Uyghur or Uighur?

Uyghur or Uighur?.


Even the English spelling of this ethnic group’s name causes controversy.

Photo: RFA

The word “Uyghur” written in Uyghur script.

Anyone researching the Turkic people living in China’s northwestern Xinjiang region, and scattered throughout Central Asia, must almost immediately make what seems to be a major editorial decision:  Are they Uyghur or Uighur people? Do they inhabit the Xinjiang Uighur or Uyghur Autonomous Region?

“Uighur,” with an “i,” has appeared for centuries in writings by Western scholars, and many Western media and experts on the region still prefer this spelling.

One early original source in English for the history of the region, British explorer T. D. Forsyth’s Report of a Mission to Yarkand in 1873, refers to “Uighur” people. Other early English spellings include “Ouighour” and “Ouigour,” derived from French and German scholars’ renderings.

But members of this mostly Muslim ethnic group overwhelmingly prefer the spelling “Uyghur,” which they say more closely approximates the proper orthography and pronunciation in their native language, “Uyƣur.” (The word sounds, when spoken, closer to “oy-gher” than “wee-ger,” as most Westerners enunciate it.)

In fact, the spelling “Uighur” suggests a different orthography in the Uyghur language itself.

“I use the ‘Uyghur’ spelling because it’s the most faithful to the way the word is written in the Uyghur script today,” said Gardner Bovingdon, a professor of Uyghur studies at Indiana University.

Different systems agree

The language is often written in the Latin alphabet, including online.  Although Uyghurs use different transliteration systems when writing in the Latin alphabet instead of the modified Arabic script, all the transliteration systems agree that the Latin “i” and “y” represent different Uyghur letters.

Indeed, the word represented in Uyghur by the “Ui” spelling places two vowels in one syllable, violating the Turkic language’s own linguistic rule of vowel harmony.

Two major exile groups, the Washington-based Uyghur American Association and Munich-based World Uyghur Congress, also use this English transliteration, “Uyghur.”

Chinese authorities have, moreover, officially adopted the same spelling, although other usages by official Chinese sources are common.  A circular from the Terminology Normalization Committee for Ethnic Languages of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, dated Oct. 11, 2006, states:

“At present, there is utter confusion on how to render and use in English the name of that nationality, with no fewer than seven different spellings attested: Uyghur, Uygur, Uighur, Uighuir, Uiguir, Uigur, and Weiwuer. This situation causes a number of problems in our work and daily lives.

“Therefore, the Terminology Normalization Committee for Ethnic Languages of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region based on research and consultations with relevant experts on this issue recommends that the spelling Uyghur, corresponding to the pronunciation [ujγur], be used as the English transcription of the word.”

“Government organizations and individuals are invited to conform to the present notice,” the circular says.

But China’s official news outlets often use “Uighur” or “Uygur” in their English reports.

“If Beijing is going to be ‘Beijing’ [e.g. instead of ‘Peking’] because that’s how the government in Beijing wants it to be known, then Uyghurs have the right to decide how to spell the name,” Bovingdon said.

“And the Uyghurs I know who are intellectuals and concerned with transcription spell it “Uyghur.”

Reported in Washington by Rachel Vandenbrink.

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I have said tha…

I have said that he did not understand the design of the vision; for, while he was hearing, from the mouth of Moses and Elijah, that the time of Christ’s death was at hand, he foolishly dreamed that his present aspect, which was temporary, would endure for ever. And what if the kingdom of Christ had been confined in this way to the narrow limits of twenty or thirty feet? Where would have been the redemption of the whole world? Where would have been the communication of eternal salvation? It was also highly absurd to conceive of Moses and Elijah as companions of the Son of God, as if it had not been proper that all should be reduced to a lower rank, that he alone may have the pre-eminence. And if Peter is satisfied with his present condition, why does he suppose that earthly supports were needed by those persons, the very sight of whom, he imagined, was enough to make him happy?

Calvin, J., & Pringle, W. (2010). Commentary on a Harmony of the Evangelists Matthew, Mark, and Luke (Mt 17:4). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

John Calvin on Peter’s response to the transfiguration.  The sad reality is that many of our desires, if fulfilled as we wish, would result in the Kingdom of God being limited to the “narrow limits of twenty or thirty feet.”  May God expand our vision and enlarge our capacity to embrace the cross.

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The Kyrgyz of Xinjiang

China is full of ancient and wonderful people groups each with their own unique history and culture, tucked away in the crooks and crannies of China’s vast geographical mashup. One of the most isolated of these people groups are the Kyrgyz people of Xinjiang.  There are about 145,000 Kyrgyz in China and the people group is about 4.5 million worldwide.  They are Sunni muslims who’s customs are of a distinct folk muslim variety.  They live in isolated mountain settlements that are often far from big cities and access to the Gospel.  This slideshow from NPR gives a unique look into the challenges this people group faces.

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The Chinese Church and the Global Body of Christ

The Chinese Church and the Global Body of Christ | Chinese Church Voices.

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Uzbek Christians in Kazkhstan

God is moving among believers of muslim backgrounds to reach other people’s for the Gospel.  Pray for Pastor Makset Djabbarbergenov who is facing deportation back to Uzbekistan.

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Third-Culture Kids

What is a Third-Culture kid?  A person growing up in a culture that is different from his parents culture.  The child is growing up in a culture that is not the same as his family culture, and not the same as the culture around him.  He is a third culture kid.  This is so important for understanding what missionary and immigrant children are going through.  I hope you’ll watch, comment and pass it along.  (Thanks to Tony Beckett for posting this on his facebook page).

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Seed fund for business as missions?

Grand Rapids has started a great vehicle for providing small businesses with start up funds.  How hard would it be to develop the same sort of idea for B.A.M. ideas?  Business is one of the only vehicles through which the gospel can enter some of the least reached countries in the world, but the vision gap, the knowledge gap, and the funding gap is huge.  What are some ways that ordinary Christians could see this changed?

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What Keeps the Chinese Up at Night

This New York Times Op-Ed piece astutely captures the real anxieties of the vast majority of Chinese people.  Through it all God is working.  Literally millions have come to Christ in the past 50 years.  Pray that God will continue to open doors among the Han Chinese and that new doors will be open to the millions of minority people groups within China.

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Iranian Pastor Freed

We’ve been praying for pastor Youcef Nadarkhani for some time now and God has been pleased to see him released from prison after being incarcerated for 3 years on trumped up charges.

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Not about missions, but great none the less. Written for singles, but applicable to so many other areas. Shout out to Divena Mortimeyer for pointing it out.

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