Old Uyghur alphabet

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Old Uyghur alphabet
Uighur native name.svg
Languages Old Uyghur, Western Yugur
Time period
Parent systems

The Old Uyghur alphabet (Chinese: 回鹘文字母; pinyin: Huíhú wénzìmǔ) was used for writing the Old Uyghur language, a variety of Old Turkic spoken in Turfan and Gansu that is an ancestor of the modern Yugur language. The term "Old Uyghur" used for this alphabet is misleading because the Kingdom of Qocho used the Old Turkic alphabet and only adopted this script used by the local inhabitants when they migrated into Turfan after 840.[1] It was an adaptation of the Sogdian alphabet used for texts with Buddhist, Manichaean and Christian content for 700–800 years in Turpan. The last known manuscripts are dated to the 18th century. This was the prototype for the Mongolian and Manchu alphabets. The Old Uyghur alphabet was brought to Mongolia by Tata-tonga.

In Central Asia the Uighurs viewed the Chinese script as "very prestigious" so when they developed the Old Uyghur alphabet, based on the Syriac script, they deliberately switched it to vertical like Chinese writing from its original horizontal position in Syriac[2]

Like the Sogdian alphabet, the Old Uyghur tended to use matres lectionis for the long vowels as well as for the short ones. The practice of leaving short vowels unrepresented was almost completely abandoned.[3] Thus, while ultimately deriving from a Semitic abjad, the Old Uyghur alphabet can be said to have been largely "alphabetized".[4]

Uighur vert.gif


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Sinor, D. (1998), "Chapter 13 - Language situation and scripts", in Asimov, M.S.; Bosworth, C.E., History of Civilisations of Central Asia, 4 part II, UNESCO Publishing, p. 333, ISBN 81-208-1596-3 
  2. ^ Gorelova 2002, p. 49.
  3. ^ Clauson, Gerard. 2002. Studies in Turkic and Mongolic linguistics. P.110-111.
  4. ^ Houston, Stephen D. 2004. The first writing: script invention as history and process. P.59


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