Kyrgyz Language
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Kyrgyz Language
, ‎, Q?rzça
Native toKyrgyzstan, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Pakistan, Xinjiang
Native speakers
4.3 million (2009 census)[1]
Kyrgyz alphabets (Cyrillic script, Perso-Arabic script, formerly Latin script, Kyrgyz Braille)
Official status
Official language in


Language codes
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters. For an introductory guide on IPA symbols, see Help:IPA.
This chart demonstrates how vowels shift left or right in order to abide by Kyrgyz grammar rules.
Azim, a speaker of the Kyrgyz language, recorded in Taiwan

Kyrgyz (;[2]autonym: /Q?rzça, [q?z't]), also spelled as Kirghiz, Kirgiz and Qirghiz, is a Turkic language of the Kipchak branch spoken in Central Asia. Kyrgyz is the official language of Kyrgyzstan and a significant minority language in the Kizilsu Kyrgyz Autonomous Prefecture in Xinjiang, China and in the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Province of Tajikistan. There is a very high level of mutual intelligibility between Kazakh and Kyrgyz.

Kyrgyz is also spoken by many ethnic Kyrgyz through the former Soviet Union, Afghanistan, Turkey, parts of northern Pakistan, and Russia.

Kyrgyz was originally written in Turkic runes,[3] gradually replaced by the Perso-Arabic alphabet (in use until 1928 in the USSR, still in use in China). Between 1928 and 1940 a Latin-script alphabet, the Uniform Turkic Alphabet, was used. In 1940, Soviet authorities replaced the Latin script with the Cyrillic alphabet for all Turkic countries. When Kyrgyzstan became independent following the Soviet Union's collapse in 1991, a plan to adopt the Latin alphabet became popular. Although the plan has not been implemented, it remains in occasional discussion.[4]


It is highly likely that the Ancient Kyrgyz spoke a language close to modern Khakas, which belongs to the Siberian sub-branch of Common Turkic. In 925 when the Khitans defeated the Ancient Kyrgyz and expelled them from the Mongolian steppes, some Ancient Kyrgyz elites settled in Altai and East Turkestan where they mixed with local Kipchaks, resulting in a language shift.

After the Mongol conquest in 1207 and a series of revolts against Yuan oppressive policy, Kyrgyz-speaking tribes started to migrate to Tien Shan, which was already populated by various Turco-Mongol tribes. As Chaghatai Ulus subjects, the Kyrgyz converted to Islam.

Kyrgyz shares similarities with various sub branches of Common Turkic - Kipchak, Karluk (due to Chaghatai Turki and language convergence) and the Siberian sub branch (ancient Kyrgyz ancestry)

Comparison with Kazakh

Kazakh and Kyrgyz are mutually intelligible and differ mainly phonetically, while the grammar is much the same. Until the 20th century, both languages used a common written form of Chaghatai Turki.[5]


Kyrgyz vowel phonemes[6]
Front Back
unrounded rounded unrounded rounded
Close i y ? u
Mid e ø o
Open (a) ?

/a/ appears only in borrowings from Persian or when followed by a front vowel later in the word (regressive assimilation), e.g. /ajdø?/ 'sloping' instead of */?jdø?/.[7] Note that in most dialects, its status as a vowel distinct from /?/ is questionable.[8]

Vowel Harmony (Peace Corps Method)
Left Shift (<) Right Shift (>) Shift Direction
? ? Straight Across Left-Right Shift
? ? ("y" Left-shifts up-diagonally to "a")
? ? Straight Across Left-Right Shift
? (?) ? Straight Across Left-Right Shift

The United States Peace Corps trains its volunteers using a "Left-Right Shift" method when carrying out language training in the Kyrgyzstan.

  • /f, v, t?s, x/ occur only in foreign borrowings from Russian, Arabic and English.[9]

Writing system

The Kyrgyz in Kyrgyzstan use a Cyrillic alphabet, which uses all the Russian letters plus ?, ? and ?.

In Xinjiang of China, an Arabic alphabet is used.

Although the Latin script is not in official use, some Kyrgyz texts are written in the Turkish variant of the Latin alphabet which was designed by Pamukkale University, and uses Turkish spelling norms e.g. for diphthongization (ey, ay etc.) and with the addition of J corresponding to Russian ? (/zh/). Native Kyrgyz sound values are almost identical to Turkish, the exceptions being the velar nasal /?/ and the voiceless uvular stop /q/ which do not exist in Turkish. In these cases, they are written as "ñ" and "q" respectively.

Cyrillic Latin IPA English
? ? ? ? ?. ? - ? ? ?- ? . Bard?q adamdar öz bedelinde jana uquqtar?nda erkin jana te? uquqtuu bolup jaralat. Alard?n a?-sezimi menen abiyiri bar jana biri-birine bir tuu?and?q mamile q?luu?a tiyi?. b?rd?q ?d?md?r øz bedelinde dn? uquqt?r?nd? erkin dn? te? uquqtu: bo?up drt ? rd?n sezimi menen ?bijiri b?r dn? biribirine bir tu:nd?q m?mile qu: tiji? 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.

Morphology and syntax


Nouns in Kyrgyz take a number of case endings that change based on vowel harmony and the sort of consonant they follow (see the section on phonology).

Case Underlying form Possible forms "boat" "air" "bucket" "hand" "head" "salt" "eye"
Nominative -- ?
Genitive -NIn -, -, -, -, -, -, -, -, -, -, -, - ?
Dative -GA -, -, -, -, -, -, -, - ?
Accusative -NI -, -, -, -, -, -, -, -, -, -, -, - ?
Locative -DA -, -, -, -, -, -, -, - ?
Ablative -DAn -, -, -, -, -, -, -, - ?

Normally the decision between the velar ([? ~ ?], [k]) and uvular ([? ~ ?] and [? ~ q]) pronunciation of ⟨?⟩ and ⟨?⟩ is based on the backness of the following vowel--i.e. back vowels imply a uvular rendering and front vowels imply a velar rendering--and the vowel in suffixes is decided based on the preceding vowel in the word. However, with the dative suffix in Kyrgyz, the vowel is decided normally, but the decision between velars and uvulars can be decided based on a contacting consonant, for example ? /bank/ 'bank' + GA yields /bankka/, not /bankqa/ as predicted by the following vowel.


Kyrgyz has eight personal pronouns:

Personal pronouns
Singular Plural
Kyrgyz (transliteration) English Kyrgyz (transliteration) English
(Men) I (Biz) We
(Sen) You (singular informal) (Siler) You (plural informal)
(Siz) You (singular formal) (Sizder) You (plural formal)
(Al) He/She/It ? (Alar) They

The declension of the pronouns is outlined in the following chart. Singular pronouns (with the exception of , which used to be plural) exhibit irregularities, while plural pronouns don't. Irregular forms are highlighted in bold.

Declension of pronouns
Singular Plural
1st 2nd inf 2nd frm 3rd 1st 2nd inf 2nd frm 3rd
Nom ?
Acc ? ? ?
Gen ? ?
Dat ? ? ?
Loc ? ?
Abl ?

In addition to the pronouns, there are several more sets of morphemes dealing with person.

Morphemes indicating person
pronouns copulas present tense possessive endings past/conditional imperative
1st sg -mIn -mIn -(I)m -(I)m -AyIN
2nd sg -sI? -sI? -(I)? -(I)? --, -GIn
2nd formal sg -sIz -sIz -(I)?Iz -(I)?Iz -GIlA
3rd sg -- -t -(s)I(n) -- -sIn
1st pl -BIz -BIz -(I)bIz -(I)K -AyIK
2nd pl -sI?Ar -sI?Ar -(I)?Ar -(I)?Ar
2nd formal pl -sIzdAr -sIzdAr -(I)?IzdAr -(I)nIzdAr
3rd pl ? -- -(I)?At -(s)I(n) -- -sIn, -I?sIn


Verbs are conjugated by analyzing the root verb: 1) determine whether the end letter is a vowel or consonant 2) add appropriate suffix while following vowel-harmony/shift rules.

Simple-Present Tense Conjugations (Peace Corps)
Per. Pronoun Vowel Consonant
1st sg -? -?
2nd sg -<? -<?
2nd formal sg -<? -<?
3rd sg - -
1st pl ->? -<?>?
2nd pl
2nd formal pl
3rd pl ?

Subordinate clauses

To form complement clauses, Kyrgyz nominalises verb phrases. For example, "I don't know what I saw" would be rendered as " ? ?" (Men emneni körgönümdü bilbeym): I what-ACC.DEF see-ing-1st.SG-ACC.DEF know-NEG-1st.SG, or roughly "I don't know my having seen what," where the verb phrase "I saw what" is treated as a nominal object of the verb "to know." The sentence above is also an excellent example of Kyrgyz vowel harmony; notice that all the vowel sounds are front vowels.

Several nominalisation strategies are used depending on the temporal properties of the relativised verb phrase: -GAn(dIK) for general past tense, -AAr for future/potential unrealised events, and -A turgan(d?q) for non-perfective events are the most common. The copula has an irregular relativised form ?() which may be used equivalently to forms of the verb - be ((), ). Relativised verb forms may, and often do, take nominal possessive endings as well as case endings.

See also

Notes and references

  1. ^ Kyrgyz at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^
  3. ^ ?. ?., ? (Kyzlasov I.L. Runic scripts of Eurasian steppes), ? (Eastern Literature), Moscow, 1994, pp. 80 on, ISBN 978-5-02-017741-3, with further bibliography.
  4. ^ Latin alphabet. "Kyrgyzstan has to switch to Latin alphabet since 2040, MP". .
  5. ^ Robert Lindsay. "Mutual Intelligibility Among the Turkic Languages". Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  6. ^ Kara (2003:10)
  7. ^ Washington (2007:11)
  8. ^ Washington (2006b:2)
  9. ^ a b Kara (2003:11)


External links

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