A language of China

Alternate Names
Uighuir, Uighur, Uiguir, Uigur, Uygur, Weiwu’er, Wiga

10,100,000 in China (2010 census). Population total all countries: 10,416,910. Some are monolingual.


Mainly in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. Small numbers in other Chinese provinces and regions.

Language Maps
Language Status

2 (Provincial). Statutory provincial language in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (1984, Ethnic Regional Autonomy Act, Articles 10 and 21). Language of recognized nationality: Uygur.


Akto Turkmen, Central Uyghur, Dolan, Lopnur (Luobu), Southern Uyghur (Hetian, Hotan). 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, 2nd person marks plural and 3 levels of respect; passive, reflexive, reciprocal and causative; comparatives; CV, CVC, CVCC syllables; nontonal.

Language Use

Vigorous, except in Urumqi. All domains. All ages. Positive attitudes. Young people, intellectuals, and city dwellers also use Chinese [cmn]. Also use English [eng], Russian [rus]. 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 programs. TV. Grammar. Bible: 1950.

Arabic script [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 (Sunni).

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