The Äynu (also Ainu, Abdal, and Aini) are an Iranian people native to the Xinjiang region of western China. There are estimated to be around 30,000 Äynu people, mostly located on the fringe of the Taklamakan Desert.
The origins of the Äynu people are disputed. Some historians theorize that the ancestors of the Äynu were an Iranian-related nomadic people who came from Persia several hundred years ago or more, while others conclude that the Persian vocabulary of the Äynu language is a result of Iranian languages being once the major trade languages of the region, or Persian traders intermarrying with local women.
The Äynu people's native language is Äynu, a Turkic language with a strong influence from Persian. Äynu is usually only spoken at home, while Uyghur is spoken in public, by Äynu men and women alike.
The Äynu people engage mostly in agriculture, although in the past some were peddlers, circumcisers, or beggars.
There is a tradition of discrimination against the Äynu by their neighbors, who identify the Äynu as Abdal, a name which carries a derogatory meaning. Intermarriage with their neighbors the Uyghur people is uncommon. However, the Chinese government counts the Äynu people as Uyghur.
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- Matras, Yaron; Bakker, Peter (2003). The Mixed Language Debate: Theoretical and Empirical Advances. Walter de Gruyter. p. 9. ISBN 3-11-017776-5.
- Gordon, Raymond G., Jr., ed. (2005). Ethnologue: Languages of the World (15th ed.). Dallas, Tex.: SIL International.
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