|Azərbaycan dili, آذربایجان دیلی, Азәрбајҹан дили|
|Region||Azerbaijan (historic Azerbaijan), Caucasus|
|60 million (2018)|
Official language in
|Regulated by||Azerbaijan National Academy of Sciences|
Location of Azerbaijani speakers in Transcaucasia
regions where Azerbaijani is the language of the majority
regions where Azerbaijani is the language of a significant minority
|Part of a series on|
|Traditional areas of settlement|
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 Azerbaijanis live. It is also spoken to lesser varying degrees in Azerbaijani communities of Georgia and Turkey and by diaspora communities, primarily in Europe and North America.
Both North Azerbaijani and South Azerbaijani are members of the Oghuz branch of the Turkic languages. North Azerbaijani (spoken in the Republic of Azerbaijan and Russia) is based on the Shirvani dialect and South Azerbaijani (spoken in Iran) is based on the Tabrizi dialect, and is closely related to Turkish, Qashqai, Gagauz, Turkmen and Crimean Tatar, sharing varying degrees of mutual intelligibility with each of those languages.
Etymology and background
Historically the language was referred to locally as Türki meaning "Turkic" or Azərbaycan Türkcəsi meaning "Azerbaijani Turkish" and scholars such as Vladimir Minorsky used this definition in their works, distinguishing it from İstanbul Türkçesi ("Istanbul Turkish"), the official language of Turkey. Modern literature in the Republic of Azerbaijan is based on the Shirvani dialect mainly, while in Iranian Azerbaijan region (historic Azerbaijan) it is based on the Tabrizi one.
Prior to the establishment of the pan-Turkist 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. After the establishment of the Azerbaijan SSR, on the order of Soviet leader Stalin, the "formal language" of the Azerbaijan SSR was "changed from Turkish to Azeri".
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. Persian and Arabic 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 has exerted the strongest impact—mainly in phonology, syntax and vocabulary, less in morphology.
Turkic language of Azerbaijan gradually supplanted the Iranian languages in what is now northern 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, and was a spoken language in the court of the Safavids and Afsharids.
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 the 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 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 Azerbaijan Republic decided to switch back to the Latin script.
The first examples of Azerbaijani literature date to the late 1200s following the Mongol conquest and were written in Arabic script. In the 1300s Kadi Burhan al-Din, Hesenoghlu, and Imadaddin Nasimi helped to establish Azerbaiijani as a language through poetry and other literary 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 and Persian.
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 (Əkinçi / اکينچی ) ("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.
Mohammad-Hossein Shahriar is an important figure in Azerbaijani poetry. His most important work is Heydar Babaya Salam and it is considered to be a pinnacle of Azerbaijani literature and gained popularity in the Turkic-speaking world. It was translated into more than 30 languages.
In the mid-19th century Azerbaijani literature was taught at schools in Baku, Ganja, Shaki, Tbilisi, and Yerevan. Since 1845, it has also been taught in the Saint Petersburg State University in Russia. In 2018 Azerbaijani language and literature programs are offered in the United States at several universities, including: Indiana University, UCLA, 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 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 Iranian 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
Azerbaijani is one of the Oghuz languages within the Turkic language family. Azerbaijani is classified by Ethnologue as a "macrolanguage and North Azerbaijani (spoken mainly in the Republic of Azerbaijan and Russia) and South Azerbaijani (spoken in Iran, Iraq and Syria) are each classified as separate languages with "significant differences in phonology, lexicon, morphology, syntax, and loanwords." The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) encodes North Azerbaijani and South Azerbaijani as distinct languages. Both languages also have dialects, with 21 North Azerbaijani dialects and 11 South Azerbaijani dialects.
Although there is a very high degree of mutual intelligibility between both forms of Azerbaijani, there are also morphological and phonological differences. Four varieties have been accorded ISO 639-3 codes: North Azerbaijani, South Azerbaijani, Salchuq, and Qashqai. Glottolog, based on Johanson (2006) and Pakendorf (2007), classifies North Azerbaijani with Salchuq in one branch of the Oghuz languages and South Azerbaijani with Qashqai in another.
According to the Linguasphere Observatory, all Oghuz languages form part of a single "outer language" of which North and South Azerbaijani are "inner languages".
North Azerbaijani, 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.
Ethnologue lists 21 North Azerbaijani dialects: Quba, Derbend, Baku, Shamakhi, Salyan, Lenkaran, Qazakh, Airym, Borcala, Terekeme, Qyzylbash, Nukha, Zaqatala (Mugaly), Qabala, Yerevan, Nakhchivan, Ordubad, Ganja, Shusha (Karabakh), Karapapak.
South Azerbaijani is widely spoken in Iranian Azerbaijan (historic Azerbaijan) and, to a lesser extent, in neighboring regions of Iraq and Turkey, with smaller communities in Syria. In Iran, the Persian word for Azerbaijani Turkic is borrowed as Torki "Turkic". In Iran, it is spoken in East Azerbaijan and West Azerbaijan, Ardabil, Zanjan, and parts of Kurdistan, Hamadan, Markazi, Qazvin and Gilan. It is also widely spoken in Tehran and across Tehran Province, as Turks form by far the largest minority in the city and the wider province, comprising about 25% to 1/3, of its total population. The CIA World Factbook reports in 2010 the percentage of South Azerbaijani speakers at around 16 percent of the Iranian population, or approximately 13 million people worldwide, and ethnic Turks form by far the second largest ethnic group in Iran, thus making the language also the second most spoken language in the nation. Ethnologue reports 10.9 million South Azerbaijani in Iran in 2016 and 13,823,350 worldwide. The ethnic population of Azeris in Iran is higher than the total number of South Azerbaijani speakers because South Azerbaijani is not an official language, it is not spoken or taught in Iranian schools, it is frequently the topic of public ridicule (for example during the Iran newspaper cockroach cartoon controversy and the Azeri protests in Iran (2015)) and because many Azeris live in areas where Persian is the local language.
Dialects of South Azerbaijani include: Aynallu (Inallu, Inanlu), Qarapapaq, Tabrizi, Qashqai, Afshari (Afsar, Afshar), Shahsavani (Shahseven), Muqaddam, Baharlu (Kamesh), Nafar, Qaragözlü, Pishaqchi, Bayatlu, Qajar.
Azerbaijani vs. Turkish
Historically, Azerbaijani and Turkish speakers have been able to communicate with relative ease. One example of this is when Reza Shah Pahlavi of Iran (who spoke Azerbaijani) met with Mustafa Kemal Atatürk of Turkey (who spoke Turkish) in 1934.
Speakers of Turkish and Azerbaijani can communicate with each other but both languages have substantial variation and mutual intelligibility is enhanced when Azerbaijani speakers have been exposed to Turkish television (e.g. Turkish soap operas) or when Turkish speakers have been exposed to Azerbaijani pop music. Most Azerbaijanis, however, are exposed to Turkish television, and, therefore, they tend to be better able to understand Turkish than vice versa. There are also numerous Turkish schools in the Republic of Azerbaijan that give students more exposure to Turkish than the average Turkish-speaker has to Azerbaijani.
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. Maximal syllable in Azerbaijani is (C)(C)V(C)(C) and syllabification follows maximal coda rule, dividing syllables as C.CV or V.CV. Here are some words with a different pronunciation in Azeri and Turkish that mean the same in both languages:
- /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;
- 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 [t͡ʃœˈɾæç] – "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 /œv/ as [œy], e.g. /ɡovurˈmɑ/ → [ɡoʊrˈmɑ], /sevˈdɑ/ → [sœyˈdɑ], /dœvˈrɑn/ → [dœyˈrɑn], as well as with surnames ending in -ov or -ev (borrowed from Russian).
- In colloquial speech, /x/ is usually pronounced as [χ]
The vowels of the Azerbaijani are, in alphabetical order, a /ɑ/, e /e/, ə /æ/, ı /ɯ/, i /i/, o /o/, ö /œ/, u /u/, ü /y/. There are no diphthongs in standard Azerbaijani when two vowels come together; when that occurs in some Arabic loanwords, each vowel retains its individual sound.
The typical phonetic quality of Azeri 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. Phonologically, however, they are more distinct: /œ/ is phonologically a mid front rounded vowel, the front counterpart of /o/ or the rounded counterpart of /e/. /ɯ/ is phonologically a close back unrounded vowel, the back counterpart of /i/ or 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 Persian version of the 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 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.
Azerbaijani Turkic also uses a, e, i, o and u with the macron:
- ā for /ɑː/
- ē for /eː/
- ī for /iː/
- ō for /oː/
- ū for /uː/
In the case of length distinction, these letters are used for Arabic and Persian borrowings from the Islamic period, most of which have been eliminated from the language. Native Turkic words have no vowel length distinction, and for them the macron is used solely to indicate palatalization.
Azerbaijani Turkish, when written in the Latin or Cyrillic script, transcribes any foreign names into Azerbaijani spelling, e.g. Bush becomes Buş and Schröder becomes Şröder. No epenthetic vowels are written for syllabic forms nonconforming to Azerbaijani in this process. Hyphenation across lines directly corresponds to spoken syllables as in other Turkic languages. Punctuation and capitalisation is based on French orthography.
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-vos 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 Romance languages, personal pronouns can be omitted, and they are only added for emphasis. Azerbaijani has a phonetic writing system, so pronunciation is easy: most words are pronounced exactly as they are spelled in the modern Azerbaijani alphabet.
|Category||English||Azerbaijani (in Latin script)|
|Basic expressions||yes||hə /hæ/|
|goodbye||sağ ol /ˈsɑɣ ol/|
|sağ olun /ˈsɑɣ olun/ (formal)|
|good morning||sabahınız xeyır /sɑbɑhɯ(nɯ)z xejiɾ/|
|good afternoon||günortanız xeyır /ɟynoɾt(ɯn)ɯz xejiɾ/|
|good evening||axşamın xeyır /ɑxʃɑmɯn xejiɾ/|
|axşamınız xeyır /ɑxʃɑmɯ(nɯ)z xejiɾ/|
|brown||qəhvəyi / qonur|
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.
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North Azerbaijani at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
South Azerbaijani at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
Salchuq at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
Qashqai at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
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Until 1918, when the Musavat regime decided to name the newly independent state Azerbaijan, this designation had been used exclusively to identify the Iranian province of Azerbaijan.
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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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Through the 1990’s and early 2000’s 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.
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- 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
|Azerbaijani edition of Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia|
|South Azerbaijani edition of Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia|
|Wikivoyage has a phrasebook for Azerbaijani.|
|Azerbaijani language test of Wikinews at Wikimedia Incubator|
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Azerbaijani language.|
- A blog on Azerbaijani language resources and translations
- (in Russian) A blog about the Azerbaijani language and lessons
- azeri.org, Azerbaijani literature and English translations.
- Online bidirectional Azerbaijani-English Dictionary
- Learn Azerbaijani at learn101.org.
- Pre-Islamic roots
- Azerbaijan-Turkish language in Iran by Ahmad Kasravi.
- including sound file.
- Azerbaijani<>Turkish dictionary (Pamukkale University)
- Azerbaijan Language with Audio
- Azerbaijani thematic vocabulary
- AzConvert, an open source Azerbaijani transliteration program.
- Azerbaijani Alphabet and Language in Transition, the entire issue of Azerbaijan International, Spring 2000 (8.1) at azer.com.