I’m back this week with a post on the world’s writing systems! I find them absolutely fascinating and I am excited to share an interesting case study with you!
Most languages have used the same writing system since their culture began writing. However, there are a few cases where the writing system has changed throughout history. One of the most interesting cases is the Uzbek language, which has changed writing system not once, not twice, but three times! The change has been reasonably rapid, meaning some generations cannot read the letters, books and gravestones of their older loved ones. I first heard about these on The Secret History of Writing on the BBC, which I would highly recommend!
Like all Turkic languages in Central Asia, the Ottoman Empire brought over the Arabic Abjad to the previously illiterate population and so Uzbek was originally written down using Arabic letters.
Between 1928 and 1940, Uzbek writing was switched to the Latin alphabet in an attempt to educate (and probably politically influence) the Uzbek population. This occurred at the same time as the Latinisation of all Turkic languages.
Under Joseph Stalin, in 1940, the Uzbek writing system was changed to the Cyrillic alphabet to bring Uzbekistan into the USSR.
Latin Alphabet Again
After the dissolution of the USSR, Uzbek was written in the Latin alphabet once again. This was to align it with the rest of Europe politically. The writing system was officially changed in 1992. There have been several reforms to the Uzbek Latin alphabet to include sounds from the Cyrillic alphabet that do not occur in the standard Latin alphabet.
Did you know all that? I couldn’t believe it when I heard it. Imagine not being able to read the gravestones of your ancestors or your parents’ schoolbooks! And it must be so confusing for those who experienced the changeover.
Do you have any interesting facts for me about writing systems? Head over to my social media to have a chat!