October 25, 2005

Better Not Use Q and W

A Turkish court has fined 20 Kurds 100 lira (US$74) for holding up placards at a New Year's celebration containing the letters Q and W according to a Reuters report. These letters are used in Kurdish but not in Turkish. Using them therefore violates the law of November 1, 1928 on Adoption and Application of Turkish Letters, whose purpose was to change the writing system of Turkish from the Arabic-based Ottoman system to the Roman-based system developed under the secular modernizing regime of Mustafa Kemal "Attatürk".

Although this represents a technically correct application of the statute, it is nonetheless selective as these and other letters not used in Turkish are commonly used in advertising without incurring prosecution. Here, for example, is the web site of Xerox Turkey which uses the letter X, and here is a page containing information about the program Quark Express, which uses both Q and X. Turkey is evidently having some difficulty in fully implementing the committment it made to the European Union to terminate its suppression of the Kurdish language. If I didn't know that there is no relationship between the structure of a language and the culture and character of its speakers, I would wonder how it could be that such a beautiful language as Turkish could have such turkeys among its speakers.

Posted by Bill Poser at October 25, 2005 11:12 PM