Uyghur, or Uygur, is spoken by the Uyghur population of Xinjiang Uygur Autononous Region, historically known as Eastern Turkestan in China. It belongs to the Indo-European group of languages. Here are 6 facts you should know about Uyghurs and their musical language.
1. Uyghur is related to Turkish, Azerbaijani, and Turkmen
Uyghur is a Turkic language and is spoken by at least 10 million and, according to some figures, up to 25 million speakers in Central Asia. It is derived from the Old Turkic language with its origins in Mongolia and Xinjiang, and is related to Turkish, Azerbaijani, and Turkmen. Uyghur is also spoken in Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Kyrgyzstan, as well as the Uyghur-speaking diaspora around the world.
2. Uyghurs are among the oldest Turkic-speaking peoples in Central Asia
The first Turkic kingdom – Kök Turk – was established in 552 CE in the region now known as East Turkestan. The Uyghur Turks arrived from Siberia in 840 CE after their kingdom on the Orhan river collapsed.
3. One of Uyghurs’ main food crops is melon
Xingjian is one of the dryest places on Earth and its climate is great for growing the famous Hami melon. Hami refers to a diverse range of varieties that are cultivated in Xingjian. This delicious melon has off-white, green, pink, or yellow rind and is so popular that several holidays are dedicated to it, including the world-famous Hami Melon annual festival.
4. Uyghur has been written in several alphabets
Although the language was also written in Latin and Cyrillic alphabets at some points in the 20th century, the Arabic script, versions of which have been used for the Uyghur alphabet since the 10th century, is now being used again and was officially re-instated in 1978. Uyghur has 32 letters, eight vowels, and 24 consonants, four of which were borrowed from Persian.
5. Uyghur relies on intonation to convey a polite request
There is no one specific word such as “please” in Uyghur to express politeness. It is usually made apparent through intonation.
6. Uyghurs can understand Turkish but not Standard Mandarin
Both Turkish and Uyghur are Turkic languages and the speakers of both languages can understand each other. However, despite Xinjiang’s geographical location in China, native Standard Chinese and Uyghur speakers cannot understand each other’s languages. Many native Uyghurs learn Standard Chinese, but there are also many who do not speak any Chinese at all.