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How Newspapers Familiarized Readers with the Latin Script during the Turkish Alphabet Reform

The Turkish alphabet reform is considered to be one of the most prominent alphabet shifts due to the pace of its introduction and implementation. Turkish was used in the Arabic script for over a thousand years until the reform in 1928 as part of Atatürk’s modernization program. During the four-month transition period, newspapers played a crucial role in the adoption of the new alphabet, despite declining circulation and risk of closure. Not only were some facilitated by their role as MPs, they also received small amounts of financial aid and the tax exemption for imported printing machines and metal types. Newspapers became the vanguards of this shift by using it alongside Arabic to teach and familiarizing people with the Turkish alphabet. They published news that encouraged this reformation and cartoons that mocked Arabic letters to shed a positive light on this shift. Newspapers created a space to discuss orthographic changes and share alphabet lessons with readers on a daily basis. Atatürk’s program led the way for others wanting to adopt the new alphabet, entirely replacing Arabic letters within four months (while finding creative solutions to overcome the lack of Latin metal types). In this talk, Dilek Nur Polat Ünsür will review visualizations of each contribution from the period’s broadsheet and tabloid newspapers to showcase how newspapers were critical in the typographic transition of a nation.


Dilek Nur Polat Ünsür

Academic Giresun University

Dilek Nur Polat Ünsür received her Bachelor’s degree in Graphic Design from Hacettepe University in 2011, and her Master’s degree in Book Design from the University of Reading in 201.Ünsür continued her education at the University of Reading, earning her Doctorate’s degree in Book Design in 2018 with her thesis, “A Typographic Analysis of Newspapers and Magazines in the Turkish Alphabet Reform (1928-1929).” Currently, Ünsür is a lecturer in the Department of Graphic Design at Giresun University, where she conducts research and teaches typography, editorial design, and graphic design history.