stan) in Latin script (1937)
Selected works of Mao Zedong in Latin-script Kazakh, published in Beijing in 1977

A number of Latin alphabets are in use to write the Kazakh language. A variant based on the Turkish alphabet is unofficially used by the Kazakh diaspora in Turkey and in Western countries and Kazakhstan. As with other Central Asian Turkic languages, a Latin alphabet, the Uniform Turkic Alphabet, was introduced by the Soviets and used from 1929 to 1940 when it was replaced with Cyrillic.[2][4] Moreover, a Latin alphabet was used for the Kazakh language for Kazakhs in China during 1964-84. Later, the use of the Kazakh Arabic alphabet was restored in China.[5]

As part of a modernization program, Decree 569 from Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev ordered the replacement of the Cyrillic script with a Latin script by 2025.[2][6][7] In 2007, Nazarbayev said the transformation of the Kazakh alphabet from Cyrillic to Latin should not be rushed, as he noted: "For 70 years, the Kazakhstanis read and wrote in Cyrillic. More than 100 nationalities live in our state. Thus we need stability and peace. We should be in no hurry in the issue of alphabet transformation".[8]

Initial proposed Latin alphabet for the Kazakh language, implemented by Presidential Decree 569 (26 October 2017).[6] Later revised by Presidential Decree 637 of 19 February 2018, replacing the apostrophe with diacritics and digraphs

In 2015, the Minister of Culture and Sports Arystanbek Mukhamediuly announced that a transition plan was underway, with specialists working on the orthography to accommodate the phonological aspects of the language.[9] On April 12, 2017, President Nazarbayev published an article in state newspaper Egemen Qazaqstan announcing a switchover to the Latin alphabet by 2025,[4][9] a decision implemented by decree.[6] Nazarbayev argued that the "Kazakh language and culture have been devastated" during the period of Soviet rule, and that ending the use of Cyrillic is useful in re-asserting national identity.[4] The new Latin alphabet is also a step to weaken the traditional Russian influence on the country, as the Russian language is the country's second official language.[10] The initial proposed Latin alphabet tried to avoid digraphs (such as "sh", "ch") and diacritics (such as "ä" or "ç"). In fact, President Nazarbayev had expressly stated that the new alphabet should contain "no hooks or superfluous dots".[11] Instead, the new alphabet, which is based on a transliteration of Cyrillic into Latin letters, would have used apostrophes to denote those Kazakh letters where there was no direct Latin equivalent. It is similar to the Karakalpak Latin alphabet and the Uzbek alphabet.

2018 revision of the Kazakh Latin alphabet currently in official use.[12]

A revised version of the 2017 Latin alphabet was announced in February 2018. Presidential Decree 637 of 19 February 2018 amends the 2017 decree and the use of apostrophes was discontinued and replaced with diacritics and digraphs.[13][14] Notably, the new alphabet uses the acute accent. A few web applications and sites were launched to facilitate the switch to the Latin-based alphabet. One of them is a new web-based portal, Qazlatyn.kz, that uses the new Latin alphabet to report news and other information about Kazakhstan.[15]

Latest Developments

Kazakh Latin Alphabet "Resm? Nusqa 3.0"

A a Á á B b D d E e F f G g ? ?
H h I i I ? J j K k L l M m N n
? ? O o Ó ó P p Q q R r S s T t
U u Ú ú V v Y y Ý ý Z z Sh sh Ch ch

In 2020, the President of Kazakhstan Kassym-Jomart Tokayev called for another revision of the Latin alphabet with a focus on preserving the original sounds and pronunciation of the Kazakh language.[16][17] This revision, presented to the public in November 2019 by academics from the Baitursynov Institute of Linguistics, and specialists belonging to the official working group on script transition, uses umlauts, breves and cedillas instead of digraphs and acute accents, and introduces spelling changes in order to reflect more accurately the phonology of Kazakh.[18] This revision is a slightly modified version of the Turkish alphabet, dropping the letter C and having four additional letters that do not exist in Turkish: Ä, Q, ? and W.

2019 new version of the Kazakh Latin alphabet
Proposed new version of the Kazakh Latin alphabet presented in 2019.

While awaiting approval for this version, linguists are still in discussion of which Latin-based letters are to be used in place of the specific Cyrillic-based letters ?, ?, ?, ?, ?, ?, ?, ?, ?, ?, ?, ?, and ?.[19] An alternative to the introduction of accented characters is to make greater use of digraphs.[20]

Arabic script

The Arabic script is the official alphabet for Kazakhs in the Ili Kazakh Autonomous Prefecture of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region[5] of China. It was first introduced to the territory of Kazakhstan in the eleventh century and was traditionally used to write Kazakh until the introduction of a Latin alphabet in 1929. In 1924, Kazakh intellectual Akhmet Baitursynov attempted to reform the Arabic script to better suit Kazakh. The letters ?‎, ?‎, ?‎, ?‎ and ?‎ are used to represent sounds not found in the Arabic language.

A modified Arabic script is also used in Iran and Afghanistan, based on the alphabet used for Kazakh before 1929.

The Kazakh Arabic alphabet contains 29 letters and one digit, the 'upper hamza' used at the beginnings of words to create front vowels throughout the word. The direction the alphabet is written in is right to left. Unlike the original Arabic script, which is an abjad, the Kazakh Arabic script functions more like a true alphabet, as each sound has its own letter and every sound in each word is spelt out in the written form of the language. The reform of the Arabic script from an abjad to an alphabet was carried out by the early 20th-century linguist Akhmet Baitursynov.

Forms of the Kazakh Arabic alphabet

Correspondence chart

Correspondence chart of official and most widespread writing scripts

Cyrillic Common Turkic Alphabet Latin

(2019 proposal)[18]


(Kazak Grammar)

Braille Arabic Name of Arabic Letter IPA transcription[23][24]
? ? A a A a A a A a A a A a ? ? Alif /?/
? ? Ä ä Ä ä Á á A' a' Ä ä Ä ä ? ? Hamza + Alif /æ/
? ? B b B b B b B b B b B b ? ? Ba /b/
? ? V v V v V v V v V v V v ? ? Waw with V /v/
? ? G g G g G g G g G g G g ? ? Gaf /?/
? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? G' g' ? ? G g ? ? Ghain /?/
? ? D d D d D d D d D d D d ? ? Dal /d/
? ? E e E e E e E e E e E e ? ? Ha /j?/
? ? - Yo yo Io ?o Yo yo - - ? Ya + Waw /jo/
? ? J j J j J j J j J j J j ? ? Jeem /?/
? ? Z z Z z Z z Z z Z z Z z ? ? Za /z/
? ? ? i I ? I ? I' i' Ï ï Iy ?y / ?y iy ? ? Hamza + Ya /?j/, /?j/
? ? Y y I ? I ? I' i' Y y Y y ? ? Ya /j/
? ? K k K k K k K k K k K k ? ? Kaf /k/
? ? Q q Q q Q q Q q Q q K k ? ? Qaf /q/
? ? L l L l L l L l L l L l ? ? Lam /l/
? ? M m M m M m M m M m M m ? ? Meem /m/
? ? N n N n N n N n N n N n ? ? Noon /n/
? ? Ñ ñ ? ? ? ? N' n' Ñ ñ ? ? ? ? Ng /?/
? ? O o O o O o O o O o O o ? ? Waw /w?/
? ? Ö ö Ö ö Ó ó O' o' Ö ö Ö ö ? ? Hamza + Waw /w?/
? ? P p P p P p P p P p P p ? ? Pa /p/
? ? R r R r R r R r R r R r ? ? Ra /?/
? ? S s S s S s S s S s S s ? ? Seen /s/
? ? T t T t T t T t T t T t ? ? Ta /t/
? ? U u W w Ý ý Y' y' W w W w ? ? Waw with 3 dots /w/, /?w/, /?w/
? ? -- U u U u U u U u U u ? ? Waw with damma /?/
? ? Ü ü Ü ü Ú ú U' u' Ü ü Ü ü ? ? Hamza + Waw with damma /?/
? ? F f F f F f F f F f F f ? ? Fa /f/
? ? X x H h H h H h X x H h ? ? ?a /q/, /?/
? ? H h H h H h H h H h - ? ? Initial Ha /h/
? ? ? t C c S s C c - ? Ta + Seen /ts/, /s/
? ? Ç ç Ç ç Ch ch C' c' Ç ç - ? ? Cheem/Che /t?/
? ? ? ? ? ? Sh sh S' s' ? ? C c ? ? Sheen /?/
? ? ?ç ?ç ?ç ?ç Shch shch ?ç ?ç - ? Sheen + Sheen /?t?/
? ? " (?) - ? -- -- --
? ? I ? Y y Y y Y y I ? I ? ? ? Alif maqrah /?/
? ? ? i ? i I i I i ? i ? i ? ? Hamza + Alif maqrah /?/
? ? ' (?) - ? -- -- --
? ? Ä ä E e E e É é - ? ? Ha /?/
? ? -- Yu yu Iý ?ý Yw yw - ? Ya + Waw with 3 dots /j?w/, /j?w/
? ? -- Ya ya Ia ?a Ya ya - ? Ya + Alif /j?, jæ/

Symbols in parentheses are for bi-directional transliteration only; See Meni? Qazaqstanym.

Historical alphabets

Old Turkic Alphabet

Orkhon-Yenisey letters have a superficial similarity to Germanic runes in shape, and so are sometimes called runes. Unlike the Germanic runes, the Old Turkic alphabet was written right to left while Germanic runes were usually written left to right. The script was used in some parts of Kazakhstan's territory in the fifth to the tenth centuries. The language of the inscriptions was the Old Turkic, the language of the First Turkic Khaganate.

Kipchak Armenian

Migrating from the Armenian kingdom in the late twelfth and thirteenth centuries, the Armenians had an extensive liturgical, legal and other literature in the Kipchak language that differs from Old Kazakh only by the abundance of the Armenian-Christian vocabulary. These texts were written using the Armenian alphabet. Their descendants who settled around the world, almost to the end of the nineteenth century, the Armenian-Kipchak were writing business records, personal correspondence and more.

Latin Kipchak

Catholic missionaries in Crimea produced holy books in the Kipchak language, the ancestor of the Kazakh language, they produced the Gospel and the other liturgical books.

Other writing systems

There are epigraphic monuments of Turkic tribes (mainly to the period of Islamization).

For sight-impaired people, there is also Kazakh Braille, based on Russian Braille, with several additional letters found in the Kazakh alphabet.

Text sample

Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:[25]

Kazakh in Cyrillic script Kazakh in Arabic script English
? ? ? -? ? . ?-?, - , ? -? ?, -? ?. ? ? ? -? ? . ?- - ? ?-? -? . All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
Kazakh in Latin script
(approved by Nazarbayev in 2017, revised 2018)
Kazakh in Latin script
(version by Kazinform, Kazakh Wikipedia, and linguists)
Kazakh in Latin script
(version by Kazak Grammar)
Barlyq adamdar týmysynan azat jáne qadir-qas?eti men quqyqtary te? bolyp dún?ege keledi. Adamdar?a aqyl-parasat, ar-ojdan berilgen, sondyqtan olar bir-birimen týystyq, baýyrmaldyq qarym-qatynas jasaýlary t?is. Barl?q adamdar twm?s?nan azat jäne qadir-qasïyeti men quq?qtar? teñ bol?p dünïyege keledi. Adamdar?a aq?l-parasat, ar-ojdan berilgen, sond?qtan olar bir-birimen tw?st?q, baw?rmald?q qar?m-qat?nas jasawlar? tïis. Barl?k adamdar tuwm?s?nan azat jäne kadir-kasiyeti men kuk?ktar? te? bol?p düniyege keledi. Adamdarga ak?l-parasat, ar-ojdan berilgen, sond?ktan olar bir-birimen tuw?st?k, baw?rmald?k kar?m-kat?nas jasawlar? tiyis.
Kazakh in Yañalif
(1929 variant)
Kazakh in Yañalif
(1938 variant)
Kazakh in Pinyin
Barl?q adamdar t?vm?s?nan azat ç?ne qadir-qasijeti men quq?qtar? te? bol?p dynijege keledi. Adamdar?a aq?l-parasat, ar-oçdan berilgen, sond?qtan olar bir-birimen t?v?st?q, bav?rmald?q qar?m-qat?nas çasavlar? tijis. Barl?q adamdar tum?s?nan azat ç?ne qadjr-qasietj men q?q?qtar? te? bol?p dyniege keledj. Adamdar?a aq?l-parasat, ar-oçdan berjlgen, sond?qtan olar bjr-bjrjmen tu?st?q, bau?rmald?q qar?m-qat?nas çasaular? tijs. Barle? adamdar tewmesenan azat j?nê ?adir-?asiyêti mên ?u?e?tare têng bolep düniyêgê kêlêdi. Adamdar?a a?el-parasat, ar-ojdan bêrilgên, sonde?tan olar bir-birimên teweste?, bawermalde? ?arem-?atenas jasawlare tiyis.


  1. ^ "Kazakhstan to change from Cyrillic to Latin alphabet". DW.COM. 27 October 2017. Retrieved .
  2. ^ a b c "Kazakh President Orders Shift Away From Cyrillic Alphabet". Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. April 12, 2017. Archived from the original on July 6, 2017. Retrieved 2017.
  3. ^ "Switching to Latin alphabet further opens Kazakhstan to the world". astanatimes.com.
  4. ^ a b c , (April 26, 2017). " : ?" [Orientation for the future: spiritual revival]. Egemen Qazaqstan (in Kazakh). Archived from the original on June 28, 2017. Retrieved 2017.
  5. ^ a b Minglang Zhou (2003). Multilingualism in China: The Politics of Writing Reforms for Minority Languages, 1949-2002. Mouton de Gruyter. p. 149. ISBN 3-11-017896-6 – via Google Books.
  6. ^ a b c "? ? ? ?" [On the change of the alphabet of the Kazakh language from the Cyrillic to the Latin script] (in Russian). President of the Republic of Kazakhstan. October 26, 2017. Retrieved 2017.
  7. ^ "Alphabet soup as Kazakh leader orders switch from Cyrillic to Latin letters". The Guardian. 26 October 2017. Archived from the original on October 28, 2017. Retrieved 2017 – via Reuters.
  8. ^ "Kazakhstan should be in no hurry in Kazakh alphabet transformation to Latin: Nazarbayev". Kazinform. December 13, 2007, cited in "Kazakhstan backtracks on move from Cyrillic to Roman alphabet?". Pinyin News. December 14, 2007. Archived from the original on September 29, 2014. Retrieved 2017.
  9. ^ a b "Kazakh language to be converted to Latin alphabet – MCS RK". Kazinform. January 30, 2015. Archived from the original on February 19, 2017. Retrieved 2015.
  10. ^ "Kazakhstan to Qazaqstan: Why would a country switch its alphabet?". BBC.
  11. ^ Smailova, Damira (September 14, 2017). " ? ? , "saebiz", ? " [Nazarbayev discussed devaluation, "saebiz", Expo and Golovkin with journalists] (in Russian). KTK. Archived from the original on October 27, 2017. Retrieved 2017.
  12. ^ "Gradual transition of the Kazakh alphabet to the Latin alphabet". Electronic government of the Republic of Kazakhstan. Retrieved .
  13. ^ "Kazakhstan adopts new version of Latin-based Kazakh alphabet". The Astana Times. 26 February 2018.
  14. ^ Decree No. 637 of February 19, 2018
  15. ^ "Kazakhstan Launches Easy-To-Use Apps For New Latin Alphabet".
  16. ^ "Kazakh President Tokaev introduces reforms". Modern Diplomacy Europe. 7 January 2020.
  17. ^ "Kazakhstanis Awaiting For New Latin-Based Alphabet". Caspian News. 14 January 2020.
  18. ^ a b Yergaliyeva, Aidana (2019-11-18). "Fourth version of Kazakh Latin script will preserve language purity, linguists say". The Astana Times. Retrieved .
  19. ^ " ?, ? ?". TilQazyna (Instagram) (in Kazakh). Retrieved .
  20. ^ "A Proposal for the Reprioritisation of the Principles for Kazakh Alphabet Latinisation". Linkedin. Retrieved .
  21. ^ https://www.qazlatyn.kz/alphabet
  22. ^ https://www.qazlatyn.kz/converter/text
  23. ^ Vajda, Edward (1994), "Kazakh phonology", in Kaplan, E.; Whisenhunt, D. (eds.), Essays presented in honor of Henry Schwarz, Washington: Western Washington, pp. 603-650
  24. ^ McCollum, Adam (2015), "Labial Harmonic Shift in Kazakh: Mapping the Pathways and Motivations for Decay", Proceedings of the Forty-First Annual Meeting of the Berkeley Linguistics Society, 41, Berkeley: Berkeley Linguistics Society, pp. 329-351
  25. ^ Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Kazakh ed.) – via Wikisource.

External links

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