Which alphabet on car number-plates in Cyprus?
An issue of language planning, ideology and identity
Since the 1990s, language-planning interventions have changed the alphabet on car number-plates in Cyprus three times, while a fourth change is expected to take place in line with the parliamentary decision of 2010. An investigation of the alternating adoption of the 24-letter English (Latin) and the 12-letter Helleno-Latin alphabetical system demonstrates that a minor matter, such as the alphabet on the plates, can be a multilevel language planning issue. It was initiated at the micro-level by individuals and small groups who exercised pressure on the government to change this language practice, but through interventions by government officials and politicians it snowballed to the macro-level. Examination of the issue reveals the pragmatic and symbolic roles attributed to the alphabetical systems as well as the beliefs, perceptions and ideologies about language and identity in Cyprus held among Greek-Cypriots who were involved in the controversy.
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