Dear colleagues and students,
The Program in Cultures, Civilizations and Ideas cordially invites you to the next talk in its colloquium series, in which Associate Professor Dr. İlker Aytürk of the Bilkent Political Science Department presents “Script Charisma in Hebrew and Turkish: a Comparative Framework for Explaining the Success and Failure of Romanization.” Dr. İlker will speak in the Bilkent Main Campus Art Gallery from 12.40-13.20 on Thursday, November 30, before taking questions. Sandwiches and refreshments will be available.
An abstract for Dr. İlker’s talk is below.
CCI Colloquium Committee
Associate Professor Dr. İlker Aytürk
Script Charisma in Hebrew and Turkish: a Comparative Framework for Explaining the Success and Failure of Romanization
Romanization refers to the process by which a Roman-based alphabet is created for a language which used to be written with either a non-alphabetic script or a non-Roman alphabet. Nearly half of the world’s population today uses the Roman alphabet and since the late nineteenth century it has become a charismatic script, to use Max Weber’s term, expanding out of its traditional base in Western Christendom. In addition to the success stories in Romania, Vietnam and Turkey, there have been numerous attempts to romanize local scripts in Japan, India, China and Greece, to cite a few examples, which ended as failures. Here I aim to provide a theoretical framework for explaining the success and failure of romanization through a comparative, in-depth study of two speech communities, Hebrew and Turkish.
While the adoption of a Roman-based alphabet by the Turkish Republic in 1928 is habitually cited as the textbook example of a successful and lasting case of romanization, similar attempts by Itamar Ben-Avi and V.Z. Jabotinsky in the Yishuv and by the Canaanites in Israel failed to create momentum in the same direction. I will discuss independent variables such as harmony between language and script, level of
literacy, economic costs of change, past experiences of script conversion, regime type, availability of canonical texts, and attitudes toward the West as factors that influence the choice of script. Indeed,
a particular combination of those factors made the romanization of the Turkish script possible in 1928, while another ruled it out in the Yishuv and Israel.