Society for Linguistic Anthropology
Oral Presentation Session
In Turkey, Kurmanji Kurdish is most often written using the Hawar Latin orthography. Historically, this system was developed in a way that took into consideration how written Kurdish might interact with written Turkish. Hawar orthography establishes context-specific orthographic alterity: a visible nested difference-from-Turkish, something distinct from orthographic uniqueness. Kurds made use of this visible difference-from-Turkish to push back against State-led campaigns to criminalize Kurdish language use. As a result, Hawar orthography texts are readily apprehended as Kurdish texts by a Turkish-speaking mainstream public. Relatively recently, public use of Kurdish has been de jure decriminalized. Post-criminalization, we see a new phenomenon: purportedly-Kurdish texts circulated by State and non-State actors not necessarily aligned with Kurdish linguistic activism. We see texts circulate in mainstream Turkish discourse as Kurdish-language text-objects which upon closer inspection are by-degree denotationally NOT Kurdish.
What are the linguistic contours of such texts? How does orthographic form mediate an emblematic alterity of Kurdish-ness; how do various actors use orthographic alterity? How are such texts received and policed by a monoglot Turkish audience, and how do Kurdish-speakers respond to such texts?
The emblematicity of Hawar orthography for Kurdish is so salient that the actual Kurdishness of denotational code and content seem to have become irrelevant to the reception and classification of texts in that orthography. This complicates efforts toward Kurdish minority representation in public domains. What can we learn from the way orthographic emblematicity of the Hawar system facilitates State-led public practices that undermine the Kurdish community’s authority over their language?