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KDE allows to define arbitrary keyboard combinations for performing actions like switching language/keyboard layouts, but at least the KDE configuration application won't accept combinations of modifier key only (e.g. Ctrl-Shift, Alt-Shift). Worse still (from the point of view of a long-time windows user), it takes the key pressed in such combinations by the value it has on the current keyboard layout. So, for instance, if Ctrl-C is set to perform a 'copy' action, when my keyboard layout is, say, Hebrew, the 'C' key now types a Hebrew letter when clicked, so the Ctrl-C combination does not work, and I have to either define an alternative combination with a Hebrew letter or switch a keyboard layout to copy some text. If you use more than two keyboard layouts, you can't have your keyboard shortcuts work in some of them at all, because KDE would allow only 2 alternative combinations for each action.
Windows is less primitive on that. Ctrl-Shift is used to switch languages (so you don't have to use keys that may be used for other purposes), and combinations such as Ctrl-[C] work no matter what the [C] key happens to represent in the current keyboard layout.
My question is whether there is a way to bypass the very limiting way in which keyboard shortcuts work in KDE and make combinations of modifier keys do stuff, and make key combinations work independently of current keyboard layout.
Interesting question. I'm sorry I really can't help you.
However, I would like to contend one of your statements:
combinations such as Ctrl-[C] work no matter what the [C] key happens to represent in the current keyboard layout.
That depends a lot on what you mean by "represent". For instance, if you're using the dvorak keyboard layout, the hotkeys work for the remapped positions. For instance, you copy by pressing control and the key labelled 'i' (which is remapped to generate a c in the dvorak layout), and that key only. I have no experience with using non-latin alphabets with windows, however.
When I press the key with the label "i", all KDE ever sees is a "c". Similarly, if I press "c", all KDE sees is "j". Have a look at dvzine.org if you're unfamiliar with the dvorak keyboard layout. The reason KDE only sees "c" and "j" is because the mapping takes place at a lower level.
I could map C-q, C-j and C-k (which bear the labels "x", "c" and "v") to cut/copy/paste, and that would genuinely be the scenario you describe, but--I think--with the opposite purpose: instead of having an alternate layout for hotkeys, this gives you an alternate layout in general, but an "ordinary" layout for hotkeys.
I hope I've explained this clearly enough. Otherwise, learn how to type with the dvorak keyboard layout and come back (ha-ha-only-serious).