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Encyclopedia > Old Turkic alphabet

Turkic people living in Central Asia developed various alphabets in early ages.

The earliest known alphabet is the Kokturk (Kok Turki, Gokturk) alphabet developed by Kokturks, a Turkic tribespeople that had established a broad Central Asian empire and reached its zenith between the 6th and the 8th century AD. The first samples of this alphabet can be found on stone inscriptions (the best known are the Orkhon inscriptions) and dated to the early 8th century AD. Kokturk alphabet had 38 letters and only 4 of them were vowels. Although the shapes of the letters were somewhat similar to those of the Runic alphabet, the sounds were entirely different.

The second most significant alphabet after the decline of Kokturks belonged to their successors Uighurs, and this alphabet was passed to the Mongols and the Manchus with small changes. As a matter of fact, the Uighur alphabet is derived from the Sogdian alphabet, which is descendant of Aramaic alphabet.

With the spread of Islam, a majority of Turkic people began to use the Arabic alphabet. Turkey switched to the Latin alphabet in 1928, while most of the Turkic republics within the borders of the former Soviet Union adopted the Cyrillic alphabet. Today, only a minority of the Turkic people — mostly living in Middle East countries and Iran, as well as the Uighurs living in China — continue to use the Arabic alphabet.

See also: Turkic languages

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