Kyrgyz Language

Kyrgyz Language

According to the UCLA Language Materials Project, the Kyrgyz language is spoken by about 2 million people in the Kyrgyz Republic where it is the Official State Language, (Russian is also recognized as an official language).

The first reference to the language is recorded in an eighth Century inscription – when the Kyrgyz lived in Northern Central Mongolia. The rise of the Mongol empire caused the Kyrgyz to migrate towards the Tian Shan, (i.e. the present day Kyrgyzstan). In the face of many different invasions Kyrgyz speakers often migrated to other parts of Central Asia and now Kyrgyz speakers can be found in China (mainly in the Xinjiang-Uighur Autonomous region), Western Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan and even as far afield as in Afghanistan, Turkey and Pakistan.

Kyrgyz is a member of the Central Turkic group of languages which also includes Kazakh and a number of other less well known, languages.

Today, Kyrgyz is written in a modified form of Cyrillic which was introduced in 1940. Other modified alphabets were introduced for other Central Asian languages (such as Kazakh and Uzbek) at about the same time. Prior to this, until 1923 an Arabic script was used - as it is still for Uighur across the border in China. Following the standardization of the language, in 1924, a modified form of Arabic was used, but this was replaced in 1924 by the Unified Turkic Latin Alphabet (UTLA).

There are often differences between different dialects. The language used in the southern oblasts (Osh, Batken and Jalal Abad) are often influenced by Uzbek. In the Northern regions the title often afforded to older men as a sign of respect is “baike” – whereas in the south it would be aka (or ake).

Although Russian is understood almost everywhere in Kyrgyzstan, and many Russian words have entered the Kyrgyz language, there are places (especially in the rural regions) where Kyrgyz is the definitive mother tongue and Russian is most definitely a second language. Kyrgyz is generally considered to be easier to learn than Russian, with a smaller vocabulary and lack of stress in spoken form.