Uyghur Arabic alphabet

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"Uyghur alphabet" redirects here. For auxiliary alphabets used to write Uyghur, see Uyghur alphabets.

The Uyghur Perso-Arabic alphabet (Uyghur: ئۇيغۇر ئەرەب يېزىقى‎, ULY: Uyghur Ereb Yëziqi or UEY) is an Arabic alphabet used for writing the Uyghur language, primarily by Uyghurs living in China. It is one of several Uyghur alphabets.

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.[1][2] A Cyrillic alphabet was adopted in the 1950s and a Latin alphabet in 1958.[3] 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.[4][5][6][7] The Arabic alphabet used before the modifications 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.

MS Windows Uyghur keyboard layout. In this keyboard layout, vowels use the older alphabet from the Arabic script, and not the newer plain letters of the Uyghur Ereb Yëziqi alphabet (composed of pairs of Arabic letters, starting with an alef with hamza that must be entered separately on this keyboard before the actual vowel). The keyboard layout is also based on the older Latin alphabet used for the Mixed Uyghur Yëngi Yëziq and does not allow entering all vowels correctly for the current Arabic script. It more closely matches the older Chatagai script, which is now deprecated for Uyghur and is considered suitable only for the Kona Yëziq, i.e. "old script".
Alphabetical order for Uyghur Arabic Script
Letter ئا،ا ئە،ە ب پ ت ج چ خ د ر ز ژ س ش غ ف ق ك گ ڭ ل م ن ھ ئو،و ئۇ،ۇ ئۆ،ۆ ئۈ،ۈ ۋ ئې،ې ئى،ى ي
IPA ɑ,a ɛ,æ b p t χ,x d r,ɾ z ʒ s ʃ ʁ,ɣ f,ɸ q k g ŋ l m n h,ɦ o,ɔ u,ʊ ø y,ʏ w,v e i,ɨ j

Several of the 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.[8]


  1. ^ Zhou, Minglang (2003). Multilingualism in China: The Politics of Writing Reforms for Minority Languages, 1949-2002. Walter de Gruyter. pp. 166–. ISBN 978-3-11-017896-8. 
  2. ^ Johanson, Éva Ágnes Csató; Johanson, Lars (1 September 2003). The Turkic Languages. Taylor & Francis. pp. 387–. ISBN 978-0-203-06610-2. 
  3. ^ Benson, Linda; Svanberg, Ingvar (11 March 1998). China's Last Nomads: The History and Culture of China's Kazaks. M.E. Sharpe. pp. 174–. ISBN 978-0-7656-4059-8. 
  4. ^ Dillon, Michael (1999). China's Muslim Hui Community: Migration, Settlement and Sects. Psychology Press. pp. 159–. ISBN 978-0-7007-1026-3. 
  5. ^ Starr, S. Frederick (15 March 2004). Xinjiang: China's Muslim Borderland. M.E. Sharpe. pp. 195–. ISBN 978-0-7656-3192-3. 
  6. ^ Dillon, Michael (23 October 2003). Xinjiang: China's Muslim Far Northwest. Routledge. pp. 27–. ISBN 978-1-134-36096-3. 
  7. ^ Millward, James A. (2007). Eurasian Crossroads: A History of Xinjiang. Columbia University Press. pp. 236–. ISBN 978-0-231-13924-3. 
  8. ^ Duval, Jean Rahman; Janbaz, Waris Abdukerim (2006). "An Introduction to Latin-Script Uyghur" (PDF). Salt Lake City: University of Utah. pp. 1–2.