The Challenge of Creating an Alphabet – On the Development of Writing Systems for the Languages of the Russian North

Markus Bergmann (

In Russia, more than one hundred indigenous languages are spoken alongside with Russian. Some twenty-five of them are spoken in the North and Far East of the country. At the end of the 19th and the 20th century, for many of Russia’s languages, alphabets were developed on the basis of the Roman and Cyrillic alphabet. Many of them were modified at a later stage or got competing alternative models. Whereas some alphabets are regarded standard now, others have not gained such status. In the last years the question of the status and further development of minority languages in Russia has become a very important topic. The challenging task of minority linguistics is to provide writing standards that fulfil equally well theoretical and practical requirements. In my contribution, I will give a short sketch of the linguistic and non-linguistic aspects that were and are involved in the case of Russia’s indigenous languages.

CLCG Klankleer Group Workshop 'On the Boundaries of Phonology and Phonetics'