Welcome to the first instalment of ‘Your Stories’, an occasional series of guest-written blog posts highlighting modern experiences of writing. If you would like to discuss sharing your own story, please contact us via this page. Our first guest writer is Diyora Juraeva, who got in touch earlier this year to discuss her enthusiasm for writing systems ancient and modern which she is pursuing during her gap year.

Hello, my name is Diyora Juraeva (17, she/her), and am delighted to write a blog article to the VIEWS blog. I am from sunny Uzbekistan, and during my gap year I have been corresponding with the VIEWS project and doing my individual research project called ‘The methods used to implement the usage of the Russian language in Khanate of Kokand from the conquest to 1920s’.

History has always been integral part of my life, but only recently have I developed an interest in the past of languages and writing systems. Thanks to Pippa and her publications on the CREWS project, I began to understand the importance of alphabets as fundamental instrument for communication throughout human history. Although I am a young person on a quest to discover the grandeur of history, I felt compelled to share my observations, experiences, and viewpoints on the use of various writing systems in the modern world. I hope you enjoy it!

As with most Uzbek individuals my age, I was exposed to the Latin and Cyrillic (Kirill or Kirillitsa) alphabets at an early age because Uzbek and Russian are taught in our schools starting in the first grade. I would note that learning and reading Cyrillic alphabet was much simpler than learning and using Latin since the Cyrillic alphabet is read as it is written and does not have similar sounding letters. In contrast, it is typical for even Uzbek speakers to mix up the letters “h” and “x” (even in everyday terms like raxmat “Thank you”).

Users of both alphabets frequently combine them, which is something I’ve observed to be widespread in our nation. Personally, I mistakenly write the Latin “m” for the Cyrillic alphabet character “т.” The reason is that the Latin “m” and the handwritten Cyrillic “т” seem the same visually (see the image to the left of the Cyrillic letter, with the upper case and lower case forms). By the way, beginner speakers find it difficult to distinguish between the written and printed forms of the Cyrillic alphabet, but regular use and practice will help you get used to it; once you do, even writing the seemingly weird letter “д” (which is similar to the letter “g”) will make sense.

I thought it was noteworthy that many elderly people in my nation seldom ever use the Latin alphabet. Kirillitsa dominated government, education and publishing during the course of the last century as a result of the political climate. For instance, despite not even knowing how to read or speak Russian, my grandfather cannot write in Latin and exclusively uses the Cyrillic alphabet while writing in Uzbek.

Looking further from home, the Korean alphabet is my particular favorite. I’ll start by outlining the background of Hangul. In the past, Koreans used Chinese hieroglyphs to write, but King Sejong opted to switch to the simpler and unique Korean script in 1443. The entire alphabet for a country was therefore established by employing and combining the three words “ㅣ” which stood for “Human,” “ㅇ”- sky,” and “ㅡ”- Earth.” Hangul even contributed to a decline in illiteracy in Korea since it was simple to learn, write, and read, and it was accessible to even the general public.

Bronze statue of King Sejong the Great. Image from here.

The reason I started learning hangul is because of an intriguing quarantine video that appeared online. Inspired by the video and the simplicity of the letters, I memorised it in just over three days. Now that I’m teaching kindergarteners Korean, I can take notes on special elements of learning this unusual alphabet. Children learn consonants more quickly and efficiently than they learn vowels because of how strikingly similar they look.

However, based on my personal tutoring experience, I can affirm that the elderly do confuse them frequently as well. Despite the fact that Uzbek speakers are accustomed to the regular Korean vowel sounds, people tend to struggle with Korean diphthongs: even Intermediate level speakers may find it challenging to correctly pronounce and distinguish them, both visually and audibly.

Every alphabet that I read is unique in appearance and meaning they convey. They contributed greatly to my main research interests: history of languages, linguistics and, of course, ancient writing systems. Thank you for reading this blogpost and I hope you enjoyed and learned something new and useful. Thank you especially to Pippa, who is the loveliest and most generous person ever!

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