International Committee for Crimea
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On the Revival of the Crimean Tatar Language:
AE. There were no Crimean Tatar schools in places of deportation. Children studied only in Russian and Uzbek schools. In 1952 I finished school with honors and wanted to study at the university. But there was no university in our small town. It was also necessary to get a special permission from the main KGB commandant's office in Tashkent to go to another town. The permission was not generally given as they did not want Crimean Tatars to get higher education. One might say I entered Samarkand University's Department of Russian Philology by chance. Hence my special interest in the Russian language and literature.
My scientific researches in the field of Russian phraseology are known in many countries interested in the same problems such as the countries of the former USSR, Germany, Austria, the USA, Bulgaria, Croatia, etc. The special field of scientific analysis of Russian phraseology, i.e. communicative (cognitive) phraseology, has been developed by me. I am thankful to Allah for this because at present I use all my knowledge of the theory of philology here in the Crimea for studying and reviving the Crimean Tatar language.
What have I done and what am I doing in this direction? I am studying such socio-linguistic problems as language competence of Crimean Tatars, the status of language and language policy in the Crimea and Ukraine. I have made presentations at various international conferences - more than once in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Kiev; in Germany (1993), Austria (1995), Japan (1997), France (2004) and others. I have published dictionaries and books, supervised research of post-graduate students on the problems of the Crimean Tatar language, delivered lectures on the theory of language to Crimean Tatar students; and translated from Turkish into Russian the writings of an outstanding Crimean Tatar author living in London Jangiz Dagzhi (Cengiz Dagci). More than 200 articles belonging to different genres, half of them devoted to the problems of Crimean Tatar philology, have already been written and published.
IB. After you returned to Crimea, as you indicated, you became interested in the Crimean Tatar language. Why is Crimean Tatar considered an endangered language? What has been done to revive the language and what should be done?
I returned to my homeland, the Crimea, upon invitation of the rector of Simferopol University in December 1990. I took up a position of Professor of Russian Philology. The Department of the Crimean Tatar Language and Literature was founded at the university the same year. I delivered lectures on the Russian language to the students of this department, but I always tried to draw a parallel between Russian and the Crimean Tatar languages and to characterize its categories. So, gradually, being a specialist of the Russian language, I faced the necessity of studying the problems of my native language.
Why is the Crimean Tatar language still under the threat of disappearance? Two generations were born and grew up in exile. Almost all of them were taught in Russian schools and some of them in Uzbek ones. There were many mixed marriages, and children of such families speak only Russian. I studied this problem and came to the following conclusions.
In terms of language competence, Crimean Tatars can be divided into four groups:
The first and the third groups are restricted numerically. The first group includes the representatives of intellectuals: teachers and instructors of the Crimean Tatar language and literature, writers and journalists; the third group comprises the elderly people with a low level of education. The second group is the most numerous one, which includes young and middle-aged people, having received education in Russian schools and institutions of higher learning. Monolinguals are presented by two unequal parts: a) a numerous group of children, young and middle-aged people, as well as those having been born and brought up in mixed families (speak only Russian); b) a small group of very elderly people who have not been taught in Russian schools (speak only Crimean Tatar). For the representatives of the first two social groups permanent switching from one language into another is common not only in the spheres of communication, but even within the limits of one communicative act. Their speech often includes various Russian "disseminations" and loan words
IB. Why do Crimean Tatars, who for the most part consider Crimean Tatar to be their mother tongue, often use Russian even in the home environment?
AE. The reasons are both linguistic and non-linguistic. The main reason is their poor vocabulary. Let me expand on the problem of the revival and development of the Crimean Tatar language, which has two aspects: socio-political and linguistic.
Socio-political aspect the of revival and development presupposes the solution of a number of interrelated problems:
1. Distinguishing social status of the language. According to Article 10 of the Constitution of Ukraine, the Crimean Tatar language has a status of a minority language - the language of a national minority. In practice, as the last decade has shown, such status does not qualify it for necessary financial support from the government. Today minority languages are offered substantial challenges with the ratification by Ukraine of the European Charter for regional and minority languages (2003). This presupposes periodic accountability of multinational state as regards to its language policy. The implementation of European Charter statutes, i.e. their adoption as part of Ukrainian social policy, is pending.
2. Expanding the system of upbringing and educating children in the Crimean Tatar language. Additional schools with curriculum in Crimean Tatar should be opened. There are 15 such schools today, which provide education for about 5,000 pupils out of a total number of 40,000 children of school age. Two Crimean universities prepare teachers of the Crimean Tatar language and literature, and the necessary educational and professional literature is published.
3. Extension of functional area of the Crimean Tatar language. Optimal mastering of any language takes place in a permanent language environment. Various factors play a role in creating such environment: mass media, macro- and microtoponymy; road signs, signboards, advertisements, slogans etc. At present the Crimean Tatar radio and television has two and five hours of airtime respectively, and four magazines and three national newspapers are published in Crimean Tatar. The original Crimean Tatar toponymy has not been restored yet.
In addition to the social-political aspect, in the revival of any language the linguistic aspect also plays a role. Collecting and preserving all surviving dialects of the language in technologically feasible media are as important as the codification and optimization of standards in literary language. These problems are not being addressed today because of the lack of qualified specialists and sufficient funding from the government. The measures so far taken for the revival of the Crimean Tatar language should be continued. In general, there are reasons for optimism, as I believe the Crimean Tatar will be restored to its original status as the language of native people of Crimea.
I am happy that Allah allowed me to come back to my homeland and to be involved in the revival and development of my native language as the foundation of our national culture.
27 March 2007
Posted: 12 April 2007