Uyghurstan or Uyghuristan?

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Many countries in Central Asia are named with words that end in -stan, which is a Persian term (ـستان [-stān]) meaning "land" or "place of", thence "country"; it is synonymous and cognate with the Sanskrit word sthāna स्थान (from Indo-Iranian *stanam "place," literally "where one stands," from PIE *sta-no-, suffixed form of root *sta- "to stand, make or be firm." Source).   Consequently, we refer to these countries as "the stans":

Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan

Note, however, that five of these names have an -i- before the -stan, while two — Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan — lack the -i-.

Since the Uyghurs may one day have a country of their own with a name ending in -stan, I wondered whether there is a rule governing whether it should be "Uyghurstan" or "Uyghuristan".

Jamal Elias remarks:

The Persian suffix "istān" means "country," "large province" etc. Thus Afghanistan is "Land of the Afghans" and Tajikistan "Land of the Tajiks". The same applies to Kurdistan, Baluchistan, Gurjistan (Georgia), Magyaristan (Hungary), Bulgaristan, Yunanistan (Greece) and so on. The reason Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan plus a few others don't have the "i" is probably because of the phonetic representation of the suffix's pronunciation in those Turkic languages. I suspect it's tougher to say those names with the "i" in agglutinative languages that have vowel harmony. Those countries' names have the "i" in Persianate and Indo-Persian pronunciations.

If the Uyghurs got a "-stan," Iranians, Afghans and Pakistanis would almost certainly call it Uyghuristan and probably the Kazakhs and Kyrgyz would call it Uyghurstan. I don't know what the Uyghurs would do themselves, although I suspect the would follow the usage of their Turkic relatives.

In addition to the "-istan" names listed by Jamal, Fondukistan, Waziristan, and many others come to mind. Indeed, here is a list of more than fifty names derived from -stān, and — with three exceptions where the first part of the name ends in a vowel — all of the Romanized transcriptions of their names end in –estân (not –istân).

Erika Gilson makes the interesting observation that people names, such as Uzbeki, Tajiki, Turkmeni, and Azeri all end in -i, but she has not heard *Kazakhi, *Kyrgyzi, and *Uyguri.

Marcel Erdal reports the view of one Uyghur acquaintance who says it should be Uyghurstan "because the suffix is stan and not istan"; but he notes that she's lived in Kazakh(i)stan and Kirghiz(i)stan for many years.  He further observes that, for the Turks (in Turkey) it's also -istan, like the Iranians, etc.

Pardis Minuchehr ties up a lot of loose ends with the following observations (from a Persian point of view):

A place for the Uyghurs, would be called Uyghuristan. The connection requires an /e/ sound, which is transliterated as/i/ sometimes.
All of the stans you named are preceded by an /e/ sound, mainly because we can't have a cluster of three consonants together in Persian.

Pakistan, however, is a different made up word, and the etymology does not refer to a place but is rather an acronym.

Back to your question, if there is an 'i' there preceding the 'stan' it is a matter of transliteration. Phonetically, they will all have the /e/ sound between the /st/ cluster and the preceding vowel. And since this sound here doesn't have another grammatical significance, I believe it is merely phonetics.

My two cents.

So how do things stand now?

Uyghurstan 32,300 ghits

Uyghuristan 37,900 ghits

Uyghurestan 1,280 ghits

And how should we refer to this region for the present?  I suppose it all depends on your ethnic and political orientation.  Here's what I wrote on this subject three years ago:

Xinjiang  新疆 (lit., "New Frontiers / Borders / Boundaries") is the northwesternmost and largest (one sixth of the whole country) among all of China's 34 provincial-level administrative units.  It got its present official name in the 1880s under the Manchus during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1912), but it has also been called, among other names, "Western Regions", Eastern Turkestan, and Uyghurstan.  When suitable, I prefer to refer to this region as Eastern Central Asia (ECA), since the latter designation is purely geographical in nature and has no political implications.

From "A confusion of languages and names" (7/8/16).

My ECA works well for archeological purposes and when I'm writing about ancient history, but in modern times it's hard to avoid making a political statement when one designates the region of the Tarim and Dzungarian basins, together with their environs.

Reading

Wikipedia has a long article on "-stan", with extensive treatment of its etymology and cognates, lists of countries, regions, cities, and counties incorporating this suffix, as well as lengthy lists of fictional and fanciful names ending in -stan, e.g.:

Absurdistan – sometimes used to satirically describe a country where everything goes wrong

Bradistan – a moniker for Bradford, England, owing to its large population of Pakistani worker migrants

Iranistan – a pseudo-orientalist mansion built for P. T. Barnum in 1848 in Connecticut

Jewistan – a pejorative name proposed by Francis Boyle to replace the name of the state of Israel

New Yorkistan – the title of the cover art for the December 10, 2001 edition of The New Yorker magazine

The New Yorkistan map itself included various districts ending in -stan, e.g., Bronxistan, Cold Turkeystan, Fuhgeddabouditstan, Gaymenistan, Taxistan, Youdontunderstandistan, etc.

Yooperstan – a satirical name for regions of Michigan speaking Upper Peninsula English



30 Comments

  1. Robert Coren said,

    June 25, 2019 @ 9:42 am

    I could be mistaken, but I was under the impression that when people say "the Stans", they don't usually intend to include Afghanistan and Pakistan, which have been around under those names for most of the lives of most people, but rather just the five countries that were relatively recently part of the Soviet Union.

  2. Brian Spooner said,

    June 25, 2019 @ 9:47 am

    The suffix is -stan, not -istan or -estan. The i is not there, either etymologically or in writing (short vowels are not normally written anyway). It is simply the connective (I forget the technical term for it) that emerges in pronunciation (differently in different dialects) between the place/people name and the suffix, e.g. ns needs a connective vowel for most people, zs doesn't.

  3. Victor Mair said,

    June 25, 2019 @ 10:20 am

    From Peter Golden:

    Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/East_Turkestan), for what it's worth, notes: Uyghūristān (Uyghur: اویغورستان‎). The Turkish translation of Nedžip's Uyghur Dictionary : Emir Necipovič Necip, Yeni Uygur Türkçesi Sözlüğü, Çev. İklil Kurban (Ankara: Türk Dil Kurumu, 2008, the Russian original is not available to me) does not have the word. Uyghūristān is used in the BBC Persian service (http://www.bbc.com/persian/world/2015/04/150417_l16_dream_of_uighuristan). One of the last works to mention the region before the name was revived in the early 20th century, is the Ta'rīkh-i Rašīdī of Muḥammad Ḥaydar Duġlātī (d. 1551) notes the vilāyat-i Uyġūr, citing Juwaynī and comments that "nothing is known now about the vilāyat-i Uyġūr. It is not even known where this place was." This important work still lacks a critical edition of the text. My citation is from the Russian translation based on the Tashkent copy (Институт востоковедения АН РУз инв. № 1430, dated to the 17th century): Ms. 235a, cf. Russian edition: Мухамед Хайдар Дуглати, Тарих-и Рашиди, отв. ред. А. Урунбаев 2-е изд. дополненное, Алматы: Санат, 1999): 422.

    In Modern Turkish one finds Kazakistan and Kırgızistan. Cf.Turkish Vikipedi, which notes them (https://tr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kazakistan, https://tr.wikipedia.org/wiki/K%C4%B1rg%C4%B1zistan), but in Kazakh and Kyrgyz they are Qazaqstan (Қазақстан) and Qïrgïzstan (Кыргызстан) respectively.

  4. JJM said,

    June 25, 2019 @ 10:41 am

    "Since the Uyghurs may one day have a country of their own…"

    Not gonna happen.

    Unless the People's Republic of China collapses cataclysmically of course.

  5. Victor Mair said,

    June 25, 2019 @ 11:18 am

    From Stefan Georg:

    The suffix is originally, in Persian, -ista:n, and so used in most Turkic languages – Older Modern Persian (Shahname) has often -sita:n, and the etymology shows that the /i/-element, whether metathesized or not, is not old: Middle Persian -stan, Avesta -sta:na- etc.. Kipchak languages use, however (most of the time – a complete survey could be useful) the shorter form -stan: Kyrgyzstan, Qazaqstan, Tatarstan etc. In Kyrgyz, Uzbekistan is called /Özbekstan/, Turkmenistan is /Törkmenstan/, even Afghanistan has its own name there: /Ooganstan/ (in Kazakh, it is /Awghanstan/, even Tatar follows the rule with /Äfganstan/). For „Modern Uyghur", Nadzhip's dictionary doesn't know a name like /Uyghuristan/ or a similar name, it may, though, have been avoided in Soviet times for political reasons, I don't know). The „Wikipedia" entry gives, indeed, the form with /i/, but only in Latin script, whereas the Arabic script doesn't have it (note that „Modern Uyghur" orthography does write vowels), so I suspect that it is the invention of a WP contributor. If it existed in „Uyghur", it should have the /i/, however, this not being a Kypchak language.

    That said, I find this form of the suffix in *most* Kipchak languages I have been able to look into in a few minutes, it may or may not be the case that this is a Kypchak development (though it looks like one). If it is, my explanation would not be a kind of syncope or some such process, but an older loan from older (Middle) Persian into Kypchak – also in favour of this could speak the fact that early Iranian (MP, Parth) loans in Armenian also have the i-less -stan. So:

    Indo-Aryan: *stha:n(a)- (Vedic stha:na-)
    Avestan sta:na-
    Middle Persian -sta:n (Armenian and Kypchak loans from here, resp. in this period)
    Early New Persian: -sita:n (as in Shahname) due to anaptyxis, -ista:n emerging
    Modern Persian -ista:n (with metathesis from the earlier NP form) —> loans into other Turkic languages and other languages from here

    So, if a term is needed, for whatever purpose, which combines the neologistic name „Uyghur" with the Persian suffix for countries, it should have the form /Uyghuristan/.

  6. John Rohsenow said,

    June 25, 2019 @ 11:36 am

    "…but it has also been called, among other names, "Western Regions", Eastern Turkestan, and Uyghurstan…"
    I have also heard it referred to as "Chinese Turkestan".

    btw: I had a professor who constantly reminded us that "Afghani'" refers to the money; the people are Afghans."
    (leaving quilts and hounds, aside, of course ;-)

  7. David Marjanović said,

    June 25, 2019 @ 11:36 am

    The Vedic root came about by analogical merger of the e-grade *stah₂- and the zero-grade *sth₂-; the cluster *th₂ is what produces /tʰ/ in Sanskrit. Etymonline is 70 years out of date on this as usual.

  8. Sergey said,

    June 25, 2019 @ 11:43 am

    In Russian the ending "-i" means multiple, so "Kazakhi" and "Kyrgyzi" are the words to denote multiple persons of these peoples. This might have affected the spelling of the names used in the USSR, to make them easy for the Russian pronounciation.

    AFAIK, Kyrgyzstan is a relatively new word that appeared after the break-up of USSR. It had probably existed in the Kyrgyz language but not in Russian and probably not in the European languages. The official international name of Kyrgyzstan then used to be Kyrgyzia or Kirgizia (I would guess, because Kyrgyzstan is difficult to pronounce without the "i" in the middle). It would be interesting to check, how was Kyrgyzstan called in the neighboring languages, like Uzbek and Tajik, before the end of USSR, since they'd probably call it in their historic way then (after the end of USSR everyone pretty much synchronized to the official spelling requested by Kyrgyzstan).

    Kazakhstan, on the other hand was called so even in the Soviet times. Its sound "kh" is easy to pronounce in Russian (and probably in Kazakh too), and well replaces the "i".

    So the question for Uighur(i)stan would be, what are the rules of the Uighur language? And if there multiple schools of thoughts, then what would be the school favored by the independent government? Everyone else would probably end up following that spelling.

  9. Philip Taylor said,

    June 25, 2019 @ 11:56 am

    This is political rather than linguistic, but to me "not [going to] happen" is far too complaisant an attitude. Just because one nation does not wish another nation to have a country of its own is no reason for the rest of us to simply accept that it will never happen.

  10. Andreas Johansson said,

    June 25, 2019 @ 12:13 pm

    While Stefan Georg's explanation seems neat, it 's a tad surprising, geographically speaking, that Kypchak would have borrowed it before, and independently of, the Oghuz and Karluk branches of Turkic.

  11. Victor Mair said,

    June 25, 2019 @ 12:24 pm

    From the "The American Heritage Dictionary [5th ed.] Indo-European Roots Appendix"

    stā-

    To stand; with derivatives meaning "place or thing that is standing." Oldest form *steh2‑, colored to *stah2‑, contracted to *stā‑.

  12. Athel Cornish-Bowden said,

    June 25, 2019 @ 12:29 pm

    Several European countries have Turkish names ending in -istan: Hirvatistan, Sirbistan, Bulgaristan, Yunanistan. At least in Turkish (I don't know about Persian) the i can be explained by the fact that Turkish doesn't like syllables beginning with st any more than Spanish does.

  13. Clément said,

    June 25, 2019 @ 12:32 pm

    Note that in French, the term is Kirghizistan (with the i).

  14. Y said,

    June 25, 2019 @ 1:15 pm

    The Armenian self-designation for Armenia is Hayastan. Why the -a- between Hay(k) 'Armenian' and the -stan?

  15. cameron said,

    June 25, 2019 @ 1:24 pm

    Note that in Persian England is referred to as Inglistan. Unfortunately they didn't follow through and coin analogous translations for Scotland and Ireland.

    With regard to the spelling "Kazakhstan" that we seem to have inherited in English via the Russian transliteration of the original Turkic name, it's interesting that the Russians transliterated the initial consonant as k and the next occurrence of the same consonant as х. In Kazakh, both those consonants are қ, which is pronounced q. In Persian it's written as قزاقستان

  16. cameron said,

    June 25, 2019 @ 1:28 pm

    @Athel Cornish-Bowden : Persian can't abide syllable-initial consonant clusters at all. So yeah, the -istan is required by the phonology of the language

  17. Ben said,

    June 25, 2019 @ 1:44 pm

    As long as Uyghur is not pronounced "weegur", I don't really care about *-stan* or *-istan*.

  18. Michael Watts said,

    June 25, 2019 @ 1:48 pm

    The reason Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan plus a few others don't have the "i" is probably because of the phonetic representation of the suffix's pronunciation in those Turkic languages. I suspect it's tougher to say those names with the "i" in agglutinative languages that have vowel harmony.

    Wouldn't this predict "Kyrgyzstyn" rather than Kyrgyzstan?

    Erika Gilson makes the interesting observation that people names, such as Uzbeki, Tajiki, Turkmeni, and Azeri all end in -i, but she has not heard *Kazakhi, *Kyrgyzi, and *Uyguri.

    The observation seems valid, but those are people adjectives, not people names. For the people, I would very strongly expect Uzbek / Tajik / Turkmen. And I feel like I'd expect Uzbek for the adjective form too.

  19. BZ said,

    June 25, 2019 @ 2:37 pm

    @cameron,
    The version "Kazakh" was selected by the Soviet government in 1936. Before that the official name was "Kazak". The official reason given was to make the spelling closer to the local pronunciation, though why only the second "k" was replaced is not addressed. However, the name change may have also been done to differentiate Kazakhs with Cossacks (Kazak in Russian). That doesn't explain keeping the first "k" either.

  20. cameron said,

    June 25, 2019 @ 3:37 pm

    @BZ – If you look closely at the Cyrillic letters I quoted, you'll note that the name in Kazakh for the country and language doesn't have a k, it's a қ. I guess this sound doesn't occur in Russian, and the Russians decided to replace it with k in the first syllable, and with x in the second syllable. Presumably that's the most congenial transliteration per Russian phonology.

  21. Martha said,

    June 25, 2019 @ 9:07 pm

    I imagine there will be some sort of "official" English spelling, but as far as pronunciation is concerned (which could result in the insertion of a vowel where there is no i in the spelling)…

    As an English speaker who may very well be pronouncing some of these names incorrectly, as I've never heard some of them out loud, my feeling is that primary stress is two syllables prior to the "stan." I have no idea how to pronounce "Uyghur" without looking it up, but I want to stress the "uy," which results in my preferring Uyghurstan.

  22. Victor Mair said,

    June 25, 2019 @ 10:01 pm

    "…I feel like I'd expect…." (last line of this comment)

    What is meant by this (circum)locution?

  23. R. Fenwick said,

    June 26, 2019 @ 12:08 am

    @Michael Watts:
    Wouldn't this predict "Kyrgyzstyn" rather than Kyrgyzstan?

    Turkic vowel harmony operates on the front/back and unround/round axes, and within the close vowels also on both together, but not on the axis of vowel height. The alternation *a~y is not possible.

  24. Vanya said,

    June 26, 2019 @ 4:24 am

    ust because one nation does not wish another nation to have a country of its own is no reason for the rest of us to simply accept that it will never happen.

    Unless the world community is willing to fight the PRC on behalf of Uyghurs for Uyghur self-determination within the next decade, which seems very unlikely, I would say the odds of an independent Uyghur nation ever emerging are on par with the odds of an independent Lakota, Iroquois or Navajo nation emerging.

  25. Philip Taylor said,

    June 26, 2019 @ 4:35 am

    "I would say the odds of an independent Uyghur nation ever emerging are on par with the odds of an independent Lakota, Iroquois or Navajo nation emerging" — and those odds are not improved by a near-universal tacit acceptance of the status quo. They might be significantly improved if sufficient of us (where by "us" I mean citizens of the world) spoke out in favour of the creation (or liberation, in the case of Tibet) of such nations.

  26. R. Fenwick said,

    June 26, 2019 @ 4:42 am

    @Y:
    The Armenian self-designation for Armenia is Hayastan. Why the -a- between Hay(k) 'Armenian' and the -stan?

    The –a– is an indigenous Armenian grammatical element that separates the two elements of a compound noun or adjective: mayrapet "abbess, Mother Superior" (← mayr "mother", pet "chief, commander"); otnakap "fetter" (← otn "foot" + kap "bond, tie"); getaji "hippopotamus" (← get "river" + ji "horse", a calque of the Greek); erkaynabazuk "long-armed" (← erkayn "long" + bazuk "arm"); and so forth.

  27. David Marjanović said,

    June 26, 2019 @ 6:15 pm

    From the "The American Heritage Dictionary [5th ed.] Indo-European Roots Appendix"

    stā-

    To stand; with derivatives meaning "place or thing that is standing." Oldest form *steh2‑, colored to *stah2‑, contracted to *stā‑.

    That's not 70 years out of date, but still some 40 or 50. :-) The "contraction" did not happen within PIE, but separately in several branches, which is why different branches sometimes have somewhat different outcomes.

    On the other hand, the "coloring" had definitely already happened in PIE – if it ever "happened", as an event, as opposed to being an automatic allophonic phenomenon as old as the rest of the vowel system.

    it's interesting that the Russians transliterated the initial consonant as k and the next occurrence of the same consonant as х. In Kazakh, both those consonants are қ, which is pronounced q.

    Syllable-final /q/ is actually pronounced [χ] in Kazakh. This is not spelled out in the Kazakh orthography, because it's completely predictable; but it maps to two separate Russian phonemes (/k x/), so it's spelled out in Russian.

  28. Chris Button said,

    June 27, 2019 @ 3:58 pm

    @ David Marjanović

    That's not 70 years out of date, but still some 40 or 50.

    The AHD of IE roots pertains to reflexes in English only.

    Syllable-final /q/ is actually pronounced [χ] in Kazakh. This is not spelled out in the Kazakh orthography, because it's completely predictable

    A quick look at an analysis of Kazakh phonology shows that to be not quite correct. It is a feature of syllables coming together in connected speech, hence the situation here.

  29. Michael Watts said,

    June 27, 2019 @ 5:33 pm

    "…I feel like I'd expect…."

    What is meant by this (circum)locution?

    It contrasts with the sentence immediately prior, "I would very strongly expect…", expressing much lower confidence than that sentence does.

  30. Rodger C said,

    June 30, 2019 @ 9:14 am

    which is why different branches sometimes have somewhat different outcomes

    Is that why Latin stare has, very exceptionally a short a?

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