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, the Latin script was officially reintroduced, along with Cyrillic, in 1992, and a full transition to Latin script is awaiting implementation. In neighboring Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, people use Cyrillic. In the Xinjiang region of China, some Uzbek speakers write using Cyrillic, others with an alphabet based on the Uyghur Arabic alphabet. Uzbeks of Afghanistan also write the language using Arabic script, and the Arabic Uzbek alphabet is taught at some schools in the country.

History

Arabic script

For more information on Uzbek Arabic Alphabet, see Southern Uzbek language.

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

Like all Turkic languages in Central Asia and its literary predecessor Chagatai, Uzbek was written in various forms of the Arabic script historically. Following the Russian revolution and Soviet takeover of Russian Turkestan, in January 1921, a reformed Arabic orthography designed by the Jadidists was adopted, which replaced the harakat marks used for short vowels with a fully alphabetic system that indicated every vowel and removed all letters that occurred only in Arabic loanwords and did not have a distinct phonetic value. It had six vowels and twenty-three consonants. Notably, unlike the Cyrillic and Latin alphabets that followed, it did not contain a letter to represent /f/, due to the argument that it was always assimilated to /p/ in the orthophony. Some had also proposed that there be no letter to represent /h/, due to many dialects assimilating it to /x/, but this was not implemented in the end.[1]

The Arabic script is still used for writing Uzbek in Afghanistan and by Afghan-Uzbek diaspora elsewhere. In the early 21st century, with the publication of dictionaries[2][3] and literature by Afghan-Uzbek scholars, as well as the adaptation of Uzbek Arabic script by domestic as well as international news outlets (such as BBC News Uzbek Afghanistan, Link), the Arabic script has undergone a process of documentation and standardization.

ا / آ ب پ ت ث ج چ ح
خ د ذ ر ز ژ س ش
ص ض ط ظ ع غ ف ق
ک گ ل م ن نگ و ۉ
ۋ ھ ی ې

Latin script

In 1929, as part of comprehensive programs to "educate" (politically influence) Uzbek people, who for the first time now had their own cartographically delineated (administrative) region, Uzbek writing in the Uzbek SSR was switched to Latin script. The latinization of Uzbek was carried out in the context of latinization of all languages in the Soviet Union.[4] The new Latin script also brought about the letter f to represent /f/ and distinction of back and front vowels, adding a number of new characters for them.

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 '

In 1934, the script underwent another reform, which reverted the addition of back-front vowel distinctions.[1] The letters Ө ө, Y y, Ь ь were removed from the alphabet.

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

The Uzbek Cyrillic alphabet contains all the letters of the Russian alphabet, apart from Щ and Ы, plus four extra ones, namely Ў, Қ, Ғ and Ҳ. These four letters are considered as separate letters and not letter variants. They come in alphabetical order at the end, after the letter Я.

The letters Ц and Ь are not used in Uzbek native words, but are included in the alphabet for writing loanwords, e. g. кальций (calcium). However, Щ and Ы are not included, so they are replaced by ШЧ and И in loanwords and names from Russian, e. g. the Russian surnames Щедрин (Shchedrin) and Быков (Bykov) are rendered Шчедрин and Биков in Uzbek Cyrillic.

Modern Latin alphabet

А а B b D d Е е F f G g H h I i J j K k
L l М m N n О о P p Q q R r S s Т t U u
V v X x Y y Z z Oʻ oʻ Gʻ gʻ Sh sh Ch ch Ng ng ʼ

Until 1992, Uzbek in the USSR continued to be written using a Cyrillic alphabet almost exclusively, 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.[5]

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.[6] 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.[7] 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).[8][9] This would largely reverse the 1995 reform and bring the orthography closer to those of Turkish, Turkmen, Karakalpak, Kazakh (2018 version) and Azerbaijani.[10] 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.[11]

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.[12][13] Similar deadlines had been extended several times.[14]

Generally the younger generation prefers to use the Latin alphabet, while the older generation, who grew up in the Soviet era, prefers the Cyrillic alphabet. The Latin alphabet is mainly used in business and tourism, and the Cyrillic alphabet is mainly used in official government documents.[15]

According to a report in 2023, Uzbek publishing houses still mostly used the Cyrillic alphabet.[16]

In September 2023, linguists proposed another project for reform of the Uzbek alphabet. Thus, in the new alphabet it is proposed to modify four letters: Ў/ў, Ғ/ғ, Ч/ч, & Ш/ш respectively to Õ/õ, Ğ/ğ, C/c, Ş/ş. This is the third attempt to reform the Uzbek alphabet since 2018.[17]

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 ⟨‘⟩ does not constitute a separate letter.

Correspondence chart

Below is a table of Uzbek Cyrillic and Latin alphabets with represented sounds.[18][19]

Latin[N 1] Yañalif (1934–1940) Cyrillic equivalent Name[20] Yangi Imlo Arabic IPA English approximation
A a Ə ə А а a ە ا / ه /a/,

/æ/

chai, cat
B b B ʙ Б б be ب ب /b/ bat
D d D d Д д de د د /d̪/ den
E e E e Э э / Е е e ئې / ې اې / ې /e/[N 2] bet
F f F f Ф ф ef ف ف /ɸ/ fish
G g G g Г г ge گ گ /ɡ/ go
H h H h Ҳ ҳ ha ھ ھ and ح /h/ house
I i I i И и i ئى / ى ای / ی /i/ me
J j Ç ç Ж ж je ج ج /dʒ/ joke
Ƶ ƶ ژ ژ /ʒ/[N 3] vision
K k K k К к ka ك ک /k/ cold
L l L l Л л el ل ل /l/ list
M m M m М м em م م /m/ man
N n N n Н н en ن ن /n/ next
O o A a О о o ا ا / آ /ɒ/, /ɔ/[N 3] hot, call (Received Pronunciation)
P p P p П п pe پ پ /p/ pin
Q q Q q Қ қ qa ق ق /q/, /χ/[N 4] like a "k", but further back in the throat
R r R r Р р er ر ر /r/ (trilled) rat
S s S s С с es س ث and س and ص /s/ sick
T t T t Т т te ت ت and ط /t̪/ toe
U u U u У у u ئۇ / ۇ او / و /u/ put, choose
V v V v В в ve ۋ ۋ /v~w/ van
X x X x Х х xa خ خ /χ/ "ch" as in German "Bach" or Scottish "loch"
Y y J j Й й ye ي ی /j/ yes
Z z Z z З з ze ز ذ and ز and ض and ظ /z/ zebra
Oʻ oʻ O o Ў ў ئو / و اۉ / ۉ /o/ row, fur
Gʻ gʻ Ƣ ƣ Ғ ғ gʻa غ غ /ʁ/ like a French or German "r"
Sh sh Ş ş Ш ш sha ش ش /ʃ/ shoe
Ch ch C c Ч ч che چ 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 ء / أ / ؤ / ئ and ع /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).

The letters c and w, missing from the Uzbek alphabet, are named tse and dubl-ve respectively. In mathematics, x, y, z are named iks, igrek, zet.

Notes
  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

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,[21] 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[6] – 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).[22] 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
(official)
Uzbek in Cyrillic script Uzbek in Arabic script Uzbek in Yangi imlo
(1923–1928)
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. برچه آدملر اېرکین، قدر-قیمت و حقوقلرده تېنگ بۉلیب توغیلدیلر. اولر عقل و وجدان صاحبیدیرلر و بیر-بیرلری ایله برادرلرچه معامله قیلیشلری ضرور. بەرچە ئادەملەر ئېركىن، قەدر-قىممەت ۋە ھۇقۇقلەردە تېڭ بولىب تۇغىلەدىلەر. ئۇلەر ئەقل ۋە ۋىجدان ساھىبىدىرلەر ۋە بىر-بىرلەرى ئىلە بىرادەرلەرچە مۇامەلە قىلىشلەرى زەرۇر.
Uzbek in Yangalif
(1929–1934)
Uzbek in Yangalif
(1934–1940)
English translation Uzbek in International Phonetic Alphabet
Barca adamlar erkin, qadr-qьmmat və huquqlarda teꞑ ʙolьʙ tuƣьladьlar. Ular aql və vьçdan sahьʙьdьrlar və ʙir-ʙirləri ilə ʙiradarlarca muamala qьlьşlarь zəryr. 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. [bɑrˈtʃɑ ɒd̪ɑmˈlɑr erˈkɪn ǀ qɑd̪r̩ qɨmˈmɑt̪ ʋæ huquqlɑrˈd̪æ t̪eŋ‿bɵˈlɨp t̪uʁɨlɑd̪ɨˈlɑr ǁ uˈlɑr ɑql̩ ʋæ ʋɪdʒˈd̪ɒn sɒhɨbɨdɨrˈlɑr ǀ ʋæ bɨr bɨrlɑˈrɨ iˈlɑ bɨrɒdɑrlɑrˈtʃæ mu.ɒmɑˈlɑ qɨlɨʃlɑˈrɨ zɑˈrur ǁ]

References

  1. ^ a b Khalid, Adeeb (2019). Making Uzbekistan: Nation, Empire, and Revolution in the Early USSR. Cornell University Press. p. 264, 389. ISBN 9781501735851. Retrieved 12 January 2024 – via Internet Archive. Latinization had been mooted in the wider Turkic world, but in January 1921 was nowhere a serious proposition. It was voted off the agenda, but the orthography ultimately approved by the conference was quite radical. It contained six vowels and twenty-three consonants. There were to be special letters for /ŋ/ and /v/, but /f/ was excluded on the argument that it was not used in Uzbek speech; it was assimilated to /p/. (Botu's proposition to exclude /h/ as well and thus to recognize the h —> x shift in many dialects as standard was defeated.) All Arabic-specific letters were excluded, and Fitrat's arguments for spelling Arabic loanwords according to general rules won the day. (...) the rural, hyper-Turkic phonetics of the Uzbek literary language adopted in 1929 had already been abandoned in favor of a six-vowel standard without vowel harmony in 1934.
  2. ^ Uzbek Turki to Persian/Dari Dictionary, authored by D. Faizullah Aimaq (فرهنگ تورکی اوزبیکی به فارسی/ دری، تألیف داکتر فیض الله ایماق) [1] (Archive)
  3. ^ BBC News. BBC Persian. Harun Najafizaheh. “Publication of the first dictionary of Afghanistan’s Uzbek Language” (نجفی‌زاده هارون. “انتشار نخستین فرهنگ زبان ازبکی افغانستان.” ) BBC News. BBC, February 10, 2008. https://www.bbc.com/persian/afghanistan/story/2008/02/080210_k-a-uzbek-dictionary.
  4. ^ Fierman, William (1991). Language Planning and National Development: The Uzbek. Walter de Gruyter. p. 75. ISBN 3-11-012454-8.
  5. ^ "Özbek Alifbosi".
  6. ^ a b "The Governmental Portal of the Republic of Uzbekistan" (in Uzbek). Retrieved 6 December 2012.
  7. ^ "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.
  8. ^ "Проект нового узбекского алфавита представлен для обсуждения". Газета.uz (in Russian). 2021-03-16. Retrieved 2021-04-02.
  9. ^ "Uzbekistan unveils its latest bash at Latin alphabet". 2019-05-22. Retrieved 2019-05-23.
  10. ^ 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.
  11. ^ "Проект закона о новом узбекском алфавите на латинской графике вновь опубликован для обсуждения" (in Russian). Kun. 22 May 2012. Retrieved 30 October 2021.
  12. ^ Uzbekistan Aims For Full Transition To Latin-Based Alphabet By 2023, February 12, 2021 12:54 GMT, RadioFreeEurope
  13. ^ "В Узбекистане в 2023 году узбекский алфавит в делопроизводстве переведут с кириллицы на латинскую графику".
  14. ^ "Uzbekistan: Keeping the Karakalpak Language Alive". 2019-05-17. Archived from the original on 2019-05-17. Retrieved 2019-05-20.
  15. ^ Ryan Michael Schweitzer. "Alphabet Transition in Uzbekistan: Political Implications and Influences on Uzbek Identity" (PDF). Central Asia Program.
  16. ^ "Redeeming Book Culture in Uzbekistan". The Diplomat. 2023-06-20.
  17. ^ "Анонсирован очередной проект по изменению некоторых букв узбекского алфавита". Uznews.uz (in Russian). 2023-09-22. Retrieved 2023-10-01.
  18. ^ "Представлен новый вариант узбекского алфавита: без сочетаний sh и ch и с двумя буквами, как в казахском". Настоящее Время (in Russian). 22 May 2019. Retrieved 2022-09-20.
  19. ^ "Transliteration of Non-Roman Scripts: Uzbek" (PDF). Institute of the Estonian Language. Retrieved 12 November 2015.
  20. ^ Ismatullayev, Xayrulla (1991). Teach-Yourself Uzbek Textbook (in Uzbek). Tashkent: Oʻqituvchi. p. 4. ISBN 5-645-01104-X.
  21. ^ "The Unicode Consortium". Archived from the original on 22 August 2014. Retrieved 13 January 2015.
  22. ^ "Principal Orthographic Rules For The Uzbek Language", the Uzbekistan Cabinet of Minister's Resolution No. 339. Adopted on August 24, 1995. Tashkent, Uzbekistan.