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The Kalmyk alphabet has 39 letters, with 33 letters of the Russian alphabet and 6 unique letters: Әә, Һһ, Җҗ, Ңң, Өө, and Үү.

Existing Resources

The Linux Kalmyk keyboard
  • Linux provides a Kalmyk keyboard. It is based on the Russian keyboard, as the six letters unique to Kalmyk are added on the number row.
  • This online keyboard lays out the letters in an alternative order, and doesn't relegate the "extra" letters to somewhere else, but is missing some letters and doesn't seem to make use of the third and fourth levels.


I chose to use Linux's Kalmyk keyboard. It has obvious drawbacks, such as having similar inconveniences as the Russian keyboard (ex. the comma and the colon being placed on the second level), and implying that Kalmyk is a derivative of Russian with "extra" letters. However, it is convenient because most speakers of Kamlyk are also fluent in Russian, and this keyboard allows them to type in both languages without switching keyboards. This layout was also added by the community. [1]

Extra Step: Phonetic Keyboard

Kalmyk phonetic keyboard

Based on the Russian "phonetic" keyboard (which maps Cyrillic letters to English letters that most closely resemble their sounds), I created a Kalmyk phonetic keyboard. I modified the positions of some keys to provide room for the six Kalmyk letters and IPA symbols in order to avoid relegating them to the AE (top) row.


The general guiding principles were to:

  • to deviate as little from Linux's Russian phonetic keyboard and the English keyboard in terms of mapping similar-sounding letters; thus, to try to avoid changing order of keys
  • place the IPA symbols on the third level of the letter key
    • when impossible, place the IPA symbols on a key that is physically near
  • place the six Kalmyk letters on the same key as the letter most phonetically resembling them
  • move the least frequently used letters to the top row

The AB (fourth) row was configured the most, in order to create room for two Kalmyk characters and their IPA symbols while refraining from placing important punctuation marks on the second level. Some keys in this row were shifted; those changes are:

  • The "Ъ" key, or the hard sign letter, was moved to the top row due to its lack of stand-alone phonetic value. [2]
  • The "Ц" key was moved to the former spot of the "Ъ" key to group the sounds "z" and "ts" together.
  • The "Җ" key was moved to the immediate left of the "Ж" key to prevent relocation of the "Ж" key and to group the two visually and phonologically similar letters together.


  1. Download the xal_phonetic file listed in my github keyboard repository. You can click on the file, click on "raw", and save the file. You can also run the command git clone git@github.swarthmore.edu:slim1/ling073-xal-keyboard.git on the terminal to copy all files in the repository to your computer.
  2. Put the "xal_phonetic" file in /usr/share/X11/xkb/symbols. You can use the cp command to do it, and you'll probably need to use sudo too. E.g. sudo cp xal_phonetic /usr/share/X11/xkb/symbols/
  3. Add a layout entry in the /usr/share/X11/xkb/rules/evdev.xml file for the layout. To do this, edit that file with your favourite text editor (you will probably need sudo in front of the text editor command), and search for the end of the layoutList section by searching for </layoutList> in the file. Copy a simple layout block from above that line, paste it in as a new layout block (between the last </layout> and </layoutList>and modify it for this layout. You can use the following:
            <description>Kalmyk (phonetic) </description>
  4. Save the file, exit the editor, and restart cinnamon. The quickest way to do this is to run cinnamon --replace on the command line.
  5. Go back to your keyboard layout settings, and you should be able to find the layout under "Kalmyk (phonetic)" in the list.


This keyboard is licensed under an MIT license.