Uzbek language

Uzbek language
O'zbek, Ўзбек, أۇزبېك
Spoken in








Native speakers 20 million  (1995)
(Uzbeki population has grown substantially since 1995, but figures are exaggerated to hide Persian/Tajik numbers)
Language family
  • Uyghur Turkic
    • Uzbek
Writing system Uzbek alphabet
Official status
Regulated by No official regulation
Language codes
ISO 639-1 uz
ISO 639-2 uzb
ISO 639-3 uzb – Macrolanguage
individual codes:
uzn – Northern Uzbek
uzs – Southern Uzbek

Uzbek (O'zbek tili or O'zbekcha in Latin script, Ўзбек тили or Ўзбекча in Cyrillic script; أۇزبېك تیلی in Arabic script) is a Turkic language and the official language of Uzbekistan. It has about 25.5 million native speakers, and it is spoken by the Uzbeks in Uzbekistan and elsewhere in Central Asia. Uzbek belongs to the southeastern Turkic or Uyghur family of Turkic languages, and consequently its lexicon and grammar are most closely linked to the Uyghur language, while other influences rose from Persian, Arabic and Russian.



Turkic speakers have probably settled in the Amu-Darya, Syr-Darya and Zeravshan river basins since at least AD600-700, 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, who were a Uyghur yaghma tribe.

Uzbek is a language which 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.[1] The language was championed by Mir Ali-Sher Nawa'i in the 15th and 16th centuries. Ultimately based on the Qarluq variant of the Turkic languages, it contained large numbers of Persian and Arabic loanwords. By the 19th century it was rarely used for literary composition.

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.

Number of speakers

In the CIS countries, there are about 24.7 million people who speak dialects of Uzbek. In Uzbekistan, 21 million people speak Uzbek as their native language. There are about 1.2 million speakers in Tajikistan, 1 million in Afghanistan, 550,096 in Kyrgyzstan, 332,017 in Kazakhstan, and 317,333 in Turkmenistan. According to the 2004 census, about 14,5000[clarification needed] people in Xinjiang in China speak Uzbek. Because the Uzbeks in Xinjiang are so close to the Uyghur people, who form an ethnic plurality there, Uzbeks are assimilated by Uyghurs..

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 domination. Most of the Arabic words have found their way into Uzbek through Persian. Uzbek vocabulary has been heavily influenced by neighboring Persian language and its dialects, such as Persian, Tajik and Dari.


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 material.

Among the best known dialects are the Afghan dialect; the Ferghana dialect; the Khorezm dialect; the Chimkent-Turkestan dialect; and the Surkhandarya dialect

Writing systems

Before 1928, the Uzbek language, like most 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 (and politically influence) 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, and would not have happened if other Turkic languages had not been Latinized.[2]

In 1940, Uzbek was forcefully switched to 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,[3] 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.[4] Most street signs are also in the new Latin script.

In the Xinjiang province of China, Uzbek has no official orthography. Some speakers write using the Cyrillic script, while others write using the Uyghur script[which?], as that is the language they have used when they went to school.[citation needed]

Table of Uzbek Cyrillic and Latin alphabets, and represented sounds[5]

Latin Cyrillic IPA
A a А а /a, æ/
B b Б б /b/
D d Д д /d̪/
E e Е е / Э э /e/[N 1]
F f Ф ф /ɸ/
G g Г г /ɡ/
H h Ҳ ҳ /h/
I i И и /i, ɨ/
J j Ж ж /dʒ/
K k К к /k/
L l Л л /l/
M m М м /m/
N n Н н /n/
O o О о /ɒ, o/[N 2]
P p П п /p/
Q q Қ қ /q/
R r Р р /r/
S s С с /s/
T t Т т /t̪/
U u У у /u, y/
V v В в /w/
X x Х х /χ/
Y y Й й /j/
Z z З з /z/
Oʻ oʻ Ў ў /ø/
Gʻ gʻ Ғ ғ /ʁ/
Sh sh Ш ш /ʃ/
Ch ch Ч ч /tʃ/
ʼ ъ /ʔ/
Yo yo Ё ё /jo/
Yu yu Ю ю /ju/
Ya ya Я я /ja/
S s / Ts ts Ц ц /ts/
  1. ^ Cyrillic "Е е" at the beginning of the word and after a vowel is "Ye ye" in Latin.
  2. ^ Pronounced /o/ only in Russian loanwords.

Text sample

Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Uzbek in Latin script Uzbek in Cyrillic script English
Barcha odamlar erkin, qadr-qimmat va huquqlarda teng bo'lib tug'iladilar. 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. 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 English Turkish
Uning akasi bu yil universitetni bitirdi. His brother graduated from University this year. Onun ağabeyi bu yıl üniversiteyi bitirdi.
Uning yuzi qizardi. He blushed. Onun yüzü kızardı.
Men har haftada ikki soat dars olaman. I have two hours of lessons every week. Ben her hafta iki saat ders alıyorum.
Bu mamlakatning aholisi baxtiyordir. The people of this country are happy. Bu memleketin ahalisi bahtiyardır.
Bu ishni men muddatidan oldin bajardim. I completed this work before the set time. Bu işi ben müddetinden önce başardım.

See also


  1. ^ Allworth, Edward (1994). Central Asia: 130 Years of Russian Dominance, a Historical Overview. Duke University Press. pp. 72. ISBN 0822315211. 
  2. ^ Fierman, William (1991). Language Planning and National Development: The Uzbek. Walter de Gruyter. pp. 75. ISBN 3110124548. 
  3. ^ RIGHTS ACTIVIST TO CONTEST UZBEK PRESIDENCY – Muslim Uzbekistan || English Section
  4. ^ – O'zbekiston Respublikasi Davlat Hokimiyati Portali
  5. ^


  • Lars Johanson (1998) 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 2002), 2 vols.
  • 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).
  • Andrée F. Sjoberg: Uzbek Structural Grammar (The Hague, 1963).
  • A. Shermatov "A New Stage in the Development of Uzbek Dialectology" 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

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