Laks - Language and Literacy

Until the nineteenth century Laks, like all Daghestani Muslims, wrote in Arabic. A rich didactic as well as religious literature had already appeared in the eighteenth century. Among these early writers were Omar of Balkar, Ghazi Sa'id Husain, and Hadji Musa Hadji. The first documents written in the Lak language appeared in the mid-nineteenth century (using the Arabic script). Because the village of Kumukh was the cultural, political, and economic center of the Lak territory, the dialect of Kumukh became the basis of the newly established Lak literary language and remains the standard for the modern literary language. Lak lyrical literature appeared in the late nineteenth century (e.g., Yusuf Qad, Murquli), as did historical literature (e.g., Shafi'i Nitsovri). Lak literature of the Soviet period was established by Harun Sa'id (Saidov), who was both the first Daghestani dramatic author and the author of the first Bolshevik Daghestani journal— Ilchi (The Messenger). Other Lak authors include Said Gaviev, Abutalib Gafurov, Abdurahman Omarov, and E fendi Kapiev (who wrote in Russian only). Although a distinct Lak literary language exists, few works are actually written in it. The majority of Lak writers write in Russian, and the vast majority of books and articles appearing in the Lak language have been translations from other languages (most notably Russian). This is understandable as there are so few speakers of the Lak language—to have a wider readership, authors write in other languages. In 1928, as part of its anti-Islamic campaign, the Communist regime forced all of the Muslim peoples of the USSR, including the Laks, to use the Latin script rather than the Arabic. In 1938, as part of a similar policy, Cyrillic orthography was imposed on all of their languages. During this time, Russian words were substituted for words of Arabic and Persian origin. Scientific and political terminology had to be spelled as in Russian, even if this did not fit the phonetic structure of the borrowing language. Written Lak, therefore, differs greatly from the spoken form.

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