Last month, Turkey repealed its 1928 Alphabet Law, and legalized the letter Q. In a short, illuminating piece in the London Review of Books, Yasmine Searle describes the history of Romanicization of Turkish writing, which was part of a larger project to assimilate Turkish minorities by standardizing the language and its spelling, and, in the process, banning many of the keys from the left side of the typewriter.
Banks, post offices and police stations were fitted with blackboards; on bridges and ferries, syllabaries sold fast; prisoners were photographed bent over their primers. ‘Turkey is one vast schoolroom,’ National Geographic reported. ‘There is no “q”, no “w”, no “x” in the new alphabet… The left-hand edge of the typewriter is the hardest hit. One does not go to the “Maxim” Restaurant, but to the “Maksim”.’
Romanisation, it was argued, would help standardise Turkish spelling, improve literacy, and allow for cheaper and more convenient printing (the Arabic script required more than 400 pieces of type). But the reform had other, political aims: imposing cultural homogeneity and assimilating Turkey’s minorities. New characters were added to the alphabet to accommodate Turkish phonology – ğ, ı, ü, ş – while others were left out. By adhering so closely to the specifics of Turkish and outlawing all other Latin characters (and all other scripts), it effectively proscribed written expression in any language other than Turkish – not least Kurdish, which was spoken by around 20 per cent of the population.
- See more at: http://www.lrb.co.uk/blog/2013/10/16/yasmine-seale/q-v-k/#sthash.kUTJKp3S.dpuf
Q v. K [Yasmine Seale/London Review of Books]
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