The 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, Tadjikistan and Uzbekistan and even as far afield as in Afghanistan, Turkey and Pakistan.

For the linguists to whom this means something… Kyrgyz is a member of the Central Turkic group of languages which also includes Kazakh and a number of other less well known, languages. (There is often some confusion in the West between Kazakh and Kyrgyz languages - as there was between the peoples themselves). Other Turkic languages include Turkish, Uighur, Uzbek and Tadjik. Some experts think that there is also a relationship between these languages and both Korean and Japanese, but this point is not proven. The language can be divided into two distinct dialects - Northern and Southern. The Southern dialects can further be sub-divided into South-Eastern and South Western variants. "Standard" Kyrgyz as defined in the Soviet period is based upon the Northern variations of the language which have borrowed large number of words from Mongolian languages, whilst the Southern dialects have borrowed mainly from Uzbek, but also from Persian and Tajik. Modern Kyrgyz has also borrowed a large number of words from other languages, such as Russian.

Today, Kyrgyz is written in a modified form of Cyrillic which was introduced in 1940. Following the standardization of the language, in 1924, a modified form of Arabic was used.

There was no Kyrgyz language press before the Russian Revolution. By 1983, however, 61 newspapers and 16 journals were published in Kyrgyz. In 1983 there were 513 books published in Kyrgyz in the Kyrgyz SSR. Now there are a wide variety of publications in Kyrgyz as well as Radio and Television programs and even films in Kyrgyz.

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.
Kyrgyzstan travel