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  • Azərbaycan dili / Azərbaycanca / Azəri dili / Azəricə
  • تورکجه / آذربایجان تورکجه‌سی / تورک دیلی / تورکی
Pronunciation [ɑzærbɑjdʒɑn dili]
Native to
Ethnicity Azerbaijani
Native speakers
23 million  (2007)[2]
  • Oghuz
    • Western Oghuz
      • Azerbaijani
Official status
Official language in
Regulated by Azerbaijan National Academy of Sciences
Language codes
ISO 639-1 az
ISO 639-2 aze
ISO 639-3 azeinclusive code
Individual codes:
azj – North Azerbaijani
azb – South Azerbaijani
slq – Salchuq
qxq – Qashqai
Linguasphere part of 44-AAB-a
Glottolog None
azer1255 (North Azeri–Salchuq)[3]
sout2696 (South Oghuz)[4]
Location of Azerbaijani speakers in the Caucasus.
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters.

Azerbaijani or Azeri Turkish (Azərbaycanca, Azərbaycan dili) is a language belonging to the Turkic language family, spoken in southwestern Asia by the Azerbaijani people, primarily in the Republic of Azerbaijan (nine million speakers),[5] in Iran (12[6] to 15.5[7] million speakers) and in the Republic of Georgia, Russia, Turkey and in other countries with a presence of Azerbaijani speakers (six million speakers).[8] Azerbaijani is a member of the Oghuz branch of the Turkic languages and is closely related to Turkish, Qashqai, Turkmen and Crimean Tatar. Turkish and Azerbaijani closely resemble each other, and the native speaker of one language is able to understand the other, though it is easier for a speaker of Azerbaijani to understand Turkish than the other way around.[9][not in citation given]

History and evolution[edit]

Today′s Azerbaijani languages evolved from the Eastern Oghuz branch of Western (Oghuz) Turkic[10] which spread to Southwestern Asia during medieval Turkic migrations, and has been heavily influenced by Persian.[11] Arabic also influenced the language, but Arabic words were mainly transmitted through the intermediary of literary Persian.[12]

Garden of Pleasures by Fuzûlî in Azerbaijani. Early 19th century. There is Shaki khan's seal on it. Museum of History of Azerbaijan

Azerbaijani gradually supplanted the Iranian languages in what is now northern Iran, and a variety of Caucasian languages in the Caucasus, particularly Udi. 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 Safavid Empire.

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 Azerbaijani-speaking masses.

Between c. 1900 and 1930, there were several competing approaches to the unification of the national language in Azerbaijan popularized by the literati, 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, Ottoman Turkish, and European (mainly Russian) elements in both colloquial and literary language and called for a more simple and popular style.

The Russian conquest of the South Caucasus in the 19th century split the speech community across two states; the Soviet Union promoted development of the language, but set it back considerably with two successive script changes[13] - from Perso-Arabic script to Latin and then to Cyrillic - while Iranian Azerbaijanis continued to use the Perso-Arabic script as they always had. Despite the wide use of Azerbaijani in Azerbaijan during the Soviet era, it became the official language of Azerbaijan only in 1956.[14] After independence, Azerbaijan decided to switch to the Latin script.


Classical literature in Azerbaijani was formed in the fifteenth century[15] based on the various Early Middle Ages dialects of Tabriz and Shirvan (these dialects were used by classical Azerbaijani writers Nasimi, Fuzuli, and Khatai). Modern literature in Azerbaijan is based on the Shirvani dialect mainly, while in Iran it is based on the Tabrizi one. The first newspaper in Azerbaijani, Əkinçi was published in 1875.

In mid-19th century it was taught in the schools of Baku, Ganja, Shaki, Tbilisi, and Yerevan. Since 1845, it has also been taught in the University of St. Petersburg in Russia.

Lingua franca[edit]

Azerbaijani served as a lingua franca throughout most parts of Transcaucasia (except the Black Sea coast), in Southern Dagestan,[16][17][18] Turkish Armenia, and Iranian Azerbaijan from the 16th century to the early 20th century.[19][20] Per the 1829 Caucasus School Statute, Azerbaijani was to be taught in all district schools of Ganja, Shusha, Nukha (present-day Shaki), Shamakhy, Guba, Baku, Derbent, Erivan, 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 the South Caucasus with the exception of the Tiflis Governorate.[21]

Varieties and dialects[edit]

Azerbaijani, also known as “Azeri”,[22][23] is divided into two varieties: Northern Azerbaijani[24] and Southern Azerbaijani,[25] and a large number of dialects. Turkic Khalaj,[26] Qashqa'i,[27] and Salchuq[28] are considered by some[22] to be separate languages in the Azerbaijani language group.

Iranian Azerbaijanis use the Perso-Arabic script.[29] The writer of this Marsia was Taghi Qumri, 1819-1891[30]
In the period of Azerbaijan People's Government they published the local people's school publications in Azeri written with Perso-Arabic script

Despite their relatively large number, dialects of Azerbaijani do not differ substantially. Speakers of various dialects normally do not have problems understanding each other. However, minor problems may occur between Azerbaijani-speakers from the Caucasus and Iran, as some of the words used by the latter that are of Persian or Arabic origin may be unknown to the former. For example, the word firqə ("political party") used by Iranian Azerbaijanis may not be understood in Azerbaijan, where the word partiya is used to describe the same object. Such phenomenon is explained by the fact that both words have been in wide use since after the split of the two speech communities in 1828.

The following list reflects only one of several perspectives on the dialectology of Azerbaijani. Some dialects may be varieties of others.

  • Ardabil dialect (Ardabil and western Gilan, Iran)
  • Ayrum dialect (northwestern Azerbaijan; northeastern Armenia)
  • Baku dialect (eastern Azerbaijan)
  • Borchali dialect (southern Georgia; northern Armenia)
  • Derbent dialect (southern Russia)
  • Gabala (Gutgashen) dialect (northern Azerbaijan)
  • Ganja dialect (western Azerbaijan)
  • Gazakh dialect (northwestern Azerbaijan)
  • Guba dialect (northeastern Azerbaijan)
  • Hamadan dialect (Hamadan, Iran)
  • Karabakh dialect (central Azerbaijan)
  • Karadagh dialect (East Azerbaijan and West Azerbaijan, Iran)
  • Kars dialect (eastern Turkey and northwestern Armenia)
  • Lankaran dialect (southeast Azerbaijan)
  • Maragheh dialect (East Azerbaijan, Iran)
  • Mughan (Salyan) dialect (central Azerbaijan)
  • Nakhichevan dialect (southwestern Azerbaijan)
  • Ordubad dialect (southwestern Azerbaijan; southern Armenia)
  • qazvin dialect (qazvin, Iran)
  • Shaki (Nukha) dialect (northern Azerbaijan)
  • Shirvan (Shamakhy) dialect (eastern Azerbaijan)
  • Tabriz dialect (East Azerbaijan, Iran)
  • Yerevan dialect (central Armenia)
  • Zagatala-Gakh dialect (northern Azerbaijan)
  • Zanjan dialect (Zanjan, Iran)


Azerbaijani is sometimes classified as two languages, North and South Azerbaijani. While there is a fair degree of mutual intelligibility between them, there are also morphological and phonological differences.

North Azerbaijani[edit]

North Azerbaijani,[31] or North Azeri, is the official language of Azerbaijan. It is also spoken in southern Dagestan, along the Caspian coast in the southern Caucasus Mountains, and scattered through Central Asia. There are some eight million native speakers, and about as many L2 speakers.

The Shirvan dialect is the basis of Standard Azerbaijani. Since 1992 it has been officially written with a Roman script in Azerbaijan, but the older Cyrillic script was still widely used in the late 1990s.[32]

South Azerbaijani[edit]

South Azerbaijani,[33] or South Azeri, is spoken in northwestern Iran and to a lesser extent in neighboring regions of Iraq and Turkey, with smaller communities in Afghanistan and Syria. In Iran, in Persian it is referred to as ترکی (Torki)[7] which literally means Turkish and in Azeri itselft it is usually named تورکی (Türki) which is the Turkified pronunciation of the same Persian word. 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 spoken in some districts of Tehran city and across Tehran Province. Most sources report the percentage of Azerbaijani Turkish speakers at around 16 percent of the Iranian population, or about 12 to 13 million.[6]



Consonant phonemes of Standard Azerbaijani
Labial Dental/
Palatal Velar Glottal
Nasal m
Plosive p b t͡ʃ d͡ʒ c ɟ k ɡ
Fricative f v ʃ ʒ x ɣ h
Approximant l j
Tap ɾ
  1. /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;[34]
  2. In most dialects of Azerbaijani, /c/ is realized as [ç] when it is found in the coda position or is preceded by a voiceless consonant (as in çörək [t͡ʃøˈɾæç] - "bread"; səksən [sæçˈsæn] - "eighty").
  3. /k/ appears only in words borrowed from Russian or French (spelled, as with /c/, with a k).
  4. /w/ exists in the Kirkuk dialect as an allophone of /v/ in Arabic loanwords.
  5. In the Baku dialect, /ov/ may be realised as [oʷ][clarification needed], and /ev/ and /øv/ as [øw], e.g. /ɡovurˈmɑ/[ɡowurˈmɑ], /sevˈdɑ/[søwˈdɑ], /døvˈrɑn/[døwˈrɑn][citation needed]
  6. In the colloquial language, /x/ is usually pronounced as [χ]


Vowel phonemes of Standard Azerbaijani
Azeri vowel chart.png


Azerbaijan Latin alphabets

In Azerbaijan, North Azerbaijani now officially uses the Latin script, but the Cyrillic script is also in wide use, while in Iran, South Azerbaijani uses the Perso-Arabic script. There is a one-to-one correspondence between the Latin and Cyrillic alphabets for North Azerbaijani (although the Cyrillic alphabet has a different order):

Aa Аа آ ا
Bb Бб ب
Cc Ҹҹ ج
Çç Чч چ
Dd Дд د
Ee Ее ئ
Əə Әә ا ه
Ff Фф ف
Gg Ҝҝ گ
Ğğ Ғғ غ
Hh Һһ ه ح
Xx Хх خ
Ыы ی
İi Ии ی
Jj Жж ژ
Kk Кк ک
Qq Гг ق
Ll Лл ل
Mm Мм م
Nn Нн ن
Oo Оо و
Öö Өө ؤ
Pp Пп پ
Rr Рр ر
Ss Сс س ص ث
Şş Шш ش
Tt Тт ت ط
Uu Уу و
Üü Үү و
Vv Вв و
Yy Јј ی
Zz Зз ز ذ ظ ض

Before 1929, Azerbaijani was written only in the Perso-Arabic script. 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. If written in the Latin alphabet, all foreign words are transliterated, for example, "Bush" becomes "Buş", and "Schröder" becomes "Şröder".

South Azerbaijani speakers in Iran have always continued to use the Perso-Arabic script, although the spelling and orthography is not yet standardized.[citation needed]


In 1992–1993, when Azerbaijan Popular Front Party was in power in Azerbaijan, the official language of Azerbaijan was renamed by the parliament as Türk dili ("Turkish"). However, since 1994 the Soviet-era name of the language, Azərbaycan dili ("Azerbaijani"), has been re-established and reflected in the Constitution. Varlıq, the most important literary Azerbaijani magazine published in Iran, uses the term Türki ("Turkish" in English or "Torki" in Persian) to refer to the Azerbaijani language. South Azerbaijani speakers in Iran often refer to the language as Türki, distinguishing it from İstambuli Türki ("Anatolian Turkish"), the official language of Turkey. Some people also consider Azerbaijani to be a dialect of a greater Turkish language and call it Azərbaycan Türkcəsi ("Azerbaijani Turkish"), and scholars such as Vladimir Minorsky used this definition in their works. ISO encodes its two varieties, North Azerbaijani and South Azerbaijani, as distinct languages. According to the Linguasphere Observatory, all Oghuz languages form part of a single "outer language" of which North and South Azerbaijani are "inner languages".


Category English Azerbaijani
Basic expressions yes
no yox
hello salam
goodbye sağ ol
sağ olun (formal)
good morning sabahınız xeyir
good afternoon günortanız xeyir
good evening axşamın xeyir
axşamınız xeyir
Colours black qara
blue göy
cyan mavi
brown qəhvəyi/qonur
grey boz
green yaşıl
orange narıncı
pink çəhrayı
purple bənövşəyi
red qırmızı/al/qızıl
yellow sarı


Number Word
0 sıfır
1 bir
2 iki
3 üç
4 dörd
5 beş
6 altı
7 yeddi
8 səkkiz
9 doqquz
10 on

For numbers 11-19, the numbers literally mean "10 one, 10 two' and so on.

Number Word
20 iyirmi
30 otuz
40 qırx
50 əlli

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Using the Azerbaijani alphabet.


  1. ^ "Azerbaijani, South". Ethnologue. 1999-02-19. Retrieved 2013-07-13. 
  2. ^ Nationalencyklopedin Världens 100 största språk 2007 ("World's 100 Largest Languages in 2007").
  3. ^ Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "North Azeri–Salchuq". Glottolog 2.2. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. 
  4. ^ Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "South Oghuz". Glottolog 2.2. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. 
  5. ^ Ethnologue
  6. ^ a b "The World Factbook". Cia.gov. Retrieved 2013-07-13. 
  7. ^ a b "Azerbaijani, South". Ethnologue. 1999-02-19. Retrieved 2013-07-13. 
  8. ^ Encyclopedia of the Peoples of Africa and the Middle East, Facts on File, Incorporated, 2009, p.79
  9. ^ Sinor, Denis (1969). Inner Asia. History-Civilization-Languages. A syllabus. Bloomington. pp. 71–96. ISBN 0-87750-081-9. 
  10. ^ "The Turkic Languages" Osman Fikri Sertkaya, in "Turks - A Journey of a Thousand Years", London, 2005.
  11. ^ L. Johanson, "AZERBAIJAN ix. Iranian Elements in Azeri Turkish" in Encyclopædia Iranica [1].
  12. ^ John R. Perry, "Lexical Areas and Semantic Fields of Arabic" in Éva Ágnes Csató, Eva Agnes Csato, Bo Isaksson, Carina Jahani, "Linguistic convergence and areal diffusion: case studies from Iranian, Semitic and Turkic", Routledge, 2005. Pg 97: "It is generally understood that the bulk of the Arabic vocabulary in the central, continguous Iranic, Turkic and Indic languages was originally borrowed into literary Persian between the ninth and thirteenth centuries CE ..."
  13. ^ "Alphabet Changes in Azerbaijan in the 20th Century". Azerbaijan International. Spring 2000. Retrieved July 21, 2013. 
  14. ^ Language Commission Suggested to Be Established in National Assembly. Day.az. 25 January 2011.
  15. ^ Mark R.V. Southern. Contagious couplings: transmission of expressives in Yiddish echo phrases.
  16. ^ Pieter Muysken, "Introduction: Conceptual and methodological issues in areal linguistics", in Pieter Muysken, From Linguistic Areas to Areal Linguistics, 2008 ISBN 90-272-3100-1, p. 30-31 [2]
  17. ^ Viacheslav A. Chirikba, "The problem of the Caucasian Sprachbund" in Muysken, p. 74
  18. ^ Lenore A. Grenoble, Language Policy in the Soviet Union, 2003 ISBN 1-4020-1298-5,p. 131 [3]
  19. ^ Nasledie Chingiskhana by Nikolai Trubetzkoy. Agraf, 1999; p. 478
  20. ^ J. N. Postgate. Languages of Iraq. British School of Archaeology in Iraq, 2007; ISBN 0-903472-21-X; p. 164
  21. ^ Date of the Official Instruction of Oriental Languages in Russia by N.I.Veselovsky. 1880.
  22. ^ a b ""Language Family Trees: Altaic, Turkic, Southern, Azerbaijani" Ethnologue". Ethnologue.com. 1999-02-19. Retrieved 2013-07-13. 
  23. ^ ISO 639-3 aze "Documentation for ISO 639 identifier: aze" SIL International
  24. ^ ISO 639-3 azj "Documentation for ISO 639 identifier: azj" SIL International
  25. ^ ISO 639-3 azb "Documentation for ISO 639 identifier: azb" SIL International
  26. ^ ISO 639-3 klj "Documentation for ISO 639 identifier: klj" SIL International
  27. ^ ISO 639-3 qxq "Documentation for ISO 639 identifier: qxq" SIL International
  28. ^ ISO 639-3 slq "Documentation for ISO 639 identifier: slq" SIL International
  29. ^ "Milli Kitabxana". Anl.az. Retrieved 2013-07-13. 
  30. ^ "Mirzә Mәhәmmәd Taği "Qumri"". Anl.az. Retrieved 2013-07-13. 
  31. ^ "Azerbaijani, North - A language of Azerbaijan" Ethnologue, accessed 8 December 2008
  32. ^ Schönig (1998), pg. 248.
  33. ^ "Azerbaijani, South - A language of Iran" Ethnologue, accessed 8 December 2008
  34. ^ Persian Studies in North America by Mohammad Ali Jazayeri

External links[edit]

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