Uyghur is a Turkic language with 25 million speakers (in 2016) mainly in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in the north west of China, where it is an official language. In Xinjiang Uyghur is used in the media, and as a lingua franca among other peoples. There are also communities of Uyghur speakers in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.
Between the 8th and the 16th century, Uyghur was written with an alphabet derived from Sogdian known as Old Uyghur. Unlike Sogdian, which was written from right to left in horizontal lines, the Old Uyghur alphabet was written from left to right in vertical columns, or in other words, it was a version of Sogdian rotated 90° to the left. Uyghur was also written with the Syriac alphabet, mostly in Christian documents.
From the the 16th century until the early 20th century, Uyghur was written with a version of the Arabic alphabet known as 'Chagatai'. During the 20th century a number of versions of the Latin and Cyrillic alphabets were adopted to write Uyghur in different Uyghur-speaking regions. However the Latin alphabet was unpopular and in 1987 the Arabic script was reinstated as the official script for Uyghur in China.
The name of this language is variously spelt Uigur, Uiguir, Uighuir, Uygur, Uighur, Uygur, Uyghur in English, and 维吾尔语 (Wéiwú'ěryǔ) in Mandarin Chinese. Native names of the language are written ئۇيغۇرچە / Уйғурчә / Uyghurche, or ئۇيغۇر تىلى / Уйғур тили / Uyghur tili. Uyghur is the preferred spelling in the Latin alphabet: this was confirmed at a conference of the Ethnic Languages and Script Committe of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region held in October 2006.
Most of the Old Uyghur letters have different shapes depending on their position in a word. The initial shapes are used at the beginning of words, the medial shapes in the middle, and the final shapes at the ends of words.
The Perso-Arabic alphabet was introduced to the Uyghur people, along with Islam, in the 10th century. The version of the alphabet used to write Chagatai, now known as the Chagatay alphabet, became the literary language of the region, and was used until the 1920s. Alternative ways of writing Uyghur were devised from then. One of these, the Uyghur Ereb Yëziqi (ULY), is used mainly by Uyghurs in China and is an expansion of the Chagatay alphabet.
The Cyrillic alphabet for Uyghur was introduced in the Soviet Union in 1937 as a replacement for the Latin-based alphabet for Uyghur that was devised in 1926. It was one way to weaken the ties between the Uyghurs and other Turkic peoples, particularly with Turkey, where the Latin alphabet was introduced in 1927.
This alphabet is still used by Uyghurs in the Russian Federation, and in former Soviet Republics such as Kazakhstan.
This version of the Latin alphabet, known as Uyghur Yëngi Yëziqi or Uyƣur Yəngi Yəziⱪ (UYY), was used to write Uyghur between 1965 and 1982, mainly in China.
The Uyghur Latin Yéziq (ULY) which was finalised in July 2001 after five conferences held at Xinjiang University in Ürümqi. It was further amended in 2008. It is an auxiliary alphabet for the Uyghur language.
Һемме адем занидинла еркин, иззет-һөрмет ве һоқуқта бапбаравер болуп туғулған. Улар еқилге ве вийдан'ға иге һемде бир-бириге қэриндашлиқ мунасивитиге хас роһ билен билен муамил қилиши кэрек.
H̡əmmə adəm zatidinla ərkin, izzət-h̡ɵrmət wə hok̡uk̡ta babbarawər bolup tuƣulƣan. Ular ək̡ilƣə wə wijdanƣa igə h̡əmdə bir-birigə k̡erindaxlik̡ munasiwitigə hax roh bilən mu’amilə k̡ilixi kerək.
Hemme adem zatidinla erkin, izzet-hörmet we hoquqta babbarawer bolup tughulghan. Ular eqilghe we wijdan'gha ige hemde bir-birige qérindashliq munasiwitige xas roh bilen muamile qilishi kérek.
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They
are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another
in a spirit of brotherhood.
(Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights)
Information about the Uyghur language and alphabets
Uyghur Arabic-Cyrillic-Latin converter
Online Uyghur news and radio
London Uyghur Ensemble