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Spoken Uyghur.

The author and his Uyghur informant collaborated to prepare an excellent, substantial descriptive grammar and 15 dialogue units for the modern Uyghur language as indigenous speakers use it mainly in eastern Turkistan (Xinjiang), China. The grammar offers a technical analysis of the present Uyghur language for linguists, but does not provide a system of lessons for teachers or learners of the living language. The grammar refers frequently to European-language phonetics and structures and to modern Turkish, but very seldom to contemporary Uzbek, usually considered the Turkic language closest to Uyghur in what many scholars call the Turki subfamily. The fact that standard written Uzbek, though not always spoken Uzbek, for the most part ignores vowel harmony may explain why Mr. Hahn largely ignores it in his grammatical comparisons. Modern Uyghur in most ways supplants earlier attempts to make Uyghur understandable to English speakers. Two of those also specifically based themselves upon the spoken tongue: Robert Barkley Shaw's pioneering A Sketch of the Turki Language as Spoken in Eastern Turkistan (Kashghar & Yarkand) (Lahore: Central Jail Press, 1875), 153 pages plus 41 pages of Uyghur texts written in the Arabic script and a large, folding chart outlining the verbal conjugations in Uyghur, with translations (not mentioned in Mr. Hahn's bibliography); and E. Denison Ross' and Rachel O. Wingate's Dialogues in the Eastern Turki Dialect on Subjects of Interest to Travellers (London: The Royal Asiatic Society, 1934), 48 pages, including a short glossary of less common words. This little book presents the dialogues in both Arabic script and transliteration in parallel columns on the same page, faced by translations into English, giving the learner the advantage of seeing the original text, Romanized transliteration and relevant translation at a glance without turning pages. A third booklet in English, E. N. Nadzhip's Modern Uigur (Moscow: "Nauka" Publishing House, 1971), 157 pages (not listed in the bibliography of Spoken Uyghur), explains the grammar of the written language with quite a few examples in transliteration and gives one-half page as a specimen of the Arabic script employed then, before the official return to Arabic for most Uyghur publishing. In the 110-page reference grammar that opens Spoken Uyghur, a reader will also find a concise presentation of past writing systems and the current modified Arabic alphabet applied to the language. The "Element Index", serves as a kind of vocabulary list for the examples and dialogues offered in the book, but does not pretend to replace a dictionary. Mr. Hahn's selected bibliography includes an entry for Dr. Gunnar Jarring's 338-page An Eastern Turki-English Dialect Dictionary (1964 and now revised and augmented), a valuable reference work that can complement the present study for most scholars of spoken Uyghur. Nor does the sizable English-Uyghur glossary attempt to substitute itself for the available large dictionaries of Uyghur from other languages, such as Anwar Payzulla's Inglizchauyghurcha lughat (Urumchi: Shinjang Khalq Nashriyati, 1988), 558 pages, or A. Iliev, Sh. Kibirov, et al., Russkouigurskii slovar' (Moscow: Gosudarstvennoe Izdatel'stvo Inostrannykh i Natsional'nykh Slovarei, 1956), 1,473 pages. Both of those dictionaries offer the advantage to users of writing the Uyghur words in the Uyghur alphabet, a technical accomplishment more desirable for scholars than the transliteration provided in Spoken Uyghur. Perhaps the publisher could not afford to provide that extensive integration of the Arabic and Roman alphabets for this very useful book. A subject index runs from p. 625 to p. 632.

Mr. Ibrahim makes his main contribution in the dialogue units. They form the longest part of the volume and offer the learner a wealth of appropriate material for the study of spoken Uyghur. They can easily function in individual practice or in the classroom, where they have served instructors well. In each unit, first comes the dialogue given in the contemporary Uyghur language and alphabet, each speech coded for cross-reference to the transliterated version of the same speech. Then follows a short explanatory list of "New Elements," including words, grammatical endings, infixes and other elements employed especially in the particular unit. Finally, an English translation follows these three parts, again coded to connect precisely with the original text and transliteration of the dialogue. The translations pay careful attention to the nuances of Uyghur and of English. In unit 15, for example, the Uyghur speech E.41 reads, "Ha, uni dimayla qoyung! Buninggha hazirghicha khijilman. Kulkiga qaldimghu dayman. . . ." The English catches the flavor of the verbal construction plus emphatic particle dimayla qoyung very well, with "quit saying that," the whole speech reading: "Come on, quit saying that! I'm still embarrassed about it. I suppose I made a fool of myself." Readers may find additional information relevant to sociolinguistics and other aspects of Uyghur society and culture through examining Spoken Uyghur. The "Element Index" and the English-Uyghur glossary, for instance, show numbers of words borrowed from or through Russian and other foreign languages: aparat in the meaning of both device and of system or organization; wokzal for railroad station, noyabir as the name of the 11th month; tuberkuluz to designate the disease, and many, many others. The relative absence of Chinese terms from these lists (other than khanzu for Chinese person and its derivatives) suggests that functional or practical borrowings continue to come largely from other languages.

Altogether, Mr. Hahn's study of the spoken Uyghur language stands as an excellent, useful addition to the reference and teaching materials available in English for the serious study of Central Asia. It will help Americans and other English speakers to overcome their dependence upon Chinese or Russian for the study of Central Asia.

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Author:Allworth, Edward
Publication:The Journal of the American Oriental Society
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jul 1, 1993
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