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About Uzbek Language

Uzbek (O‘zbek tili or O'zbekcha in Latin script, Ўзбек тили or Ўзбекча in Cyrillic script; أۇزبېك ﺗﻴﻠی in Arabic script) is a Turkic language and the official language of Uzbekistan. It has about 23.5 million native speakers, and it is spoken by the Uzbeks in Uzbekistan and elsewhere in Central Asia. Uzbek belongs to the Qarluq family of Turkic languages, and consequently its lexicon and grammar are most closely linked to the Uyghur language, while other influences rose from Persian, Arabic and Russian.

History

Turkic speakers have probably settled in the Amu-Darya, Syr-Darya and Zeravshan river basins since at least AD600-700, gradually ousting the speakers of Eastern Iranian languages who previously inhabited Soghdiana, Bactria and Chorasmia, or else changing their linguistic habits. The first Turkic dynasty in the region was that of the Karakhanids in the 9th- 12th centuries AD, who were a Qarluq tribe.

Uzbek is a language which can be considered the direct descendant or a latter form of Chagatay, the language of great Turkic Central Asian literary development in the realm of Chagatai Khan, Timur (Tamerlane), and the Timurids. The language was championed by Mir Ali-Sher Nawa'i in the 15th and 16th centuries. Ultimately based on the Qarluq variant of the Turkic languages, it contained large numbers of Persian and Arabic loan-words. By the 19th century it was rarely used for literary composition.

The term "Uzbek" as applied to language has meant different things at different times. Prior to 1921 "Uzbek" and "Sart" were considered to be different dialects; "Uzbek" was a vowel-harmonised Kipchak dialect spoken by descendants of those who arrived in Transoxiana with Shaybani Khan in the 16th century, who lived mainly around Bukhara and Samarkand, although the Turkic spoken in Tashkent was also vowel-harmonised; "Sart" was a Qarluq dialect spoken by the older settled Turkic populations of the region in the Ferghana Valley and the Kashka-Darya region, and in some parts of the Samarkand Oblast; it contained a heavier admixture of Persian and Arabic, and did not use vowel-harmony. In Khiva Sarts spoke a form of highly Persianised Oghuz Turkic. After 1921 the Soviet regime abolished the term Sart as derogatory, and decreed that henceforth the entire settled Turkic population of Turkestan would be known as Uzbeks, even though many had no Uzbek tribal heritage. The standard written language that was chosen for the new republic in 1924, however, despite the protests of Uzbek Bolsheviks such as Faizullah Khojaev, was not pre-revolutionary "Uzbek" but the "Sart" language of the Samarkand region. All three dialects continue to exist within modern, spoken Uzbek.

Number of speakers

In the CIS countries, there are about 24.7 million people who speak dialects of Uzbek. In Uzbekistan, 21 million people speak Uzbek as their native language. There are about 1.2 million speakers in Tajikistan, 1 million in Afghanistan, 550,096 in Kyrgyzstan, 332,017 in Kazakhstan, and 317,333 in Turkmenistan. According to the 2004 census, about 14,5000 people in East Turkestan or Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomouos Region (China) speak Uzbek. Because these two peoples are so close, Uzbeks in East Turkestan are assimilated by Uyghurs.

Loan words

The influence of Islam, and by extension, Arabic, is evident in Uzbek, as well as the residual influence of Russian, from the time when Uzbekistan was under tsarist and Soviet domination. Most of the Arabic words have found their way into Uzbek through Persian. Uzbek vocabulary has been heavily influenced by neighboring Persian languages and dialects, such as Farsi, Tajik and Dari.

Dialects

The Uzbek language has many dialects, varying widely from region to region. However, there is a commonly understood dialect which is used in mass media and in most printed material.

Among the best known dialects are the Afghan dialect; the Ferghana dialect; the Khorezm dialect; the Chimkent-Turkestan dialect; and the Surkhandarya dialect.

Writing systems

Before 1928, the Uzbek language, like most Central Asian languages, was written in various forms of the Arabic script (Yana imla) by the literate population. Between 1928 and 1940, as part of comprehensive programs to educate (and politically influence) Uzbek people, who for the first time now had their own cartographically delineated (administrative) region, Uzbek writing was switched to Latin script (Yanalif; a proposal for the latinization of Yana imla was already developed in 1924). The latinization of Uzbek was carried out in the context of latinization of all Turkic languages, and would not have happened if other Turkic languages had not been latinized.

In 1940, Uzbek was forcefully switched to Cyrillic script under Joseph Stalin. Until 1992, Uzbek almost everywhere continued to be written using the Cyrillic alphabet, but now in Uzbekistan the Latin script has been officially re-introduced, although the use of Cyrillic is still widespread. The deadline in Uzbekistan for making this transition has been repeatedly changed. The latest deadline was 2005, but was shifted once again to provide a few more years.

Already education in many areas of in Uzbekistan is in the Latin script, and in 2001 the Latin script began being used for currency. Since 2004 official websites have switched over to using the Latin script when writing in Uzbek. Most street signs are also in the new Latin script.

In the Xinjiang province of China, Uzbek has no official orthography. Some speakers write using the Cyrillic script, others write using the Uyghur script--as that is the language they have gone to school in.

Text sample

Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Uzbek in Latin script: Barcha odamlar erkin, qadr-qimmat va huquqlarda teng bo'lib tug'iladilar. Ular aql va vijdon sohibidirlar va bir-birlari ila birodarlarcha muomala qilishlari zarur.

Uzbek in Cyrillic: Барча одамлар эркин, қадр-қиммат ва ҳуқуқларда тенг бўлиб туғиладилар. Улар ақл ва виждон соҳибидирлар ва бир-бирлари ила биродарларча муомала қилишлари зарур.

Uzbeck script in English: All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

 

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