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|Oʻzbekcha, oʻzbek tili,
Ўзбекча, ўзбек тили,
اۉزبېکچه, اۉزبېک تیلی
|Native to||Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Russia, China|
|34 million (2021)|
Official language in
Dark blue = majority; light blue = minority
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 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.
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, who were a confederation of Karluks, Chigils, Yaghma and other tribes.
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 (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. 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. 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:
- "Uzbek" was a vowel-harmonised Kipchak variety spoken by descendants of those who arrived in Transoxiana with Muhammad Shaybani in the 16th century, who lived mainly around Bukhara and Samarkand, although the Turkic spoken in Tashkent was also vowel-harmonised. It can be called old Uzbek and it's considered to be related to that specific group of people.
- "Sart" was a Karluk dialect spoken by the older settled Turkic populations of the region in the Fergana Valley and the Qashqadaryo Region, and in some parts of what is now the Samarqand Region; it contained a heavier admixture of Persian and Arabic, and did not have vowel harmony. It became the standard Uzbek language and the official dialect of Uzbekistan.
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.
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. All three dialects continue to exist within modern spoken Uzbek.
Uzbek has been written in a variety of scripts throughout history:
- 1880s: Russian missionaries attempted to use Cyrillic for Uzbek.
- Before 1928: the Arabic-based Yaña imlâ alphabet by literates, approximately 3.7% of Uzbeks at the time.
- 1928–1940: the Latin-based Yañalif was used officially.
- 1940–1992: the Cyrillic script was used officially.
- Since 1992: Latin script was being phased in.
- 2019: reform of the Latin script (planned)
- 2021: reform of the Latin script (planned)
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. The Arabic script is no longer used in Uzbekistan except symbolically in limited texts or for the academic studies of Chagatai (Old Uzbek).
Words are usually oxytones (i.e. the last syllable is stressed), but certain endings and suffixal particles are not stressed.
- /i/ and /u/ can have short allophones of [ɪ] and [ʊ], and central allophones [ɨ̞] and [ʉ]. /ɔ/ can have an open back allophone [ɒ].
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‘qa → toqqa). The possessive suffixes change the final consonants -k and -q to voiced -g and -g‘, respectively (yurak → yuragim).
|-ning||genitive||uyning||of (the) house|
|-ga||dative||uyga||to the house|
|-ni||definite accusative||uyni||the house|
|-da||locative||uyda||in the house|
|-dan||ablative||uydan||from the house|
Non-finite tense suffixes Function Suffix Infinitive -moq
Finite tense suffixes Function Suffix 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)
(formal singular and plural)
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|
|subject||direct object||transitive 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, and the CIA World Factbook estimates 25 million. Other sources estimate the number of speakers of Uzbek to be 21 million in Uzbekistan, 3.4 million in Afghanistan, 900,000 in Tajikistan, 800,000 in Kyrgyzstan, 500,000 in Kazakhstan, 300,000 in Turkmenistan, and 300,000 in Russia.
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 been significantly influenced by Persian and it also influenced Tajik (a variety of Persian). Of the Turkic languages, Uzbek is perhaps the one most strongly influenced by Persian.
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].
In Turkmenistan since the 2000s the government conducted a forced "Turkmenization" of ethnic Uzbeks living in the country. 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.
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. 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. 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.
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