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Western Yugur language

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Title: Western Yugur language  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
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Subject: Languages of China, Old Uyghur language, Uyghur language, Old Turkic language, Turkic languages
Collection: Agglutinative Languages, Languages of China, Siberian Turkic Languages, Turkic Languages, Uyghurs
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Western Yugur language

Western Yugur
yoğïr lar, yoğïr śoz
Native to China
Region Gansu
Native speakers
4,600  (2007)[1]
Early forms
Old Uyghur language
  • Western Yugur
Old Uyghur alphabet (until 19th century)
Language codes
ISO 639-3 ybe
Glottolog west2402[4]

Western Yugur (Western Yugur: yoğïr lar (Yugur speech) or yoğïr śoz (Yugur word)) is the Turkic language spoken by the Yugur people. It is contrasted with Eastern Yugur, the Mongolic language spoken within the same community. Traditionally, both languages are indicated by the term "Yellow Uygur", from the endonym of the Yugur.

There are approximately 4,600 Turkic-speaking Yugurs.


  • Classification 1
  • Geographic distribution 2
  • Phonology 3
    • Consonants 3.1
    • Vowels 3.2
  • Vocabulary 4
  • Grammar 5
  • Writing system 6
  • History 7
  • References 8
    • Bibliography 8.1
  • External links 9


Besides similarities with Uyghuric languages, Western Yugur also shares a number of features, mainly archaisms, with several of the Northeastern Turkic languages, but it is not closer to any one of them in particular. Neither Western nor Eastern Yugur are mutually intelligible with Uyghur.[5]

Western Yugur also contains archaisms which are attested in neither modern Uyghuric nor Siberian, such as its anticipating counting system coinciding with Old Uyghur, and its copula dro, which originated from Old Uyghur but substitute the Uyghur copulative personal suffixes.[6]

Geographic distribution

Speakers of Western Yugur reside primarily in the western part of Gansu province's Sunan Yugur Autonomous County.


A special feature in Western Yugur is the occurrence of preaspiration, corresponding to the so-called pharyngealised or low vowels in Tuva and Tofa, and short vowels in Yakut and Turkmen. Examples of this phenomenon include /oʰtɯs/ "thirty", /jaʰʂ/ "good", and /iʰt/ "meat".

The vowel harmonical system, typical of Turkic languages, has largely collapsed. Voice as a distinguishing feature in plosives and affricates was replaced by aspiration, as in Chinese.


West Yugur has 28 native consonants and two more (indicated in paretheses) found only in loan words.
Consonant phonemes
  Labial Alveolar Retroflex Palatal Velar Uvular Glottal
Nasal m n         ŋ        
Plosive p t         k q    
Affricate     (tsʰ) ts ʈʂʰ ʈʂ tɕʰ            
Fricative (f)   s z ʂ ʐ ɕ   x ɣ     h  
Rhotic     r                    
Approximant         l j w        


West Yugur vowels


Western Yugur is the only Turkic language that preserved the anticipating counting system, known from Old Turkic.

For centuries, the Western Yugur language has been in contact with Mongolic languages, Tibetan, and Chinese, and as a result has adopted a large amount of loanwords from these languages, as well as grammatical features. Chinese dialects neighboring the areas where Yugur is spoken have influenced the Yugur language, giving it loanwords.[7]


Personal markers in nouns as well as in verbs were largely lost. In the verbal system, the notion of evidentiality has been grammaticalised, seemingly under the influence of Tibetan.

Writing system


Modern Uyghur is not descended from Old Uyghur, rather, it is a descendant of the Karluk language spoken by the Kara-Khanid Khanate.[8] Western Yugur is considered to be the true descendant of Old Uyghur, and it is also called "Neo-Uygur" because of this. Modern Uyghur is not a descendant of Old Uyghur, but is descended from the Xākānī language described by Mahmud al-Kashgari in Dīwānu l-Luġat al-Turk.[9] Modern Uyghur and Western Yugur belong to entirely different branches of the Turkic language family, respectively the southeastern Turkic languages and the northeastern Turkic languages .[10][11]


  1. ^ Western Yugur at Ethnologue (17th ed., 2013)
  2. ^ Concise Encyclopedia of Languages of the World. Contributors Keith Brown, Sarah Ogilvie (revised ed.). Elsevier. 2010. p. 1109.  
  3. ^ Johanson, Lars, ed. (1998). The Mainz Meeting: Proceedings of the Seventh International Conference on Turkish Linguistics, August 3-6, 1994. Turcologica Series. Contributor Éva Ágnes Csató. Otto Harrassowitz Verlag. p. 28.  
  4. ^ Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "West Yugur". Glottolog 2.2. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. 
  5. ^ Olson, James (1998). An Ethnohistorical Dictionary of China. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 377. 
  6. ^ Chen et al, 1985
  7. ^ Raymond Hickey (2010). The Handbook of Language Contact. John Wiley and Sons. p. 664.  
  8. ^ Arik 2008, p. 145
  9. ^ Clauson, Gerard (Apr 1965). "Review An Eastern Turki-English Dictionary by Gunnar Jarring". The Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland (Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland) (No. 1/2): 57. Retrieved 30 March 2014. 
  10. ^ Coene 2009, p. 75
  11. ^ Coene 2009, p. 75


  • Arik, Kagan (2008). Austin, Peter, ed. One Thousand Languages: Living, Endangered, and Lost (illustrated ed.). University of California Press.  
  • Chén Zōngzhèn & Léi Xuǎnchūn. 1985. Xībù Yùgùyǔ Jiānzhì [Concise grammar of Western Yugur]. Peking.
  • Coene, Frederik (2009). The Caucasus - An Introduction. Routledge Contemporary Russia and Eastern Europe Series. Routledge.  
  • Coene, Frederik (2009). The Caucasus - An Introduction. Routledge Contemporary Russia and Eastern Europe Series (illustrated, reprint ed.). Taylor & Francis.  
  • Léi Xuǎnchūn (proofread by Chén Zōngzhèn). 1992. Xībù Yùgù Hàn Cídiǎn [Western Yugur - Chinese Dictionary]. Chéngdu.
  • Malov, S. E. 1957. Jazyk zheltykh ujgurov. Slovar' i grammatika. Alma Ata.
  • Malov, S. E. 1967. Jazyk zheltykh ujgurov. Teksty i perevody. Moscow.
  • Roos, Martina Erica. 2000. The Western Yugur (Yellow Yugur) Language: Grammar, Texts, Vocabulary. Diss. University of Leiden. Leiden.
  • Tenishev, È. R. 1976. Stroj saryg-jugurskogo jazyka. Moscow.

External links

  • Slide Shows and maps of author Eric Enno Tamm's visit to Lianhua and Hongwansi
  • "Western Yugur Steppe" - A collection of literature and linguistic information
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