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A Writing System for the Khinalug Language

Since the second half of the 20th century there have been several attempts to create a writing system for the Khinalug language, based either on the Cyrillic or the Latin alphabet. For example, the poet Rahim Alxas, an enthusiastic proponent of his native language, adapted the Lezghian Cyrillic-based alphabet for Khinalug and proceeded to publish several books that included both poetry and teaching aids for the Khinalug school. However, neither this alphabet nor several alternatives have become accepted standards.

In 2007, a team of scholars from Moscow University, under the leadership of Dr. Sandro Kodzasov, created a new proposal for Khinalug alphabet that closely follows the current Latin-based Azeri alphabet. The proposal was developed in close cooperation with the language teachers of the Khinalug school.

The main goal of the new alphabet is ease of learning and use. It does not reflect several phonological distinctions that are easy to reconstruct from the context for the native speakers but which would overcomplicate the notation. For instance, the alphabet does not reflect the opposition of strong vs. weak unaspirated consonants in the intervocalic position, or the non-softening of hard root-final consonants before a front vowel of the suffix.

The description of the alphabet can be downloaded here: [xin-abc.pdf, 130 Kb]. It includes a complete list of all letters, a phonetic table, and examples of use for all letters and letter combinations. For comparison, an earlier draft of the alphabet is also available which includes the omitted distinctions along with the IPA correspondences and the scholarly-oriented version of the alphabet: [xin-abc-full.pdf, 90 Kb].