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Introduction to Kazakh

Submitted by Akmaral Mukan

Kazakh gained status as an official language of the Republic of Kazakhstan when it joined the world community after the disintegration of the Soviet Union. Kazakh is also spoken by ethnic Kazakhs in China,  Mongolia, Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, Germany, and the former Soviet republics.

Kazakh is a member of the Kypchak group of the Turkic languages family and is related to Nogai and Karakalpak. Modern Kazakh exhibits a lexical influence from Arabic, Persian and Russian. Due to the de-Russification of Kazakh, the process that has started since the fall of the Soviet Union, old Kazakh words (some with old Persian and Arabic origins) are replacing Russian loanwords. 

Modern Kazakh does not have distinctive dialects, but exhibits the following accents: north-eastern, southern, and western. They are spoken by three zhuz (or unions of Kazakh tribes): the Eldest Zhuz, the Middle Zhuz, and the Youngest Zhuz, respectively. Members of the Tore (descendants of Genghis Khan) and Kozha (descendants of Arab missionaries) clans generally  speak the southern accent, as a majority of them come from the south.     

Four types of writing scripts have been used in the territory of Kazakhstan. Old Turkic, the predecessor to Kazakh, was written in the ancient Orkhon script. In the centuries following the Middle Ages, Kazakh was then scripted in Arabic and Latin. Today, Kazakh is written in Russian Cyrillic in Kazakhstan and Mongolia, while Kazakhs in China still employ the Arabic script.  

Kazakh shares some, if not all, of the following linguistic features with other Turkic languages:

*It is a verb-final language and a subject-object-verb word order is observed in written Kazakh; 

*It is an agglutinative language, with an exclusive suffixation;

*Suffixes are attached to a noun in the following order: plural, possessive, and case or personal endings.

*Various combinations of tense, aspect, and mood are formed through the use of verbal structures or through a system of auxiliary verbs; 

*Verb structures, such as passive, causative, reflexive, reciprocal, conditional and negative are formed by adding relevant suffixes to the verb;

*There is no gender;

*Kazakh is marked by the absence of definite and indefinite articles. However, the word “one” is used to express indefiniteness of a noun;

*Postpositions are used because there are no prepositions;

*Nouns are inflected for case and there are seven cases: nominative, genitive, accusative, ablative, locative, dative, and instrumental;

*Modifiers precede the modified head nouns;

*Various participles replace relative clause structures found in English;

*It has a vowel and consonant harmony with the exception of foreign loanwords;

*Accent falls on a syllable that is either the final or preceding to the final syllable. 

Many of the existing Kazakh language learning resources are listed at: www.lmp.ucla.edu. Some technology-assisted learning materials are available through the University of Arizona Critical Languages Series at: http://clp.arizona.edu/cls/kaz.htm.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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