Languages of Iraq

Languages of Iraq
Official languages (Standard) Arabic, Kurdish
Main languages Mesopotamian Arabic
Regional languages Syriac-Aramaic, Feyli Lurish,[1]
Minority languages Neo-Aramaic languages, Armenian, Turkish (Iraqi Turkmen/Turkoman dialects), Persian, Feyli Lurish
Main foreign languages English
Sign languages Iraqi Sign Language

There are a number of languages spoken in Iraq, but Mesopotamian Arabic (Iraqi Arabic) is by far the most widely spoken in the country.

Contemporary languages

The most widely spoken language in Iraq is the Arabic language (specifically Mesopotamian Arabic); the second most spoken language is Kurdish (mainly Sorani and Kurmanji dialects), followed by the Iraqi Turkmen/Turkoman dialect of Turkish, and the Neo-Aramaic languages (specifically Chaldean and Ashuri).[2][3][4]

Arabic is written using the Arabic script and Kurdish is written with a modified Perso-Arabic script (see Sorani alphabet). In 1997 the Iraqi Turkmen/Turkoman adopted the Turkish alphabet as the formal written language[5][6] and by 2005 the community leaders decided that the Turkish language would replace traditional Turkmeni (which had used the Arabic script) in Iraqi schools.[7] In addition, the Neo-Aramaic languages use the Syriac script.

Other smaller minority languages include Mandaic, Shabaki, Armenian, Feyli Lurish and Persian.

Official languages

Arabic and Kurdish are the official languages,[8] while the Turkmen/Turkoman dialect and Assyrian Neo-Aramaic are recognized regional languages.[9] In addition, any region or province may declare other languages official if a majority of the population approves in a general referendum.[10]


The language with the longest recorded period of use in Iraq is Aramaic, which has a written tradition dating back for 3200 years or more and survives today in its descendants, the Neo-Aramaic languages.

The earliest recorded languages of Iraq were Sumerian and Akkadian (including ancient Assyrian-Babylonian). Sumerian was displaced by Akkadian by 1700 BCE, and Akkadian was displaced by Aramaic gradually, from 1200 BCE to 100 CE. Sumerian and Akkadian (including all Assyrian and Babylonian dialects) were written in the cuneiform script from 3300 BCE onwards. The latest positively identified Akkadian text comes from the first century CE.[11]


  1. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-02-13. Retrieved 2013-02-13. Ethnologue]; David Dalby. 1999/2000. The Linguasphere Register of the World's Languages and Speech Communities (Observatoire Linguistique), p. 346
    Hendrik Boeschoten. 1998. "The Speakers of Turkic Languages," The Turkic Languages, ed. Lars Johanson and Éva Ágnes Csató, Routledge, pp. 1–15, see p. 5
  2. Jastrow, Otto O. (2006), "Iraq", in Versteegh, Kees; Eid, Mushira; Elgibali, Alaa; Woidich, Manfred; Zaborski, Andrzej, Encyclopedia of Arabic Language and Linguistics, 2, Brill Publishers, p. 414, ISBN 978-90-04-14474-3
  3. Constitution of Iraq Archived 2016-11-28 at the Wayback Machine..
  4. "Iraq, CIA World Factbook". CIA. 31 July 2012. Archived from the original on 13 May 2009. Retrieved August 8, 2012.
  5. Türkmeneli İşbirliği ve Kültür Vakfı. "Declaration of Principles of the (Iraqi?) Turkman Congress". Retrieved 2011-11-25.
  6. Nissman, David (5 March 1999), "The Iraqi Turkomans: Who They Are and What They Want", Iraq Report, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 2 (9)
  7. Shanks, Kelsey (2016), Education and Ethno-Politics: Defending Identity in Iraq, Routledge, p. 57, ISBN 1-317-52043-2
  8. Constitution of Iraq, Article 4 (1st)
  9. Constitution of Iraq, Article 4 (4th)
  10. Constitution of Iraq, Article 4 (5th)
  11. John Huehnergard and Christopher Woods, 2004 "Akkadian and Eblaite", The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the World's Ancient Languages ISBN 0521562562, p. 218.
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