Thursday, 20 February

Switching to the Latin alphabet for the last week has become one of the leading topics for discussion for the users of social networks. As always, among the Ukrainians, there were both proponents and opponents of such an idea of ​​Pavlo Klimkin, but the participants of the dispute did not come to the common denominator. Opinion found out why the introduction of the Latin alphabet was broken into the open, is it all that simple with the changing process, what role can be played by such changes in the context of information confrontation with the aggressor country, where in Ukraine the Latin alphabet is already used, and what is the manifesto of the Ukrainian Latin alphabet.

What caused the discussion of a possible change to the Latin alphabet?

Pavlo Klimkin – Minister of Foreign Affairs posted the idea of introducing the Latin alphabet on his page in the social network. In fact, no urgent changes were discussed, as the minister only suggested that such a change was carried over for consideration.

“In a friendly chat, Ziemovit Shcherek – a historian and journalist from Poland asked why not to add the Latin alphabet along with the Cyrillic in Ukraine. Our goal is to form a Ukrainian political nation, so we have to work for what unites us, not separates us. On the other hand, why do not we discuss it? What do you think about it? “, –  is in the Klimkin’s post.

However, the call for discussion was taken rather ambiguously, a lot of mass media spoke about the words of the minister rather as an official statement, and in the comments to the post, there were real battles. Taking this into consideration, Pavlo Klimkin turned to his readers again, noting that the invitation to the discussion should not be taken as a statement of the attitude. Minister called Cyrillic alphabet our national value.

“I’m frustrated by the fact, that in our society the powers, that accept the invitations to the discussion as a statement of the attitude and that manipulate it, are onwards and upwards. I just suggested to discuss the idea of introducing the Latin alphabet of the Polish journalist Ziemovit Scherek. I am convinced, that the Cyrillic alphabet is our national value.

But to have a rational discussion  is OK – to conduct a substantiated discussion. This is a European model for finding the best solutions. I am convinced, that Ukrainians can not afford to run low to the model of the “Russian world”, where they communicate with teams, shouts, and impolite manipulative statements.

Therefore, by the names of Cyril and Methodius I call upon all those, who concerned, to be Europeans. We need rational discussions and the search for effective solutions, rather than emotional quest for new problems and big headlines”, – the Foreign Minister of Ukraine said.

Will the change into the Latin alphabet be enough?

Olena Synchak, the senior lecturer in the philology department of the UCU and Ph.D. in philology, explained, that the change into the Latin alphabet should include a well-considered and well-developed policy for planning our language development. The mere transition will not help reorient the language to the West, as there will be many unresolved issues.

“The change into the Latin alphabet, it seems to me, is not up to date in Ukraine. To my mind comes, of course, the successful change of the Turkish language into Latin alphabet in 1928 provided by Atatürk, which witnessed the transition of the state from the Islamic to the more secular development model, its modernization by reorientation to the West. However, the change of the Turkish language into the Latin alphabet was accompanied by a very troublesome work on the planning of the language: Arab and Persian borrowings, which prevailed before, were thrown away, their place took the words borrowed from the French language. As you can see, the change into the Latin alphabet itself was not enough to reorient the language to the western model of development. From Atatürk’s reform, one should take the main thing – the understanding, that language planning should become an instrument of state language policy, that it is necessary to work on the development of the language, making your own direction for such a development.

Therefore, in the discussion on the change of the Ukrainian language into Latin alphabet it should be understood, that such a change will not be enough to reorient the Ukrainian language to the West, or “far from Russia”. Even with the change to the Latin alphabet, the issue of the translation of the loanwords by the Latinized Ukrainian alphabet will remain,  as well as, the harmonization of the diaspora version of the Ukrainian language with that one, which we have in Ukraine, the dominance of borrowings from Russian and English, in the end we have the pidgin language, the need to reformulate the spelling and reconsider the linguistic norms of the Soviet-era , the need to approve the standard for the Ukrainian language for foreigners and to develop a certification exam to determine the reference level, etc.

In this respect, the change into the Latin alphabet could be worthwhile only as part of a very thoughtful and carefully designed policy on the development of the Ukrainian language. However, reducing language planning only with the change to the Latin alphabet does not make much sense “, – convinced Olena Synchak.

Is the Latin alphabet the past or the future?

Artem Maruschak, the head of the Ukrainian branch of the Czech company ABO valve s.r.o., said that the change to the Latin alphabet may have a rather big impact on the future of Ukraine. However, at the same time, the speaker stressed, that such changes should not be immediate, since such processes can last for several generations.

“The transition to the Latin language is a giant step towards integration into the European community and into the civilized world in general, and its possible impact on the future of Ukraine is difficult to overestimate. It must be clear, that for the billions of people, who use the Latin, the Cyrillic alphabet is almost as incomprehensible as the Chinese hieroglyphs. This creates a whole range of obstacles in all areas of international relations: from simple tourism to network integration.

Of course, the change should not be instantaneous. The process of changing the alphabet can take several generations. But the experience of the former Yugoslavia shows, that the Cyrillic can safely coexist with the Latin at the same time “, –  Artem Maruschak assured.

Is the Latin alphabet a weapon against Russian aggression?

Yurii Shulipa, the head of the Institute of National Politics and the Institute for the Study of Russian Aggression, is convinced that the idea of the change into Latin alphabet should not only be supported at the level of discussion, proposed by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, but also implemented, as it may become an additional weapon in the informational confrontation with the aggressor country.

“The proposal to change the Cyrillic alphabet to the Latin one should be supported and implemented. This is another step away from Russia. This is a crack-down on the informational Russian propaganda. Ukraine is a European country. For Ukraine to join the countries of the European world in writing, Ukraine must change to the Latin alphabet. The transition to the Latin alphabet is also a restitution of the historical justice”, – from the commentary to Opinion.

At the same time, Shulipa sees the need for a certain “clearing” of the Ukrainian language, because, in his opinion, we still use words belonging to the Russian language.

“Still, personally I would such Russian words as ” yuryst  “,” posol “and others were removed from the Ukrainian language once and for all. For example, instead of the Russian word ” yuryst ” should be used the Ukrainian word ” pravnyk “, instead of the Russian word ” posol ” – ” vyslanets “, – said the head of the Institute of National Politics.

Instead, the head of the Institute of National Remembrance, Volodymyr Vyatrovych, is convinced that the change of the writing can only intensify the process of Russification and provoke the movement in the opposite direction.

«”The refuse from the Cyrillic alphabet will protect us from Russia and bring us closer to Europe ” –  the main argument of its supporters. However, in reality, the change in the writing can play an opposite role – the strengthening of Russification. Over the recent years, more Russian-speaking citizens start speaking Ukrainian. The introduction of the Latin alphabet will create an additional barrier and will stop many of them. Moreover, such a change can provoke the move in the opposite direction – the usual Cyrillic Russian for many (especially the elderly) will be easier to use than the unfamiliar Latin Ukrainian », – says Volodymyr Vyatrovych.

Where in Ukraine the Latin writing is already used?

The idea of Pavlo Klimkin actually found its implementation long before the minister invited his readers to a discussion. We are talking about the Ukrainian media Na chasi, which promotes its own project using the Latin alphabet as an alternative to the usual Cyrillic one. Oleksandr Melnyk, the editor-in-chief of the media, told the Opinion that citizens of other countries could thus join the common Ukrainian information space.

” The formation of the text in Latin letters in our media comes automatically with the help of a special plugin, and we even offer to use our latinizer to everyone, who wants to prepare their texts. The reason for this step is simple: our colleagues, friends and acquaintances from Poland, Slovakia, Croatia can thus join the common Ukrainian information space in a positive way, and not just read English-language reprinted news about problems in Ukraine or about the “treason”. The Latin alphabet broadens the field of information coverage and opportunities to bear positive intents to the Eastern European audience with related languages ​​on a daily basis ” – Olexander Melnyk is assured.

Oleksiy Fedorov, CEO Na Chasi, explained  Opinion, that there are various variants and projects of the Latin alphabet, and the option, implemented on their resource, is more like a “Slovak” one.

“In our opinion, the concideration of the content of the alphabet itself, should be proceeded at the state level, as this  is an important issue. Currently, on our website there is only our variant . But there is a specialized resource with various Latin projects. Our variant of Latin alphabet is rather ” Slovak “, than ” Polish ” “, – said Oleksiy Fedorov

The project of the Ukrainian Latin alphabet by Oleksii Fedorov

What is the manifestation of the Ukrainian Latin alphabet?

Since the editorial staff of Na chasi advocates the change to the usage of the Latin alphabet by  Ukrainians, the website publishes an appropriate manifesto that contains its own version of adapted Latin alphabet and explains why such changes are needed at all.

“Ukrainian will become the number one language among the Slavic languages by the amount of native speakers using the Latin alphabet. This will make it more attractive for foreigners and, in general, easier to learn, given the fact, that the entire planet can read the Latin letters.

Ukrainian will become more understandible to its neighbors: Slovaks, Czechs, Poles, Croats and a number of Eastern European countries, that use Latin itself – and thus, it will be easier for residents of all these countries to read and understand at least the context (if not everything) is written.

The Latin alphabet is the first step towards English as a universal language of communication: for children who learn to write in Latin, it will be easier to learn English (and in the future also other foreign languages) than those who are forced to combine two different alphabets in their heads.

Book printing and book design will get a new impuls with the use of common commercial and open-source font sets, as well as the adaptation of Ukrainian commercial and free fonts to the international graphic tradition.

Educational literature, that needs an inspection (especially in the humanities field) will be updated faster with the launch of a new alphabet at the national level.

The chaos with street number, signs, signboards and outdoor advertising will disappear – in recent years in Ukraine there has been a series of changes and returns to the historical names of individual streets and entire cities. And if the lack of funds or bureaucratic procedures obstruct the updating of the signs, then the nationwide introduction of the Latin alphabet systematizes the updating of the toponymic. Plus there are the design codes of the cities (which are in the making of “Agents of Changes” in Kyiv) – and we will receive a stylish and modern visual environment, comfortable for residents and understandable for foreign guests “, – the authors of the manifesto of the Ukrainian Latin alphabet are convinced.

How to deal with financial issues?

The authors of the manifesto emphasize, that such costs are an investment in the future, and the funds spent will only help to generate additional revenues.

«Is there a need to change signboards and pointers? These signboards should be ordered – and therefore, the tender and fair purchases through electronic tendering systems are a step towards creating new jobs and incomes of small and medium-sized businesses in the regions (because decentralization will allow such works to be financed locally).

Do additional funds for signboards, books and printed matter come to producers? They will pay additional taxes – and thus, they will contribute to the filling of local budgets.

The Latin alphabet makes it easier for children to learn a second foreign language, because there is no need to memorize additional alphabets with different letters. The earlier they will speak and write in several foreign languages, the better their perspective in a globalized world.

It will make it easier for tourists to read signs and menus. They arrive more often and willingly spend their money in hotels, restaurants, and places of street trade.

Here are few words about convenience: texts, reports and internal IT workflow, startups, research – it’s better to have only one keyboard layout instead of two or three. There is no need to import adapted technology, which is often more expensive because of the Cyrillic keyboard “, – is stated in the text of the manifesto.

Not latinization, but decommunization of spelling

Iryna Farion, Doctor of  philological sciences, professor, explained in a comment to Opinion, that current attempts of latinization only reflect the very fragile ideological state of Ukraine. Moreover, in fact Latinization is not a way to the so-called “Europeanization” or “away from Moscow”. Today, according to Iryna Farion, this is only an expression of the cosmopolitan conjuncture. In fact, the main task today is the decomunization of spelling through the return to the basic rules of the 1928 spelling.

“Do modern Latinizers of the Ukrainian Cyrillic alphabet need to develop the theses of our outstanding classics, such as M. Shashkevych, I. Franko, A. Voloshyn, and others about the pure nonsense of this idea? Rhetorical question. To the Latinizers belong  the category of people who, always lieing between the East and the West, chooses the PRAGMATIC side as if it is popular, and, thinks that he will solve his own problems by introducing the foreign. Neither language, nor culture, nor faith belong to pragmatic categories, but are the valuable, traditional, and world-view categories. I.Franco showed this in his article “The Alphabet War in Galicia in 1859,” mercilessly criticizing the idea of ​​the Czech philologist J. Jirechek to introduce the Latinization of the Ukrainian spelling: our old writing and Cyrillic alphabet are “the lasting basis of the cultural and spiritual development of our people.” At the created spelling committee of 9 people, only Jirechek himself and polonized Ukrainian Cherkaskyi voted for the idea of ​​ Jirechek ….

The reaction of M. Shashkevych to the proposal of an ethnographer, linguist and his fellowman at the Theological Seminary J. Lozynsky’s “On the Introduction of the Polish Alphabet in Russian Writing” (1834) and described in the work “Ruskoe Vesilie” (1835) was the same. Shashkevych in the work ” Alphabet and abecadlo” (1836) eloquently defined the following proposal: “We will be odd not to ourselves or to strangers, but to others because of the structure and spirit of the language.” In the “Russian wedding,” he called the Latin graphic “foreign rags ” and defined such an attempt as “dishonor of the sanctuary,” which “was devine, tough, undefeated before the perfect misery, it was the strongest pillar, rock-solid cliff, on which holy Russia, down the ages of fierce sadness stood firmly […], its a wonderful thing that we are still Ruthenian.” It is interesting that J. Lozynskyi himself, after the revolutionary events in Galicia in 1848, categorically denied his idea and became a convinced advocate after being its supporter and initiator. When in 1859 Galician governor A. Golukhovskyi initiated the official polonization of Ukrainian writing in the schools of Galicia, as a result of which a new phase of the “alphabet war” broke out here, J. Lozynskyi firmly protested against it as a member of a special committee, and subsequently in a separate printed matter “On teaching language at  schools of Western Galicia “(1862).

We should note, that these “graphic wars” during the nineteenth century still had a real ground, since neither the Ukrainian literary language on the basis of the national language, nor its own writing was not formed yet. Prolonged conflict between the Church Slavic tradition, which has become a brake on language and national development, and a strong  and powerful excessive inflow of spoken folk speech into all spheres of life. For writing, Ukrainians continued to use the traditional Cyrillic alphabet and civilian shorthand with Cyrillic letters ъ, ы, ѣ (ять), nasal sounds, ω, which did not satisfy the phonetic system of colloquial Ukrainian. From the end of the seventeenth century and during the nineteenth century, Ukrainians were writing with the help of the Cyrillic alphabet, trying to convey Ukrainian sounds in the letters of a Russian language. However, the great merit of that generation of Ukrainian scholars, writers and confessors was precisely in the REFORM of the Cyrillic spelling, and not in the change of it into the Latin one.

Apparently, it’s symbolic, that the present senseless “graphic war”, which is thrown into the infospace by amateurs, etc., occurs exactly in the year of the 200th anniversary of the first grammar of the living Ukrainian language of O.Poltavskyi  “Grammar of the Little Russian dialect ” (St. Petersburg, 1818) and in the year of the 100th anniversary of the first scientific system of our Cyrillic spelling “The Rules of Ukrainian Spelling” (1918), headed by prominent linguist, political and religious figure Ivan Ohienko. It was O.Pavlovskyi who first theoretically substantiated and consistently demonstrated the examples of the use of the phonetic principle of spelling, assigning, in particular, the sound І  of any origin ((з ѣ (ліс- forest), о (ніч – night), е (осінь – autumn), and writing of дж, дз – dj, dz for appropriate sounds. He, as I. Ohienko, the author of the modern principles of spelling from 1918 noted, “was the first one, who broke a large hole in an eternal etymological spelling in favor of phonetic spelling,” and therefore, in favor of the necessary reform of the Cyrillic alphabet. It was he, who instead of the usual Cyrillic ѣ (ятя) (yatiya) began to write І: вінъ instead of вѣнъ. Instead, the main rules of the Ohienko’s spelling laid the foundation for the first collegiate academic spelling on September 6, 1928, which was destroyed because of the Stalini’s version of 1933, which is still valid.

In Galicia, the innovations on the reform of the graphics and principles of writing of O. Pavlovskyi developed M. Shashkevych in the famous “Mermaid of the Dniester” (1837), which was prohibited , mostly because of the phonetic spelling and Cyrillic reform. I emphasize: unreformed Cyrillic united us with the Moscow system of graphic, which in no way can be said about its reformed and corresponding look, acording to the Ukrainian phonetic system, starting from the nineteenth century. In particular, M. Shashkevych removed the common with the Moscow spelling signs: ъ, ы, introduced the writing of  і instead of o, e (ночь, осень – night, autumn), non syllable ў (now is в) instead of л, which in the  Moscow variant(ходиў–ходил – went), я, ю, є, ї vowel softening , according to their position, шч як щ (shch) he introduced  йо, ьо, є. By the practical use, the process of reforming the Cyrillic alphabet in accordance with the phonetic system of the Ukrainian language was completed by the writer P. Kulish.

However, in the early twentieth century, the ghost of the Latin alphabet appears from the left political forses. In the USSR, starting with 1923 to 1939, over 50 written languages ​​(out of the 72 languages ​​of the USSR) were Latinized, most of which had the Arabic writing system (Azerbaijanian, Bashkir, Buryat, Vepsian, Even, Kazakh, Mansi, Tatar, Khakas, etc. .) August 7, 1929 by the decision of the CEC and SNK of the USSR “On the new Latinized alphabet of the peoples of the Arabic Writing of the USSR” the change  into Latin alphabet got the official standing, however, since 1936, the opposite process of the cyrillic alphabet has begun.

The main ideologist of the Latinization of the alphabet was the Russian linguist Mykola Marr (1864-1934), who was speaking with the idea of ​​the necessary and inevitable unification of all the languages ​​of the world into a single language by means of the UNIFICATION of the spelling and the introduction of the Latin alphabet for all languages. Among politicians and officials, the idea of ​​latinization of the alphabet was shared by the founder of the Soviet system of education and one of the founders of proletarian literature, the People’s Commissar for Education of the USSR (1917-1929) A. Lunacharskyi. This is what his article “Latinization of the Russian Spelling” is about. It is not surprising, that the idea of latinization of the Ukrainian language also appeared in the left environment. The author of the programmatic text on latinization “Odvertyj lyst do vsix, kas cikavyt’sja cijejiu spravoju” (the so-called “Red Way”, 1923) was a communist from 1919, editor of the party and Soviet newspapers “Bolshevik”, “Communist”, the head of the literary organization “Pluh”, a member of the comeettee on the spelling arrangement and a member of the People’s commissariat of Ukraine in 1925-1928, Serhii Pylypenko. His idea in May-June 1927 was supported only by two out of 56 members of the Spelling Conference: M. Yohansen and I. Tkachuk.

Consequently, this compressed historical presentation of the reform of the Cyrillic alphabet and attempts to latinize it shows, that the writing is not only cultural but also a political issue. The current attempts of latinization are the mirror of a very fragile ideological state of Ukraine and of people with a weakened , dependent national-state priority. Their way of thinking: to adapt to a fluid trend, and not to grow into their own tradition and culture. Latinization is not a so-called Europeanization or “away from Moscow,” as it is shown. In the present conditions – it’s just an expression of the cosmopolitan conjuncture. The pragmatic relevance of latinization can be motivated only by the sole cause: the imperfection of the Cyrillic alphabet. However, to the great regret of the Latinizers, Cyrillic alphabet has long been perfectly reformed and fully reflects the phonetic nature of our language. Therefore, our main task today is not the latinization of spelling, but its deconstruction through the return to the basic rules of the 1928 Spelling, which was worked out at the time of Ukrainianization.

The first and last President of the Carpatho-Ukraine, Rev. Avgustyn Ivanovych Voloshyn, called: “Lets fight against colonialism, against Moskalisms or Madiarysms, but not against our own language, which is nothing to blame for being unable to develop freely on its land.” So, I will add, there is nothing to blame the Cyrillic alphabet for, it isnt its fault, that someone under the crafty powder of Europeanization wants to turn it into a Latin alphabet … Instead of living in a constant split between East and West, it’s better to choose your own way “, – said Iryna Farion.

Text: Dmytro Zhuravel



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