A New New Alphabet

Just when you were polishing your apostrophes, please disregard that first new alphabet because there’s a new new one in town in Kazakhstan.

Quotes: On Speech in Different Cultures

They’re hanging on every word.

A 2009 study by the sociologist Tanya Stivers at the University of California, Los Angeles, and her colleagues found that it’s the norm in most languages and cultures to avoid overlaps and to take turns in conversation, with some local variation. Delivering an affirmative response to a question within 36 milliseconds is judged ‘on-time’ in Japan, while in Denmark you can take 203 milliseconds and still be judged timely. Even though the ‘huge’ inter-turn Nordic silences observed by non-Nordic anthropologists aren’t all that large, such comments reveal that deviations from one’s own acculturated norms are seen as highly salient. In other words, what is experienced as a ‘delay’ – and thus as an indicator of dissent, since confirmations are generally delivered faster than opposing statements – differs across cultures. A congenial Danish tourist in Japan might well be puzzled to find herself taken for something of a contrarian.

The Apostrophe’s Tale, Continued

Kazakhstan is changing its alphabet. From DuoLingo, here is an example of the old script compared to the new:

Cyrillic: Барлық адамдар тумысынан азат және қадір-қасиеті мен кұқықтары тең болып дүниеге келеді. Адамдарға ақыл-парасат, ар-ождан берілген, сондықтан олар бір-бірімен туыстық, бауырмалдық қарым-қатынас жасаулары тиіс.

New Latin: Barlyq adamdar ty’mysynan azat ja’ne qadir-qasi’yeti men kuqyqtary ten’ bolyp du’ni’ege keledi. Adamdarg’a aqyl-parasat, ar-ojdan berilgen, sondyqtan olar bir-birimen ty’ystyq, bay’yrmaldyq qarym-qatynas jasay’lary ti’is.

The Republic of Kazakhstan (Қазақстан Республикасы) will become Qazaqstan Respy’bli’kasy. Clear as a bell.

I put up this chart of the new Latinized script last November, in a post called Apostrophe Catastrophe. Now, a few months on, reviews of “the fulfillment of the dreams of our ancestors,” according to President Nazarbayev, are starting to come in.  Here’s what people are saying.

Quotes: Separated by a Common Language

If anything marks out the British linguistically, it’s their baroque way of using adverbs, especially as a form of polite sangfroid or poise – so “the worst day ever” is “things perhaps aren’t quite as wonderful as they could be”. As the American critic Alexander Woollcott once said: “The English have an extraordinary ability for flying into a great calm.”