Uzbek Language

• Uzbek language, member of the Turkic language subfamily of the Altaic family, spoken in Uzbekistan, eastern Turkmenistan, northern and western Tajikistan, southern Kazakhstan, northern Afghanistan, and northwestern China. Uzbek belongs to the southeastern, or Chagatai, branch of the Turkic languages.

• In Uzbek roughly two main dialect groups can be distinguished. One includes the southern, or Iranized, dialects (Tashkent, Bukhara, Samarkand) and the semi-Iranized dialects (Fergana, Kokand), which, owing to the influence of the Tajik language, have modified the typical Turkic feature of vowel harmony. The other group comprises the northern Uzbek dialects in southern Kazakhstan and several dialects in the region of Khiva. These dialects show much less Iranian influence. (Kipchak-Uzbek is practically a dialect of the Kazak language.) In the creation of a new literary language after the Russian Revolution of 1917, a dominant role was first played by the northern dialects and later by the southern dialects. The latter serve as the basis of the current literary language. Uzbek has been written in the Arabic, Latin, and Cyrillic scripts. In 1993 the government of Uzbekistan officially reinstated a modified Latin alphabet for the Uzbek language.

• Quite a few attempts were made before and after the Revolution of 1917 to reform the Arabic alphabet in order to meet the requirements of the Uzbek language. Finally, in December 1, 1929 the Arabic alphabet was replaced by a new one, based on Latin graphic.

• In 1940, the Cyrillic script was introduced into the Uzbek language. Certainly as the result of all these reforms the language corpus changed greatly. Script and orthography changes demand great uniformity which is of special importance in written communication. All changes in the Uzbek language were closely connected with the changes in the country: political, economic, social and cultural. Languages in Central Asia and other parts of the former Soviet Union were experiencing these changes. Today Uzbekistan is coming back to the Latin alphabet.

• Many new words were introduced into the Uzbek vocabulary because new concepts and ideas were introduced into the life of the Uzbeks. Many original Uzbek words developed new meanings, which never existed in their semantic structures. For example in the old days the Uzbek word “ishchi” was used in the meaning of “unskilled workman”, the worker who was busy with earthwork. The same refers to the word “mekhnat”. This word denoted very hard, back breaking toil and had the synonym of such words as “Gam” (sorrow) and “Kaygu” (grief). Today these two words have completely changed their meanings.