2007 年 2007 巻 36 号 p. 48-60
The Uzbek standard language of today is exceptional among the Turkic languages in lacking vowel harmony. This paper focuses on changes in an ideological position of vowel harmony rules in Uzbek for those who engaged in language politics or educational works in the early Soviet era. The paper deals mainly with the period between 1924, when the National Delimitation in Central Asia took place, and 1934 when vowel harmony rules were abolished from the Uzbek standard written language at the Scientific Conference on Uzbek Orthography.
In the 1920's vowel harmony rules were regarded by local intellectuals as a symbol of Uzbek language ties with other Turkic languages and as a legacy of Chagatai literature. At a 1929 Conference the inclusion of vowel harmony rules into the grammar of standard Uzbek, which the chair of the conference proposed, was approved as an “iron law”. However, after the alteration of Moscow's policy on national problems, the vowel harmony rules were attacked as a “dying law” that blocks further development of the Uzbek language, because they were considered to be unsuitable for transcribing international (read “Russian”) words. Vowel harmony rules were abolished not only from transcribed Russian or international words but also from Uzbek orthography in the 1934 Conference, where the number of vowels in Uzbek alphabet was reduced from nine to six, it was decided that the Uzbek standard language should be based on urban dialects in which vowel harmony was weak.
It is worth mentioning that it was only after the basic shape of the “Uzbek national language” was determined, that the need for a history of the new national language started to be strongly felt. Many linguists tried to seek its origin and trace back the descent of Uzbek language. In the 1920's scholars were longing for a shape of the “Uzbek national language” in the Turkic languages with Chagatai as the successor, considering that vowel harmony rules remained in the “Uzbek national language” from the past. However, showing a remarkable contrast with studies in the 1920's, studies after 1934 tried to establish a theory that these Turkic languages also lacked vowel harmony rules in the similar way that standardized “Uzbek national language” does. The latter group of studies obscured the historical side of the Uzbek language and substantialized “Uzbek national language” that was being constructed as a part of the cultural essentialism in Uzbekistan. This suggests that, from the viewpoint of the socio-cultural history of Uzbekistan, the abandonment of a written language with vowel harmony rules and the standardization of Uzbek language in 1934 were also some of the extremely important events in the process of the construction of the national representation of Uzbekistan.