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Uzbek language

Oʻzbek tili, Oʻzbekcha, Ўзбек тили, Ўзбекча, اوُزبېک تیلی ,اوُزبېکچه‌
Native to Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Russia, China
Native speakers
25 million  (2007)[1]
Latin, Cyrillic, Arabic, Uzbek Braille
(Uzbek alphabets)
Official status
Official language in
Language codes
ISO 639-1 uz
ISO 639-2 uzb
ISO 639-3 uzbinclusive code
Individual codes:
uzn – Northern
uzs – Southern
Glottolog uzbe1247[2]

Uzbek (oʻzbek tili or oʻzbekcha in Latin script; ўзбек тили or ўзбекча in Cyrillic script; اوُزبېک تیلی or اوُزبېکچه‌ in Arabic script) is a Turkic language and the official language of Uzbekistan. It has anywhere between 20 and 26 million native speakers and is spoken by the Uzbeks in Uzbekistan and elsewhere in Central Asia. Uzbek belongs to the Eastern Turkic, or Karluk (Qarluq), branch of the Turkic language family. External influences include Persian, Arabic and Russian. One of the most noticeable distinctions of Uzbek from other Turkic languages is the rounding of the vowel /a/ to /ɒ/ or /ɔ/, a feature that was influenced by Persian.


  • History 1
  • Number of speakers 2
  • Loan words 3
  • Dialects 4
  • Writing systems 5
  • Text sample 6
  • See also 7
  • References 8
  • Sources 9
  • External links 10


Turkic speakers have probably settled in the Amu-Darya, Syr-Darya and Zeravshan river basins since at least AD 600–700, gradually ousting or assimilating the speakers of Eastern Iranian languages who previously inhabited Soghdiana, Bactria and Chorasmia. The first Turkic dynasty in the region was that of the Karakhanids in the 9th–12th centuries AD,[3] who were a confederation of Karluks (Qarluq), Chigil, Yaghma and other tribes.[4]

Uzbek can be considered the direct descendant or a latter form of Chagatay, the language of great Turkic Central Asian literary development in the realm of Chagatai Khan, Timur (Tamerlane), and the Timurids[5] (including the early Mughal rulers of India). The language was championed by Mir Ali-Shir Nava'i in the 15th and 16th centuries. Nava'i was the greatest representative of Chagatai language literature.[6][7] He significantly contributed to the development of the Chagatay language and its direct descendant Uzbek and is widely considered to be the founder of Uzbek literature.[8][9][10][11][12][13][14] Ultimately based on the Qarluq variant of the Turkic languages, Chagatay contained large numbers of Persian and Arabic loanwords. By the 19th century it was rarely used for literary composition, but disappeared only in the early 20th century.

The term "Uzbek" as applied to language has meant different things at different times. Prior to 1921 "Uzbek" and "Sart" were considered to be different dialects; "Uzbek" was a vowel-harmonised Kipchak dialect spoken by descendants of those who arrived in Transoxiana with Shaybani Khan in the 16th century, who lived mainly around Bukhara and Samarkand, although the Turkic spoken in Tashkent was also vowel-harmonised; "Sart" was a Qarluq dialect spoken by the older settled Turkic populations of the region in the Ferghana Valley and the Kashka-Darya region, and in some parts of what is now the Samarkand Province; it contained a heavier admixture of Persian and Arabic, and did not use vowel-harmony. In Khiva Sarts spoke a form of highly Persianised Oghuz Turkic. After 1921 the Soviet regime abolished the term Sart as derogatory, and decreed that henceforth the entire settled Turkic population of Turkestan would be known as Uzbeks, even though many had no Uzbek tribal heritage. The standard written language that was chosen for the new republic in 1924, however, despite the protests of Uzbek Bolsheviks such as Faizullah Khojaev, was not pre-revolutionary "Uzbek" but the "Sart" language of the Samarkand region. All three dialects continue to exist within modern, spoken Uzbek. Edward A. Allworth argued that this "badly distorted the literary history of the region" and was used to give authors such as the 15th century author Ali-Shir Nava'i an Uzbek identity.[15]

Number of speakers

Estimates of the number of speakers of Uzbek vary widely. The Swedish encyclopedia Nationalencyklopedin estimates the number of native speakers to be 26 million,[16] and the CIA World Factbook estimates 25 million. Other sources estimate the number of speakers of Uzbek to be 21 million in Uzbekistan,[17] 1.4 million in Afghanistan,[18] 900,000 in Tajikistan,[19] 800,000 in Kyrgyzstan,[20] 500,000 in Kazakhstan,[21] 300,000 in Turkmenistan,[22] and 300,000 in Russia.[23]

Loan words

The influence of Islam, and by extension, Arabic, is evident in Uzbek, as well as the residual influence of Russian, from the time when Uzbekistan was under tsarist and Soviet rule. Uzbek vocabulary has also been heavily influenced by the neighboring Modern Persian dialects of Tajikistan and Afghanistan.


The Uzbek language has many dialects, varying widely from region to region. However, there is a commonly understood dialect which is used in mass media and in most printed materials. Among the most-widespread dialects are the Tashkent dialect, Afghan dialect, the Ferghana dialect, the Khorezm dialect, the Chimkent-Turkestan dialect, and the Surkhandarya dialect.

Writing systems

A page from an Uzbek book printed in Arabic script. Tashkent, 1911.

Before 1928, the Uzbek language, like all Turkic Central Asian languages, was written in various forms of the Arabic script (Yana imla) by the literate population. Between 1928 and 1940, as part of comprehensive programs to educate Uzbek people, who for the first time now had their own cartographically delineated administrative region, Uzbek writing was switched to Latin script (Yanalif; a proposal for the latinization of Yana imla was already developed in 1924). The latinization of Uzbek was carried out in the context of latinization of all Turkic languages.[24]

In 1940, Uzbek was switched to the Cyrillic script under Joseph Stalin. Until 1992, Uzbek continued to be written using a Cyrillic alphabet almost everywhere, but now in Uzbekistan the Latin script has been officially re-introduced, although the use of Cyrillic is still widespread. The deadline in Uzbekistan for making this transition has been repeatedly changed. The latest deadline was 2005, but was shifted once again to provide a few more years.

Already education in many areas of Uzbekistan is in the Latin script, and in 2001 the Latin script began to be used for coins. Since 2004 some official websites have switched over to using the Latin script when writing in Uzbek.[25] Most street signs are also in the new Latin script. The main national TV channel of Uzbekistan, O‘zbekiston telekanali, has also switched to the Latin script when writing in Uzbek.

In the Xinjiang province of China, Uzbek has no official orthography. Some speakers write using the Cyrillic script, while others write using the Uyghur Arabic script.

A Nowruz sign in front of The State Art Museum of Uzbekistan written using an okina-like symbol

When the Uzbek language is written using the Latin script, either the single opening quotation mark () (U+2018) or the ʻokina (ʻ) (U+02BB) is used to write the letters (Cyrillic Ў) and (Cyrillic Ғ). It has not been officially specified which character should be used to form these letters. While some websites including the Uzbek WorldHeritage use the ʻokina,[26] others including some Uzbek governmental websites such as the Governmental Portal of the Republic of Uzbekistan use the single opening quotation mark.[25] However, currently most Uzbek websites use the straight apostrophe without bothering to find the necessary symbols.

What is clear is that a character that resembles curved quotes should be used. In other words, it should be a character that looks like a small figure six raised above the baseline (6) but then solid, i.e. with the counters filled. In many typefaces, this shape is the same as that of an inverted (upside down) comma.

The modifier letter apostrophe (ʼ) (tutuq belgisi) is used to mark the phonetic glottal stop when it is put immediately before a vowel in borrowed words, as in sanʼat (art). The modifier letter apostrophe is also used to mark a long vowel when placed immediately after a vowel, as in maʼno (meaning).[27] Currently most typists do not bother with the differentiation between the ʻokina/single opening quotation mark and modifier letter apostrophe as their keyboard layouts likely accommodate only the straight apostrophe.

Below is a table of Uzbek Cyrillic and Latin alphabets with represented sounds.[28]

Latin Cyrillic Name[29] IPA English Approximation
A a А а a /a, æ/ chai, cat
B b Б б be /b/ bat
D d Д д de /d̪/ den
E e Э э / Е е e /e/[N 1] sleigh
F f Ф ф ef /ɸ/ fish
G g Г г ge /ɡ/ go
H h Ҳ ҳ ha /h/ hoe
I i И и i /i, ɨ/ me
J j Ж ж je /dʒ/, /ʒ/[N 2] joke, genre
K k К к ka /k/ cold
L l Л л el /l/ list
M m М м em /m/ man
N n Н н en /n/ next
O o О о o /ɒ/, /o/[N 2] hot, call (Received Pronunciation)
P p П п pe /p/ pin
Q q Қ қ qa /q/ like a "k" but further back in the mouth
R r Р р er /r/ (trilled) rat
S s С с es /s/ sick
T t Т т te /t̪/ toe
U u У у u /u, ə/ put (also represents a second vowel in
some dialects, similar to the mid-central vowel)
V v В в ve /v, w/ van
X x Х х xa /χ/ "ch" as in German "Bach" or Scottish "loch"
Y y Й й ye /j/ yes
Z z З з ze /z/ zebra
Oʻ oʻ Ў ў /o, ø/ row, fur
Gʻ gʻ Ғ ғ gʻa /ʁ/ like a French "r"
Sh sh Ш ш sha /ʃ/ shoe
Ch ch Ч ч che /tʃ/ chew
Ng ng нг nge /ŋ/ king
ʼ ъ tutuq belgisi (ʼ ; "apostrof")

ayirish/ajratish belgisi (ъ)

/ʔ/ Both "ʼ" (tutuq belgisi) and "ъ" (ayirish belgisi)
are used either (1) to mark the phonetic glottal
stop when put immediately before a vowel or (2)
to mark a long vowel when placed immediately
after a vowel [N 3]
Ye ye Е е ye /je/ yellow
Yo yo Ё ё yo /jɒ/ beyond
Yu yu Ю ю yu /ju/ you
Ya ya Я я ya /ja/ yawn
Ts ts Ц ц tse /ts/ lets
  1. ^ Cyrillic "Е е" at the beginning of a word and after a vowel is "Ye ye" in Latin.
  2. ^ a b In Russian borrowings.
  3. ^ Tutuq belgisi (ʼ) is also used to indicate that the letters "s" and "h" should be pronounced separately, not as "sh" in Latin. For example, in the name Isʼhoq "s" and "h" are pronounced separately.

Text sample

Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Uzbek in Latin script Uzbek in Cyrillic script Uzbek in Arabic script English
Barcha odamlar erkin, qadr-qimmat va huquqlarda teng boʻlib tugʻiladilar. Ular aql va vijdon sohibidirlar va bir-birlari ila birodarlarcha muomala qilishlari zarur. Барча одамлар эркин, қадр-қиммат ва ҳуқуқларда тенг бўлиб туғиладилар. Улар ақл ва виждон соҳибидирлар ва бир-бирлари ила биродарларча муомала қилишлари зарур.
ربه‌رچه آده‌مله‌ر ئېرکىن، قه‌در-قىممه‌ت ۋه هوُقوُقله‌رده ته‌ڭ بولىب توُغىله‌دىله‌ر. ئوله‌ر ئه‌قل ۋه وىجدان ساهىبىدىله‌ بىر-بىرله‌ئيله‌ بىراه‌رله‌رچه‌ موُآمه‌له‌ قىلىشه‌ری زه‌روُر
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.
Uzbek Uyghur Turkish English
Uning akasi bu yil universitetni bitirdi. Uning akisi bu yil uniwërsitëtni püttürdi. Onun kardeşi bu yıl üniversiteyi bitirdi. His brother graduated from university this year.
Uning yuzi qizardi. Uning yüzi qizardi. Onun yüzü kızardı. He blushed.
Men har haftada ikki soat dars olaman. Men her heptide ikki saet ders alimen(oquymen). Ben her hafta iki saat ders alıyorum. I have two hours of lessons every week.
Bu mamlakatning aholisi baxtiyordir. Bu memliketning ahalisi bextiyardur. Bu memleketin ahalisi bahtiyardır. The people of this country are happy.
Bu ishni men muddatidan oldin bajardim. Bu ishni men mudditidin aldin(burun) bijirdim. Bu işi müddeti dolmadan başardım. I completed this work before the set time.

See also


  1. ^ Nationalencyklopedin "Världens 100 största språk 2007" The World's 100 Largest Languages in 2007
  2. ^ Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Uzbek". Glottolog 2.2. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. 
  3. ^ "The Origins of the Uzbek Language" (in Russian). Retrieved 5 January 2013. 
  4. ^ Golden, Peter. B. (1990), "Chapter 13 - The Karakhanids and Early Islam", in Sinor, Denis, The Cambridge History of Early Inner Asia, Cambridge University Press,  
  5. ^ Allworth, Edward (1994). Central Asia: 130 Years of Russian Dominance, a Historical Overview. Duke University Press. p. 72.  
  6. ^ Robert McHenry, ed. (1993). "Navā’ī, (Mir) ‘Alī Shīr".  
  7. ^ Subtelny, M. E. (1993). "Mīr ‘Alī Shīr Nawā’ī". In C. E. Bosworth, E. Van Donzel, W. P. Heinrichs, Ch. Pellat.  
  8. ^ Valitova, A. A. (1974). "Alisher Navoi". In A. M. Prokhorov.  
  9. ^ A. M. Prokhorov, ed. (1997). "Navoi, Nizamiddin Mir Alisher". Great Encyclopedic Dictionary (in  
  10. ^ "Alisher Navoi". Writers History. Retrieved 26 January 2012. 
  11. ^ Maxim Isaev (7 July 2009). "Uzbekistan - The monuments of classical writers of oriental literature are removed in Samarqand". Ferghana News. Retrieved 26 January 2012. 
  12. ^ Kamola Akilova. "Alisher Navoi and his epoch in the context of Uzbekistan art culture development [sic]". San'at Magazine. Retrieved 28 January 2012. 
  13. ^ "Uzbek Culture". UzHotels. Retrieved 27 January 2012. 
  14. ^ "Alisher Navoi - The Crown of Literature". Children's Digital Library (in Uzbek). Retrieved 8 February 2012. 
  15. ^ Allworth, Edward A. (1990). The Modern Uzbeks: From the Fourteenth Century to the Present: A Cultural History. Hoover Institution Press. p. 229-230.  
  16. ^ "Världens 100 största språk 2007" ("The World's 100 Largest Languages in 2007"), Nationalencyklopedin
  17. ^ "Uzbekistan". CIA. Retrieved 7 December 2012. 
  18. ^ "Languages of Afghanistan". Ethnologue. Retrieved 7 December 2012. 
  19. ^ "Languages of Tajikistan". Ethnologue. Retrieved 7 December 2012. 
  20. ^ "Ethnic Makeup of the Population". National Statistics Committee of the Kyrgyz Republic (in Russian). Retrieved 7 December 2012. 
  21. ^ "National Census 2009". Statistics Agency of Kazakhstan (in Russian). Retrieved 7 December 2010. 
  22. ^ "Languages of Turkmenistan". Ethnologue. Retrieved 7 December 2012. 
  23. ^ "National Census 2010". Federal State Statistics Service (in Russian). Retrieved 7 December 2012. 
  24. ^ Fierman, William (1991). Language Planning and National Development: The Uzbek. Walter de Gruyter. p. 75.  
  25. ^ a b "The Governmental Portal of the Republic of Uzbekistan" (in Uzbek). Retrieved 6 December 2012. 
  26. ^ "Main Page of Uzlib" (in Uzbek). Retrieved 7 December 2012. 
  27. ^ "Principal Orthographic Rules For The Uzbek Language", the Uzbekistan Cabinet of Minister's Resolution No. 339. Adopted on August 24, 1995. Tashkent, Uzbekistan.
  28. ^ "The New Uzbek Latin Alphabet". Oxuscom. Retrieved 7 December 2012. 
  29. ^ Ismatullayev, Xayrulla (1991). Teach-Yourself Uzbek Textbook (in Uzbek). Tashkent: Oʻqituvchi. p. 4.  


  • Jahangir Mamatov, Michael Horlick, and Karamat Kadirova. A Comprehensive Uzbek-English Dictionary (eds.) Hyattsville, Maryland, 2 vol., 2011.
  • Lars Johanson. "The History of Turkic." In Lars Johanson & Éva Ágnes Csató (eds) The Turkic Languages. London, New York: Rouiden & London, 1934, pp. 175–6.
  • Yuri Bregel. "The Sarts in the Khanate of Khiva" Journal of Asian History Vol.12., 1978, pp. 146–9.
  • András J. E. Bodrogligeti. Modern Literary Uzbek – A Manual for Intensive Elementary, Intermediate, and Advanced Courses. Munich, Lincom, 2 vols., 2002.
  • William Fierman. Language planning and national development. The Uzbek experience. Berlin etc., de Gruyter, 1991.
  • Khayrulla Ismatulla. Modern literary Uzbek. Bloomington, Indiana University Press, 1995.
  • Karl A. Krippes. Uzbek–English dictionary. Kensington, Dunwoody, 1996.
  • Republic of Uzbekistan, Ministry of Higher and Middle Eductation. Lotin yozuviga asoslangan o‘zbek alifbosi va imlosi (Latin writing based Uzbek alphabet and orthography), Tashkent Finance Institute: Tashkent, 2004.
  • Andrée F. Sjoberg. Uzbek Structural Grammar. The Hague, 1963.
  • A. Shermatov. "A New Stage in the Development of Uzbek Dialectology" in Essays on Uzbek History, Culture and Language. Ed. Bakhtiyar A. Nazarov & Denis Sinor. Bloomington, Indiana, 1993, pp. 101–9.
  • Natalie Waterson (ed.) Uzbek–English dictionary. Oxford etc., Oxford University Press, 1980.

External links

  • Uzbek Cyrillic–Latin converter
  • Uzbek Cyrillic-Latin text and website converter
  • Uzbek Latin-Cyrillic text and website converter
  • Dictionary of the Uzbek Language Volume I (А—Р) (Tashkent, 1981)
  • Dictionary of the Uzbek Language, Volume II (С—Ҳ) (Tashkent, 1981)
  • English-Uzbek and Uzbek-English online dictionary
  • English-Uzbek and Uzbek-English online dictionary
  • Russian-Uzbek and Uzbek-Russian online dictionary
  • Uzbek<>Turkish dictionary (Pamukkale University)
  • Ole Olufsen: ""A Vocabulary of the Dialect of Bokhara [1] (København 1905)
Grammar and orthography
  • Introduction to the Uzbek Language, Mark Dickens
  • Principal Orthographic Rules For The Uzbek Language, translation of Uzbekistan Cabinet of Minister's Resolution No. 339, of August 24, 1995
  • Uzbek alphabet, Omniglot
Learning/teaching materials
  • Ona tili uz, a website about Uzbek
  • Uzbek language Materials, Uz-Translations
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