Western Yugur

Western Yugur
yoğïr lar, yoğïr śoz
Native to China
Region Gansu
Native speakers 4,600  (2007)
Language family
Language codes
ISO 639-3 ybe
Linguist List
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Western Yugur and Eastern Yugur are terms coined by Chinese linguists to distinguish between the Turkic and Mongolic Yugur language, both spoken within the Yugur nationality. The terms may also indicate the speakers of these languages. Traditionally, both languages are indicated by the term Yellow Uygur, from the endonym of the Yugur.

The Turkic speaking Yugur number about 4,600 and denote their own language by the terms yoğïr lar[dubious ] (Yugur speech) or yoğïr śoz (Yugur word).


Besides similarities with Uyghuric languages, Western Yugur also shares a number of features, mainly archaisms, with several of the Northeastern Turkic languages, but it is not closer to any one of them in particular. Neither Western nor Eastern Yugur are mutually intelligible with Uyghur.[1]

Western Yugur also contains archaisms which're attested in neither modern Uyghuric nor Siberian, such as its anticipating counting system coinsiding with Old Uyghur, and its Copula (linguistics) dro, which origined from Old Uyghur but substitute the Uyghur copulative personal suffixes.[2]

Geographic distribution

Speakers of Western Yugur reside primarily in the western part of Gansu province's Sunan Yugur Autonomous County.


A special feature in Western Yugur is the occurrence of preaspiration, corresponding to the so-called pharyngealised or low vowels in Tuva and Tofa, and short vowels in Yakut and Turkmen. Examples of this phenomenon include /oʰtɯs/ "thirty", /jaʰʂ/ "good", and /iʰt/ "meat".

The vowel harmonical system, typical of Turkic languages, has largely collapsed. Voice as a distinguishing feature in plosives and affricates was replaced by aspiration, as in Chinese.


West Yugur has 28 native consonants and two more (indicated in paretheses) found only in loan words.

Consonant phonemes
  Labial Alveolar Retroflex Palatal Velar Uvular Glottal
Nasal m n         ŋ        
Plosive p t         k q    
Affricate     (tsʰ) ts ʈʂʰ ʈʂ tɕʰ            
Fricative (f)   s z ʂ ʐ ɕ   x ɣ     h  
Rhotic     r                    
Approximant         l j w        


West Yugur vowels


Western Yugur is the only Turkic language that preserved the anticipating counting system, known from Old Turkic.

For centuries, the Western Yugur language has been in contact with Mongolic languages, Tibetan, and Chinese, and as a result has adopted a large amount of loanwords from these languages, as well as grammatical features. Chinese dialects neighboring the areas where Yugur is spoken have influenced the Yugur language, giving it loanwords.[3]


Personal markers in nouns as well as in verbs were largely lost. In the verbal system, the notion of evidentiality has been grammaticalised, seemingly under the influence of Tibetan.



  • Chén Zōngzhèn & Léi Xuǎnchūn. 1985. Xībù Yùgùyǔ Jiānzhì [Concise grammar of Western Yugur]. Peking.
  • Léi Xuǎnchūn (proofread by Chén Zōngzhèn). 1992. Xībù Yùgù Hàn Cídiǎn [Western Yugur - Chinese Dictionary]. Chéngdu.
  • Malov, S. E. 1957. Jazyk zheltykh ujgurov. Slovar' i grammatika. Alma Ata.
  • Malov, S. E. 1967. Jazyk zheltykh ujgurov. Teksty i perevody. Moscow.
  • Roos, Martina Erica. 2000. The Western Yugur (Yellow Yugur) Language: Grammar, Texts, Vocabulary. Diss. University of Leiden. Leiden.
  • Tenishev, È. R. 1976. Stroj saryg-jugurskogo jazyka. Moscow.

External links

  • Slide Shows and maps of author Eric Enno Tamm's visit to Lianhua and Hongwansi
  • "Western Yugur Steppe" - A collection of literature and linguistic information
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