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f_0019739_16816 - Language Identity a nd Politics in Turkey...

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Alternatives: Turkish Journal of International Relations, Vol. 8, No. 2, Summer 2009 40 Language, Identity and Politics in Turkey: Nationalist Discourse on Creating a Common Turkic Language Yilmaz Bingol * This paper aims to analyze ever growing trend among Turkish nationalist toward creation of a common literary language for all Turkic peoples. The issue is not indeed new. It may trace back to the nineteenth century, but got a great acceleration during the establishment of Turkish Republic in the first quarter of the twentieth century. Although the modernization movement led by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk and his comrades had a different agenda excluding and/or ignoring Turkic elements of Central Asia, this policy faced severe resistance from traditionalists, that is, from both Turkist-nationalists and Islamists since the very beginning of the modernist reform movement. The dispute between modernists and traditionalists which may be classified as Islamists and Turkists, arose from their different perceptions of national identity, but continued in terms of their different ideological, methodological and linguistic approaches as well. This paper aims to mainly focus on the nationalists political behaviors regarding creation of a common Turkic language. Nevertheless, it is essential, in this juncture, to reflect briefly the general tendencies of all groups regarding the language policy that should have been implemented in Turkey. For each of these groups the importance of any measure relating to language policy has been the extent to which it might promote its own particular identity. Kemalists sought a Western identity for the new Turkish Republic and thus any Kemalist modernist language policy measures should be considered in light of their identity-oriented preferences. They favored two Western concepts, secularization and nationalization, as important norms of the new Turkish identity. They were also nationalist in
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Alternatives: Turkish Journal of International Relations, Vol. 8, No. 2, Summer 2009 41 the sense that they favored creation of a Western-type nation-state based on the Turkish elements of Anatolia within the national borders of Turkey. Thus, they favored the adoption of Western numerals and of the Latin alphabet, while at the same time they attempted to cleanse Turkish of loanwords borrowed from Arabic and Persian, the languages of Islamic religion and culture. Traditionalists, both Turkists and Islamists, have argued that modernist language measures would damage Turkic and Islamic layers of national identity. Islamists, for their part, claimed that this language policy would sever links with the rich Turkish-Islamic heritage and cut off communication with the Islamic world that Turks had led for several centuries. Islamists, taking Islam as their point of reference, resisted the use of the Latin alphabet and favored the maintenance of the Arabic alphabet, the script of the Holy Qur an. Islamists have also favored continued use of Arabic and Persian words
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f_0019739_16816 - Language Identity a nd Politics in Turkey...

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