"Azeri language" redirects here. For the extinct Iranian language, see Old Azeri
, ɑː-, ə-/
), also referred to as Azeri Turkish
is a Turkic language
spoken primarily by the Azerbaijani people
, who live mainly in the Republic of Azerbaijan
where the North Azerbaijani variety
is spoken, and in the Azerbaijan
region of Iran
, where the South Azerbaijani variety is spoken.
Although there is a very high degree of mutual intelligibility between both forms of Azerbaijani, there are significant differences in phonology
and sources of loanwords
North Azerbaijani has official status in the Republic of Azerbaijan
(a federal subject of Russia
) but South Azerbaijani does not have official status in Iran
, where the majority of Azerbaijani people live. It is also spoken to lesser varying degrees in Azerbaijani communities of Georgia
and by diaspora communities, primarily in Europe and North America.
Etymology and background
History and evolution
Garden of Pleasures by Fuzûlî
in Azerbaijani from 16th century.
Azerbaijani evolved from the Eastern branch of Oghuz Turkic
which spread to the Caucasus, in Eastern Europe
and northern Iran, in Western Asia
, during the medieval Turkic migrations
influenced the language, but Arabic words were mainly transmitted through the intermediary of literary Persian.
Azerbaijani is, perhaps after Uzbek
, the Turkic language upon which Persian and other Iranian languages
have exerted the strongest impact—mainly in phonology, syntax, and vocabulary, less in morphology.
The historical development of Azerbaijani can be divided into two major periods: early (c. 16th to 18th century) and modern (18th century to present). Early Azerbaijani differs from its descendant in that it contained a much larger number of Persian and Arabic loanwords, phrases and syntactic elements. Early writings in Azerbaijani also demonstrate linguistic interchangeability between Oghuz and Kypchak elements in many aspects (such as pronouns, case endings, participles, etc.). As Azerbaijani gradually moved from being merely a language of epic
and lyric poetry
to being also a language of journalism
and scientific research
, its literary version has become more or less unified and simplified with the loss of many archaic Turkic elements, stilted Iranisms and Ottomanisms, and other words, expressions, and rules that failed to gain popularity among the Azerbaijani masses.
Between c. 1900 and 1930, there were several competing approaches to the unification of the national language in what is now the Azerbaijan Republic, popularized by scholars such as Hasan bey Zardabi
and Mammad agha Shahtakhtinski
. Despite major differences, they all aimed primarily at making it easy for semi-literate masses to read and understand literature. They all criticized the overuse of Persian, Arabic, and European elements in both colloquial and literary language and called for a simpler and more popular style.
The Russian conquest
in the 19th century split the language community across two states; the Soviet Union
promoted the development of the language but set it back considerably with two successive script changes
– from the Persian
and then to the Cyrillic script
– while Iranian Azerbaijanis continued to use the Persian script as they always had. Despite the wide use of Azerbaijani in the Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic
, it became the official language of Azerbaijan only in 1956.
After independence, the Republic of Azerbaijan decided to switch back to a modified Latin script.
The development of Azerbaijani literature is closely associated with Anatolian Turkish, written in Perso-Arabic script
. Examples of its detachment date to the 14th century or earlier. Kadi Burhan al-Din
, Hesenoghlu, and Imadaddin Nasimi
helped to establish Azerbaiijani as a literary language in the 14th century through poetry
and other works.
The ruler and poet Ismail I
wrote under the pen name Khatā'ī
(which means "sinner" in Persian
) during the fifteenth century.
During the 16th century, the poet, writer and thinker Fuzûlî
wrote mainly in Azerbaijani but also translated his poems into Arabic
Starting in the 1830s, several newspapers were published in Iran during the reign of the Azerbaijani speaking Qajar dynasty
but it is unknown whether any of these newspapers were written in Azerbaijani. In 1875 Akinchi
) ("The Ploughman") became the first Azerbaijani newspaper to be published in the Russian Empire
. It was started by Hasan bey Zardabi
, a journalist
and education advocate.
Following the rule of the Qajar dynasty, Iran was ruled by Reza Shah
who banned the publication of texts in Azerbaijani.
Modern literature in the Republic of Azerbaijan is based on the Shirvani dialect mainly, while in Iranian Azerbaijan it is based on the Tabrizi dialect.
In the mid-19th century, Azerbaijani literature was taught at schools in Baku
, and Yerevan
. Since 1845, it has also been taught in the Saint Petersburg State University
. In 2018, Azerbaijani language and literature programs are offered in the United States at several universities, including Indiana University
, and University of Texas at Austin
The vast majority, if not all Azerbaijani language courses teach North Azerbaijani written in the Latin script and not South Azerbaijani written in the Perso-Arabic script.
Modern literature in the Republic of Azerbaijan is primarily based on the Shirvani
dialect, while in the Iranian Azerbaijan region (historic Azerbaijan) it is based on the Tabrizi
Azerbaijani-language road sign.
Azerbaijani served as a lingua franca
throughout most parts of Transcaucasia
except the Black Sea
coast, in southern Dagestan
the Eastern Anatolia Region
and all over Iran 
from the 16th to the early 20th centuries,
alongside cultural, administrative, court literature, and most importantly official language (along with Azerbaijani) of all these regions, namely Persian
From the early 16th century up to the course of the 19th century, these regions and territories were all ruled by the Safavids
until the cession of Transcaucasia proper and Dagestan
by Qajar Iran to the Russian Empire
per the 1813 Treaty of Gulistan
and the 1828 Treaty of Turkmenchay
. Per the 1829 Caucasus School Statute, Azerbaijani was to be taught in all district schools of Ganja
, Nukha (present-day Shaki
, and Lankaran
. Beginning in 1834, it was introduced as a language of study in Kutaisi
instead of Armenian. In 1853, Azerbaijani became a compulsory language for students of all backgrounds in all of Transcaucasia with the exception of the Tiflis Governorate
North vs. South Azerbaijani
Azerbaijani is one of the Oghuz languages
within the Turkic language family
classifies North Azerbaijani (spoken mainly in the Republic of Azerbaijan and Russia) and South Azerbaijani (spoken in Iran, Iraq, and Syria) as separate languages with "significant differences in phonology, lexicon, morphology, syntax, and loanwords."
wrote in his 2001 book Small Nations and Great Powers
that "it is certain that Russian and Iranian words (sic), respectively, have entered the vocabulary on either side of the Araxes river, but this has not occurred to an extent that it could pose difficulties for communication".
There are numerous dialects, with 21 North Azerbaijani dialects and 11 South Azerbaijani dialects identified by Ethnologue.
Four varieties have been accorded ISO 639-3
language codes: North Azerbaijani, South Azerbaijani, Salchuq
, and Qashqai
. The Glottolog
4.1 database classifies North Azerbaijani, with 20 dialects, and South Azerbaijani, with 13 dialects, under the Modern Azeric family, a branch of Central Oghuz.
In the northern dialects of the Azerbaijani language, linguists find traces of the influence of the Khazar language
Knowledge of either of the two major Western Oghuz languages, Turkish or Azerbaijani in Europe
or Northern Azerbaijani, is the official language
of the Republic of Azerbaijan
. It is closely related to the modern-day Istanbul Turkish, the official language of Turkey. It is also spoken in southern Dagestan
, along the Caspian coast
in the southern Caucasus Mountains
and in scattered regions throughout Central Asia
. As of 2011, there are some 9.23 million speakers of North Azerbaijani including 4 million monolingual
speakers (many North Azerbaijani speakers also speak Russian, as is common throughout former USSR countries).
The Shirvan dialect as spoken in Baku
is the basis of standard Azerbaijani. Since 1992, it has been officially written with a Latin script in the Republic of Azerbaijan, but the older Cyrillic script was still widely used in the late 1990s.
lists 21 North Azerbaijani dialects: Quba, Derbend, Baku, Shamakhi, Salyan, Lankaran, Qazakh, Airym, Borcala, Terekeme, Qyzylbash, Nukha, Zaqatala (Mugaly), Qabala, Yerevan, Nakhchivan, Ordubad, Ganja, Shusha (Karabakh), Karapapak.
is widely spoken in Iranian Azerbaijan
and, to a lesser extent, in neighboring regions of Turkey
, with smaller communities in Syria
. In Iran
, the Persian
word for Azerbaijani is borrowed as Torki
In Iran, it is spoken mainly in East Azerbaijan
, West Azerbaijan
. It is also widely spoken in Tehran
and across Tehran Province
, as Azerbaijanis form by far the largest minority in the city and the wider province,
comprising about 1/6,
of its total population. The CIA World Factbook reports in 2010 the percentage of Iranian Azerbaijani speakers at around 16 percent of the Iranian population, or approximately 13 million people worldwide,
and ethnic Azeris form by far the second largest ethnic group of Iran, thus making the language also the second most spoken language in the nation.
Ethnologue reports 10.9 million Iranian Azerbaijani in Iran in 2016 and 13,823,350 worldwide.
Dialects of South Azerbaijani include: Aynallu (Inallu, Inanlu), Qarapapaq, Tabrizi, Qashqai, Afshari (Afsar, Afshar), Shahsavani (Shahseven), Muqaddam, Baharlu (Kamesh), Nafar, Qaragözlü, Pishaqchi (Bıçaqçı), Bayatlu, Qajar, Marandli.
Comparison with other Turkic languages
Azerbaijani vs. Turkish
Speakers of Turkish and Azerbaijani can, to an extent, communicate with each other as both languages have substantial variation and are to a degree mutually intelligible, though it is easier for a speaker of Azerbaijani to understand Turkish than the other way around.
In a 2011 study, 30 Turkish participants were tested to determine how well they understood written and spoken Azerbaijani. It was found that even though Turkish and Azerbaijani are typologically similar languages, on the part of Turkish speakers the intelligibility is not as high as is estimated.
In a 2017 study, Iranian Azerbaijanis
scored in average 56% of receptive intelligibility in spoken language of Turkish.
Azerbaijani exhibits a similar stress pattern to Turkish but simpler in some respects. Azerbaijani is a strongly stressed and partially stress-timed language, unlike Turkish which is weakly stressed and syllable-timed.
Here are some words with a different pronunciation in Azerbaijani and Turkish that mean the same in both languages:
Azerbaijani vs. Turkmen
The 1st person personal pronoun is “mən” in Azerbaijani just as “men” in Turkmen, whereas it is “ben ” in Turkish. The same is true for demonstrative pronouns “bu”, where sound “b” is replaced with sound “m”. For example: “bunun>munun//mının, muna//mına, munu//munı, munda//mında, mundan//mından”.
This is observed in the Turkmen literary language as well, where the demonstrative pronoun
“bu” undergoes some changes just as in: “munuñ, munı, muña, munda, mundan, munça”.
B>m replacement is encountered in many dialects of the Turkmen language and may be observed in such words as: “boyun>moyın” in Yomut - Gunbatar dialect, “büdüremek>müdüremek” in Ersari
and Stavropol Turkmens’ dialects, “bol>mol” in Karakalpak
Turkmens’ dialects, “buzav>mizov” in Kirac dialects.
Here are some words with a different pronunciation in Azerbaijani and Turkmen that mean the same in both languages:
is similar to that of other Oghuz Turkic languages, except:
- Trimoraic syllables with long vowels are permissible.
- There is an ongoing metathesis of neighboring consonants in a word. Speakers tend to reorder consonants in the order of decreasing sonority and back-to-front (for example, iləri becomes irəli, köprü becomes körpü, topraq becomes torpaq). Some of the metatheses are so common in the educated speech that they are reflected in orthography (all the above examples are like that). This phenomenon is more common in rural dialects but observed even in educated young urban speakers.
- Intramorpheme /q/ becomes /x/.
of Standard Azerbaijani
- as in Turkish, in native words the velar consonant /ɡ/ is palatalized to [ɟ] when adjacent to the front vowels, but unlike Turkish, Azerbaijani at different periods has been written using Arabic, Roman and Cyrillic letters and in each case the two allophones of /ɡ/ had their own letter. ق, q, г for [ɡ] and گ, g, ҝ for [ɟ].
- The sound [k] is used only in loanwords; the historical unpalatalized [k] became voiced to [ɡ].
- /t͡ʃ/ and /d͡ʒ/ are realised as [t͡s] and [d͡z] respectively in the areas around Tabriz and to the west, south and southwest of Tabriz (including Kirkuk in Iraq); in the Nakhchivan and Ayrum dialects, in Cəbrayil and some Caspian coastal dialects;.
- Sounds /t͡s/ and /d͡z/ may also be recognized as separate phonemic sounds in the Tabrizi and southern dialects.
- In most dialects of Azerbaijani, /c/ is realized as [ç] when it is found in the syllabic coda or is preceded by a voiceless consonant (as in çörək [t͡ʃøˈɾæç] – "bread"; səksən [sæçˈsæn] – "eighty").
- /w/ exists in the Kirkuk dialect as an allophone of /v/ in Arabic loanwords.
- In the Baku subdialect, /ov/ may be realised as [oʊ], and /ev/ and /øv/ as [øy], e.g. /ɡovurˈmɑ/ → [ɡoʊrˈmɑ], /sevˈdɑ/ → [søyˈdɑ], /døvˈrɑn/ → [døyˈrɑn], as well as with surnames ending in -ov or -ev (borrowed from Russian).
- In colloquial speech, /x/ is usually pronounced as [χ]
- Dz dz—[d͡z]
- Ć ć—[t͡s]
- Ŋ ŋ—[ŋ]
- Q̇ q̇—[ɢ]
- Ð ð—[ð]
- W w—[w/ɥ]
- [d͡z]—dzan [d͡zɑn̪]
- [t͡s]—ćay [t͡sɑj]
- [ŋ]—ataŋın [ʔɑt̪ɑŋən̪]
- [ɢ]—q̇ar [ɢɑɾ]
- [ð]—əðəli [ʔæðæl̪ɪ]
- [w]—dowşan [d̪ɔːwʃɑn̪]
- [ɥ]—töwlə [t̪œːɥl̪æ]
The vowels of the Azerbaijani are, in alphabetical order, a
/y/. There are no diphthongs in standard Azerbaijani when two vowels come together; when that occurs in some Arabic loanwords, diphthong is removed by either syllable separation at V.V boundary or fixing the pair as VC/CV pair, depending on the word.
Vowels of Standard Azerbaijani
This section needs expansion
with: complete vowel allophonies. You can help by adding to it
. (December 2018)
The typical phonetic quality of South Azerbaijani vowels is as follows:
- /i, u, æ/ are close to cardinal [i, u, a].
- The F1 and F2 formant frequencies overlap for /œ/ and /ɯ/. Their acoustic quality is more or less close-mid central [ɵ, ɘ]. The main role in the distinction of two vowels is played by the different F3 frequencies in audition and rounding in articulation. Phonologically, however, they are more distinct: /œ/ is phonologically a mid front rounded vowel, the front counterpart of /o/ and the rounded counterpart of /e/. /ɯ/ is phonologically a close back unrounded vowel, the back counterpart of /i/ and the unrounded counterpart of /u/.
- The other mid vowels /e, o/ are closer to close-mid [e, o] than open-mid [ɛ, ɔ].
- /ɑ/ is phonetically near-open back [ɑ̝].
Before 1929, Azerbaijani was written only in the Perso-Arabic alphabet
. In 1929–1938 a Latin alphabet was in use for North Azerbaijani (although it was different from the one used now), from 1938 to 1991 the Cyrillic script
was used, and in 1991 the current Latin alphabet was introduced, although the transition to it has been rather slow.
For instance, until an Aliyev
decree on the matter in 2001,
newspapers would routinely write headlines in the Latin script, leaving the stories in Cyrillic;
the transition also resulted in some misrendering of İ
In Iran, Azerbaijani is still written in the Persian alphabet, and in Dagestan, in Cyrillic script.
The Perso-Arabic Azerbaijani alphabet is an abjad
; that is, it does not represent vowels. Also, some consonants can be represented by more than one letter. The Azerbaijani Latin alphabet is based on the Turkish Latin alphabet, which in turn was based on former Azerbaijani Latin alphabet because of their linguistic connections and mutual intelligibility. The letters Әə
, and Qq
are available only in Azerbaijani for sounds which do not exist as separate phonemes in Turkish.
Northern Azerbaijani, unlike Turkish, respells foreign names to conform with Latin Azerbaijani spelling, e.g. Bush
is spelled Buş
. Hyphenation across lines directly corresponds to spoken syllables, except for geminated consonants which are hyphenated as two separate consonants as morphonology considers them two separate consonants back to back but enunciated in the onset of the latter syllable as a single long consonant, as in other Turkic languages
Some samples include:
- Of ("Ugh!")
- Tez Ol ("Be quick!")
- Tez olun qızlar mədrəsəyə ("Be quick girls, to school!", a slogan for an education campaign in Azerbaijan)
- Aman ("Mercy")
- Çox şükür ("Much thanks")
- Allah Allah (pronounced as Allahallah) ("Goodness gracious")
- Hay Allah; Vallah "By God [I swear it]".
- Çox şükür allahım ("Much thanks my god")
Formal and informal
Azerbaijani has informal and formal ways of saying things. This is because there is a strong tu-vous distinction
in Turkic languages like Azerbaijani and Turkish (as well as in many other languages). The informal "you" is used when talking to close friends, relatives, animals or children. The formal "you" is used when talking to someone who is older than you or someone for whom you would like to show respect (a professor, for example).
As in many Turkic languages, personal pronouns can be omitted, and they are only added for emphasis. Since 1992 North Azerbaijani has used a phonetic writing system, so pronunciation is easy: most words are pronounced exactly as they are spelled.
For numbers 11–19, the numbers literally mean "10 one, 10 two" and so on.
Greater numbers are constructed by combining in tens and thousands larger to smaller in the same way, without using a conjunction in between.
- The written language of the Iraqi Turkmen is based on Istanbul Turkish using the modern Turkish alphabet.
- Professor Christiane Bulut has argued that publications from Azerbaijan often use expressions such as "Azerbaijani (dialects) of Iraq" or "South Azerbaijani" to describe Iraqi Turkmen dialects "with political implications"; however, in Turcological literature, closely related dialects in Turkey and Iraq are generally referred to as "eastern Anatolian" or "Iraq-Turkic/-Turkman" dialects, respectively.
- ^ /iɾmi/ is also found in standard speech.
- ^ Bulut, Christiane (2018b), "The Turkic varieties of Iran", in Haig, Geoffrey; Khan, Geoffrey (eds.), The Languages and Linguistics of Western Asia: An Areal Perspective, Walter de Gruyter, p. 398, ISBN 978-3110421682
- ^ Azerbaijani at Ethnologue (21st ed., 2018)
North Azerbaijani at Ethnologue (21st ed., 2018)
South Azerbaijani at Ethnologue (21st ed., 2018)
Salchuq at Ethnologue (21st ed., 2018)
Qashqai at Ethnologue (21st ed., 2018)
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- ^ Sinor, Denis (1969). Inner Asia. History-Civilization-Languages. A syllabus. Bloomington. pp. 71–96. ISBN 0-87750-081-9.
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- ^ Rezvani, Babak (2014). Ethno-territorial conflict and coexistence in the caucasus, Central Asia and Fereydan: academisch proefschrift. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press. p. 356. ISBN 978-9048519286. The region to the north of the river Araxes was not called Azerbaijan prior to 1918, unlike the region in northwestern Iran that has been called since so long ago.
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- ^ "Greetings to Heydar Baba". umich.edu. Retrieved 8 September 2010.
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- ^ Yelda, Rami (2012). A Persian Odyssey: Iran Revisited. AuthorHouse. ISBN 978-1-4772-0291-3., p. 33
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- ^ "Swadesh list, compare the Azerbaijani language and the Turkmen language". Lingiustics.
- ^ Kök, Ali (1 December 2016). "Modern Oğuz Türkçesi Diyalektlerinde Göçüşme". 21. Yüzyılda Eğitim Ve Toplum Eğitim Bilimleri Ve Sosyal Araştırmalar Dergisi (in Turkish). 5 (15): 406–430. ISSN 2147-0928.
- ^ Heselwood, Barry (2013). Phonetic Transcription in Theory and Practice. EDINGBURGH University Press. p. 8. ISBN 9780748691012.
- ^ Persian Studies in North America by Mohammad Ali Jazayeri
- ^ Shiraliyev, Mammadagha. The Baku Dialect. Azerbaijan SSR Academy of Sciences Publ.: Baku, 1957; p. 41
- ^ Householder and Lotfi. Basic Course in Azerbaijani. 1965.
- ^ Shiralyeva (1971)
- ^ Dooley, Ian (6 October 2017). "New Nation, New Alphabet: Azerbaijani Children's Books in the 1990s". Cotsen Children's Library (in English and Azerbaijani). Princeton University WordPress Service. Retrieved 13 December 2017. Through the 1990s and early 2000s Cyrillic script was still in use for newspapers, shops, and restaurants. Only in 2001 did then president Heydar Aliyev declare "a mandatory shift from the Cyrillic to the Latin alphabet" ... The transition has progressed slowly.
- ^ Peuch, Jean-Christophe (1 August 2001). "Azerbaijan: Cyrillic Alphabet Replaced By Latin One". Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty. Retrieved 13 December 2017.
- ^ Monakhov, Yola (31 July 2001). "Azerbaijan Changes Its Alphabet". Getty Images. Retrieved 13 December 2017.
- ^ Dilənçi, Piruz (translator); Khomeini, Ruhollah (15 March 1997). "Ayətulla Homeynì: "... Məscìd ìlə mədrəsədən zar oldum"". Müxalifət (in Azerbaijani and Persian). Baku. Retrieved 13 December 2017.
- ^ Yahya, Harun. "Global Impact of the Works of Harun Yahya V2". Secret Beyond Matter. Retrieved 23 April 2020.
- ^ Excluded from the alphabet in 1938
- Mokari, Payam Ghaffarvand; Werner, Stefan (2016), Dziubalska-Kolaczyk, Katarzyna (ed.), "An acoustic description of spectral and temporal characteristics of Azerbaijani vowels", Poznań Studies in Contemporary Linguistics, 52 (3), doi:10.1515/psicl-2016-0019, S2CID 151826061
- Mokari, Payam Ghaffarvand; Werner, Stefan (2017), Azerbaijani, 47, pp. 207–212
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