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I have two spellings of an Azeri name: Alakbar and Ələkbər.

  1. In official contexts (ID or passport), do both forms of the name appear or just the latter?

  2. Why do Azeris still transcribe their names if both the forms are written in Latin? I am aware that they used Cyrillic before and they switched to Latin.

  3. Is the letter ə not supported by software and is it easier to write a more common equivalent, like a?

  • Ə is a Latin letter: en.wikipedia.org/wiki//Ə (the link doesn't work right, just copy-paste) – brass tacks Oct 20 '15 at 10:07
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    Yes, I understand that. That's why I am wondering why do they still transcribe? Normally in languages that use Latin transcriptions are not a norm. – PixelPower Oct 20 '15 at 10:22
  • I guess as you say, it is for software purposes. – brass tacks Oct 20 '15 at 10:24
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    Thing is they change other letters, like ş to sh. Ş is supported by most types of software, afaik. – PixelPower Oct 20 '15 at 10:29
  • They are English forms of Azerbaijani names. – me and Apr 5 '17 at 9:33
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This is an interesting question. As always with transliteration, there are compromises.

Why do Azeris still transcribe their names if both the forms are written in Latin? I am aware that they used Cyrillic before and they switched to Latin.

Firstly we should note that there are other languages written in the Latin script for which compromises are made by individuals in international contexts: Uzbek, Turkish, Serbo-Croatian, and in a sense, any language with non-ASCII characters, like French or German.

Even English. Any non-ASCII alphachar in the Latin version of your name will cause problems with software and bureaucracy at some point in life. Relatively common all-ASCII British or Anglicised names can be problematic or lossily stored (eg McDonald, Smith-Barnes, Ng) in some software.

In official contexts (ID or passport), do both forms of the name appear or just the latter?

Older passports did not include an international (ie English-inspired) Latin-to-Latin transliteration, but the new ones do:

the new biometric Azeri passport, with English form of names

Note Sevinj, rendered according to Anglophone expectations even though 'c' is an ASCII character

So, just as there is an official Latinisation according to many regimes, according to the Azerbaijani regime there is an official "English form".

Regardless of the official prescriptions, we could expect private individuals to provide such a form in some contexts. For Azeri specifically, the precedents for Latinisation and internationalisation are Turkish and Russian. In fact in Russian, 'ə' is rendered as 'a'/'а' (that's Cyrillic), in Turkish cognates it is 'e'.

This is not unique to Azeri nor to 'ə': you will not find many people from Turkey who keep using 'ş' in their names in all their documents in Anglophone countries. Note however that less English-oriented Latinisations, say of 'Gəncə', are possible:
French: Gandja
German: Gandscha
Turkish: Gence
Serbo-Croatian: Gandža
English, but via Russian: Gandzha
Also, you may still encounter Gäncä.

That said, the trend in European languages these days is away from local phonetic renderings towards English-phonetic renderings (Ganja) or towards the native Latin version (Gəncə) if possible.

Is the letter 'ə' not supported by software and is it easier to write a more common equivalent, like 'a'?

As you see with 'c' in 'Sevinc', it is not simply a matter of software compatibility. That said, no non-ASCII alphachar is supported by all software in all situations.

'ə' specifically is even more problematic, although it is part of the IPA.

Conversely, foreign names, when written in Azeri or many other languages with similar issues, will use these characters: George Bush is Corc Buş in Azeri.

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  • Do you happen to know if they would use these "English-inspired" forms in daily life in Azerbaijan? It can be an official thing that has to be in the documents, but they would not write their names like that if asked. – PixelPower Oct 23 '15 at 12:50
  • My answer applies to writing words in general, not just names. The way it generally works with non-ASCII Latin is that people use the proper forms when doing something professional or official, like drafting or signing a contract, but in SMS, comments on social media and other informal contexts, the non-ASCII chars are converted unless it is very ambiguous. However, it will be a different standard than this one, because it is not made for the ease of English speakers, but rather for the ease of input. (So 'Aliyev', not 'Əliyev', but 'Sevinc', not 'Sevinj'.) It assumes knowledge of Azeri. – Adam Bittlingmayer Oct 23 '15 at 15:36
  • Similarly, you can find Azeri or other languages of the Caucasus written in Russian Cyrillic, likewise lossy and not a perfectly defined standard. – Adam Bittlingmayer Oct 23 '15 at 15:38

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