Karakalpak Language Day Date in the current year: December 1, 2024

Karakalpak Language Day The inhabitants of Karakalpakstan, as well as Karakalpaks across the world, celebrate Karakalpak Language Day on December 1 to commemorate the day when Karakalpak was declared the official language of the Republic of Karakalpakstan.

Karakalpakstan is an autonomous republic within Uzbekistan. Its indigenous inhabitants are the Karakalpak people, a Turkic ethnic group native to the region. The world “karakalpak” (also spelled qaraqalpaq) is literally translated as “black hat”. The first recorded mention of the Karakalpaks dates back to 1598. The ethnonym became widespread by the 18th century.

The Karakalpak language belongs to the Kipchak—Nogai group of the Turkic language family. Its “closest relatives” are Kazakh and Nogai. Some linguists believe that all Kipchak—Nogai languages share enough features to be considered dialects of the same language; according to them, Karakalpak is a dialect of the Kazakh language. Due to the history and geography of the Karakalpaks, Karakalpak has been influenced by Uzbek, Tajik, Mongol and Russian.

There are two main dialects of spoken Karakalpak: northeastern and southwestern. Standard Karakalpak is based on the northeastern dialect, which is closer to Kazakh than its southwestern counterpart. The development of modern Karakalpak and the Karakalpak alphabet took place during the Soviet era.

Karakalpak was originally written in the Arabic script, similarly to other Turkic languages. However, a very small number of native Karakalpak speakers were literate; those who could read and write belonged either to the privileged elite or to the clergy.

There was an attempt to officially introduce the Karakalpak alphabet based on the Arabic script in 1924, but it failed. In 1928, the Soviet government introduced an alphabet based on the Latin script. However, in 1940, a decision was made to drop the Latin-based alphabet and replace it with the Cyrillic script. It happened to all Turkic languages spoken in the Soviet Union.

Following the independence of Uzbekistan, both Uzbek and Karakalpak switched back to the Latin script. Since then, the Latin-based Karakalpak alphabet has been modified several times. The most recent version was adopted in 2016.

The total number of Karakalpak speakers is over 580,000 people. Most of them live in Karakalpakstan, where Karakalpak is one of the three official languages, alongside Uzbek and Russian. There are also Karakalpak speakers in Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Russia, Turkey, and some other countries. The main regulating body of the Karakalpak language is the Najim Dawqaraev Institute of Language and Literature.

Karakalpak is taught in primary and secondary schools of Karakalpakstan. In addition, certain courses at the Karakalpak State University are taught in Karakalpak. The oldest Karakalpak newspaper is Erkin Qaraqalpaqstan (“Free Karakalpakstan”). It has been published since 1924 under a number of names (Free Karakalpak, Working Karakalpak, Red Karakalpakstan, Soviet Karakalpakstan).

Karakalpak Language Day is observed annually on December 1 to celebrate Karakalpak and highlight the importance of its preservation.

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