A language of China

Alternate Names

70,000 (2002), increasing. Less than 10,000 monolinguals. Ethnic population: 131,000 (2010 census). L2 users: Very few.


Qinghai Province, Xunhua Salar and Hualong Hui autonomous counties; Gansu Province, Jishishan autonomous county; Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, Yili. Kazakh autonomous prefecture.

Language Maps
Language Status

6b (Threatened). Language of recognized nationality: Salar.


Eastern Salar (Gaizi, Gandu, Jishishan, Mengda), Western Salar (Ili). Salar is spoken by descendants of Oghuz Turks from the Samarkand region. Has an Oghuz (SW) Turkic base, and took on Eastern and S.Siberian Turkic features through Central Asian contacts, and finally acquired a stratum of features from Chinese and Tibetan (Dwyer 1998). Gaizi (Jiezi) often seen as standard variety.


SOV; postpositional; verbs take up to 3 or 4 suffixes, no prefixes; no person or gender marking; 27 consonant and 8 vowel phonemes; nontonal.

Language Use

Schooling in Mandarin Chinese [cmn] in Qinghai, and Uyghur [uig] in Xinjiang. Domestic, informal domains. All ages, but children less. Negative attitudes. Many speakers are fluent in Northwestern Chinese and Amdo Tibetan, especially men. Many speakers are fluent in Northwestern Chinese [cmn], especially men; most women know some Chinese. Mostly used in Qinghai. Also use Uyghur [uig], mostly in Xinjiang. Also use Central Tibetan [bod].

Language Development
Literacy rate in L1: 0%. Literacy rate in L2: 60%. Dictionary.

Unwritten [Qaax].

Other Comments

Muslim (Sufi), Muslim (Ikhwan), Muslim (Sunni).