A language of China

Alternate Names
Uighuir, Uighur, Uiguir, Uigur, Uygur, Weiwu’er, Wiga
ئۇيغۇر تىلى‎ (Uyghur tili), ئۇيغۇرچە‎ (Uyghurche)

10,100,000 in China (2010 census). Some are monolingual. Ethnic population: 10,100,000 (2010 census). Total users in all countries: 10,403,280.


Northwest, many separate enclaves in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region; also in northernmost Gansu Province, border enclave on Mongolia border; possibly scattered in other Chinese provinces and regions.

Language Maps
Language Status

2 (Provincial). Language of recognized nationality: Uygur.


Central Uyghur, Southern Uyghur (Hetian, Hotan), Lopnur (Luobu), Akto Turkmen, Dolan. Central Uyghur comprises the varieties immediately north and south of the Tianshan mountains (Ili (Gulja, Yili, Taranchi), Urumqi (Urumchi), Turfan (Tulufan), Kumul (Hami), Aqsu (Akesu), Qarashahr (Karaxahar), Kucha (Kuqa). Kashgar (Kashi), Yarkand (Shache) and Yengisar (Yengi Hissar) are also generally considered part of Central Uyghur. Southern Uyghur comprises Khotan (Hetian), Keriya (Yutian), and Charchan (Qiemo). Modern standard Uyghur currently encompasses a number of local Turkic varieties whose linguistic affiliations are contested. These include Ainu (Eynu) [aib], Aqto Türkmen, Dolan, and Ili Turki (Taranchi) [ili]. Ainu is a southern Uyghur variety whose lexifier language is partly Persian; it is used as a jargon. Dolan is a slightly Mongol-inflected variety in the Teklimakan desert east of Kashgar. South of Kashgar, in Aqto county, 2,000 residents in the villages of Kösarap and Oytak use a Turkmen-inflected variety dubbed ‘Aqto Türkmen’ by some. Ili Turki (Taranchi) is indistinguishable from the Central Uyghur spoken in that Ili (Ghulja) area. Minor dialect differences between China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan, overwhelmingly in loan vocabulary (2015 A. Dwyer).


SOV; postpositions; genitives, adjectives, numerals, relatives before noun heads; question words initial; word order distinguishes subjects and indirect objects, topic and comment; 8 noun cases shown by suffixes; verb suffixes mark subject person, number, second person marks plural and 3 levels of respect; passive, reflexive, reciprocal and causative; comparatives; 25 consonant and 15 vowel phonemes; CV, CVC, CVCC syllables; non-tonal; stress on final syllable; vowel harmony; evidentials.

Language Use

Vigorous, except in Urumqi. All domains. Used by all. Positive attitudes. Also use English [eng], Russian [rus]. Also use Mandarin Chinese [cmn], especially young people, intellectuals, and city dwellers. Used as L2 by Ainu [aib], Ili Turki [ili], Kyrgyz [kir], Northern Uzbek [uzn], Peripheral Mongolian [mvf], Russian [rus], Salar [slr], Sarikoli [srh], Tatar [tat], Xibe [sjo].

Language Development

Literacy rate in L2: 91% in any language (2000 census, Uyghur nationality). Literacy based on Central Uyghur as spoken in the area between Yili (Ili) and Urumqi, and includes literates in Uyghur or Chinese or both. Newspapers. Radio. TV. Grammar. Bible: 1950.


Arabic script, Naskh variant [Arab], official and primary usage in China, also used in Afghanistan. Cyrillic script [Cyrl], used in Kazakhstan, past usage in China. Latin script [Latn], used in China and Turkey.

Other Comments

Those in the north are more influenced by modern Chinese culture. Muslim.

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