A page from an Uzbek book printed in Arabic script. Tashkent, 1911.
A page from an Uzbek book printed in Arabic script. Tashkent, 1911.

The Uzbek language has been written in various scripts: Latin, Cyrillic and Arabic. The language traditionally used Arabic script, but the official Uzbek government under the Soviet Union started to use Cyrillic in 1940, which is when widespread literacy campaigns were initiated by the Soviet government across the Union. In Uzbekistan, it has been officially written in both the Cyrillic and Latin scripts since 1992. However, most people – both in Uzbekistan and neighboring Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan – still use Cyrillic. In the Xinjiang region of China, some Uzbek speakers write using Cyrillic, while others use an alphabet based on the Uyghur Arabic alphabet. Uzbeks of Afghanistan also write the language using the Arabic script, and the Arabic Uzbek alphabet is taught at some schools in the country.


Arabic script

The Uzbek alphabet written in a variant of the Perso-Arabic script in the Nastaliq style.
The Uzbek alphabet written in a variant of the Perso-Arabic script in the Nastaliq style.

Like all Turkic languages in Central Asia, Uzbek was written in various forms of the Arabic script such as Yana imla by the literate population.

Latin script

Between 1928 and 1940, as part of comprehensive programmes to "educate" (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.[1]

A a B ʙ C c Ç ç D d E e Ə ə F f
G g Ƣ ƣ H h I i J j K k L l M m
N n Ꞑ ꞑ O o Ө ө P p Q q R r S s
Ş ş T t U u V v X x Y y Z z Ƶ ƶ
Ь ь '

Cyrillic script

In 1940, Uzbek was switched to the Cyrillic script under Joseph Stalin:

А а Б б В в Г г Д д Е е Ё ё Ж ж З з
И и Й й К к Л л М м Н н О о П п Р р
С с Т т У у Ф ф Х х Ц ц Ч ч Ш ш Ъ ъ
Ь ь Э э Ю ю Я я Ў ў Қ қ Ғ ғ Ҳ ҳ

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. In 1993, President of Uzbekistan at the time Islam Karimov proposed a new Uzbek alphabet with ⟨c⟩ /ts/, ⟨ç⟩, ⟨ğ⟩, ⟨ɉ⟩, ⟨ñ⟩, ⟨ö⟩, ⟨ş⟩, until it was replaced with the current 1995 alphabet. The letter J with stroke is said to have been the equivalent of Cyrillic letter Zhje.[2]

Education in many areas of Uzbekistan is in the Latin script, and in 2001 the Latin script began to be used on coins. Since 2004, some official websites have switched over to using the Latin script when writing in Uzbek.[3] Most street signs are also in the new Latin script. The main national TV channel of Uzbekistan, Oʻzbekiston Telekanali (owned by MTRK), has also switched to the Latin script when writing in Uzbek, although news programs are still broadcast in Cyrillic script (compare with another TV channel owned by the same company, Yoshlar, broadcasts news programs in Latin script). Additionally, in Afghanistan Uzbek continues to be written in the Arabic script.

In 2018, the Uzbek government launched another reform effort for the Uzbek Latin alphabet. The new proposal called for replacing some digraphs with diacritical signs.[4] In March 2021, the proposed changes were put up for public discussion and debate. They called for replacing Ch ch, Sh sh, Gʻ gʻ, Oʻ oʻ with Ç ç, Ş ş, Ḡ ḡ, Ō ō (and, in loans, Ts ts with C c).[5][6] This would largely reverse the 1995 reform and bring the orthography closer to those of Turkish, Turkmen, Karakalpak, Kazakh (2018 version) and Azerbaijani.[7] This was met with mixed reactions from the citizens. The proposal was put up again for discussion in May of the same year, this time with a deadline of 1 November 2021.[8]

In February 2021, the Uzbek government announced that Uzbekistan plans to fully transition the Uzbek language from the Cyrillic script to a Latin-based alphabet by 1 January 2023.[9][10] Similar deadlines had been extended several times.[11]

Alphabetical order

The current (1995) Uzbek Latin alphabet has 29 letters:

Uzbek alphabet
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29
Majuscule forms (also called uppercase or capital letters)
A B D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V X Y Z Sh Ch Ng
Minuscule forms (also called lowercase or small letters)
a b d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v x y z sh ch ng

The symbol ⟨ʼ⟩ does not constitute a separate letter.

Correspondence chart

Below is a table of Uzbek Cyrillic and Latin alphabets with represented sounds.[12][13]

Latin[N 1] Yañalif (1934–1940) Cyrillic equivalent Name[14] Arabic IPA English approximation
A a Ə ə А а a ه ئه ه /a/ chai, cat
B b B ʙ Б б be ب /b/ bat
D d D d Д д de د /d̪/ den
E e E e Э э / Е е e ئې ې ئې ې /e/[N 2] bet
F f F f Ф ф ef ف /ɸ/ fish
G g G g Г г ge گ /ɡ/ go
H h H h Ҳ ҳ ha ھ and ح /h/ house
I i I i И и i ئى ى ئى ى /i/ me
J j Ç ç Ж ж je ج /dʒ/ joke
Ƶ ƶ ژ /ʒ/[N 3] vision
K k K k К к ka ك /k/ cold
L l L l Л л el ل /l/ list
M m M m М м em م /m/ man
N n N n Н н en ن /n/ next
O o A a О о o ا ئا ,ا ا و ئو و /ɒ/, /o/[N 3] hot, call (Received Pronunciation)
P p P p П п pe پ /p/ pin
Q q Q q Қ қ qa ق /q/, /χ/[N 4] like a "k", but further back in the throat
R r R r Р р er ر /r/ (trilled) rat
S s S s С с es س /s/ sick
T t T t Т т te ت /t̪/ toe
U u U u У у u ۇ ئۇ /u/ put, choose
V v V v В в ve ۋ /v~w/ van
X x X x Х х xa خ /χ/ "ch" as in German "Bach" or Scottish "loch"
Y y J j Й й ye ي /j/ yes
Z z Z z З з ze ز /z/ zebra
Oʻ oʻ O o Ў ў و ئو /o/ row, fur
Gʻ gʻ Ƣ ƣ Ғ ғ gʻa غ /ʁ/ like a French or German "r"
Sh sh Ş ş Ш ш sha ش /ʃ/ shoe
Ch ch C c Ч ч che چ /tʃ/ chew
Ng ng Ꞑ ꞑ Нг нг nge ڭ نگ /ŋ/ king
ʼ ʼ ъ tutuq belgisi (ʼ) ("apostrophe"); ayirish/ajratish belgisi (ъ) ئ And ء /ʔ/ Both "ʼ" (tutuq belgisi) and "ъ" (ayirish belgisi) are used either (1) to mark the phonetic glottal stop when put immediately before a vowel or (2) to mark a long vowel when placed immediately after a vowel [N 5]

The Cyrillic letters Ё ё, Ю ю, Я я correspond to the sound combinations yo, yu, ya.

The Cyrillic letters Ц ц and ь (capital Ь occurs only in all-capitals writing) are used only in loanwords. In the modern Uzbek Latin alphabet ц becomes ts after vowels, s otherwise; ь is omitted (except ье, ьи, ьо, that become ye, yi, yo).

  1. ^ 1995 orthography
  2. ^ Cyrillic "Е е" at the beginning of a word and after a vowel is "Ye ye" in Latin.
  3. ^ a b In Russian borrowings.
  4. ^ In some words written with the letter "q", the sound has now changed to /χ/, such as o‘quvchi [oˈχuv.tʃi] "pupil" and haqiqiy [hæχiˈχiː] "real". There is no regular sound change law regarding when this process occurs.
  5. ^ Tutuq belgisi (ʼ) is also used to indicate that the letters "s" and "h" should be pronounced separately, not as the digraph "sh" in Latin. For example, in the name Isʼhoq (Исҳоқ) "s" and "h" are pronounced separately.

Distinct characters

A Nowruz sign in front of the State Art Museum of Uzbekistan written using an ʻokina-like symbol
A Nowruz sign in front of the State Art Museum of Uzbekistan written using an ʻokina-like symbol

When the Uzbek language is written using the Latin script, the letters (Cyrillic Ў) and (Cyrillic Ғ) are properly rendered[citation needed] using the character U+02BB ʻ MODIFIER LETTER TURNED COMMA,[15] which is also known as the ʻokina. However, since this character is absent from most keyboard layouts (except for the Hawaiian keyboard in Windows 8, or above, computers) and many fonts, most Uzbek websites – including some operated by the Uzbek government[3] – use either U+2018 LEFT SINGLE QUOTATION MARK or U+0027 ' APOSTROPHE to represent these letters.

The character U+02BC ʼ MODIFIER LETTER APOSTROPHE (tutuq belgisi) is used to mark the phonetic glottal stop when it is put immediately before a vowel in borrowed words, as in sanʼat (art). The modifier letter apostrophe is also used to mark a long vowel when placed immediately after a vowel, as in maʼno (meaning).[16] Since this character is also absent from most keyboard layouts, many Uzbek websites use U+2019 RIGHT SINGLE QUOTATION MARK or U+0027 ' APOSTROPHE instead.

Currently most typists do not bother with the differentiation between the modifier letter turned comma and modifier letter apostrophe as their keyboard layouts likely accommodate only the straight apostrophe.

Sample of the scripts

Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:

Uzbek in Latin script
Uzbek in Cyrillic script Uzbek in Arabic script
Barcha odamlar erkin, qadr-qimmat va huquqlarda teng boʻlib tugʻiladilar. 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.
.به‌رچه آده‌مله‌ر ئېرکىن، قه‌در-قىممه‌ت ۋه هۇقۇقله‌رده تېڭ بولىب تۇغىله‌دىله‌ر. ئۇله‌ر ئه‌قل ۋه وىجدان ساهىبىدىرله‌ر ۋه بىر-بىرله‌ری ئىله بىراده‌رله‌رچه مۇئامه‌له قىلىشله‌ری زه‌رۇر
Uzbek in Yangalif
English translation Uzbek in Yangi imlo
Bərcə adəmlər erkin, qədr-qimmət və huquqlərdə teꞑ ʙoliʙ tuƣilədilər. Ulər əql və viçdan sahiʙidirlər və ʙir-ʙirləri ilə ʙiradərlərcə muamələ qilişləri zərur. 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.
برچه آدم‌لر ایرکن، قدرقمت وحقوق‌لرده تيڭ بولب توغیلدیلر. اولر عقل و وجدان صاحبیدرلر و بربرلری ایله برادرلرچه معامله قلشلری ضرور.
Uzbek in International Phonetic Alphabet
[bærˈtʃæ ɒd̪æmˈlær erˈkɪn ǀ qæd̪r̩ qɨmˈmæt̪ ʋæ huquqlærˈd̪æ t̪em‿bɵˈlɨp t̪uʁɨlæd̪ɨˈlær ǁ uˈlær æql̩ ʋæ ʋɪdʒˈd̪ɒn sɒhɨbɨdɨrˈlær ǀ ʋæ bɨr bɨrlæˈrɨ iˈlæ bɨrɒdærlærˈtʃæ mu.ɒmæˈlæ qɨlɨʃlæˈrɨ zæˈrur ǁ]


  1. ^ Fierman, William (1991). Language Planning and National Development: The Uzbek. Walter de Gruyter. p. 75. ISBN 3-11-012454-8.
  2. ^ "Özbek Alifbosi".
  3. ^ a b "The Governmental Portal of the Republic of Uzbekistan" (in Uzbek). Retrieved 6 December 2012.
  4. ^ "Лотин ёзувига асосланган ўзбек алифбоси ҳақида ишчи гуруҳнинг сўнгги хулосаси" [Final conclusions of the working group on the Uzbek Latin alphabet] (in Uzbek). UzA. 2018-11-06. Retrieved 2018-11-07.
  5. ^ "Проект нового узбекского алфавита представлен для обсуждения". Газета.uz (in Russian). 2021-03-16. Retrieved 2021-04-02.
  6. ^ "Uzbekistan unveils its latest bash at Latin alphabet". 2019-05-22. Retrieved 2019-05-23.
  7. ^ Goble, Paul (2019-05-27). "Uzbekistan Moves to Make Its Latin Script Closer to One Used in Turkey". Window on Eurasia – New Series. Retrieved 2019-05-27.
  8. ^ "Проект закона о новом узбекском алфавите на латинской графике вновь опубликован для обсуждения" (in Russian). Kun. 22 May 2012. Retrieved 30 October 2021.
  9. ^ Uzbekistan Aims For Full Transition To Latin-Based Alphabet By 2023, February 12, 2021 12:54 GMT, RadioFreeEurope
  10. ^ "В Узбекистане в 2023 году узбекский алфавит в делопроизводстве переведут с кириллицы на латинскую графику".
  11. ^ "Uzbekistan: Keeping the Karakalpak Language Alive". 2019-05-17. Archived from the original on 2019-05-17. Retrieved 2019-05-20.
  12. ^ "Представлен новый вариант узбекского алфавита: без сочетаний sh и ch и с двумя буквами, как в казахском". Настоящее Время (in Russian). Retrieved 2022-09-20.
  13. ^ "Transliteration of Non-Roman Scripts: Uzbek" (PDF). Institute of the Estonian Language. Retrieved 12 November 2015.
  14. ^ Ismatullayev, Xayrulla (1991). Teach-Yourself Uzbek Textbook (in Uzbek). Tashkent: Oʻqituvchi. p. 4. ISBN 5-645-01104-X.
  15. ^ "The Unicode Consortium". Retrieved 13 January 2015.((cite web)): CS1 maint: url-status (link)[dead link]
  16. ^ "Principal Orthographic Rules For The Uzbek Language", the Uzbekistan Cabinet of Minister's Resolution No. 339. Adopted on August 24, 1995. Tashkent, Uzbekistan.