Submitted by Umida Khikmatillaeva, Indiana University

The Uzbek Language

Uzbek is one of the Turkic languages that is considered to be part of the Altaic language family. Standard literary Uzbek belongs to the Qarluq group of the Turkic languages.

About 25 million people speak Uzbek as their native and second language. It is spoken in Uzbekistan, southern Kazakhstan, southern Kyrgyzstan, northern and western Tajikistan, eastern Turkmenistan, and in northern Afghanistan. There are speakers of Uzbek in northwestern China, Russia, Turkey, and the USA.

In Uzbekistan, the Uzbek alphabet was changed at least five times during the last 80 years. The Arabic script was used until 1929. The Latin alphabet was introduced in 1929, and in 1934 there were changes to the Latin alphabet. In 1940 the Uzbeks started to use the Cyrillic alphabet. In 1989 Uzbek became the official language of the Republic of Uzbekistan. In 1993 the new Latin alphabet was introduced and in 1995 there were some changes made in alphabet again. Currently in Uzbekistan, the Latin script is used mainly in school textbooks, university undergraduate textbooks, the Internet, in newspaper headlines, and in some official papers. Cyrillic is used in university graduate textbooks, in the content in newspapers below the headlines, and in some official/non-official papers.

Today, the following scripts are used by Uzbek speakers around the world:

  • Latin (in Uzbekistan, simultaneously with Cyrillic)

  • Cyrillic (in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan)

  • Arabic (in Afghanistan)


The Uzbek lexicon contains many Arabic, Persian, and Russian loan words due to historical integration, and the influence of Islam. Many lexical changes have also taken place in Uzbek since the Glasnost period. After getting Independence, there were active attempts at purifying Uzbek by ridding the language of Russian words, reviving archaic and obsolete words, and changing the meaning of some existing words. Also, many international loan words were borrowed, some dialectal variants became standardized, and new words were created. This process was regulated during 1990s by the Terminology Committee. However, many international terms borrowed from Russian were retained in the language, since some proposed words were not accepted by the public.


Uzbek dialects are diverse and have elements of all three Turkic dialect groups such as Qarluq, Qipchaq, and Oghuz. There are many classifications of Uzbek dialects, based on phonetic and lexical features. The main classifications and their proponents are: Iranized and Non-Iranized dialects (Polivanov), “O” dialect group and “A” dialect group (Borovkov), Qarluq-Uyghur-Chigil, Qipchaq, and the Oghuz dialect groups (Reshetov).

Grammatical Features

The Uzbek language shares most features common to most of the Turkic languages:

  • Uzbek is an agglutinative language;

  • Suffixes are added to a word in a fixed order;

  • Uzbek lacks grammatical gender;

  • Uzbek is a Subject-Object-Verb order language;

  • In Uzbek there are no definite and indefinite articles, instead the word “bir” and the accusative case marker are used to express indefiniteness and definiteness;

  • In Uzbek there are various participles, gerunds, and verbal nouns that replace relative clause structures found in English;

  • In Uzbek modifiers precede the modified head nouns;

  • In Uzbek word roots are mostly monosyllabic;

  • In Uzbek most words carry stress on the final syllable.

Due to the influence of Iranian languages some dialects have lost vowel harmony. Vowel harmony is not reflected in modern literary Uzbek since it is based on the Tashkent and Ferghana dialects.

Studying Uzbek in the USA

There are many institutions in the USA where Uzbek is taught as a foreign language. One of the largest centers for study and research on Uzbek is at Indiana University in Bloomington. There are many centers related to the field at Indiana:

  • The Department of Central Eurasian Studies (CEUS)

  • The Inner Asian and Uralic National Resource Center (IAURNC)

  • Center for Languages of the Central Asian Regions (CelCAR)

  • The Center for Turkic and Iranian Lexicography and Dialectology (CTILD)

  • Summer Workshop in Slavic, East European and Central Asian Languages at Indiana University (SWEESL)

  • The Sinor Research Institute for Inner Asian Studies (SRIFIAS)

  • Through CelCAR Uzbek is offeredin a distance education format via ITV.

Search for additional institutions to study Uzbek in USA:


Andrée F. Sjoberg.Uzbek Structural Grammar. The Hague, 1963.

András J. E. Bodrogligeti.Modern Literary Uzbek.Munich, Lincom 2002, 2 vols.

Edward Allworth. Uzbek Literary Politics. The Hague, Netherlands: Mouton and Co. 1964.

Hendrik Boeschoten. Uzbek. The Turkic Languages. London, New York: Rouiden & London, 1998, pp 257-279.

Karl A. Krippes.Uzbek-English dictionary. Kensington, Dunwoody 1996.

Khayrulla Ismatulla.Modern literary Uzbek. Bloomington, Indiana University Press, 1995.

Natalie Waterson.Uzbek–English dictionary. Oxford etc., Oxford University Press, 1980.

Nicolas Awde, William Dirks, Umida Khikmatillaeva. Uzbek dictionary and phrasebook. Hippocrene books. 2002.

William Fierman.Language planning and national development. The Uzbek experience. Berlin etc., de Gruyter, 1991.


Uzbek on the Turkic Language Map:


Uzbek Language Wikipedia:

UCLA Language Materials Project:

Uzbek Writing Systems:

Orthographic Rules for the Uzbek Language:

Outline of Uzbek Grammar:


Online Library:

Uzbek Literature:



About Uzbekistan:



Prominent People:

Uzbek Cuisine:

Uzbek Dance and Culture Society:

Uzbek Media:

Uzbek TV and radio: