Uzbek language

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Oʻzbekcha, oʻzbek tili,
Ўзбекча, ўзбек тили,
اۉزبېکچه, اۉزبېک تیلی
Native to Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Russia, China
Ethnicity Uzbeks
Native speakers
34 million (2021) [1]
Early forms
Official status
Official language in
Flag of Uzbekistan.svg  Uzbekistan
Recognised minority
language in
Language codes
ISO 639-1 uz
ISO 639-2 uzb
ISO 639-3 uzb – inclusive code
Individual codes:
uzn   Northern
uzs    Southern
Glottolog uzbe1247
Linguasphere 44-AAB-da, db
Uzbek language.png
Dark blue = majority; light blue = minority
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters. For an introductory guide on IPA symbols, see Help:IPA.

Uzbek is a Turkic language that is the first official and only declared national language of Uzbekistan. The language of Uzbeks is spoken by some 27 million native speakers in Uzbekistan, 3–4 million in Afghanistan, and around 5 million in the rest of Central Asia, making it the second-most widely spoken Turkic language after Turkish.


Uzbek belongs to the Eastern Turkic or Karluk branch of the Turkic language family. External influences include Arabic, Persian and Russian. One of the most noticeable distinctions of Uzbek from other Turkic languages is the rounding of the vowel /ɑ/ to /ɔ/, a feature that was influenced by Persian. Unlike other Turkic languages, vowel harmony is completely lost in Standard Uzbek, though it is (albeit somewhat less strictly) still observed in its dialects, as with its sister Karluk language Uyghur.


In the language itself, Uzbek is oʻzbek tili or oʻzbekcha. In Cyrillic, it is ўзбек тили or ўзбекча. In Arabic script, اۉزبېک تیلی and اۉزبېکچه.


Turkic speakers probably settled the Amu Darya, Syr Darya and Zarafshan river basins from at least 600–700 CE, gradually ousting or assimilating the speakers of Eastern Iranian languages who previously inhabited Sogdia, Bactria and Khwarezm. The first Turkic dynasty in the region was that of the Kara-Khanid Khanate in the 9th–12th centuries, [4] who were a confederation of Karluks, Chigils, Yaghma and other tribes. [5]

Uzbek can be considered the direct descendant or a later form of Chagatai, the language of great Turkic Central Asian literary development in the realm of Chagatai Khan, Timur (Tamerlane), and the Timurid dynasty [6] (including the early Mughal rulers of India). The language was championed by Ali-Shir Nava'i in the 15th and 16th centuries. Nava'i was the greatest representative of Chagatai language literature. [7] [8] He significantly contributed to the development of the Chagatai language and its direct descendant Uzbek and is widely considered to be the founder of Uzbek literature. [9] [10] [11] [12] [13] [14] [15] Ultimately based on the Karluk variant of the Turkic languages, Chagatai contained large numbers of Persian and Arabic loanwords. By the 19th century it was rarely used for literary composition, but disappeared only in the early 20th century.

The term Uzbek as applied to language has meant different things at different times. Prior to 1921 "Uzbek" and "Sart" were considered to be different dialects:

In Khanate of Khiva, Sarts spoke a highly Oghuz Turkified form of Karluk Turkic. After 1921 the Soviet regime abolished the term Sart as derogatory, and decreed that henceforth the entire settled Turkic population of Turkestan would be known as Uzbeks , even though many had no Uzbek tribal heritage.[ citation needed ]

However, the standard written language that was chosen for the new republic in 1924, despite the protests of Uzbek Bolsheviks such as Fayzulla Khodzhayev, was not pre-revolutionary "Uzbek" but the "Sart" language of the Samarkand region. Edward A. Allworth argued that this "badly distorted the literary history of the region" and was used to give authors such as the 15th-century author Ali-Shir Nava'i an Uzbek identity. [16] All three dialects continue to exist within modern spoken Uzbek.

Writing systems

A 1911 text in the [Arabic alphabet Adib-i sani.jpg
A 1911 text in the [Arabic alphabet

Uzbek has been written in a variety of scripts throughout history:

Despite the official status of the Latin script in Uzbekistan, the use of Cyrillic is still widespread, especially in advertisements and signs. In newspapers, scripts may be mixed, with headlines in Latin and articles in Cyrillic. [18] The Arabic script is no longer used in Uzbekistan except symbolically in limited texts [18] or for the academic studies of Chagatai (Old Uzbek). [17]

In the western Chinese region of Xinjiang and in northern Afghanistan, where there is an Uzbek minority, the Arabic-based script is still used.

Modern Latin alphabet
А аB bD dЕ еF fG gH hI iJ jK k
L lМ mN nО оP pQ qR rS sТ tU u
V vX xY yZ zOʻ oʻGʻ gʻSh shCh chngʼ
Cyrillic alphabet
А аБ бВ вГ гД дЕ еЁ ёЖ жЗ зИ и
Й йК кЛ лМ мН нО оП пР рС сТ т
У уФ фХ хЦ цЧ чШ шЪ ъЬ ьЭ эЮ ю
Я яЎ ӯҚ қҒ ғҲ ҳ


Words are usually oxytones (i.e. the last syllable is stressed), but certain endings and suffixal particles are not stressed.


Standard Uzbek has six vowel phonemes. [19] Contrary to many Turkic languages, Uzbek has no more vowel harmony.

Front Central Back
Close iu
Mid eo
Open æ ~ ɑɔ


Labial Dental Alveolar Palatal Velar Uvular Glottal
Nasal mnŋ
Fricative voicelessɸsʃχh
Approximant lj
Rhotic ɾ


As a Turkic language, Uzbek is null subject, agglutinative and has no articles and no noun classes (gender or otherwise). The word order is subject–object–verb (SOV).

In Uzbek, there are two main categories of words: nominals (equivalent to nouns, pronouns, adjectives and some adverbs) and verbals (equivalent to verbs and some adverbs).


Plurals are formed by suffix -lar. Nouns take the -ni suffix as an definite article, unsuffixed nouns are understood as indefinite. The dative case ending -ga changes to -ka when the noun ends in -k, or -qa when the noun ends in -q or -g‘ (notice *tog‘qatoqqa). The possessive suffixes change the final consonants -k and -q to voiced -g and -g‘, respectively (yurakyuragim). [20] Unlike neighbouring Turkmen and Kazakh languages, there is no irregularity on forming cases after possessive cases (uyida "in his/her/its house", as opposed to Turkmen öýünde). [21]

-ninggenitiveuyningof (the) house
-gadativeuygato the house
-nidefinite accusativeuynithe house
-dalocativeuydain the house
-danablativeuydanfrom the house
Possessive cases


Uzbek verbs is also inflected for number and person of the subject, and it has more periphrases. Uzbek uses some of the inflectional (simple) verbal tenses: [22]

Non-finite tense suffixes
Infinitive -moq
Finite tense suffixes
Present- future -a/y
Focal present-yap
Momentary present-yotir
Progressive present-moqda
Definite past -di
Indefinite past-gan
Indirective past-ib
Definite future-(y)ajak
Obligatory future-adigan/ydigan
Imperative -∅
-ing (formal)


(informal singular)
(formal singular and plural)

Word order

The word order in the Uzbek language is subject–object–verb (SOV), like all other Turkic languages. Unlike in English, the object comes before the verb and the verb is the last element of the sentence.

I see the book
subjectdirect objecttransitive verb

Number of speakers

Estimates of the number of speakers of Uzbek vary widely, from 25 up to 30 million. Ethnologue estimates put the number of native speakers at 27 million across all the recognized dialects. The Swedish national encyclopedia, Nationalencyklopedin , estimates the number of native speakers to be 30 million, [23] and the CIA World Factbook estimates 25 million. Other sources estimate the number of speakers of Uzbek to be 21 million in Uzbekistan, [24] 3.4 million in Afghanistan, [25] 900,000 in Tajikistan, [26] 800,000 in Kyrgyzstan, [27] 500,000 in Kazakhstan, [28] 300,000 in Turkmenistan, [29] and 300,000 in Russia. [30]


The influence of Islam, and by extension, Arabic, is evident in Uzbek loanwords. There is also a residual influence of Russian, from the time when Uzbeks were under the rule of the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union. Most importantly, Uzbek vocabulary, phraseology and pronunciation has been heavily influenced by Persian through its historic roots. Uzbek has in turn also influenced Tajik (a variety of Persian). [31] [32] Of the Turkic languages, Uzbek is perhaps the one most strongly influenced by Persian. [33]


A man speaking Uzbek

Uzbek can be roughly divided into three dialect groups. The Karluk dialects, centered on Tashkent, Samarkand, Bukhara, and the Ferghana Valley, are the basis for the standard Uzbek language. This dialect group shows the most influence of Persian vocabulary, particularly in the important Turkic cities of Bukhara and Samarkand. The Kipchak dialect, spoken from the Surxondaryo region through north-central Uzbekistan into Karakalpakstan, show significant influence from the Kipchak Turkic languages, particularly in the mutation of [j] to [ʑ] as in Kazakh and Kyrgyz. The Oghuz dialect, spoken mainly in Khorezm along the Turkmenistan border, is notable for the mutation of word-initial [k] to [g].

By country


In Turkmenistan since the 2000s the government conducted a forced "Turkmenization" of ethnic Uzbeks living in the country. [34] [35] [36] In the Soviet years and in the 1990s, the Uzbek language was used freely in Turkmenistan. There were several hundred schools in the Uzbek language, many newspapers were published in this language. Now there are only a few Uzbek schools in the country, as well as a few newspapers in Uzbek. Despite this, the Uzbek language is still considered to be one of the recognized languages of national minorities in this country. Approximately 300,000–600,000 Uzbeks live in Turkmenistan. Most of the Uzbek speakers live in Dashoghuz Velayat, as well as in Lebap Velayat and partly in Ashghabad. [37]


Uzbek is one of the many recognized languages of national minorities in Russia. More than 400 thousand Uzbeks are citizens of the Russian Federation and live in this country. Also in Russia there are 2 to 6 million Uzbeks from the Central Asian republics (mainly Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan) who are immigrants and migrants. Large diasporas of Uzbeks live in such large cities of Russia as Moscow, Saint Petersburg, Yekaterinburg, Novosibirsk, Kazan, Volgograd, Samara, Rostov-on-Don, Perm, Nizhny Novgorod, Chelyabinsk, Vladivostok, Ufa, Krasnoyarsk, Omsk, Krasnodar, Voronezh, Saratov and Tyumen. Signs in Uzbek are often found in these cities. Signs refer mainly to various restaurants and eateries, barbershops, shops selling fruits, vegetables and textile products. There is a small clinic, where signs and labels in the Uzbek language. There are also illegal signs in Uzbek on the streets of these cities with underground sex services ("Call girls"). Uzbeks in Russia prefer to use the Cyrillic Uzbek alphabet, but in recent years Uzbek youth in Russia are also actively using the Latin Uzbek alphabet. Small newspapers in Uzbek are published in large cities of Russia. [38] [39] [40] Some instructions for immigrants and migrants are duplicated, including in Uzbek. Uzbek language is studied by Russian students in the faculties of Turkology throughout Russia.[ citation needed ] The largest Uzbek language learning centers in Russia are located in the universities of Moscow and Saint Petersburg. There are also many Russians who are interested in and love the Uzbek language and culture and who study this language for themselves. Uzbek is one of the most studied languages among the many languages of the former USSR in Russia. Native speakers of Uzbek in Russia usually use in their vocabulary a lot of words from Russian. [41]

See also


  1. Used in Afghanistan and China
  2. Third official language in areas where Uzbeks are majority [3]

Related Research Articles

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    Northern at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
    Southern at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
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  3. From amongst Pashto, Dari, Uzbeki, Turkmani, Baluchi, Pachaie, Nuristani, Pamiri and other current languages in the country, Pashto and Dari shall be the official languages of the state. In areas where the majority of the people speak in any one of Uzbeki, Turkmani, Pachaie, Nuristani, Baluchi or Pamiri languages, any of the aforementioned language, in addition to Pashto and Dari, shall be the third official language, the usage of which shall be regulated by law.
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  14. "Uzbek Culture". UzHotels. Archived from the original on 9 May 2012. Retrieved 27 January 2012.
  15. "Alisher Navoi – The Crown of Literature". Children's Digital Library (in Uzbek). Retrieved 8 February 2012.[ permanent dead link ]
  16. Allworth, Edward A. (1990). The Modern Uzbeks: From the Fourteenth Century to the Present: A Cultural History. Hoover Institution Press. pp. 229–230. ISBN   978-0-8179-8732-9.
  17. 1 2 Batalden, Stephen K. (1997). The Newly Independent States of Eurasia: Handbook of Former Soviet Republics. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 194. ISBN   978-0-89774-940-4.
  18. 1 2 European Society for Central Asian Studies. International Conference (2005). Central Asia on Display. LIT Verlag Münster. p. 221. ISBN   978-3-8258-8309-6.
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  32. Hickey, Raymond 2010. The Handbook of Language Contact. Malden, MA: Wiley- Blackwel page 655
  33. "AZERBAIJAN ix. Iranian Elements in Azeri Turki – Encyclopaedia Iranica".
  34. — "Туркменизация" руководящих кадров в Дашогузе
  35. — Туркменизация узбеков
  36. — В Туркмении завершается принудительная туркменизация
  37. — Туркменские узбеки тихо ликуют и следят за Мирзиёевым
  38. — В Москве начинает выходить газета на узбекском языке
  39. — В Москве начинает выходить газета на узбекском языке
  40. — В Москве начинает выходить газета на узбекском языке
  41. — Москвичи, изучающие узбекский, таджикский и молдавский языки


Grammar and orthography
Learning/teaching materials