Kazakhs living in the Altai Mountains: research on the language of Kazakh repatriates to Kazakhstan

SauleTazhibayeva, Sholpan Zharkynbekova and Irina Nevskaya

Kazakhs living in the Altai Mountains:
Research on the language of Kazakh repatriates to Kazakhstan

(66th Annual Meeting of the PIAC Göttingen, 2024)

Ethnic Kazakhs live outside of Kazakhstan in 40 countries including Russia, Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, Mongolia, Turkey, Germany, and China. The majority of ethnic Kazakhs outside of Kazakhstan are scattered in the Altai Mountains of China, Mongolia, and the Republic of Altai (Russia).

After Kazakhstan became independent in 1991, numerous ethnic Kazakhs whose ancestors had to leave Kazakhstan in the first half of the last century began to return to their historical homeland. The most numerous groups of repatriates are ethnic Kazakhs of China and Mongolia. They contribute to the resuscitation of the functions of the Kazakh language, national identity, culture, customs and traditions, destroyed largely during the years of the Soviet regime. However, the repatriates experience a socio-cultural and linguistic shock facing various problems. They have to integrate into the realities of the Kazakhstani life and adopt the Standard Kazakh language norms.

Kazakhstani researchers conducted sociolinguistic investigations on the language policy and linguistic and ethnic identification of repatriates in Kazakhstan; see (Bokayev 2011; Zharkynbekova 2013, Agmanova 2015; Suleimenova 2018). The language of Kazakhs in China was studied by Mamyrkhanova (2015). However, the language of Kazakhs living in the Altai Mountains lacks comprehensive descriptions. It has preserved ancient language forms existed before the language reforms in Kazakhstan. It is important to document these Kazakh varieties and common cultural heritage, which is under the threat of loss due to cultural assimilation and generation shifts: archaic Kazakh grammatical and lexical forms preserved by the repatriates of older generation are getting lost by younger generations in modern Kazakhstan.

In our lecture, we will deal with the factors influencing the cultural and linguistic adaptation of ethnic Kazakhs from Mongolia and China in Kazakhstan. A special attention will be paid to the results of linguo-ecological monitoring of the language situation of the older generations of Kazakh repatriates.

Keywords: Kazakh, self-identification, sociolinguistic survey, Kazakh as spoken in China, Kazakh as spoken in Mongolia, Standard Kazakh.

Acknowledgements: This research is funded by the Science Committee of the Ministry of Science and Higher Education of the Republic of Kazakhstan (Grant no. AP19676809)

Agmanova A.A. Issues of cultural and linguistic adaptation of Kazakh repatriates // Theoretical and didactic philology. Series Philology. – 2015. Issue 21. P. 68-78.
Bokaev B.N., Zharkynbekova Sh.K. Processes of linguistic and ethnic identification of repatriates of Kazakhstan. – Astana, 2011. P. 203.
Mamyrkhanova G.T. Qutaidagy qazaqtardyn tіlі men zhazuy [The language and writing of Kazakhs in China] (Bulletin of ENU named after LN Gumilуоv, 2015. – №3(106), – P. 175-178).
Suleimenova E.D. Language as a resource of soft power. – Almaty: Kazakh University, 2018. P. 118.
Zharkynbenova Sh.K., Bokayev B. Global transformations in Kazakhstani society and problems of ethnolinguistic identification // Negotiating Linguistic, Cultural and Social Identities in the Post-Soviet World: – Peter Long AG. International Academical Publishers, Bern. – 2013. P. 247-279.