RE: sort of OT: politics and scripts

From: Cathy Wissink (
Date: Wed Nov 15 2000 - 16:34:41 EST

The Soviet language policies under both Lenin and Stalin were amazing in
what they managed to change in a very short time, especially considering the
scripts first shifted from Arabic to Latin, then just a decade or so later
to Cyrillic. I too have been wondering when there would be a movement in
the post-Soviet, Central Asian countries away from Cyrillic; my assumption
has always been that they would want to return to Arabic (or for others,
back to their indigenous scripts).

Surprisingly, however, in our NLS implementation, the movement is away from
Cyrillic, as you noted, but towards Latin rather than Arabic. We've seen
this in Azeri and Uzbek, in that we support both Cyrillic and Latin, with
other Central Asian languages likely to use the same script support. When
asking our language sources and specialists about eventual migration to
Arabic, there seems to be much less interest in it compared to Latin. So it
might be the case that there is interest in "extended Arabic" from a
historical perspective, but not from a current IT perspective.

(Then again, world events play a much greater role in language policy than
can often be anticipated, and the trend could change very quickly and this
could all be moot...)


-----Original Message-----
From: Elaine Keown []
Sent: Wednesday, November 15, 2000 11:53 AM
To: Unicode List
Subject: sort of OT: politics and scripts


A similar question to the question of new Chinese characters and new
versions of characters for Lakota, but an order of magnitude larger, is the
question of ongoing or about-to-hit-us script changes in Central Asia.

In the 1920s-1940s, under a series of Soviet language policy changes, many
Central Asian languages were converted from Arabic script to Roman to
Cyrillic (or some different permutation even). Jewish Central Asian
languages were converted from Hebrew to Cyrillic.

Now as the independent republics take control, there is evidence that the
abandonment of Cyrillic has started, and there is a return to Arabic script.
But not "plain vanilla" Arabic script, but the extended Arabic scripts with
extra symbols......

This gives Unicode an odd "legacy code" problem, indeed.---Elaine Keown


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