"Azeri language" redirects here.
For the extinct Iranian language, see Old Azeri.
|Region||Iranian Azerbaijan, Transcaucasus|
|Native speakers||45-50 million|
|Standard forms||Shirvani (In Republic of Azerbaijan)
Tabrizi (In Iranian Azerbaijan)
|Official language in||Azerbaijan
|ISO 639-3||– inclusive code|
North Azerbaijani South Azerbaijani
|Linguasphere||part of 44-AAB-a|
Azerbaijani (/ˌæzərbaɪˈdʒɑːni/) or Azeri (/æˈzɛəri, ɑː-, ə-/), also referred to as Azerbaijani Turkic or Azerbaijani Turkish, is a Turkic language spoken primarily by the Azerbaijani people, who live mainly in the Republic of Azerbaijan (former Soviet) where the North Azerbaijani variety is spoken, and in the Azerbaijan region of Iran, where the South Azerbaijani variety is spoken.
North Azerbaijani has official status in the Republic of Azerbaijan and Dagestan (a federal subject of Russia) but South Azerbaijani does not have official status in Iran, where the majority of Azerbaijani people live.
Both Azerbaijani varieties are members of the Oghuz branch of the Turkic languages.
The standardized form of North Azerbaijani (spoken in the Republic of Azerbaijan and Russia) is based on the Shirvani dialect, while Iranian Azerbaijani uses the Tabrizi dialect as its prestige variety.
Etymology and background
Historically the language was referred by its native speakers as Türki meaning "Turkic" or Azərbaycan türkcəsi meaning "Azerbaijani Turkic".
Prior to the establishment of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic, who adopted the name of "Azerbaijan" for political reasons in 1918, the name of "Azerbaijan" was exclusively used to identify the adjacent region of contemporary northwestern Iran.
History and evolution
Azerbaijani evolved from the Eastern branch of Oghuz Turkic ("Western Turkic") which spread to the Caucasus, in Eastern Europe, and northern Iran, in Western Asia, during the medieval Turkic migrations.
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 Turkic language of Azerbaijan gradually supplanted the Iranian languages in what is now northwestern Iran, and a variety of languages of the Caucasus and Iranian languages spoken in the Caucasus, particularly Udi and Old Azeri.
By the beginning of the 16th century, it had become the dominant language of the region.
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 of Transcaucasia 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 to Latin 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.
Main article: Azerbaijani literature
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.
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.
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.
Mohammad-Hossein Shahriar is an important figure in Azerbaijani poetry.
It was translated into more than 30 languages.
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.
Azerbaijani served as a lingua franca throughout most parts of Transcaucasia except the Black Sea coast, in southern Dagestan, the Eastern Anatolia Region and Iranian Azerbaijan from the 16th to the early 20th centuries, alongside the cultural, administrative, court literature, and most importantly official language 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, Afsharids and Qajars 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, Shusha, Nukha (present-day Shaki), Shamakhi, Quba, Baku, Derbent, Yerevan, Nakhchivan, Akhaltsikhe, 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
Ethnologue 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."
Svante Cornell 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.
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.
According to the Linguasphere Observatory, all Oghuz languages form part of a single "outer language" of which North and South Azerbaijani are "inner languages".
It is closely related to the modern-day Istanbul Turkish, the official language of Turkey.
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.
Ethnologue 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.
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, Bayatlu, Qajar, Marandli.
Azerbaijani vs. Turkish
Azerbaijan and Turkey have had close diplomatic relations.
North and South Azerbaijani speakers and Turkish speakers can communicate with varying degrees of mutual intelligibility.
Turkish soap operas are very popular with Azeris in both Iran and Azerbaijan.
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.
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:
|North Azerbaijani/South Azerbaijani||Turkish||English|
Azerbaijani phonotactics is similar to 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/.
- 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 /ɑ/, e /e/, ə /æ/, ı /ɯ/, i /i/, o /o/, ö /ø/, u /u/, ü /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.
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.
Main article: Azerbaijani alphabet
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 as Ì.
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, Xx, and Qq are available only in Azerbaijani for sounds which do not exist as separate phonemes in Turkish.
(1929-1938 version; no longer in use; replaced by 1991 version)
(Azerbaijan since 1991)
(1958 version, still official in Dagestan)
(Iran; Azerbaijan until 1929)
|A a||А а||آ / ـا||/ɑ/|
|B в||B b||Б б||ﺏ||/b/|
|Ç ç||C c||Ҹ ҹ||ﺝ||/dʒ/|
|C c||Ç ç||Ч ч||چ||/tʃ/|
|D d||Д д||ﺩ||/d/|
|E e||Е е||ئ||/e/|
|Ə ə||Ә ә||ا / َ / ە||/æ/|
|F f||Ф ф||ﻑ||/f/|
|G g||Ҝ ҝ||گ||/ɟ/|
|Ƣ ƣ||Ğ ğ||Ғ ғ||ﻍ||/ɣ/|
|H h||Һ һ||ﺡ / ﻩ||/h/|
|X x||Х х||خ||/x/|
|Ь ь||I ı||Ы ы||یٛ||/ɯ/|
|I i||İ i||И и||ی||/i/|
|Ƶ ƶ||J j||Ж ж||ژ||/ʒ/|
|K k||К к||ک||/c/, /k/|
|Q q||Г г||ﻕ||/ɡ/|
|L l||Л л||ﻝ||/l/|
|M m||М м||ﻡ||/m/|
|N n||Н н||ﻥ||/n/|
|Ꞑ ꞑ||Ng ng||Нҝ нҝ||ݣ / نگ||/ŋ/|
|O o||О о||وْ||/o/|
|Ө ө||Ö ö||Ө ө||ؤ||/ø/|
|P p||П п||پ||/p/|
|R r||Р р||ﺭ||/r/|
|S s||С с||ﺙ / ﺱ / ﺹ||/s/|
|Ş ş||Ш ш||ﺵ||/ʃ/|
|T t||Т т||ﺕ / ﻁ||/t/|
|U u||У у||ۇ||/u/|
|Y y||Ü ü||Ү ү||ۆ||/y/|
|V v||В в||ﻭ||/v/|
|J j||Y y||Ј ј||ی||/j/|
|Z z||З з||ﺫ / ﺯ / ﺽ / ﻅ||/z/|
Northern Azerbaijani, unlike Turkish, respells foreign names to conform with Latin Azerbaijani spelling, e.g. is spelled Buş and Schröder becomes Şröder.
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
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.
Credits to the contents of this page go to the authors of the corresponding Wikipedia page: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Azerbaijani language.