Uighur

Updated 22 September, 2021

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.

Phonetic transcriptions on this page should be treated as an approximate guide, only. Many are more phonemic than phonetic, and there may be variations depending on the source of the transcription.

More about using this page
Related pages.
Other script summaries.

Sample (Uighur)

Select part of this sample text to show a list of characters, with links to more details.
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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.

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.

Uighur has 25 consonant letters, including a character that serves as a vowel base. Initial vowels or those preceded by a vowel in a word are preceded by 'hamza on a tooth', eg. ئە

There are 8 vowel letters.

Numbers use ASCII digits.

Character index

Letters

Show

Consonants

پ␣ب␣ت␣د␣ك␣گ␣ق␣چ␣ج␣ف␣س␣ز␣ژ␣ش␣خ␣غ␣ھ␣ر␣ل␣م␣ن␣ڭ␣ۋ␣ي␣ئ

Vowels

ى␣ۈ␣ۇ␣ې␣و␣ە␣ۆ␣ا

Combining marks

Show
ٔ

Punctuation

Show
،␣؛␣؟␣!␣.␣:
Character lists show:

Phonology

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-
alveolar
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    

Vowels

Click on the characters in the lists for detailed information.

Vowel letters

There are 8 vowel letters.

ى␣ۈ␣ۇ␣ې␣و␣ە␣ۆ␣ا

The forms 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.

ئى␣ئۈ␣ئۇ␣ئې␣ئو␣ئە␣ئۆ␣ئا

Examples: يېڭىسار خوتەن

Encoding

Several of the vowel signs could be written by adding a combining mark to a base character (eg. وٰ [U+0648 ARABIC LETTER WAW + U+0670 ARABIC LETTER SUPERSCRIPT ALEF]), 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].

Consonants

Click on the characters in the lists for detailed information.

Consonant letters

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

Stops

پ␣ب␣ت␣د␣ك␣گ␣ق

Affricates

چ␣ج

Fricatives

ف␣ۋ␣س␣ز␣ژ␣ش␣خ␣غ␣ھ

Nasals

ر␣ل

Liquids

م␣ن␣ڭ

Semi-vowels

ۋ␣ي

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

Consonant clusters & gemination

Observation: There is apparently no special way to indicate consonant clusters or gemination. The Arabic diacritic ـّ [U+0651 ARABIC SHADDA​] isn't used. This is presumably due to the alphabetic nature of the writing system.

Numbers

Uighur uses ASCII digits.

Dates

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 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).

تۇغۇلغان
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

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

Context-based positioning

tbd

Baselines, line height, etc.

Font baselines should match the alphabetic baseline of Latin script text, and arabic and 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.

Font styles

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.

Punctuation & inline features

Grapheme boundaries

tbd

Word boundaries

Words are separated by spaces.

Phrase & section boundaries

phrase

، [U+060C ARABIC COMMA]

؛ [U+061B ARABIC SEMICOLON]

: [U+003A COLON]

sentence

. [U+002E FULL STOP]

؟ [U+061F ARABIC QUESTION MARK] 

! [U+0021 EXCLAMATION MARK]

Uighur uses a mixture of ASCII and Arabic punctuation.

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. 🗋

Parentheses & brackets

Observation: fig_bracketed_text shows double angle brackets being used to a kind of quotation mark, for examples.

Examples, bracketed with double angle brackets.

Quotations

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

Quotation marks (?) using double angle brackets.

Emphasis

tbd

Abbreviation, ellipsis & repetition

tbd

Inline notes & annotations

tbd

Other inline ranges

tbd

Other punctuation

tbd

Line & paragraph layout

Line breaking & hyphenation

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

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

Hyphenation/word-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. 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.

Text alignment & justification

fig_hyphenation not only shows hyphenation, but also shows kashida being used for justification. Kashida is an elongation of the baseline to make words wider.

Letter spacing

tbd

Counters, lists, etc.

tbd

Styling initials

tbd

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.

Languages using the Arabic script

According to ScriptSource, the Arabic script is used for the following languages:

References