Kyrgyz (Kirgiz, Kyrghyz, Kirghiz)

Kyrgyz (Kirgiz, Kyrghyz, Kirghiz) is a member of the family of language, the Central Turkic group which also includes Kazakh. There are approx. 2 million speakers in the Kyrgyz Republic (Kyrghyzstan) where it is the national language. Kyrgyz and Russian are the two official languages. There are also some 150,000 speakers in China, mainly in Sinkiang-Uighur Autonomous Region, and considerably smaller but significant communities of speakers in western Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. Smaller numbers can be found in Afganistan, Turkey, and Pakistan.

The dialects of Kyrgyz can be divided into Northern and Southern. Standard Kyrgyz is based on the northern varieties, which have a large number of word borrowings from Mongolian languages. The Northern dialect was influenced by Kazakh, while the Southern dialect was influenced by Uzbek. Within the Southern dialect, a distinction is sometimes made between the South Eastern and the South Western dialects. The Southern dialects are also strongly influenced by such Iranian languages as Persian and Tajik.

The Manas epic in Kyrgyz folk literature is one of the longest poems in the world literature – in one version with approx. half a million lines. Modern Kyrgyz literature began to appear in about 1910, at which time it was written with the Arabic script. Between 1928 and 1940 it was written with the Latin alphabet, and from 1940 onwards it has been written with the Cyrillic alphabet.

CLASSIFICATION = Altaic family; the Central Turkic (or Aralo-Caspian) group, SCRIPT = Cyrillic in Kyrgyzstan* ; Roman elsewhere
* There has been a report (in 1993) that the Latin orthography will be reintroduced.

Learn Kirghiz KIR CBEG 1(CD-ROM)
External Resource
A free Kyrgyz online learning resource from Indiana University. Access is free, but the first time you visit this resource you will have to create an account to use the materials.