CENTRAL ASIAN LANGUAGES
The region termed “Central Asia” has been defined differently by different local groups, scholars, research organizations, etc. Similarly, what constitutes “Central Asian Languages” may be contested. Here, Central Asia is defined as the five former Soviet Republics now deemed as “Central Asia,” including Kazakhstan, Kyrghyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan; we also include Afghanistan in this discussion of Central Asia since a large portion of its population has Central Asian cultural (including linguistic) roots.
“Central Asian Languages” refers to the indigenous native languages spoken by those who originate from what is now called “Central Asia.” Most of these languages belong to the Turkic branch of languages, with an important exception being Tajik, a language of the Iranian branch of Indo-European. The Turkic languages with the Mongolian and Manchu-Tungusic language groups form the Altaic family.
As with most if not all languages, the languages of Central Asia are intimately connected to issues of politics (including colonialism, post-colonialism, nationality and nation-building), economics, geography, ethnicity, and identity. In the former Soviet Central Asian Republics, for example, while Russian was the imperial lingua franca, indigenous languages were also used for informal intercourse, administration and literary compositions. However, the Soviet regime changed the scripts of indigenous languages to Cyrillic scripts, rewrote/Russified indigenous histories, and replaced indigenous cultural figures with Russo-Soviet ones, thereby politicizing language and its uses for specific purposes. Below are links to articles addressing linkages between language, culture, ethnicity, politics; and to sites outlining the spoken languages, present geographic location, population statistics, language backgrounds, tribes and dialects, ethnicity, politico-economic situations of various Central Asian groups.
1) "Language, Identity, and Conflict in Central Asia and the Southern
Caucasus". PERSPECTIVES ON CENTRAL ASIA
Volume II, Number 5 ╛ August 1997
Published by the Center for Political and Strategic Studies
By Professor William Fierman,
Director, Inner Asian and Uralic National Resource Center,
3) What's Happening? Alphabets of Central Asia and Azerbaijan From Azerbaijan International (5.2) Summer 1997.© Azerbaijan International 1997. All rights reserved. http://www.azeri.org/Azeri/az_english/52_folder/52_articles/52_turkiclanguages_az.html
1) LISTS of SPOKEN LANGUAGES, STATISTICS, LINGUISTIC MAPS for states with significant Central Asian Language speakers:
2) In the following website, a group of Estonian scholars explore thoroughly and clearly, the present geographic location, population statistics, language backgrounds, tribes & dialects, ethnicity, politico-economic situations of the “Peoples of the Red Book”—i.e. those peoples marginalized by the Russo-Soviet empire.
3) An ethnolinguistic map of Tajikistan can be found at: http://www.iles.umn.edu/faculty/bashiri/TajikGallery/Gallmap.gif
Arabic Language and Dialects
Arabic is the most widely spoken language in the Middle East. It is the official language of Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Sudan, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Iraq, and the states of the Arabian Peninsula. It is also considered the language of Islam because of the fact that the Qur’an, the Holy Book of Muslims, is written in it.
Historical linguists classify Arabic as part of the “Semitic” language family along with Hebrew, Aramaic, some languages spoken in Ethiopia, and a couple of “dead” languages. As with any other major language, Arabic has several different varieties. There is the standard language, often called fuSHa or “the Classical Language,” which is fairly homogeneous around the world and written in a beautiful calligraphic script. This language dates to the time of the Prophet Muhammad. It now has more modern forms adapted for language instruction in the schools as well as for print and electronic media such as newspapers and television. The basic grammar is almost identical to the ancient classical language, with the exception of case endings perhaps and word usage. There are also a number of different dialects or vernaculars. These vary in a continuum across the Middle East, the extremes of which such as Moroccan and Iraqi, differ to the point of mutual unintelligibility. These spoken forms of Arabic have rarely been written down.
LAST UPDATE: 12/05/2001