Kazakh (natively қазақ тілі, qazaq tili, pronounced [qɑˈzɑq tɘˈlɘ]) belongs to the Kipchak branch of the Turkic languages. It is closely related to Nogai, Kyrgyz, and Karakalpak. Kazakh is the official language of the Republic of Kazakhstan and a significant minority language in the Ili Kazakh Autonomous Prefecture in Xinjiang, China and in the Bayan-Ölgii Province of Mongolia. Kazakh is also spoken by many ethnic Kazakhs through the former Soviet Union (approximately 500,000 in Russia according to the 2002 Russian Census), Afghanistan, Iran, Turkey, and Germany.
In October 2017, Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev decreed that the government would transition from using Cyrillic to the Latin alphabet by 2025. President Nazarbayev signed on February 19, 2018 an amendment to the decree of October 26, 2017 No. 569 "On translating the Kazakh alphabet from Cyrillic alphabet to the Latin script." The amended alphabet uses Sh and Ch for the Kazakh sounds "Ш" and "Ч" and eliminates the use of apostrophes.
The Kazakh language has its speakers (mainly Kazakhs) spread over a vast territory from the Tian Shan to the western shore of the Caspian Sea. Kazakh is the official state language of Kazakhstan, with nearly 10 million speakers (based on information from the CIA World Factbook on population and the proportion of Kazakh speakers). In China, more than one million ethnic Kazakhs and Kazakh speakers reside in the Ili Kazakh Autonomous Prefecture of Xinjiang.
The oldest known written records of languages closely related to Kazakh were written in the Old Turkic alphabet, though it is not believed that any of these varieties were direct predecessors of Kazakh. Modern Kazakh, going back approximately one thousand years, was written in the Arabic script until 1929, when Soviet authorities introduced a Latin-based alphabet, and then a Cyrillic in 1940. In presenting a strategic plan in April 2017, Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev described the twentieth century as a period in which the "Kazakh language and culture have been devastated." Nazarbayev ordered Kazakh authorities to create a Latin Kazakh alphabet by the end of 2017, so written Kazakh could return to a Latin script starting in 2018. As of 2017[update], Kazakh is written in Cyrillic in Kazakhstan and Mongolia, while more than one million Kazakh speakers in China use an Arabic-derived alphabet similar to the one that is used to write Uyghur. On October 26, 2017, Nazarbayev issued Presidential Decree 569 for the change to a finalized Latin variant of the Kazakh alphabet and ordered that the government's transition to this alphabet be completed by 2025, a decision taken to emphasise Kazakh culture after the era of Soviet rule and to facilitate the use of digital devices. But the initial decision to use a novel orthography employing apostrophes, which make the use of many popular tools for searching and writing text difficult, has generated controversy. The alphabet was revised the following year by Presidential Decree 637 of 19 February 2018 and the use of apostrophes was discontinued and replaced with the use of accent marks and digraphs.
Nazarbayev first brought up the topic of using the Latin alphabet instead of the Cyrillic alphabet as the official script for Kazakh in Kazakhstan in October 2006. A Kazakh government study released in September 2007 said that a switch to a Latin script over a 10- to 12-year period was feasible, at a cost of $300 million. The transition was halted temporarily on December 13, 2007, with President Nazarbayev declaring: "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." 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.
|Cyrillic script||Arabic script||Latin script||English translation|
|Барлық адамдар тумасынан азат және қадыр-қасиеті мен құқтары 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.||Barlyq adamdar týmasynan azat jáne qadyr-qasıeti men quqtary teń bolyp dúnıege keledi. Adamdarǵa aqyl-parasat, ar-ojdan berilgen, sondyqtan olar bir-birimen týystyq, baýyrmaldyq qarym-qatynas jasaýlary tıis.||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.|
Kazakh exhibits tongue-root vowel harmony, with some words of recent foreign origin (usually of Russian or Arabic origin) as exceptions. There is also a system of rounding harmony which resembles that of Kyrgyz, but which does not apply as strongly and is not reflected in the orthography.
The following chart depicts the consonant inventory of standard Kazakh; many of the sounds, however, are allophones of other sounds or appear only in recent loan-words. The 18 consonant phonemes listed by Vajda are in bold—since these are phonemes, their listed place and manner of articulation are very general, and will vary from what is shown. The borrowed phonemes /f/, /v/, /ɕ/, /t͡ɕ/ and /x/, only occur in recent mostly Russian borrowings, and are shown in parentheses [ ] in the table below.
In the table, the elements left of a divide are voiceless, while those to the right are voiced.
|Nasal||m ⟨м/m⟩||n ⟨н/n⟩||ŋ ⟨ң/ń⟩|
|Plosive||p ⟨п/p⟩||b ⟨б/b⟩||t ⟨т/t⟩||d ⟨д/d⟩||k ⟨к/k⟩||ɡ ⟨г/g⟩||q ⟨қ/q⟩|
|Fricative||[f] ⟨ф/f⟩||[v] ⟨в/v⟩||s ⟨с/s⟩||z ⟨з/z⟩||ʃ ⟨ш/sh⟩||ʒ ⟨ж/j⟩||[ɕ] ⟨щ/sʼ⟩||[x] ⟨х/h⟩||ʁ ⟨ғ/ǵ⟩||h ⟨һ/h⟩|
|Approximant||l ⟨л/l⟩||j ⟨й/ı⟩||w ⟨у/ý⟩|
Kazakh has a system of 11 phonemic vowels, 2 of which are diphthongs. The rounding contrast and /æ/ generally only occur as phonemes in the first syllable of a word, but do occur later allophonically; see the section on harmony below for more information.
Phonetic values are paired with the corresponding character in Kazakh's Cyrillic and current Latin alphabets.
|Close||ɘ ⟨і/i⟩||ʉ ⟨ү/ú⟩||ʊ ⟨ұ/u⟩|
|Mid||e ⟨э/e⟩||ə ⟨ы/y⟩||o~ʷɤ~[u̯ʊ] ⟨о/o⟩|
|Open||æ ⟨ә/á⟩||œ~ʷɜ~[ø] ⟨ө/ó⟩||ɑ ⟨а/a⟩|
|Diphthong||i̯ɘ ⟨е/e⟩||əj ⟨и/í⟩|
Kazakh is generally verb-final, though various permutations on SOV (subject–object–verb) word order can be used. Inflectional and derivational morphology, both verbal and nominal, in Kazakh, exists almost exclusively in the form of agglutinative suffixes. Kazakh is a nominative-accusative, head-final, left-branching, dependent-marking language.
|Case||Morpheme||Possible forms||кеме "ship"||ауа "air"||шелек "bucket"||сәбіз "carrot"||бас "head"||тұз "salt"|
|Acc||-NI||-ні, -ны, -ді, -ды, -ті, -ты, -н||кемені||ауаны||шелекті||сәбізді||басты||тұзды|
|Gen||-NIŋ||-нің, -ның, -дің, -дың, -тің, -тың||кеменің||ауаның||шелектің||сәбіздің||бастың||тұздың|
|Dat||-GA||-ге, -ға, -ке, -қа, -не, -на||кемеге||ауаға||шелекке||сәбізге||басқа||тұзға|
|Loc||-DA||-де, -да, -те, -та||кемеде||ауада||шелекте||сәбізде||баста||тұзда|
|Abl||-DAn||-ден, -дан, -тен, -тан, -нен, -нан||кемеден||ауадан||шелектен||сәбізден||бастан||тұздан|
|Inst||-Men||-мен(ен) -бен(ен) -пен(ен)||кемемен||ауамен||шелекпен||сәбізбен||баспен||тұзбен|
Kazakh has eight personal pronouns:
|Kazakh (transliteration)||English||Kazakh (transliteration)||English|
|Мен (Men)||I||Біз (Biz)||We|
|Сен (Sen)||You (singular informal)||Сендер (Sender)||You (plural informal)|
|Сіз (Siz)||You (singular formal)||Сіздер (Sizder)||You (plural formal)|
|Ол (Ol)||He/She/It||Олар (Olar)||They|
The declension of the pronouns is outlined in the following chart. Singular pronouns (with the exception of сіз, which used to be plural) exhibit irregularities, while plural pronouns don't. Irregular forms are highlighted in bold.
In addition to the pronouns, there are several more sets of morphemes dealing with person.
|2nd formal sg||сіз||-sIz||-(I)ŋIz||-(I)ŋIz|
|2nd formal pl||сіздер||-sIzdAr||-(I)ŋIz||-(I)nIz|
Kazakh may express different combinations of tense, aspect and mood through the use of various verbal morphology or through a system of auxiliary verbs, many of which might better be considered light verbs. The present tense is a prime example of this; progressive tense in Kazakh is formed with one of four possible auxiliaries. These auxiliaries "отыр" (sit), "тұр" (stand), "жүр" (go) and "жат" (lie), encode various shades of meaning of how the action is carried out and also interact with the lexical semantics of the root verb: telic and non-telic actions, semelfactives, durative and non-durative, punctual, etc. There are selectional restrictions on auxiliaries: motion verbs, such as бару (go) and келу (come) may not combine with "отыр". Any verb, however, can combine with "жат" (lie) to get a progressive tense meaning.
|Jep jatyrmyn||progressive||"I am eating [right now]."|
|Jep otyrmyn||progressive/durative||"I am [sitting and] eating." / "I have been eating."|
|Jep turmyn||progressive/punctual||"I am [in the middle of] eating [this very minute]."|
|Jep júrmin||habitual||"I eat [lunch, everyday]"|
While it is possible to think that different categories of aspect govern the choice of auxiliary, it is not so straightforward in Kazakh. Auxiliaries are internally sensitive to the lexical semantics of predicates, for example, verbs describing motion:
|Kazakh||Gloss||Auxiliary Used||English translation|
|Суда балық жүзеді
Sý-da balyq júz-e-di
|water-LOC fish swim-PRES-3||∅
(present/future tense used)
|"Fish swim in water"
|Суда балық жүзіп жатыр
Sý-da balyq júz-ip jatyr
|water-LOC fish swim-CNVB AUX.3||жат－ to lie, general marker for
|"The/A fish is swimming in the water"|
|Суда балық жүзіп жүр
Sý-da balyq júz-ip júr
|water-LOC fish swim-CNVB AUX.3||жүр – "go", dynamic/habitual/iterative||"The fish is swimming [as it always does] in the water"|
|Суда балық жүзіп тұр
Sý-da balyq júz-ip tur
|water-LOC fish swim-CNVB AUX.3||тұр – "stand", progressive marker to show
the swimming is punctual
|"The fish is swimming in the water"|
|* Суда балық жүзіп отыр
Sý-da balyq júz-ip otyr
|water-LOC fish swim-CNVB AUX.3||отыр – "sit", ungrammatical in
this sentence, отыр can only be used
for verbs that are stative in nature
|*The fish has been swimming
Not a possible sentence of Kazakh
In addition to the complexities of the progressive tense, there are many auxiliary-converb pairs that encode a range of aspectual, modal, volitional, evidential and action- modificational meanings. For example, the pattern -ып көру, with the auxiliary verb көру (see), indicates that the subject of the verb attempted or tried to do something (compare the Japanese てみる temiru construction).
From "Meniń Qazaqstanym" ("My Kazakhstan"), the national anthem of Kazakhstan:
|Менің Қазақстаным||Meniń Qazaqstan-ym||My Kazakhstan|
|Алтын күн аспаны||Altyn kún aspan-y||The golden sun in the sky|
|[ɑltən kʉn ɑspɑˈnə]||gold sun sky-3.POSS|
|Алтын дән даласы||Altyn dán dala-sy||The golden corn of the steppe|
|[altən dæn dɑlɑˈsə]||gold corn steppe-3.POSS|
|Ерліктің дастаны||Erlik-tiń dastan-y||The legend of courage|
|[jerlɘkˈtɘŋ dɑstɑˈnə]||courage legend-GEN epic-3.POSS-NOM|
|Еліме қарашы!||El-im-e qara-shy||Just look at my country!|
|[jɘlɘˈmʲe qɑrɑˈʃə]||country-1SG.ACC look-IMP|
|Ежелден ер деген||Ejel-den er de-gen||Called heroes since time immemorial|
|[jɘʑʲɘlˈdʲen jɘr dʲɪˈɡʲen]||antiquity-ABL hero say-PTCP.PST|
|Даңқымыз шықты ғой||Dańq-ymyz shyq-ty ǵoı||Our glory, emerged!|
|[dɑɴqəˈməz ʃəqˈtə ʁoj]||glory-1PL.POSS.NOM emerge-PST.3 EMPH|
|Намысын бермеген||Namys-y-n ber-me-gen||Without losing their honor|
|[nɑməˈsən bʲermʲeˈɡʲen]||honor-3.POSS-ACC give-NEG-PTCP.PST|
|Қазағым мықты ғой||Qazaǵ-ym myqty ǵoı||Mighty are my Kazakh people!|
|[qɑzɑˈʁəm məqˈtə ʁoj]||Kazakh-1SG.POSS strong EMPH|
|Менің елім, менің елім||Meniń el-im, meniń el-im||My country, my country|
|[mʲɘˈnɘŋ jɘˈlɪm, mʲɘˈnɘŋ jɘˈlɪm]||1SG.GEN my country (2x)-1SG.NOM|
|Гүлің болып, егілемін||Gúl-iń bol-yp, eg-il-e-min||As your flower, I am rooted in you|
|[ɡʉˈlɘŋ boˈləp, jɘɡɘlʲɘˈmɪn]||flower-2SG.NOM be-CNVB, root-PASS-PRES-1SG|
|Жырың болып төгілемін, елім||Jyr-yń bol-yp, tóg-il-e-min, el-im||As your song, I will be sung abound|
|[ʒəˈrəŋ boˈləp tœɡɪlˈʲɘmɪn, jɘˈlɪm]||song-2SG.NOM be-CNVB, sing-PASS-PRES-1SG, country-1SG.POSS.NOM|
|Туған жерім менің – Қазақстаным||Tý-ǵan jer-im meniń – Qazaqstan-ym||My native land – My Kazakhstan|
|[tuwˈʁan ʒeˈrɪm mʲɘnɘŋ qɑzɑqˈstɑnəm]||birth-PTCP-PST place-1SG.POSS.NOM 1SG.GEN – Kazakhstan-1SG.POSS.NOM|
|Kazakh edition of Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia|
|Wikivoyage has a phrasebook for Kazakh.|