Before 1928, the Tatar language was usually written using the Arabic alphabet. The Tatar Arabic alphabet used some letters such as چ and پ also found in the Persian modification of the Arabic alphabet, and in addition used ﯓ which is called nef or sağır kef. The writing system was inherited from Bolgar. See İske imlâ.
The most ancient of Tatar literature (in Bolgar) was created in the beginning of the 13th century. (Qíssai Yosıf by Qol-Ğäli). Until 1905 all literature was in Old Tatar, which was evolved from the Bolgar, which differed from modern Tatar. Since 1905 gazettes came to use modern Tatar in publishing. In 1918 the alphabet was revised (see: Yaña imlâ; some letters for Tatar sounds were added, some Arabic letters were deleted). A Latin alphabet (Jaꞑalif) was used from 1928 but superseded by a Cyrillic alphabet in 1939. The Cyrillic alphabet has been used ever since.
The first printed Tatar book used the Armenian alphabet in the 17th century and was printed in Leipzig (However, this is disputed). Another is Peter the Great's Manifest, printed in Arabic script on the tsar's ship during his voyage to Astrakhan.
Printed books appeared en masse in 1801 when the first private typography ("Oriental typography") in Kazan appeared.
The first unsuccessful attempt to publish a Tatar newspaper was in 1808, when professor of mathematics at Kazan University, I.I. Zapolsky, proposed publishing a newspaper "The Kazan News" in both Russian and Tatar languages. Zapolsky's untimely death in 1810 thwarted the project. The first successful attempt to publish a newspaper in Tatar was in 1905. On September 2, the first issue of the newspaper "Nur" was published in St. Petersburg by Gataulla Bayazitov. The second Tatar newspaper, "Kazan Muhbire," came into existence on October 29, 1905. The publisher of the newspaper was a member of the Kazan City Council, Saidgirey Alkin.
The first typewriter in the Arabic alphabet was created in Tatarstan in the 1920s. The Tatar Cyrillic script requires the Russian alphabet plus 6 extra letters: Әә, Өө, Үү, Җҗ, Ңң, Һһ.
Before the 1980s, in the listing of the alphabet, extra letters were placed after the Russian ones, but in the 1990s the order was modified with extra letters listed after their pairmates.
The Keräşen Tatar ethnic group has used another Cyrillic alphabet, based on Russian, since the 19th century. This alphabet requires the Russian alphabet with pre-1917 orthography for Russian Christian religious words and Cyrillic letters А, О, У with umlauts for Tatar vowels and the ligature НГ (Ng). This alphabet is related to the Mari alphabet and was used because Christian Tatars couldn't use the Arabic script.
The official Cyrilic version of the Tatar alphabet used in Tatarstan contains 39 letters:
А Ә Б В Г Д Е (Ё) Ж Җ З И Й К Л М Н Ң О Ө П Р С Т У Ү Ф Х Һ Ц Ч Ш Щ Ъ Ы Ь Э Ю Я
Due to the Russian Federal law, only Cyrillic alphabets may have official status in regions of the Russian Federation. There is ongoing confrontation with regards to adoption of the Latin script for the Tatar language.
While a Tatar version of the Latin alphabet called Jaꞑalif had been in use during the 1930s, there is controversy in the matter of Latin-based Tatar alphabet for İdel-Ural (Qazan) Tatar. The Republic of Tatarstan passed a law in 1999 and coming into force in 2001 establishing an official Tatar Latin alphabet. A Russian federal law overrode it and criminalized Latin for official use in 2002, making Cyrillic the sole official script in Tatarstan since. That the federal authorities in a move to allegedly solidify the unity of the Russian Federation and thwart the foreign Latinizing influences, have lately outlawed any switch to Latin, or any other non-Cyrillic, alphabet is an important dimension of this controversy. This specifically targeted Tatars, but affects all other nations living within borders now recognized as Russian Federation. As of 2013, Cyrillic remains the only official script in Tatarstan. A Tatarstani law adopted 24 December 2012 gives individuals and organisations the right to address Tatarstan authorities using the Latin and Arabic scripts, but requires the authorities' answers to such appeals to be written in the Cyrillic script. It provides the authorities with the option of attaching a reply in the Latin or Arabic alphabet, but does not make this compulsory. The law includes an official transliteration guide comprising Cyrillic Tatar, Latin Tatar and Arabic Tatar.
The Tatarstani parliament legislated encoding mostly with the characters listed in Zamanälif section below, but with the following differences: Ə letter is used instead of Ä, Ɵ instead of Ö and Ꞑ instead of Ñ, and there is no letter Íí. The Tatarstani Cabinet of Ministers about a year later issued a decree about computer-based encoding, in which the letters Ä, Ö and Ñ were present. The letter Íí is not present in either the law or the decree. About a year after, the speaker of the Tatarstani parliament mentioned in an interview that changes could be made by the parliament to the law by making corrections for certain characters in the alphabet.
Some versions of Latin alphabet for Volga Tatar are as follows:
(Tatar for: Modern alphabet based on what was considered for official acceptance) is as follows:
Zamanälif contains 35 letters. There are 10 vowels and 25 consonants. There are 10 extra letters: Çç, Ğğ, Şş, Ññ, Ää, Öö, Üü, Iı, İi and Íí. The other letters are the same in both alphabets, but they are pronounced differently.
A, Ä, B, C, Ç, D, E, F, G, Ğ, H, I, İ, Í, J, K, L, M, N, Ñ, O, Ö, P, Q, R, S, Ş, T, U, Ü, V, W, X, Y, Z.
Tatar vowels are: a/ä, o/ö, u/ü, í/i, ı/e.
The symbol ⟨'⟩ is used for the glottal stop (known as hämzä in Tatar).
It is possible to use these letters for writing words of non-Tatar origin: Á, Â, É, Ó, Ú.
Tatar writing is largely phonetic, meaning that the pronunciation of a word can usually be derived from its spelling. This rule excludes recent loanwords, such as summit and names.A – a as in "car"
Ä – ä as in "man", but less open. This may sound like "a" in "cape".
B – be as in "bell"
C – ce as in "measure"
Ç – çe as in "thresher"
D – de as in "decade" (the tongue touches only the front teeth but not the palate.)
E – e as in "six" or "needed"
F – fe as in "federal"
G – ge as in "get"
Ğ – ğı is back version of g, very close to back r in French
H – he as in "helicopter"
I – ı as in "number"
İ – i as in "kiss" or "read"
Í – í as in "beyond"
J – je as in "garage" (pronounced as in French & English)
K – ke as in "kettle"
L – le as in "leg"
M – me as in "men"
N – ne as in "never"
Ñ – ñe as in "English" and "song"
O – o as in "orchestra" and "obligation"
Ö – ö as in "urbane" and like German ö
P – pe as in "pen"
Q – qu as in "Iraq"
R – re as in Spanish "carro" (the tongue vibrates doing a few touches of palate during pronunciation of one sound)
S – se as in "sell"
Ş – şe as in ""slash"
T – te as in "telephone" (the tongue touches only the front teeth but not the palate.)
U – u as in "oops!"
Ü – ü as in "jew" and like German ü
V – ve as in "vegetable"
W – we as in "wall"
Y – ye as in "yes"
X – xa close to that in "chemistry", or like Scottish "ch" in "loch"
Z – ze as in "zebra"
Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: