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  • Print publication year: 2007
  • Online publication date: September 2009

4 - ‘Postcolonial’ Orthographies


Nationalism ‘aided by a pyre’

Amongst the Albanians there was an extraordinary struggle of alphabets. Albanian used to be written in three different scripts: the Greek, by members of the Orthodox Church and by many Mohammedans influenced by Greek culture; the Arabic, by particularly loyal subjects of the Porte; finally the Latin was adopted by the modern nationalist movement. The Latin carried all before it, aided in 1913, by a pyre which disposed of Albanian books in the Arabic script.

(Kolarz 1946: 21–22)

In August 1990, a two-day festival was held in Chişinău, capital of what is now the independent republic of Moldova, but was then still (barely) the Soviet Socialist Republic of Moldavia. The festival, called Limba Noastra, ‘Our Language’, celebrated the first anniversary of the reintroduction of the Roman alphabet to the Moldovan language, which until that time had been written using the Cyrillic alphabet. In changing scripts, written Moldovan simultaneously became ‘reunited’ with the Romanian language, with which it is mutually intelligible. In Romania, the Cyrillic script was used until the beginning of the nineteenth century, when ‘the ideology of their Latin origin led to adoption of the Latin alphabet, though it was incapable of conveying all the sounds in the Rumanian language’ (Kolarz 1946: 22); the use of Cyrillic was actually forbidden in Romania after 1863.