Salar is a Turkic language spoken by the Salar people, who mainly live in the provinces of Qinghai and Gansu in China; some also live in Ili, Xinjiang. The Salar number about 105,000 people, about 70,000 (2002) speak the Salar language; under 20,000 monolinguals.
The Salar arrived at their current location in the 14th century, having migrated there from the west, according to a Salar legend from Samarkand. Indeed, linguistic evidence points to a possible western Turkic, Oghuz origin of the Salar. Contemporary Salar is heavily influenced by contact with Amdo Tibetan and Chinese.
The Salar language is the official language in all Salar autonomous areas. Such autonomous areas are the Xunhua Salar Autonomous County and the Jishishan Bonan, Dongxiang and Salar Autonomous County.
Salar phonology has been influenced by Tibetan and Chinese. In addition, /k, q/ and /g, ɢ/ have become separate phonemes due to loanwords, as it has in other Turkic languages.
In Qinghai (Amdo), the Salar language has a heavy Chinese and Tibetan influence. Although of Turkic origin, major linguistic structures have been absorbed from Chinese. Around 20% of the vocabulary is of Chinese origin, and 10% is also of Tibetan origin. Yet the official Communist Chinese government policy deliberately covers up these influences in academic and linguistics studies, trying to emphasize the Turkic element and completely ignoring the Chinese in the Salar language. The Salar language has taken loans and influence from neighboring varieties of Chinese. It is neighboring variants of Chinese which have loaned words to the Salar language.
In Qinghai, many Salar men speak both the Qinghai dialect of Chinese and Salar. Rural Salars can speak Salar fluently while urban Salars often assimilate into the Chinese speaking Hui population.
The Qing deported some Salar who belonged to the Jahriyya Sufi order to the Ili valley which is in modern-day Xinjiang. Today, a community of about four thousand Salars speaking a distinct dialect of Salar still live in Ili. Salar migrants from Amdo (Qinghai) came to settle the region as religious exiles, migrants, and as soldiers enlisted in the Chinese army to fight rebels in Ili, often following the Hui. The distinctive dialect of the Ili Salar differs from the other Salar dialects because the neighboring Kazakh and Uyghur languages in Ili influenced it. The Ili Salar population numbers around 4,000 people. There have been instances of misunderstanding between speakers of Ili Salar and Qinghai Salar due to the divergence of the dialects. The differences between the two dialect result in a "clear isogloss".
In Ili Salar, the i and y high front vowels, when placed after an initial glides are spirantized with j transforming into ʝ. Qinghai and Ili Salar have mostly the same consonantal development.
Salar hasn't had an official script, but it has sometimes been written down using Arabic script There are calls to standardize the Arabic-based script for Salar. Some Salar call for a Latin script, and some Salar elders who dislike the Latin script desire an Arabic script. This lack of an official script has led the Salar to use the Chinese writing system. China offered the Salar an official writing system quite similar to the Uyghur Yengi Yezik, but it was rejected for similar reasons as Yengi Yezik was rejected in Xinjiang.
Young Salar have also started to use a Salar script based on the orthography for Turkic languages. It is quiet popular by Salars for writing Salar down on the internet. There are two main variants that are used, TB30 and TB31. Arabic script is also still popular among the Salar. The Arabic script has historical precedent among the Salar; centuries-old documents in the Salar language were written in the Arabic script when discovered.
Grigory Potanin used the Cyrillic alphabet to record a glossary of Salar, Western Yugur language, and Eastern Yugur language in his 1893 Russian language book The Tangut-Tibetan Borderlands of China and Central Mongolia with assistance from Vasily Radlov.
William Woodville Rockhill wrote a glossary of Salar in his 1894 book Diary of a Journey through Mongolia and Tibet in 1891 and 1892 using the Latin alphabet based on the Wade–Giles romanization system used for Chinese.
Aa Bb Cc Çç Dd Ee Ff Gg
Ğğ Hh İi Iı Kk Ll Mm Nn Ññ
Oo Öö Pp Qq Rr Ss Şş Tt
Uu Üü Yy Vv Zz
A romanization of the Mengda dialect of Salar based on pinyin has been developed, created by a Salar, Ma Quanlin, who lives in Xunhua. Like Pinyin, which is used to romanize Mandarin Chinese, this salar romanization is divided into categories of consonants and vowels. Letters that occur both in pinyin and romanization of Mengda Salar share the same sound values.
|b||[p]||spit||unaspirated p, as in spit|
|p||[pʰ]||pay||strongly aspirated p, as in pit|
|m||[m]||may||as in English mummy|
|f||[f]||fair||as in English fun|
|d||[t]||stop||unaspirated t, as in stop|
|t||[tʰ]||take||strongly aspirated t, as in top|
|n||[n]||nay||as in English nit|
|l||[l]||lay||as in English love|
|l||/ð/||those||as in English the|
|g||[k]||skill||unaspirated k, as in skill|
|g̲||/ɣ/||no equivalent in English||"thicker and deeper" version of g|
|k||[kʰ]||kay||strongly aspirated k, as in kill|
|h||[x]||loch||roughly like the Scots ch. English h as in hay or hot is an acceptable approximation.|
|j||[tɕ]||hatch||No equivalent in English. Like q, but unaspirated. Not the s in Asia, despite the common English pronunciation of "Beijing".|
|q||[tɕʰ]||cheek||No equivalent in English. Like cheek, with the lips spread wide with ee. Curl the tip of the tongue downwards to stick it at the back of the teeth and strongly aspirate.|
|x||[ɕ]||she||No equivalent in English. Like she, with the lips spread and the tip of your tongue curled downwards and stuck to the back of teeth when you say ee.|
|zh||[tʂ]||junk||Rather like ch (a sound between choke, joke, true, and drew, tongue tip curled more upwards). Voiced in a toneless syllable.|
|ch||[tʂʰ]||church||as in chin, but with the tongue curled upwards; very similar to nurture in American English, but strongly aspirated.|
|sh||[ʂ]||shirt||as in shoe, but with the tongue curled upwards; very similar to marsh in American English|
|r||[ʐ], [ɻ]||ray||Similar to the English z in azure and r in reduce, but with the tongue curled upwards, like a cross between English "r" and French "j". In Cyrillised Chinese the sound is rendered with the letter "ж".|
|z||[ts]||reads||unaspirated c, similar to something between suds and cats; as in suds in a toneless syllable|
|c||[tsʰ]||hats||like the English ts in cats, but strongly aspirated, very similar to the Czech and Polish c.|
|s||[s]||say||as in sun|
|y||[j], [ɥ]||yea||as in yes. Before a u, pronounce it with rounded lips.*|
|w||[w]||way||as in water.*|
|v||[v]||vitamin||as in very.|
|Pinyin||IPA||Form with zero initial||Explanation|
|a||[ɑ]||a||as in "father"|
|o||[ɔ]||(n/a)||Approximately as in "office" in British accent; the lips are much more rounded.|
|e||[ɯ̯ʌ], [ə]||e||a diphthong consisting first of a back, unrounded semivowel (which can be formed by first pronouncing "w" and then spreading the lips without changing the position of the tongue) followed by a vowel similar to English "duh". Many unstressed syllables in Chinese use the schwa [ə] (idea), and this is also written as e.|
|i||[i]||yi||like English bee.|
|u||[u]||wu||like English "oo"|
|ai||[aɪ̯]||ai||like English "eye", but a bit lighter|
|ei||[eɪ̯]||ei||as in "hey"|
|ui||[u̯eɪ̯]||wei||as u + ei;|
|ao||[ɑʊ̯]||ao||approximately as in "cow"; the a is much more audible than the o|
|iu||[i̯ɤʊ̯]||you||as i + ou|
|ie||[i̯ɛ]||ye||as i + ê; but is very short; e (pronounced like ê) is pronounced longer and carries the main stress (similar to the initial sound ye in yet)|
|an||[an]||an||as in "ban" in British English (a more open fronted a)|
|en||[ən]||en||as in "taken"|
|in||[in]||yin||as i + n|
|un||[yn]||yun||as ü + n;|
|ang||[ɑŋ]||ang||as in German Angst (starts with the vowel sound in father and ends in the velar nasal; like song in some dialects of American English)|
|eng||[əŋ]||eng||like e in en above but with ng added to it at the back|
|ing||[iŋ]||ying||as i + ng|
|ong||[ʊŋ], [u̯əŋ]||weng||starts with the vowel sound in book and ends with the velar nasal sound in sing; as u + eng in zero initial.|