The Old Tatar language (İske imlâ: يسكى تاتار تلى, translit. İske Tatar Tele, Volga Turki) was a literary language used by some ethnic groups of the Volga-Ural region (Tatars and others) from the Middle Ages till the 19th century.
Old Tatar is a member of the Kipchak (or Northwestern) group of Turkic languages, although it is partly derived from the ancient Bulgar language (the first poem, considered to be written by Qol Ghali in Old Tatar dates back to Volga Bulgaria's epoch). It included many Persian and Arabic loans.
In its written form the language was spelled uniformly among different ethnic groups, speaking different Turkic languages of the Kipchak group, but pronunciation differed from one people to another, approximating to the spoken language, making this written form universal for different languages. The main reason for this universal usage was that the principal differences between the languages of the Kipchak group are in the pronunciation of the vowels, which was not adequately represented by the Arabic script.
The language formerly used the Arabic script and later its variant İske imlâ. The Old Tatar Language is a language of Idel-Ural poetry and literature. With the Ottoman Turkish, Azeri, Kipchak, Uighur and Chagatai, they were the only Turkic literary languages used in the Middle Ages. It was actively used in publishing until 1905, when the first Tatar newspaper started being published in modern Tatar, which until then had been used only in a spoken form.
- «Кыпчакские языки Урало-Поволжья: опыт синхронической диахронической характеристики» Т. М. Гарипов. М.: Наука, 1979
- "Memorials – written monuments of Turkic languages". unesco.kz. Retrieved 16 March 2015.
- Outstanding examples of the Uighur Middle Age literature are Yusuf Balasaghuni Qutatqu Bilik (Wisdom Of Royal Glory) (1069–70) and Mahmut Kashgari Divan-i Lugat-it Türk (Dictionary of Turkic Dialects) (1072)