There's a fascinating linguistic fight brewing in Kazakhstan, due to the president's decision to adopt a new alphabet for writing their language, Kazakh.
The problem? It's got too many apostrophes!
For decades, Kazakhs have used the Cyrillic alphabet, which was imposed on them by the USSR back in the 30s. Now that Kazakhstan has started moving away from Russia -- including making Kazakh more central in education and public life -- the president decided he wanted to adopt a new alphabet, too. He wanted it based on the Latin one.
But! Kazakh has many unique sounds that can't be easily denoted using a Latin-style alphabet.
Kazakhstan's neighbors solved that problem by following the example of Turkey, where they use umlauts and phonetic symbols. But Kazkhstan's president didn't want that -- and instead has pushed for the use of tons of apostrophes instead.
Kazakhstan's linguists intellectuals think this is nuts, as the New York Times reports:
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The Republic of Kazakhstan, for example, will be written in Kazakh as Qazaqstan Respy’bli’kasy.
Others complained the use of apostrophes will make it impossible to do Google searches for many Kazakh words or to create hashtags on Twitter.
“Nobody knows where he got this terrible idea from,” said Timur Kocaoglu, a professor of international relations and Turkish studies at Michigan State, who visited Kazakhstan last year. “Kazakh intellectuals are all laughing and asking: How can you read anything written like this?”
The proposed script, he said, “makes your eyes hurt.” [snip]
Under this new system, the Kazakh word for cherry will be written as s’i’i’e, and pronounced she-ee-ye.