Uyghur Arabic alphabet

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Uyghur alphabet
ئۇيغۇر يېزىقى
Example of writing in the Uyghur alphabet: Uyghur
Script type
LanguagesUyghur, Sarikoli
Related scripts
Parent systems
U+0600 to U+06FF

U+0750 to U+077F
U+FB50 to U+FDFF

U+FE70 to U+FEFF
 This article contains phonetic transcriptions in the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA). For an introductory guide on IPA symbols, see Help:IPA. For the distinction between [ ], / / and  , see IPA § Brackets and transcription delimiters.

The Uyghur Arabic alphabet (Uyghur: ئۇيغۇر ئەرەب يېزىقى, romanizedUyghur Ereb Yëziqi or UEY) is a version of the Arabic alphabet used for writing the Uyghur language, primarily by Uyghurs living in China. It is one of several Uyghur alphabets and has been the official alphabet of the Uyghur language since 1982.[1]

The first Perso-Arabic derived alphabet for Uyghur was developed in the 10th century, when Islam was introduced there. The version used for writing the Chagatai language. It became the regional literary language, now known as the Chagatay alphabet. It was used nearly exclusively up to the early 1920s. Alternative Uyghur scripts then began emerging and collectively largely displaced Chagatai; Kona Yëziq, meaning 'old script', now distinguishes it and UEY from the alternatives that are not derived from Arabic. Between 1937 and 1954, the Perso-Arabic alphabet used to write Uyghur was modified by removing redundant letters and adding markings for vowels.[2][3] A Cyrillic alphabet was adopted in the 1950s and a Latin alphabet in 1958.[4] The modern Uyghur Perso-Arabic alphabet was made official in 1978 and reinstituted by the Chinese government in 1983, with modifications for representing Uyghur vowels.[5][6][7][8]

The Arabic alphabet used before the modifications (Kona Yëziq) did not represent Uyghur vowels and according to Robert Barkley Shaw, spelling was irregular and long vowel letters were frequently written for short vowels since most Turki speakers were unsure of the difference between long and short vowels.[9] The pre-modification alphabet used Arabic diacritics (zabar, zer and pesh) to mark short vowels.[10]

Robert Shaw wrote that Turki writers either "inserted or omitted" the letters for the long vowels و‎, ا‎ and ي‎ at their own fancy so multiple spellings of the same word could occur and the ة‎ was used to represent a short a by some Turki writers.[11][12][13][full citation needed]

The reformed modern Uyghur Arabic alphabet eliminated letters whose sounds were found only in Arabic and spelled Arabic and Persian loanwords such as Islamic religious words, as they were pronounced in Uyghur and not as they were originally spelled in Arabic or Persian.

Current Official Alphabet[edit]

The table below lists all 32 letters of the current official Uyghur alphabet used in Xinjiang in alphabetical order, along with their IPA transcriptions.

Current Official Uyghur Arabic Alphabet
Letter IPA Letter IPA
1 ئا /ɑ/ 17 ق /q/
2 ئە /ɛ/ 18 ك /k/
3 ب /b/ 19 گ /ɡ/
4 پ /p/ 20 ڭ /ŋ/
5 ت /t/ 21 ل /l/
6 ج /d͡ʒ/ 22 م /m/
7 چ /t͡ʃ/ 23 ن /n/
8 خ /χ/ 24 ھ /h/
9 د /d/ 25 ئو /o/
10 ر /r/ 26 ئۇ /u/
11 ز /z/ 27 ئۆ /ø/
12 ژ /ʒ/ 28 ئۈ /y/
13 س /s/ 29 ۋ /v/~/w/
14 ش /ʃ/ 30 ئې /e/
15 غ /ʁ/ 31 ئى /i/
16 ف /f/ 32 ي /j/

Note: ئ also represents /ʔ/ but it is usually ignored at the beginning of words. It still reads /ʔ/ in the middle, such as سائەت‎ /saʔɛt/ hour.

Spelling of Suffixes[edit]

Uyghur spelling borrowed heavily from Chagatai influences. The spelling of the suffixes from Uyghur also matched Chagatai spellings which were kept largely static. Below is an incomplete list of suffixed spellings and their vowel harmony alternatives. Frequently, some Chagatai suffixes were separated from their root words by a zero width non-joiner while in modern Uyghur the root+suffix would be joined.

Chagatai/Uyghur suffix structure
Part of speech IPA UEY UEY Example Traditional Spelling Traditional Example
Plural Suffix /-lɛr/ لەر ئۆردەك‎ + لەر‎ = ئۆردەكلەر لار اوردک‎ + ؜ لار‎ = ؜ اوردکلار
/-lar/ لار قۇش‎ + لار‎ = ؜ قۇشلار قوش‎ +؜ لار‎ = ؜ قوشلار
Alphabetical order for reformed modern Uyghur Arabic Script
Letter ئا، ا ئە، ە ب پ ت ج چ خ د ر ز ژ س ش غ ف
IPA ɑ, a ɛ, æ b p t χ, x d r, ɾ z ʒ s ʃ ʁ, ɣ f
Letter ق ك گ ڭ ل م ن ھ ئو،و ئۇ،ۇ ئۆ، ۆ ئۈ، ۈ ۋ ئې، ې ئى، ى ي
IPA q k ɡ ŋ l m n h, ɦ o, ɔ u, ʊ ø y, ʏ w, v e i, ɨ j

Several of these alternatives were influenced by security-policy considerations of the Soviet Union or the People's Republic of China. (Soviet Uyghur areas experienced several non-Arabic alphabets and the former CIS countries, especially Kazakhstan, now use primarily a Cyrillic-based alphabet, called Uyghur Siril Yëziqi.)

A Pinyin-derived Latin-based alphabet (with additional letters borrowed from Cyrillic), then called "New script" or Uyghur Yëngi Yëziq or UYY, was for a time the only officially approved alphabet used for Uyghur in Xinjiang. It had technical shortcomings and met social resistance; Uyghur Ereb Yëziqi (UEY), an expansion of the old Chagatai alphabet based on the Arabic script, is now recognized, along with a newer Latin-based alphabet called Uyghur Latin Yëziqi or ULY, replacing the former Pinyin-derived alphabet; UEY is sometimes intended when the term "Kona Yëziq" is used.[14]

Historical Spellings[edit]

MS Windows Uyghur keyboard layout. Note that vowels are still using the older abjad from the Arabic script, and not the newer plain letters for vowels of the Uyghur Arabic alphabet (composed of pairs of Arabic letters, starting by an alef with hamza, that must be entered separately on this keyboard before the actual vowel). In fact, the keyboard is also based on the older Latin alphabet used for the mixed Uyghur New Script and does not allow entering all vowels correctly for the current Arabic alphabet.
Alphabetical order for the traditional Perso-Arabic Script (Kona Yëziq) used before the 1950s
Letter ا ب پ ت ج چ ح خ د ر ز س ش
Latin a b p t j ch h kh d r z s sh
Letter ع غ ف ق ك گ نگ ل م ن و ھ ى
Latin ain Gh, Ghain f q k g ng l m n w, o, u h y, e, i
Vowel marks used for the traditional Perso-Arabic Script used before the 1950s
Letter ـَ ـِ ـُ
Name zabar zer pesh
Letter ا ي و
Name alif ye wáo

Old and Modern Alphabet Spelling Comparisons[edit]

Old Perso-Arabic alphabet (Kona Yëziq)
used before the 1950s
Modern Uyghur Arabic alphabet Latin Meaning
بغرا بۇغرا bughra bull camel
ارسلان ئارىسلان arislan lion
سلطان سۇلتان sultan sultan
يوسف يۈسۈپ Yüsüp Yusuf
حسن ھەسەن Hesen Hassan
خلق خەلق xelq people
كافیر كاپىر kapir infidel
مسلمان مۇسۇلمان musulman Muslim
منافق مۇناپىق munapiq hypocrite
اسلام ئىسلام Islam Islam
دين دىن din religion
كاشقر قەشقەر Qeshqer Kashgar
ختن خوتەن Xoten Khotan
ينگي حصار يېڭىسار Yëngisar Yangi Hissar
ساريق قول سارىقول Sariqol Sarikol
قيرغيز قىرغىز Qirghiz Kirghiz
دولان دولان Dolan Dolan people
كوندوز كۈندۈز kündüz day-time
ساريغ or ساريق سېرىق seriq yellow
مارالباشي مارالبېشى Maralbëshi Maralbexi County
لونگي لۇنگى Lungi Lungi
آلتی شهر ئالتە شەھەر Alte sheher Altishahr
آفاق خواجه ئاپاق خوجا Apaq Xoja Afaq Khoja
پيچاق پىچاق pichaq knife


  1. ^ XUAR Government Document No. XH-1982-283
  2. ^ Zhou, Minglang (2003). Multilingualism in China: The Politics of Writing Reforms for Minority Languages, 1949–2002. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter. p. 166. ISBN 3-11-017896-6 – via Google Books.
  3. ^ Johanson, Éva Ágnes Csató; Johanson, Lars, eds. (2003). The Turkic Languages. Taylor & Francis. p. 387. ISBN 978-0-203-06610-2 – via Google Books.
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  9. ^ Shaw, Robert Berkley (1878). A Sketch of the Turki Language as Spoken in Eastern Turkistan (Kàshgar and Yarkand). Calcutta: Printed by J. W. Thomas, at the Baptist Mission Press. p. 13 – via Google Books.
  10. ^ Shaw, Robert Barkley (1878). A Sketch of the Turki Language as Spoken in Eastern Turkistan (Kàshgar and Yarkand). Calcutta: Printed by J. W. Thomas, at the Baptist Mission Press. p. 15 – via Google Books.
  11. ^ Shaw, Robert Berkley (1878). A Sketch of the Turki Language as Spoken in Eastern Turkistan (Kàshgar and Yarkand). Calcutta: Printed by J. W. Thomas, at the Baptist Mission Press – via Google Books.
  12. ^ Shaw, Robert Barkley (1880). A Sketch of the Turki Language as Spoken in Eastern Turkistan (Kàshgar and Yarkand): Part II: Vocabulary, Turki-English. Calcutta: Printed by J. W. Thomas, at the Baptist Mission Press – via Google Books.
  13. ^ "Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal". 1878 – via Google Books.
  14. ^ Duval, Jean Rahman; Janbaz, Waris Abdukerim (2006). An Introduction to Latin-Script Uyghur (PDF). 2006 Middle East & Central Asia Politics, Economics, and Society Conference. Sept 7 – 9, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, USA. pp. 1–2. Archived from the original (PDF) on 22 October 2006.