Glossary of Eastern Turki

When I was first learning Chaghatay in 2008, I found the lack of a Chaghatay-English dictionary somewhat frustrating. My Russian wasn’t good enough, and neither were my German or French, to use the existing resources, so my classmates and I used the old Redhouse Ottoman-English dictionary and made constant reference to Steingass’ Persian. It was very time-consuming. Fortunately, Modern Uyghur is very close to Chaghatay in nearly every way, much more so than Uzbek, so we never got lost on the basics of grammar, we only drowned in the sea of advanced vocab. Nevertheless, I vowed that someday I would teach Chaghatay, and that when I did, I would give my students something to help them through the early stages of the process.

Years later, a friend working in the Swedish Mission Society archives in Stockholm gave me a partial copy of Gustav Raquette’s 1912-1914 three-volume textbook for Eastern Turki. It was an honest-to-goodness textbook — in English! — for late-model Chaghatay as written and spoken around Kashgar ca. 1910, right in the middle of my research period. Somehow this had never come up before. Later, the third volume popped up — a scan of Raquette’s pre-publication draft of a glossary. This, I decided in my idle moments, had to be made useful to students. In about six weeks of free minutes here and there, I had typed it up.

Here is the Raquette Glossary 2015. I have taken Raquette’s obscure old system of narrow phonetic transcription and replaced it with the one-to-one transliteration system for Chaghatay/Eastern Turki that I favored in Mā Tīṭayniŋ wāqiʿasi. I’ve also noted where Raquette gives a definition I find strange or historically interesting and have supplemented the glossary where it seemed really necessary. Search it, use it, and if you have suggestions, email me.

In the long term, I want to add entries from Pavet de Courteille’s dictionary and other long-since-out-of-copyright sources, since it’s plain that the Raquette glossary isn’t complete enough for the purposes of an active researcher. Watch this space, too, for drafts of my introductory reader for Eastern Turki. Let’s make Central Asian history more accessible. Let’s produce tools to help students prepare themselves to work with these sources without having to learn several years of Russian and a modern language.


Here is the first post on the new website of Eric T. Schluessel, historian of China, Xinjiang, miscommunication, and confusion.

Why Tokhta?

I have spent most of the past few years immersed in the local archives of Xinjiang in the late Qing and the early Republic (1877-1933), both in Chinese and in Turki (pre-modern Uyghur). I have come to a conclusion: the majority of men at the time were named either Tokhta or Rozi.

Tokhta (or Tokhti) is written توخته or توختی in Turki, or some variation on 托乎大 in Chinese, while Rozi (or Roza) is روزی 肉則. The next most common name seems to be Baqi (باقی 八亥). Turki, or course, (or Turkic Muslims, or Uyghurs, if you prefer) did not have surnames at that time, so men in these documents are usually only identified by their given name. Tokhta is everywhere — and in my mind, Tokhta has come to represent the Turkic Muslim Everyman circa 1900.

This blog is for Tokhta, and so in part is the work I do. It’s also for Rahila, the beggar who died one night in front of a mosque in Yengisar, and for the unnamed “Woman,” raised by Turki, who went before the Turpan magistrate and said she wanted to be Chinese. It’s part of an engagement with the great silences in history and an attempt to write subaltern history in western China.

My dissertation, “The Muslim Emperor of China,” is the first thoroughgoing treatment of colonial-like processes in the region in the late Qing and early Republic. For a very long time, I refused to use the word “colonial,” given its overly broad definition and highly politicized connotation, but years of empirical research have pushed me to engage in the comparison. I still would not say, “Xinjiang was a colony,” because it’s not precisely true, and because typological statements are not sufficient conclusions, only aids to posing genuinely interesting questions. At the same time, postcolonial engagement both with the problems of historical research and with changes in Muslim historical and geographical consciousness during this period are fruitful both methodologically and analytically.

Over the next several months, I will document some of my progress here. This page will also serve as a portal for the resources that my research produces, incidentally or intentionally, and for teaching materials I’ve developed. It’s transparently a site for self-promotion, but if you’d like to keep up, please do.