Kazakh alphabets

Kazakh Arabic and Latin script in 1924
A 1902 Kazakh text in both Arabic and Cyrillic scripts. In modern orthography: «Бұрыңғы өткен заманда, бір данышпан кісі, Бағдат шаһарының бір үлкен қазысының үйіне келіп қоныпты. Қазыменен сөйлесіп, қазыны сөзге жеңе беріпті. Сонда қазы қорқып, — „Бұл маған келген бала — менің қазылығымды тартып алса керек! Не де болса, бұған жалынып, сый беріп, орнымда қалайын!“ — деп, қатынына ақылдасыпты.» Note the differences between the older Cyrillic here and the current Cyrillic alphabet.

The Kazakh alphabets are the alphabets used to write the Kazakh language. The Kazakh language uses the following alphabets:

Cyrillic script

The Kazakh Cyrillic alphabet is used in Kazakhstan and Mongolia. In the nineteenth century, Ibrahim Altynsarin, a prominent Kazakh educator, first introduced a Cyrillic alphabet for transcribing Kazakh. Russian missionary activity, as well as Russian-sponsored schools, further encouraged the use of Cyrillic in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The alphabet was reworked by Sarsen Amanzholov and accepted in its current form in 1940. It contains 42 letters: 33 from the Russian alphabet with 9 additional letters for sounds of the Kazakh language: Ә, Ғ, Қ, Ң, Ө, Ұ, Ү, Һ, І (until 1957 Ӯ was used instead of Ұ). Initially, Kazakh letters came after letters from the Russian alphabet, but now they are placed after Russian letters similar in sound or shape.

The letters В, Ё (since 1957), Ф, Х, Һ, Ц, Ч, Щ, Ъ, Ь and Э are not used in native Kazakh words. Of these, Ё, Ц, Ч, Щ, Ъ, Ь, Э, are used only in words borrowed from Russian or through the Russian language which are written according to Russian orthographic rules. The letter Х in conversational speech is pronounced similar to Қ. The letter Һ is used only in Arabic-Persian borrowings and is often pronounced like an unvoiced Х.

The letter И represents the tense vowel [i] obtained from the combinations ЫЙ /əj/ and ІЙ /ɪj/. The letter У represents /w/ and the tense vowel [u] obtained from the combinations ҰУ /ʊw/, ҮУ /ʉw/, ЫУ /əw/ and ІУ /ɪw/. Additionally, И and У are retained in words borrowed from Russian, where they represent the simple vowels [i] and [u] respectively.


Before the spread of operating systems and text editors with support for Unicode, Cyrillic Kazakh often didn't fit on a keyboard because of the problem with 8-bit encoding, which was not supported at the system level and the absence of standard computer fonts. More than 20 variations of 8-bit encoding for Kazakh Cyrillic have been suggested, including the following government standards: (Note these are historical code pages, modern systems use Unicode Encoding, such as UTF-8)

СТ РК 1048—2002 was confirmed in 2002, well after the introduction of different Windows character sets. Some Internet resources in part used the government information agency QazAqparat before the encoding of this standard. Today the encoding UTF-8 is being accepted.


The standard Windows keyboard layout used for Cyrillic Kazakh in Kazakhstan is a modification of the standard Russian keyboard, with characters found in Kazakh but not in Russian located on the number keys.

The Kazakh keyboard.


The Arabic script is still the official alphabet for Kazakhs in the People's Republic of China. It was first introduced to the territory of Kazakhstan in the eleventh century, and was traditionally used to write Kazakh until the introduction of a Latin alphabet in 1927. In 1924, Kazakh intellectual Akhmet Baitursynov attempted to reform the Arabic script to better suit Kazakh. The letters ۆ, گ, ڭ, پ and چ are used to represent sounds not found in the Arabic language.

The Kazakh Arabic alphabet contains 29 letters and one digit, the 'upper hamza' used at the beginnings of words to create front vowels throughout the word. The direction the alphabet is written in is right to left.

Forms of the Kazakh Arabic alphabet

Separate Beginning Middle End Name Cyrillic
ا ـا әліп а
ـٵ һәмзә-әліп ә
ب بـ ـبـ ـب ба б
ـۆ в в
گ گـ ـگـ ـگ гәф г
ع عـ ـعـ ـع аин ғ
د ـد дәл д
ـە ае е
ج جـ ـجـ ـج жим ж
ز ـز заин з
ي يـ ـيـ ـي я екі нoқат и
ي يـ ـيـ ـي я екі нoқат й
ك كـ ـكـ ـك кәф к
ق قـ ـقـ ـق қаф қ
ل لـ ـلـ ـل ләм л
م مـ ـمـ ـم мим м
ن نـ ـنـ ـن нун н
ڭـ ـڭـ ـڭ еңге / кәф үш нoқат ң
و ـو уау о
ـٶ һәмзә-уау ө
پ پـ ـپـ ـپ па п
ر ـر ра р
س سـ ـسـ ـس син с
ت تـ ـتـ ـت та т
ـۋ уа / уау үш нoқат у
ۇ ـۇ дамма-уа / дамма-уау ұ
ـٷ һәмзә-уа / һәмзә-дамма-уау ү
ف فـ ـفـ ـف фа ф
ح حـ ـحـ ـح ха х
ھ ھـ ـھـ ـھ һә һ
چ چـ ـچـ ـچ ча ч
ش شـ ـشـ ـش шин ш
ى ىـ ـىـ ـى ыэ ы
ٸـ ـٸـ ـٸ һәмзә-я і
ـۉ ю
لا ـلا ләм-әліп ла


A Kazakh newspaper in Latin script from 1937.

The Uniform Turkic Alphabet was used in the USSR from 1927 to 1940, when it was replaced by the current Cyrillic script. Kazakh speakers in countries that use the Latin script also use a different Latin alphabet based on the Turkish alphabet.

Selected works of Mao Zedong in Latin-script Kazakh, published in Beijing in 1977

A Latin alphabet was used for the Kazakh language in the People's Republic of China in 1964-84. Later, the use of the Kazakh Arabic alphabet was restored in China.[2]

Recently as part of a modernization program the government has stated plans for replacing Cyrillic with Latin officially. As of 2007, the costs and consequences of such a move are being investigated.[3]

Some websites of the government of Kazakhstan are available in both Latin and Cyrillic scripts. Among them are government.kz, the main government website, and national information agency Kazinform (also known as QazAqparat).

On December 13, 2007, Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbayev offered not to advance the transformation of the Kazakh alphabet from the Cyrillic to Latin one, as he noted: "For 70 years, the Kazakhstanis read and wrote in Cyrillic. More than 100 nationalities live in our state. Thus we need stability and peace. We should be in no hurry in the issue of alphabet transformation".[4] However, on January 30, 2015, the Minister of Culture and Sports Arystanbek Mukhamediuly announced that a transition plan was underway, with specialists working on the orthography in order to accommodate the phonological aspects of the language.[5]

Correspondence chart

Correspondence chart of official and most widespread writing scripts

Cyrillic Latin
Braille Arabic Name of Arabic Letter IPA transcription
А а A a ا Alif /ɑ/
Ә ә Ä ä ٵ Hamza + Alif /æ/
Б б B b ب Ba /b/
В в V v ۆ Waw with V /v/
Г г G g گ Gaf /ɡ/
Ғ ғ Ğ ğ ع Ghain /ʁ/
Д д D d د Dal /d/
Е е E e ە Ha /i̯ɘ/
Ё ё Yo yo يو Yo /jo/
Ж ж J j ج Jeem /ʒ/
З з Z z ز Za /z/
И и Ï ï ٸ Ya /əj/, /ɘj/
Й й Y y ي Ya /j/
К к K k ك Kaf /k/
Қ қ Q q ق Qaf /q/
Л л L l ل Lam /l/
М м M m م Meem /m/
Н н N n ن Noon /n/
Ң ң Ñ ñ ڭ Kaf with 3 dots /ŋ/
О о O o و Waw /u̯ʊ/
Ө ө Ö ö ٶ Hamza + Waw /y̯ʉ/
П п P p پ Pa /p/
Р р R r ر Ra /ɾ/
С с S s س Seen /s/
Т т T t ت Ta /t/
У у W w ۋ Waw with 3 dots /w/, /ʊw/, /ʉw/
Ұ ұ U u ۇ Waw with damma /ʊ/
Ү ү Ü ü ٷ Hamza + Waw with damma /ʉ/
Ф ф F f ف Fa /f/
Х х X x ح Kha without dots /x, χ/
Һ һ H h ھ Initial Ha /h/
Ц ц C c تس Ta + Seen /ts/
Ч ч Ç ç چ Cheem /t͡ɕ/
Ш ш Ş ş ش Sheen /ʃ/
Щ щ Şş şş شش Sheen + Sheen /ɕː/
Ъ ъ (ʺ) -- -- --
Ы ы I ı ى Ya without dots /ə/
І і İ i ٸ Hamza + Ya without dots /ɘ/
Ь ь (ʹ) -- -- --
Э э É é ە Ha /e/
Ю ю Yw yw يۋ Ya + Waw with 3 dots /jʉw/, /jʊw/
Я я Ya ya يا Ya + Alif /jɑ/

Symbols in parentheses are for bi-directional transliteration only; See Meniñ Qazaqstanım.

Historical alphabets


Orkhon-Yenisey Runes have a great similarity to Germanic Runes in shape. Unlike the Germanic runes, Old Turkic alphabet runes are read right to left as opposed to the Germanic runes that are read left to right. The script was used in some parts of Kazakhstan's territory in the fifth to the tenth centuries. The language of the inscriptions was the Old Turkic, the language of the Turkic Khaganate.

Kipchak Armenian

They migrated from the Armenian kingdom in the late twelfth and thirteenth centuries, the Armenians had an extensive liturgical, legal and other literature in the Kipchak language that differs from Old Kazakh only by the abundance of the Armenian-Christian vocabulary. These texts were written using the Armenian alphabet. Their descendants who settled around the world, almost to the end of the nineteenth century, the Armenian-Kipchak were writing business records, personal correspondence and more.

Latin Kipchak

Catholic missionaries in Crimea produced holy books in the Kipchak language, the ancestor of the Kazakh language, they produced the Gospel and the other liturgical books.

Other writing systems

There are epigraphic monuments of Turkic tribes (mainly to the period of Islamization).

Text sample

Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights [6]

Kazakh in
Cyrillic script
Kazakh in
Arabic script
Kazakh in
Latin script
Барлық адамдар тумысынан азат және қадір-қасиеті мен құқықтары тең болып дүниеге келеді. Адамдарға ақыл-парасат, ар-ождан берілген, сондықтан олар бір-бірімен туыстық, бауырмалдық қарым-қатынас жасаулары тиіс. بارلىق ادامدار تۋمىسىنان ازات جانە قادىر-قاسيەتى مەن كۇقىقتارى تەڭ بولىپ دۇنيەگە كەلەدى. ادامدارعا اقىل-پاراسات، ار-وجدان بەرىلگەن، سوندىقتان ولار ٴبىر-بىرىمەن تۋىستىق، باۋىرمالدىق قارىم-قاتىناس جاساۋلارى ٴتيىس. Barlıq adamdar tumasınan azat jäne qadir-qasiyeti men quqıqtarı teñ bolıp düniyege keledi. Adamdarğa aqıl-parasat, ar-ojdan berilgen, sondıqtan olar bir-birimen tuwıstıq, bawırmaldıq qarım-qatınas jasawları tiyis.All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

External links


  1. Minglang Zhou (2003). Multilingualism in China: the politics of writing reforms for minority languages, 1949-2002. Volume 89 of Contributions to the sociology of language (illustrated ed.). Published Walter de Gruyter. p. 149. ISBN 3-11-017896-6. Retrieved 2011-01-01.
  2. Minglang Zhou (2003). Multilingualism in China: the politics of writing reforms for minority languages, 1949-2002. Volume 89 of Contributions to the sociology of language (illustrated ed.). Published Walter de Gruyter. p. 149. ISBN 3-11-017896-6. Retrieved 2011-01-01.
  3. Kazakhstan: Moving forward with plan to replace Cyrillic with Latin alphabet, eurasianet.org
  4. Kazakhstan should be in no hurry in Kazakh alphabet transformation to Latin: Nazarbayev, Kazinform, December 13, 2007
  5. "Kazakh language to be converted to Latin alphabet – MCS RK". Kazinform. 30 January 2015. Retrieved 17 September 2015.
  6. Kazakh edition of Universal Declaration of Human Rights
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