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jaꞑa əlifba
Script type
CreatorVarious, primarily during the Latinisation in the Soviet Union
Time period
LanguagesTurkic languages
Related scripts
Parent systems
Sister systems
Unified Northern Alphabet
Subset of Latin, some characters not available
 This article contains phonetic transcriptions in the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA). For an introductory guide on IPA symbols, see Help:IPA. For the distinction between [ ], / / and  , see IPA § Brackets and transcription delimiters.

Jaꞑalif, Yangalif or Yañalif (Tatar: jaꞑa əlifba/yaña älifba → jaꞑalif/yañalif, [jɑŋɑˈlif], Cyrillic: Яңалиф, "new alphabet") is the first Latin alphabet used during the latinisation in the Soviet Union in the 1930s for the Turkic languages. It replaced the Yaña imlâ Arabic script-based alphabet in 1928, and was replaced by the Cyrillic alphabet in 1938–1940. After their respective independence in 1991, several former Soviet states in Central Asia switched back to Latin script, with slight modifications to the original Jaꞑalif.

There are 33 letters in Jaꞑalif, nine of which are vowels. The apostrophe (') is used for the glottal stop (həmzə or hämzä) and is sometimes considered a letter for the purposes of alphabetic sorting. Other characters may also be used in spelling foreign names. The lowercase form of the letter B is ʙ (small caps B), to prevent confusion with Ь ь (I with bowl). Letter No. 33, similar to Zhuang Ƅ, is not currently available as a Latin character in Unicode, but it looks exactly like Cyrillic soft sign (Ь). Capital Ə (schwa) also looks like Russian/Cyrillic Э in some fonts. There is also a digraph in Jaꞑalif (Ьj ьj).


The earliest written text in a Kipchak language, specifically the Cuman language, an ancestor of the modern Tatar language and written with Latin characters, is the Codex Cumanicus, dated 1303. Such texts were used by Catholic missionaries to the Golden Horde. Their Latin script ceased to be used after Gazaria was taken over by the Ottoman Empire in the 15th century.

For centuries the some Tatar languages as well as some other Turkic languages used a modified Arabic alphabet, İske imlâ. The deficiencies of this alphabet were both technical (abundance of positional letterforms complicated adoption of modern technology such as typewriters and teleprinters) and linguistic (Arabic language has only three vowel qualities, but Tatar has nine, which had to be mapped onto combinations and variations of the three existing vowel letters). Because of this some Turkic intelligentsia tended to use the Latin or Cyrillic script. The first attempts appeared in the mid-19th century among Azerbaijanis.[1] At the same period the Russian missionary Nikolay Ilminsky, along with followers, invented a modified Russian alphabet for the Turkic peoples of Idel-Ural, for the purpose of Christianization; Muslim Tatars did not use his alphabet.

In 1908–1909 the Tatar poet Säğit Rämiev started to use the Latin script in his works. He used several digraphs: ea for [æ], eu for [y], eo for [ɵ] and ei for [ɤ]. Arabists turned down his project, preferring to reform İske imlâ. The simplified Arabic script, known as Yaña imlâ, was used in 1920–1927.[1]

During the Latinisation in the Soviet Union, a special Central Committee for a New Alphabet was established in Moscow. The first project for a Tatar-Bashkir Latin alphabet was published in ئشچی (Eşce, "The Worker") newspaper on 18 July 1924.[2] Sounds specific to the Bashkir language were written with digraphs.[1] Following the publication, the Latin dustь ("friends of the Latin script") society was formed in Kazan on 16 November 1924. It suggested its own version of Tatar Latin alphabet, which didn't cover Bashkir sounds.[3]

In 1926 the Congress of Turkologists in Baku recommended to switch all Turkic languages to the Latin script. In April 1926 the Jaꞑa tatar əlifʙasь / Yaña tatar älifbası / Яңа татар әлифбасы (New Tatar alphabet) society started its work at Kazan.[4]

On July 3, 1927, Tatarstan officials declared Jaꞑalif the official script of the Tatar language, replacing the Yaña imlâ script. The first variant of Jaꞑalif did not have separate letters for K and Q (realized as K) and for G and Ğ (realized as G), V and W (realized as W). Ş (sh) looked like the Cyrillic letter Ш (she). C and Ç were realized as in Turkish and the modern Tatar Latin alphabet and later were transposed in the final version of Jaꞑalif.[1]

In 1928 Jaꞑalif was reformed and remained in active use for 12 years. Some sources claim that this alphabet had 34 letters, but the last was a digraph Ьj, used for the corresponding Tatar diphthong.[1] Another source states that the 34th letter was an apostrophe. They also give another sorting of the alphabet. (Ə after A, Ь after E)[4]

After the introduction of Jaꞑalif most of the books which were printed in the Arabic alphabet were withdrawn from libraries.

No. Final version
Original version
Latin dustь project
Eşce project
Yaña imlâ,
stand-alone form
Modern Latin Tatar alphabet
and romanization of Bashkir
modern Cyrillic Tatar alphabet
+ some Bashkir Cyrillic
1 A a A a A a A a ئا A a А а /a/
2 B ʙ B b B ʙ B b ب B b Б б /b/
3 C c Ç ç Ç ç C c چ Ç ç Ч ч /tɕ/
4 Ç ç C c Ĝ ĝ J j ج C c Җ җ /dʑ, ʑ/
5 D d D d D d D d د D d Д д /d/
Đ đ Dh dh ذ Ź ź Ҙ ҙ /ð, dz/
6 E e E e E e Э э ئـ E e Е е (э) /e/
7 Ə ə Э ә Ä ä E e ئە Ä ä Ә ә /æ/
8 F f F f F f F f ف F f Ф ф /f/
9 G g G g G g G g گ G g Г г /g/
10 Ƣ ƣ Gh gh Ĝ ĝ ع Ğ ğ /ɣ/
11 H h H h H h H h ه H h Һ һ /h/
12 I i I i I i I i ئی İ i И и /i/
13 J j J j J j ی Y y Й й /j/
14 K k K k K k K k ک K k К к /k/
15 L l L l L l L l ل L l Л л /l/
16 M m M m M m M m م M m М м /m/
17 N n N n N n N n ن N n Н н /n/
18 Ꞑ ꞑ Ꞑ ꞑ Ng ng Ꞑ ꞑ ڭ Ñ ñ Ң ң /ŋ/
19 O o O o O o O o ࢭئۇ O o О о /o/
20 Ɵ ɵ Ó ó Ö ö Ö ö ئۇ Ö ö Ө ө /ø/
21 P p P p P p P p پ P p П п /p/
22 Q q K k Q q Q q ق Q q К к /q/
23 R r R r R r R r ر R r Р р /r/
24 S s S s S s S s س S s С с /s/
25 Ş ş Ш ш Ş ş Ç ç ش Ş ş Ш ш /ʃ/
26 T t T t T t T t ت T t Т т /t/
Ѣ ѣ Th th ث Ś ś Ҫ ҫ /ɕ, θ/
27 U u U u U u U u ࢭئو U u У у /u, w/
28 V v W w V v ۋ V v В в /v/
W w W w و W w /w/
29 X x X x X x X x ح X x Х х /x/
30 Y y V v Ü ü Ü ü ئو Ü ü Ү ү /w, y/
31 Z z Z z Z z Z z ز Z z З з /z/
32 Ƶ ƶ Ƶ ƶ Ƶ ƶ Ƶ ƶ ژ J j Ж ж /ʒ/
33 Ь ь É é Y y Ə ə ࢭئـ I ı Ы ы /ɯ, ɤ, ɨ/
(34.1) ʼ ء ʼ ъ, ь, э /ʔ/
(34.2) Ьj ьj Y y Yj yj Y y ࢭئیـ Iy ıy Ый ый /ɤj/

Eşce (1924) alphabetical order:[3]

A B C Ç D Dh E F G Ĝ H I J K L M N Ꞑ O Ö P Q R S T Th U Ü W V X Y Z Ƶ Ə Э

Latin dustь (1924) alphabetical order:[3]

A B Ĝ Ç D E Ä Y F Gh G H I J Q K L M N Ng Ö O P R S T U Ü W X Z Ƶ Ş

Original Jaꞑalif (1927) alphabetical order:



Using two different alphabets for Russian and Turkic languages was problematic: people had to learn two different alphabets, confusing letters of one alphabet for letters from another, and Turkic languages had to use specific typewriters instead of sharing typewriters with Russian. In order to overcome these issues, a decision was made to convert Turkic languages to Cyrillic. In 1939 the Soviet government prohibited Jaꞑalif although it remained in use until January 1940.[citation needed] Jaꞑalif was also used in Nazi gazettes for prisoners of war and propaganda during World War II.[citation needed] The alphabet served until the 1950s, because most of the schoolbooks were printed before World War II. Some Tatar diasporas also used Jaꞑalif outside of the Soviet Union, for example the Tatar bureau of Radio Free Europe.

For 12 years of usage the Latin script, Arabic script (and not only Jaña imlâ, but İske imlâ too) also were used. One of the Musa Cälil's Moabit Notebooks was written in Jaꞑalif, and another was written in Arabic letters. Both notebooks were written in German prison, after 1939, the year when the Cyrillic script was established.

Restoring Jaꞑalif[edit]

I with bowl does not have separate encoding in Unicode. Cyrillic Ь is used. Only some Tatar fonts use this glyph.
N with descender, a variant of Ŋ, that was used in Jaꞑalif and is represented in Unicode since 6.0. Only some Tatar fonts use this glyph at the position of Ñ.

In the 1990s some wanted to restore Jaꞑalif, or Jaꞑalif+W, as being appropriate for the modern Tatar phonetics. But technical problems, such as font problems and the disuse of Uniform Turkic alphabet among other peoples, forced the use of a "Turkish-based alphabet". In 2000 such an alphabet was adopted by the Tatarstan government, but in 2002 it was abolished by the Russian Federation.[1]


The "Internet-style" alphabet named Inalif after Internet and älifba was convented in 2003 and partly it was inspired by Jaꞑalif. The main purpose of this alphabet was standardization of texts, which are typed on a standard English keyboard, without any diacritical marks. But this is not a simple transliteration of non-English symbols of Jaꞑalif or modern alphabet. Sounds absent from English are represented with digraphs; soft vowels are represented as a combination of the pairmate and apostrophe, apart from [ɤ], corresponding to ⟨ь⟩ in Jaꞑalif, which is represented as ⟨y⟩, probably under influence of transliteration of Russian. Like in Jaꞑalif, ⟨j⟩ represent [j], and ⟨zh⟩ is used for [ʒ], corresponding to ⟨ƶ⟩ in Jaꞑalif. ⟨x⟩ isn't used in Inalif, and ⟨kh⟩ is used instead. Other changes include: ⟨ä⟩ → ⟨a'⟩; ⟨ö⟩ → ⟨o'⟩; ⟨ü⟩ → ⟨u'⟩; ⟨ç⟩ → ⟨ch⟩; ⟨ğ⟩ → ⟨gh⟩; ⟨ñ⟩ → ⟨ng⟩; ⟨ş⟩ → ⟨sh⟩. The sorting order of Inalif isn't specified, but in practice, the English sorting order is used. Inalif is used only on the Internet.


  1. ^ a b c d e f (in Russian) М.З. Закиев. Тюрко-татарское письмо. История, состояние, перспективы. Москва, "Инсан", 2005
  2. ^ "Вопросы совершенствования алфавитов тюркших языков СССР: Сборник статей". 1972.
  3. ^ a b c Курбатов, Хәлиф Рәхим улы (1960), Татар теленең алфавиты hәм орфография тарихы, Kazan: Tatar Book Publishers, p. 71
  4. ^ a b "Jaꞑalif/Яңалиф". Tatar Encyclopaedia (in Tatar). Kazan: The Republic of Tatarstan Academy of Sciences. Institution of the Tatar Encyclopaedia. 2002.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]