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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a medieval Middle Asian and Turkic literary language that reached its highest level of development and standardization as a classical language in the second half of the 15th century and in the 16th century in the Timurid principalities (the former Jagatai, or Chagatai, Khanate).

Turcologists have not been able to agree on a definition or chronology for Chagatai. According to P. M. Melioranskii, Chagatai existed from the 13th to 18th centuries. A. N. Samoilovich has divided the development of the Middle Asian and Turkic literary language into three periods, with the first beginning in the 11th century; he used the term “Chagatai” to refer to the third period, from the 15th to the early 20th century. Samoilovich’s theory is widely accepted and, with minor refinements, has won the support of foreign Turcologists.

From the 1930’s to the 1960’s A. K. Borovkov, A. M. Shcherbak, and Uzbek linguists referred to Chagatai as Old Uzbek, which encompasses earlier texts in Turkic script (seeUZBEK). The term “Chagatai” emphasizes the supradialectal nature of the literary language, which had taken on the linguistic traditions of an earlier language. As S. E. Malov showed, works in Chagatai were widely read by Turkic-speaking peoples inhabiting the region that extends from the Bosporus to the Altai and India; this dissemination was facilitated by the use of an Arabic script, which allowed for variations in vowel sounds.

In the 15th and 16th centuries there existed clearly distinguished prose and poetic variants of Chagatai, which in the work of A. Navoi and Baber completed the transition to a literary language. The basic morphological system of Chagatai, including such distinguishing features as declension, was finally reconciled with the Turkic urban koine of Andizhan of the 15th and early 16th centuries. The observable features of the underlying morphological system may be classified as Old Uzbek elements. The poetic variant of Chagatai, which retained the traditional mixture of forms of varied origin, had fewer such elements. Many scholars continue to posit a chronological boundary between Chagatai and Old Uzbek and, in attempting to establish a chronology for the language rely on historical and cultural factors.


Melioranskii, P. M. “Turetskie narechiia i literatura.” In Brockhaus, F. A., and I. A. Efron. Entsiklopedicheskii slovar’, vol. 34. St. Petersburg, 1902.
Samoilovich, A. N. “K istorii literaturnogo sredneaziatsko-turetskogo iazyka.” In the collection Mir-Ali-Shir. Leningrad, 1928.
Malov, S. E. “Mir Alisher Navoi v istorii tiurkskikh literatur i iazykov Srednei i Tsentral’noi Azii.” Izv. AN SSSR: Otd. literatury i iazyka, 1947, vol. 6, issue 6.
Kononov, A. N. Rodoslovnaia turkmen. Moscow-Leningrad, 1958.
Shcherbak, A. M. Grammatika starouzbekskogo iazyka. Moscow-Leningrad, 1962.
Borovkov, A. K. Leksika sredneaziatskogo tefsira XII–XIII vv. Moscow, 1963.
Fazylov, E. I. Starouzbekskii iazyk, vols. 1–2. Tashkent, 1966–71.
Nadzhip, E. N. “O srednevekovykh literaturnykh traditsiiakh i smeshannykh pis’mennykh tiurkskikh iazykakh.” Sovetskaia tiurkologiia, 1970, no. 1.
Blagova, G. F. “Tiurkskoe chaghatay—russkoe chagatai-dzhagatai.” Tiurkologicheskii sbornik, 1971. Moscow, 1972.
Äbdurähmanav, Gh., and Sh. Shukurov. Ozbek tilining tärikhiy grämmätikäsi. Tashkent, 1973.
Brockelmann, C. Osttürkische Grammatik der islamischen Litteratursprachen Mittelasiens. Leiden, 1954.
Eckmann, J. Chagatay Manual. Bloomington, Ind., 1966.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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