The Uyghur people of China

Uyghur is a Turkic language. It is spoken by about 10 million people. Most of its speakers can be found in China. Uyghur speakers can also be found in Afghanistan, Germany, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Turkey, Tajikistan, Mongolia, the US, Uzbekistan, Ireland, Canada, Albania, France, Finland, South Korea, Sweden, Taiwan, Japan, Kyrgyzstan, India, Taiwan, Australia and Indonesian. Uyghur can be spelled in various ways. This includes Uiguir, Uygur, Uygur, Uigur or Uighuir. Uyghur is the preferred spelling when the Latin alphabet is used. This was confirmed in October 2006 at the Ethnic Languages and Script Committee of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region conference. Most English speakers pronounce Uyghur as ‘weeger’ but the best pronunciation would be ‘ooygoor’, as it is closer to the native language pronunciation. The word Uyghur means ‘united’ or ‘allied’. Most Uyghur speakers are monolingual.

Uyghur has loan words from other languages. This includes Persian, Chinese and Russian. Uyghur has different dialects. This includes the Central Uyghur dialect, Lop and Hotan. The language is used by the media in Southern Xinjiang in China. This includes 80 magazines and newspapers, 5 TV stations and 10 publishing houses. The language was traditionally written using Arabic script, since the 10th century. In 1969, the Chinese government introduced a Roman script. In 1983, the Arabic script was reintroduced, but this time it had some additional diacritics to help distinguish the vowels. The Cyrillic script is used in some parts of the world to write the language. This is in areas that were previously dominated by the Russians. A Roman script, based on the Turkish orthography is used in Turkey and online to write Uyghur.

The Chinese government is intent on homogenizing the Uyghur people and transforming Xinjiang into another Chinese province. This can be seen in many ways. Uyghur has been banned in schools and the government is giving incentives to other Chinese people to move into Xinjiang. Also, most traditional Uyghur homes are being destroyed, so as to give way for the construction of more modern highrise apartments to accommodate the increasing population. There have been riots and protests by the Uyghurs at how the Chinese government is treating them.

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