Monday, February 3, 2014

Language Profile: Kazakh

Today we're taking a look at Kazakh, a Turkic language that is the national language of Kazakhstan. It is one of the country's two official languages, the other being Russian

Bayterek monument in Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan.
Kazakh is also spoken by over a million people in China, primarily in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, which is home to most speakers of the Uyghur language, another Turkic language we covered recently. There are also over 500,000 Kazakh speakers in Russia, with smaller numbers in Mongolia and Uzbekistan as well.

Kazakh is an agglutinative language, which means it uses many affixes in its word formation, in this case suffixes. It has seven case endings that are added as suffixes to the end of noun phrases. In terms of its lexicon, Kazakh contains some loanwords of Russian and Arabic origin.

The Kazakh language has been written using various writing systems throughout its long history. Before 1927, it was written using an Arabic script, though today it is only still used in China. From 1927 to 1940, the Latin-based Uniform Turkic Alphabet was used to write the language in Kazakhstan, until it was replaced by Cyrillic. However, the country's government has been considering switching back to a Latin alphabet since 2006 as part of a modernization program, though the change still has not been made.