Arabic script orthography notes

Updated 24 May, 2023

This page brings together basic information about the Arabic script and its use for the Uighur language. It aims to provide a brief, descriptive summary of the modern, printed orthography and typographic features, and to advise how to write Uighur using Unicode.

See the Arabic page for most of the information about how the Arabic script works, and the orthography used for the Arabic language. This page aims to provide Uighur-specific information.


Select part of this sample text to show a list of characters, with links to more details. Source
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1 ماددا ھەممە ئادەم زانىدىنلا ئەركىن، ئىززەت-ھۆرمەت ۋە ھوقۇقتا باپباراۋەر بولۇپ تۇغۇلغان. ئۇلار ئەقىلغە ۋە ۋىجدانغا ئىگە ھەمدە بىر-بىرىگە قېرىنداشلىق مۇناسىۋىتىگە خاس روھ بىلەن موئامىلە قىلىشى كېرەك.

2 ماددا ھەممە ئادەم مۇشۇ خىتابنامىدە قەيت قىلىنغان بارلىق ھوقۇق ۋە ئەركىنلىكتىن بەھرىمەن بولۇش سالاھىيىتىگە ئىگە. ئۇلار ئىرقى، رەڭگى، جىنسى، تىلى، دىنى، سىياسىي قارىشى ياكى باشقا قارىشى، دۆلەت تەۋەلىكى ياكى ئىجتىمائىي كېلىپ چىقىشى، مۈلكى، تۇغۇلۇشى ياكى باشقا سالاھىيىتى جەھەتتىن قىلچە پەرقلەنمەيدۇ. ئۇنىڭ ئۇستىگە ھەممە ئادەم ئوزى تەۋە دۆلەت ياكى زېمىننىڭ سياسىي، مەمۇرىي لاكى خەلقئارا ئورنىنىڭ ئوخشاش بولماسلىقى بىلەن پەرقلەنمەيدۇ. بۇ زېمىننىڭ مۇستەقىل زېمىن، ۋاكالىتەن باشقۇرۇلۇۋاتقان زېمىن، ئاپتونومىيىسىز زېمىن ياكى باشقا ھەرقانداق ىگىلىك ھوقۇقىغا چەك قويۇلغان ھالەتتىكى زېمىن بولۇشىدىن قەتئىينەزەر.

Usage & history

The Perso-Arabic orthography described here is one of several alphabets used to write the Uighur language, but has been the official alphabet of the Uyghur language, used primarily by Uighur living in China, since 1982.

ئۇيغۇر ئەرەب يېزىقى ʿuyʁur ʿereb yëziqi Uyghur Ereb Yëziqi Uighur Alphabet (UEY)

Wikipedia provides the following account of the development of the orthography.

The first Perso-Arabic derived alphabet for Uyghur was developed in the 10th century, when Islam was introduced there. The version used for writing the Chagatai language. It became the regional literary language, now known as the Chagatay alphabet. It was used nearly exclusively up to the early 1920s. Alternative Uyghur scripts then began emerging and collectively largely displaced Chagatai; Kona Yëziq, meaning "old script", now distinguishes it and UEY from the alternatives that are not derived from Arabic. Between 1937 and 1954 the Perso-Arabic alphabet used to write Uyghur was modified by removing redundant letters and adding markings for vowels. A Cyrillic alphabet was adopted in the 1950s and a Latin alphabet in 1958. The modern Uyghur Perso-Arabic alphabet was made official in 1978 and reinstituted by the Chinese government in 1983, with modifications for representing Uyghur vowels.

The Arabic alphabet used before the modifications (Kona Yëziq) did not represent Uyghur vowels and according to Robert Barkley Shaw, spelling was irregular and long vowel letters were frequently written for short vowels since most Turki speakers were unsure of the difference between long and short vowels. The pre-modification alphabet used Arabic diacritics (zabar, zer, and pesh) to mark short vowels. ...

The reformed modern Uyghur Arabic alphabet eliminated letters whose sounds were found only in Arabic and spelt Arabic and Persian loanwords, including Islamic religious words, as they were pronounced in Uyghur, not as they were originally spelt in Arabic or Persian.

Sources: Wikipedia

Basic features

The Arabic script is normally an abjad, ie. in normal use the script represents only consonant and long vowel sounds. This approach is helped by the strong emphasis on consonant patterns in Semitic languages. However Uighur is not a Semitic language, and the modern version of the Arabic script used for Uighur is an alphabet. See the table to the right for a brief overview of the features of the modern Uighur orthography.

Uighur text is written horizontally, right-to-left, but numbers and embedded Latin text are read left-to-right. ❯ direction

Words are separated by spaces, and contain a mixture of consonants and vowels.

The script is unicameral.

The script is cursive, and some basic letter shapes change significantly, depending on their joining context. ❯ cursive

Uighur has 25 consonant letters, including a character that serves as a vowel base. ❯ consonants

Arabic sukun is not used to indicate consonant clusters or lack of a vowel. Similarly, geminated consonant sounds are written by doubling the letter, rather than using the Arabic shadda.

Uighur has 8 vowel letters, and they are used in a straightforward way to represent vowel sounds. Unlike Arabic, diacritics are not used. ❯ vowels

Initial vowels or those preceded by a vowel in a word are preceded by 'hamza on a tooth', eg. ئە.

Numbers use ASCII digits.

Character index







Combining marks










To be investigated

Items to show in lists


These are sounds of the modern Uighur language.

Click on the sounds to reveal locations in this document where they are mentioned.

Phones in a lighter colour are non-native or allophones. Source Wikipedia.

Vowel sounds

i y y ɨ ɨ ɯ ɯ u ɪ ʏ ʊ e ɤ ɤ o ɛ œ œ ʌ ʌ ɔ æ ɑ ɑ

Consonant sounds

labial dental alveolar post-
palatal velar uvular glottal
stop p b t d       k ɡ q ʔ
affricate       t͡ʃ d͡ʒ        
fricative f v   s z ʃ ʒ     χ ʁ ɦ
nasal m   n     ŋ  
approximant w   l   j    
trill/flap     r    


Uighur is not a tonal language.




The discussion of ijam vs. tashkil in the Arabic script overview has a bearing on several Uighur graphemes.

Vowel letters

Uighur has 8 vowel letters.


Examples: يېڭىسار خوتەن

When used for standalone vowels, these letters are preceded by 0626 (see standalone).

See also encoding.

Combining marks


Because Uighur uses atomic characters for its vowels, Uighur text usually contains no vowel-dedicated combining marks. The only exception occurs in decomposed text, where 0654 will become a combining mark.

Standalone vowels

The vowel letters shown above occur within or at the end of a word. When a vowel is alone, initial, or follows another vowel inside a word, it is always preceded by ئ [U+0626 ARABIC LETTER YEH WITH HAMZA ABOVE], which in theory represents the glottal stop, but which is not pronounced as such at the start of a word – rather, it is just a support for the vowel.


Vowel length





Uighur is not a tonal language.

Vowel sounds to characters

This section maps Uighur vowel sounds to common graphemes in the Arabic orthography, grouped by word-initial ( i ), medial ( m ), and final ( f ). Click on a grapheme to find other mentions on this page (links appear at the bottom of the page). Click on the character name to see examples and for detailed descriptions of the character(s) shown.

Medial/final graphemes are shown to the left, and word-initial on the right.

Vowels in initial or isolated position are written with a preceding ئ [U+0626 ARABIC LETTER YEH WITH HAMZA ABOVE].

i ɨ


0626 0649

y ʏ


0626 06C8

u ʊ


0626 06C7



0626 06D0



0626 06C6



0626 0648



0626 06D5



0626 0648



0626 06D5

ɑ a


0626 0627


Consonant letters

The following consonants are used for the Uighur language, which is largely written as it is spoken:


Transcription note

In transcriptions using the Uyghur Latin alphabet (ULY) system, occasionally there can be ambiguities around the digraphs. In such cases, an apostrophe is used, eg. the transcription bashlan’ghuch for the following disambiguates n-gh from ng-h. باشلئانگۇچ

Vowel absence


Onset consonants


Final consonants


Consonant clusters & gemination

Consonant clusters have no special annotation or shaping. The Arabic sukkun is not used to indicate missing vowels.

Geminated consonants are written by simply repeating the consonant twice, there is no use of the Arabic shadda, eg. تاللاش ئاپتاپپەرەس ئۇسسۇل

Consonant length


Consonant sounds to characters

This section maps Uighur consonant sounds to common graphemes in the Arabic orthography. Click on a grapheme to find other mentions on this page (links appear at the bottom of the page). Click on the character name to see examples and for detailed descriptions of the character(s) shown.

Sounds listed as 'infrequent' are allophones, or sounds used for foreign words, etc.





Other sonorants

Encoding choices

Several of the vowel signs could be written by adding a combining mark to a base character (see the table), but in practice precomposed characters are used, and the only letter that decomposes during NFD normalisation is ئ [U+0626 ARABIC LETTER YEH WITH HAMZA ABOVE].

Use Do NOT use

This table reflects the fact that the marks associated with base characters here are of the ijam, rather than tashkil, kind (see ijam vs. tashkil in the Arabic script overview).



See type samples.

Uighur uses ASCII digits.


Observation: fig_date_connector shows day-month format using a tatweel-like connector, however the text doesn't connect to the horizontal line.

Day-month date forms using a low horizontal connector.

Text direction

Arabic script is written horizontally and right-to-left in the main, but as with most RTL scripts, numbers and embedded LTR script text are written left-to-right (producing 'bidirectional' text).

 1899 - ئاسپىرىن (Aspirin) بازارغا سېلىندى.
Uighur words are read RTL, starting on the right, but numbers and Latin text (highlighted here) are read left-to-right.

Show default bidi_class properties for characters in the Uighur orthography described here.

Glyph shaping & positioning

This section brings together information about the following topics: writing styles; cursive text; context-based shaping; context-based positioning; baselines, line height, etc.; font styles; case & other character transforms.

You can experiment with examples using the Uighur character app.

The orthography has no case distinction, and no special transforms are needed to convert between characters.

Cursive script

Arabic script joins letters together. This results in four different shapes for most letters (including an isolated shape).

The letter غ [U+063A ARABIC LETTER GHAIN] in 2 different joining contexts.

A few Arabic script letters only join on the right-hand side.

Context-based shaping & positioning

As in Arabic, lam followed by alef ligate, eg. ئىسلام

Font styling & weight

See type samples.

Observation: The image in fig_italic_forward show italicisation where the glyphs lean in the direction of text (ie. to the left).

In the italicised text of the heading the glyphs lean to the left.

See type samples.


Uighur principally uses word boundaries for line-breaking and basic justification, but uses grapheme boundaries for other operations that work at the sub-word level.

Phrase, sentence, and section delimiters are described in phrase.

Grapheme clusters

Base (Combining_mark)*

In Uighur, segmentation can be realised using Unicode grapheme clusters. A typographic unit is almost always equivalent to a letter, since precomposed code points are available for all letter and diacritic combinations. Only one letter, ئ [U+0626 ARABIC LETTER YEH WITH HAMZA ABOVE], decomposes; in that case, the typographic unit includes both the base letter and the combining mark.



This kind of typographic unit can be used for forwards deletion, cursor movement & selection, character counts, text spacing, and text insertion.

Punctuation & inline features

Word boundaries

Words are separated by spaces.

Word-level segmentation is used for line-breaking and basic justification.

Phrase & section boundaries

See type samples.


Uighur uses a mixture of ASCII and Arabic punctuation.




: [U+003A COLON]


. [U+002E FULL STOP]



Observation: The comma can be found immediately after the previous word, but as shown in fig_comma_gap, it may also be surrounded by space.

Commas (in different documents) without (top) and with (bottom) leading space. 🗋

Bracketed text

See type samples.


Uighur commonly uses ASCII parentheses to insert parenthetical information into text.

See type samples.

Quotations & citations

See type samples.


Uighur text uses guillemets around quotations. Of course, due to keyboard design, quotations may also be surrounded by ASCII double and single quote marks. Note, however, that the order of use is different from that in LTR text, because they are not automatically mirrored.

Observation: fig_quotation appears to show double angle brackets being used as a quotation mark.

Quotation marks (?) using double angle brackets.

Observation: fig_bracketed_text shows double angle brackets being used to cite lists of characters.

Examples, bracketed with double angle brackets.



Abbreviation, ellipsis & repetition


Inline notes & annotations


Other punctuation


Other inline text decoration


Line & paragraph layout

Line breaking & hyphenation

See type samples.

Common practice is to break the sentence at any point when it reaches the end of a line.

In-word line-breaking

Uighur text can be hyphenated at the end of a line (see fig_hyphenation).

Examples of line-end hyphenation in Uighur. 🗋

The glyphs before the hyphen and at the start of the next line are joined forms.

The hyphen sits on the baseline and looks like a tatweel. A very small gap appears between the hyphen and the last letter of the word at the end of the line.

Observation: The actual 'hyphen' looks like ـ [U+0640 ARABIC TATWEEL]. That would produce the expected joining form at the end of the line, although some additional mechanism would be needed to produce the form at the start of the next line. However, scans of various documents show a very small gap between the horizontal line and the last joining form at the end of the line, as can be seen in fig_hyphenation, which would negate the joining produced by a tatweel.

Line-edge rules

As in almost all writing systems, certain punctuation characters should not appear at the end or the start of a line. The Unicode line-break properties help applications decide whether a character should appear at the start or end of a line.

Show (default) line-breaking properties for characters in the modern Uighur orthography.

The following list gives examples of typical behaviours for some of the characters used in Uighur. Context may affect the behaviour of some of these and other characters.

Click/tap on the characters to show what they are.

  • « (   should not be the last character on a line.
  • » ) . ، ؛ ؟ ! %   should not begin a new line.

Text alignment & justification

See type samples.

Baseline lengthening is used to justify lines of text.

fig_kashida shows that baseline lengthening and hyphenation can both be used, and sometimes within the same word.

Kashida baseline lengthening and hyphenation used in the same word (2nd line down).

Text spacing


Baselines, line height, etc.

Uighur uses the so-called 'alphabetic' baseline, which is the same as for Latin and many other scripts.

Font baselines should match the alphabetic baseline of Latin script text, and Arabic Uighur fonts should have relative sizes that match. However, Uighur also needs to look right alongside Chinese text, which has a slightly lower baseline and generally larger characters than Latin.

Uighur places vowel and tone glyphs above and below base characters. Several glyphs (especially in independent or final forms) also have long descenders or ascenders.

To give an approximate idea, fig_baselines compares Latin and Uighur glyphs from Noto fonts. The basic part of most Uighur letters is generally less than Latin x-height, however extenders and combining marks reach up to and sometimes beyond the Latin ascenders and descenders. That said, Noto fonts are relatively conservative in terms of glyph heights.

Hhqxغ‌گ‌جئائۆئې‌لخئۈ百万 Hhqxغ‌گ‌جئائۆئې‌لخئۈ百万
Font metrics for Latin text compared with Uighur glyphs in the Noto Naskh Arabic (top) and Noto Sans Arabic (bottom) fonts.

fig_baselines_other shows similar comparisons for the Scheherazade New and Microsoft Uighur fonts.

Hhqxغ‌گ‌جئائۆئې‌لخئۈ Hhqxغ‌گ‌جئائۆئې‌لخئۈ
Latin font metrics compared with Uighur glyphs in the Scheherazade New (top) and Microsoft Uighur (bottom) fonts.

Counters, lists, etc.


Styling initials


Page & book layout

This section is for any features that are specific to Uighur and that relate to the following topics: general page layout & progression; grids & tables; notes, footnotes, etc; forms & user interaction; page numbering, running headers, etc.