Author Topic: Kazakhstan or Qazaqstan ?  (Read 439 times)

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Offline <k>

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Kazakhstan or Qazaqstan ?
« on: August 14, 2020, 05:14:05 PM »


Kazakhstan, 200 tenge, 2020.



I recently posted an image of the coin above in my topic, Coin characteristics: the Spanish flower. Looking at the image, I noticed the spelling 'Qazaqstan' for the country name, above the year on the obverse.

I found a BBC article from 2017 that explains a little more: Kazakhstan to Qazaqstan: Why would a country switch its alphabet?.

I don't know how the Kazakhs pronounce the name of their country, but I had imagine that the 'kh' would have been pronounced as a guttural, as in the Scottish 'Loch' or the German exclamation 'Ach'. However, that may not be the case, since it is being replaced by a 'q' - the same as the single 'k' at the beginning of the word.
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Offline <k>

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Re: Kazakhstan or Qazaqstan ?
« Reply #1 on: August 14, 2020, 05:16:12 PM »
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Offline Figleaf

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Re: Kazakhstan or Qazaqstan ?
« Reply #2 on: August 14, 2020, 05:53:23 PM »
With the independence of several Central Asian countries came a problem: they couldn't go back to Arabic writing because it was used mainly for religious purposes and they wanted to get rid of Cyrillic, because of its connection with Russia. The generally chosen path was to use the Latin alfabet.

I am told (I am not well versed in Arabic writing) that the Arabic alphabet does not have a "k" and that the sound is written with a sound that that is transliterated as "q", never followed by "u". By now, I have gotten used to writing Samarqand, while I still slip up with Tashqent. Bill Gates thinks both are wrong.

The q's are used on the coins because it is a relative safe way to poke a finger in a Russian eye and because it is a way to affirm nationalism. Although Russian is much used in the area, both the Czarist and the Soviet periods were quite unhappy, due to bloody tyranny, arbitrary decision-making and disdainful discrimination of anyone not from Russia.

Pronunciation of Arabic is quite different in the vast region where Arabic script is or was used, so I would be surprised if anything can be said about how the letter is pronounced that is valid for all countries in Central Asia.

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Offline quaziright

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Re: Kazakhstan or Qazaqstan ?
« Reply #3 on: August 14, 2020, 06:47:53 PM »
I recall that the alphabets have a designated pronunciation in some cases quite different from european sounds/tones and often closer to Turkish

Offline chrisild

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Re: Kazakhstan or Qazaqstan ?
« Reply #4 on: August 14, 2020, 07:32:20 PM »
I don't know how the Kazakhs pronounce the name of their country

In cases like that, I find Forvo to be quite helpful:
https://forvo.com/word/kazakhstan/#kk
(If the link does not directly take you to the right language, scroll up/down to "Kazakhstan pronunciation in Kazakh [kk]".)

Christian

Offline <k>

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Re: Kazakhstan or Qazaqstan ?
« Reply #5 on: August 14, 2020, 07:39:46 PM »
Thanks, the 'kh' does just sound like a 'k', but in the first example, it almost disappears as a glottal stop.
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Offline FosseWay

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Re: Kazakhstan or Qazaqstan ?
« Reply #6 on: August 15, 2020, 09:22:17 AM »
Arabic does have a letter K (ك) which represents more or less the same sound as that shown by English K or Russian К. But it does not represent the sound often transliterated as K in the name Kazakhstan. Arabic also has a letter ف , often transliterated as Q. If you're familiar with Ottoman coins, you will recognise it as the first letter of Qustantiniyah, Constantinople. It is also the last letter in the name Iraq, and the reason why that peculiar use of Q in English exists. The Arabic Q letter is sounded further back in the throat but is not guttural (as the "kh" spelling would suggest - more on this below).

The name Kazakhstan written in Kazakh in Cyrillic is Қазақстан. Both of the k-sounds use the same letter, which is a modified version of Cyrillic К. So in Cyrillic, the name of the country has always been spelt with a different letter in Kazakh, not a K, and now they've chosen to move over to Latin, it makes sense to continue that convention, since the two K sounds can differentiate meaning. And, as shown with Iraq above, the normal Latin translation for that sound in languages that have it is Q.

The confusion with "kh" and the guttural sound it represents is a result of the West's having adopted a Latinised version of the Russian name for the country, not the Kazakh name. Kazakhstan is Казахстан in Russian - with a standard "k" at the start and a "kh" guttural in the middle - because that's how it's pronounced in Russian. In English we have adopted the Russian form because the area now covered by the republic of Kazakhstan first came to general knowledge in the west when it was part of the USSR, of which Russian was the primary language.

(An aside on Arabic, and the possibility of adopting the Arabic alphabet for Kazakh rather than Latin. It doesn't depend on potential confusion with Arabic in religious contexts; people in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran manage perfectly well with their own languages and Arabic being written in the same script. It's more that Turkic languages can't be efficiently and unambiguously written in a system that tends to omit vowels, as Arabic does. Arabic vowels are predictable and can be omitted in many cases in writing (they are written in full in important and ceremonial texts - the Qur'an, for example). It is more necessary to write the vowels in Turkish and related languages (like Kazakh), which makes it more sensible to use a full alphabet - either Latin or Cyrillic or a new one invented for the purpose - to write them.)

Offline FosseWay

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Re: Kazakhstan or Qazaqstan ?
« Reply #7 on: August 15, 2020, 12:14:41 PM »
I am told (I am not well versed in Arabic writing) that the Arabic alphabet does not have a "k" and that the sound is written with a sound that that is transliterated as "q", never followed by "u". By now, I have gotten used to writing Samarqand, while I still slip up with Tashqent. Bill Gates thinks both are wrong.

You and Bill Gates are correct on Tashkent ;)

In Samarqand, the relevant consonant is the dark one, which would use the Қ character in Cyrillic and ف in Arabic if you wanted to transliterate Uzbek into those alphabets. Tashkent, on the other hand, has a "standard" k-sound in Uzbek and is written تاشكینت‎ in Arabic. Where Uzbek and the traditional Russian-influenced Western spelling diverge is in the vowel - it should be more correctly written Toshkent in English if you want to mirror the Uzbek pronunciation.

Offline <k>

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Re: Kazakhstan or Qazaqstan ?
« Reply #8 on: August 15, 2020, 12:29:41 PM »
(An aside on Arabic, and the possibility of adopting the Arabic alphabet for Kazakh rather than Latin. It doesn't depend on potential confusion with Arabic in religious contexts; people in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran manage perfectly well with their own languages and Arabic being written in the same script. It's more that Turkic languages can't be efficiently and unambiguously written in a system that tends to omit vowels, as Arabic does. Arabic vowels are predictable and can be omitted in many cases in writing (they are written in full in important and ceremonial texts - the Qur'an, for example). It is more necessary to write the vowels in Turkish and related languages (like Kazakh), which makes it more sensible to use a full alphabet - either Latin or Cyrillic or a new one invented for the purpose - to write them.)

Thank you for your excellent explanation, FosseWay. However, I am perturbed at your decision to place a whole paragraph within brackets - and you an editor, too. Your decision led to nested brackets, which I am sure is illegal in some countries.  :o  You'd already told me it was an aside, so this form of quarantine was unnecessary. And then there's Christian with his policy of annoying me with his production of trillions of trios of surplus dots / periods / full stops in my topics. 'Quantitative teasing', I call it.  :(

But I digress. 'Qazaqstan' as a spelling will be just that little bit easier to remember than 'Kazakhstan', though 'Kazakstan' would have done just as nicely. I have a problem with the excess number of letters in the Latin alphabet that denote the 'k' sound. Just look at our ridiculous English word 'quick'. The letter 'x' is unnecessary too. 'Six' could become 'siks', and so on. I can just imagine Boris Johnson visiting the Queen to tell her he wanted to abolish the letter 'Q'. Prince Philip would go ballistic.
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Offline FosseWay

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Re: Kazakhstan or Qazaqstan ?
« Reply #9 on: August 15, 2020, 01:02:03 PM »
I agree with you about "Kazakstan" being the best way of writing the name in English. The "dark" sound represented by Q in Arabic transliterations does not exist in English. This means that English speakers may well have difficulty pronouncing it properly, but it also means we don't notice the difference between it and K because the difference isn't lexically meaningful to us.

However, I don't think that there is a significant trend in English to spell it Qazaqstan - I certainly haven't seen any mainstream websites recommending this. I don't see that the change in Kazakhstan from using Cyrillic to using Latin need affect the spelling in English, especially since the pronunciation in English is already as close as you're likely to get from a non-Kazakh speaker. Most of the times "traditional" English names for other places get changed, it's because there's a more fundamental difference in pronunciation (e.g. Peking/Beijing, Bombay/Mumbai, Burma/Myanmar).

Offline FosseWay

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Re: Kazakhstan or Qazaqstan ?
« Reply #10 on: August 16, 2020, 09:21:49 AM »
Quote
It is part of the national identity and you are taking sides by your choice.

No. I most emphatically am not. The ONLY person who decides if I am taking sides in a political debate is me. I am responsible for what I say; you (meaning whoever I'm talking to) are responsible for how you interpret that, not me.

You must also remember that there is a specific issue here regarding English speakers (I mean people who have a clear native British, US, etc. accent). We get (quite fairly) accused of being crap at learning other people's languages. For me to go somewhere and communicate in English with the locals means something quite different than if you, as a fluent but non-native speaker, do so. If you insist that my choice of language in Belgium, in a situation where I don't know where I am and I initiate the conversation, is a political statement, then my choice of English must be seen that way, too. It can be seen as "arrogant, ignorant Englishman who can't be bothered to learn anyone else's language". That's not a look I want to cultivate, not least because it is demonstrably not true in my case. So I use an official language of the country I'm in.

The person at the filling station could have simply said "I'd be more comfortable in English" or simply said she didn't understand. Offence has to be meant; if it isn't meant, it is not offence but ignorance or a mistake, which should be met with information and a request to use a different language or different wording in the future.

Also on politics, we should all be wary of tramping into political minefields in other countries when we don't know the full story, and stick to neutral behaviour unless we actively want to stir up debate or controversy (which can sometimes be a desirable aim, of course). Speaking to the locals in an official language of the country, and using your own language's most accepted form of the country name, is as neutral as it gets. It is a lot more neutral than automatically presuming someone outside an English-speaking country speaks English.

Offline Figleaf

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Re: Kazakhstan or Qazaqstan ?
« Reply #11 on: August 17, 2020, 01:28:41 PM »
If you deny you are taking sides by using the wrong symbols you will never understand the feedback you are getting. If you wear an orange shirt by happenstance in a city where a Dutch national sports team plays you may get free drinks or dirty looks, depending on which place you happen to select to re-hydrate.

Another question is who needs to understand the misunderstanding. I argued above that it's the guest, not the host. Dutch diplomats in Vietnam wear pins with a Dutch flag and the text in Vietnamese "I am not Russian". Can you imagine a majority of Vietnamese wearing pins with "I hate Russians"? When I was in Mexico, I always wove "I am not American" into what I was saying when I got talking to a Mexican. Can you imagine all Mexicans being socially obliged to say "I hate Americans" to every English-speaking foreigner? It is not beyond human capacity to know that language is an issue in Belgium and to get ahead of it.

Having said that, it would be nicer if both parties tried to avoid the misunderstanding. If you know you need petrol, just have a look at the ads and other commercial utterings on the street to get an idea of which language is spoken and if a guest makes a mistake, a calm and informative reaction works much better than an angry one. Indeed, this, rather than confrontation is the norm in Belgium.

I asked the central Asian branch of my family about the use of Казахстан and Russian in general. They say people in the street are very relaxed about it, but expect you to pronounce it correctly (x is a guttural g, not a k). Officials are more sensitive, but those used to foreigners can handle the subtleties well.

Peter
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Offline FosseWay

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Re: Kazakhstan or Qazaqstan ?
« Reply #12 on: August 17, 2020, 03:12:45 PM »
If you deny you are taking sides by using the wrong symbols you will never understand the feedback you are getting. If you wear an orange shirt by happenstance in a city where a Dutch national sports team plays you may get free drinks or dirty looks, depending on which place you happen to select to re-hydrate.

No, you misunderstand me. One doesn't accidentally take sides; if one is taking sides, it is the result of a deliberate choice. Out of ignorance one may say, do or wear something that is provocative in a certain situation, sure. The crux occurs when, having had it explained to you why it is problematic, you then choose either to modify your behaviour or you just carry right on doing what you were doing before. It is at that point that it becomes disrespectful or at least a conscious statement of where your opinions lie.

Quote
Another question is who needs to understand the misunderstanding. I argued above that it's the guest, not the host. Dutch diplomats in Vietnam wear pins with a Dutch flag and the text in Vietnamese "I am not Russian". Can you imagine a majority of Vietnamese wearing pins with "I hate Russians"? When I was in Mexico, I always wove "I am not American" into what I was saying when I got talking to a Mexican. Can you imagine all Mexicans being socially obliged to say "I hate Americans" to every English-speaking foreigner? It is not beyond human capacity to know that language is an issue in Belgium and to get ahead of it.

Personally I would try to avoid any social interaction with a person who says "I hate Russians" or "I hate Americans". What on earth kind of attitude is that? Sure, "I hate Putin" or "I hate Trump" is understandable and logical from a Mexican or a Ukrainian. But imagine the hot water any of us Caucasian Europeans would be in (quite rightly) if we said "I hate Africans/Indians/Chinese". Racism and prejudice are racism and prejudice, even if they are demonstrated by someone from a nationality or ethnic group more usually regarded as the victims rather than the perpetrators of such behaviour. I certainly don't feel it is my job to pander to other people's prejudices.

Quote
I asked the central Asian branch of my family about the use of Казахстан and Russian in general. They say people in the street are very relaxed about it, but expect you to pronounce it correctly (x is a guttural g, not a k). Officials are more sensitive, but those used to foreigners can handle the subtleties well.

Russian is, after all, an official language of Kazakhstan, so it is not really reasonable for anyone to object to its use. "Only" about 68% of the population is ethnically Kazakh, and about 18% is ethnically Russian. That is a far greater proportion with cultural and linguistic ties to the former ruler than is the case in Finland, where around 5% of the population is Swedish-speaking. Yet the name of the country in I think every Indo-European language on the continent of Europe is identical to or derived from the Swedish name for the country, Finland. No Finn I've ever met has expressed a desire for everyone else to start calling their country Suomi instead. Calling it Finland doesn't imply a desire to reinstate Swedish rule - it is just what the country's called in most other languages. On the other hand, the name of the capital city is the Finnish form - Helsinki - in every language other than Swedish, I think.

The point here is that it's rather easy to go klumping in making overtly political statements as a result of a misguided but well-meaning attempt to engage with the local language and culture while writing in English. If I mention Catalonia in English, it is neutral in itself. If I use the forms Cataluña or Catalunya while writing in English, on the other hand, I am making a statement. I would argue that it is similar with Qazaqstan. Unfortunately, the official name in English is not entirely neutral, as it comes from the Russian form. But precisely because it *is* the official form, that imbues it with a degree of neutrality providing the rest of what I'm saying is politically neutral. Using Qazaqstan would be a deliberate departure from the norm and would therefore make a deliberate point. If you, with your knowledge of the region and personal political preferences, want to make that point, that's absolutely fine. But you can't expect everyone who refers to a given place to know the ins and outs of politics there and to make an informed choice. Even if they are aware, they may not want to make a choice. In these cases, using the normal form in the speaker's native language seems the least problematic option.

Also, unless you are personally experienced and well-informed you can tie yourself in knots trying to follow mutually exclusive instructions. You objected earlier to my use of the name "Flemish" for the Dutch spoken in Belgium. Yet the CEO at work, who is a Flemish Belgian, calls his language Flemish. He doesn't have a particular problem with it being called Dutch, and the whole issue came up when we wanted to confirm with him that we didn't need separate translations for nl-NL and nl-BE, but it isn't as cut or dried as your statement in isolation could have been interpreted as. The very fact that the ISO codes for languages include separate variants for the two countries shows that there is some demand for differentiation.

Offline <k>

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Re: Kazakhstan or Qazaqstan ?
« Reply #13 on: August 17, 2020, 05:58:51 PM »
If Kazakhstan wishes the English spelling of its country to be Qazaqstan, then I imagine that eventually it will prevail. As FosseWay himself has pointed out, we now speak of Belarus instead of Byelorussia in English. Moldavia became Moldova, Turkmenia became Turkmenistan, and Kirghizia became Kyrgyzstan - though I do dislike the unwieldy spelling of Kyrgyzstan.

However, FosseWay points out that around 18% of Kazakhs speak Russian as a first language. Might Putin get riled, if the country drops the Russian spelling entirely, and then invade the Kazakh borderlands, in order to take back the 'ethnic' Russians that he regards as 'his' ?  :-\

 
« Last Edit: August 18, 2020, 02:32:58 PM by <k> »
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Offline FosseWay

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Re: Kazakhstan or Qazaqstan ?
« Reply #14 on: August 17, 2020, 06:55:12 PM »
Kirghizia became Kyrgyzstan - though I do dislike the unwieldy spelling of Kyrgyzstan.

Kyrgyzstan has the merit of being the obvious transcription from Cyrillic in both Kyrgyz and Russian, as both languages use the Cyrillic letter ы. Both languages also use the letter и, which is traditionally transliterated as i in both languages.

On the other hand, the -gh- of "Kirghizia" may be interpreted as more accurately representing the consonant in the Kyrgyz language than the hard g of "Kyrgyz", which mirrors the Russian pronunciation. I say "may be interpreted" because the pronunciation of English gh varies from word to word so much, that it's not actually clear what it does mean here. The h could just be a way of making sure people know the g is hard, "get" rather than "gin", as it is in "spaghetti".

Ultimately, there's not always a sure-fire way of representing names in another language that is free from problems. They may be unwieldy (like the combination tsch in German to spell what Russian spells with one letter, ч). They may be ambiguous, like the gh in Kirghizia. They may miss bits out, as in the name Belarus: the name of the old SSR in English, Byelorussia, tried to capture the palatal glide inherent in the vowel e in Russian and Belarusian. That's missing in most English speakers' pronunciation of Belarus, though it probably doesn't especially matter. Or they may just look plain odd, like "Czech" and its derivatives. Quite why we use the Polish conventional digraph for the /ch/ sound for the name of a country where they speak Czech, and not Polish, I have no idea! It would on all sorts of levels make more sense to write it "Check" or to differentiate it from the other meanings, "Chek".