Non Farsi Languages

The Turkish Languages

The main centers in which Turkic languages have been in use include the Balkan Peninsula, Turkey, Iran, the Caucasus, the Central-Asian Republics, the north-east of China, and Siberia. Some linguists are of the opinion that the Turkic languages along with the Mongolic and the Tunguzic constitute three branches of the Altaic family of languages and, therefore, consider Turkic languages to be Western Altaic and the Mongolic and Tunguzic languages to be Eastern Altaic. On the other hand, some linguists have even speculated further and have also assigned Korean, Japanese, and even the languages of the Uralic family (like Finnish and Hungarian) to the postulated family of Altaic languages. Nevertheless, even though from the classificatory point of view there are many structural similarities between these languages, they cannot be attributed to a common family of languages. Even the existence of common words and terms in the Turkic, Mongolic, and Tunguzic languages which is the result of a long interaction between the peoples speaking these languages is only a proof of their common origin.
The oldest works in the Turkic languages are the Orkhon inscriptions and the Old Uyguri manuscripts that belong to the early 2nd Century AH (8th Century AD).

The most outstanding characteristics of the Turkic languages are as follows:

- Agglutinative structure;

- Phonological vowel harmony (conformity between the vowels of the prefix and the affixed noun);

- Non-usage of articles;

- Lack of grammatical concepts;

- Precedence of the adjective to the noun and a lack of conformity between the two;

- Usage of suffix prepositions given priority;

- Application of relative pronouns before the nouns;

- Verbs made negative by negative particles used in the middle of the verb;

- Verb situated at end of the sentence.

The Turkic dialects and accents are of such a large variety that it is rather impossible to determine their exact number and it is also not possible to classify them easily. Nevertheless, different classifications have so far been presented for the Turkic languages, the most important of which belongs to the Russian Turkologist, Baskakov, who has classified them as follows:
A – Western Hunnic comprising: i. Bulgarian, Chuvash; ii. Oghuz; iii.Kipchak; iv. Karluk;

B – Eastern Hunnic comprising: i. The Uyghur goup; and ii. The Kyrgyz-Kipchak group.

The Turkic languages that are currently in use in Iran include Āzari Turkish or Āzarbāyjāni, Afshāri Turkish, Khorāsāni Turkish, Turkamani, and Khalaji, each of which is further divided into various types. Of these, the Āzari Turkish, the Afshāri Turkish, the Khorāsāni Turkish and the Turkamani along with Anatolian Turkish constitute the five main divisions of the Oghuz branch (South-Western Turkish). The Khalaji language was earlier considered as a dialect of Āzari Turkish but this view cannot be acceptable any more.

1. Āzari Turkish: Prior to the spread of Āzari Turkish in Āzarbāyjān, the Āzari language which was one of the Western Iranian languages was in use in that region. After the advent of the Turkish-speaking Seljuqs, a large number of Turkish-speaking people migrated westwards and settled down in Iran, Iraq, Syria, and the Asia Minor. Thereafter, during the reigns of the Ilkhānids, the Timurids, the Qara Quyunlu Turkmen and especially during the reign of the Āq Quyunlu Turkmen – whose capital was Āzarbāyjān – the Turkish language spread even further and eventually replaced the Āzari language in most of the regions towards the end of the 11th Century AH/17th Century AD to such an extent that even the Safavids of Iranian origin became Turkish-speaking.
Presently, the Āzari Turkish or Āzarbāyjāni is the most prevalent Turkic language in Iran and various forms of that language can be found in most of the provinces of Iran and particularly in East Āzarbāyjān, West Āzarbāyjān, Ardabil, and Zanjān. This language is also spoken by some people outside the borders of Iran in the Republic of Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia, Iraq, Turkey, Syria, and even in Afghanistan.

The various Āzari Turkish dialects are:

i. The Eastern Group: Darband, Kubā (Qubah), Shamākhi, Bāku, Salyāni, and Lankarān;

ii. The Western Group: Khazak (which is different from the Khazak spoken in Kazakhstan), the dialect of the Āyrum tribe, and the dialect spoken on the banks of the River Burchālā.

iii. The Northern Group: Zakātāli, Nukhā, and Kutkāshen.

iv. The Southern Group: Yerevān, Nakhjavān, and Ordubād.

v. The Central Group: Ganjeh and Shushā.

vi. The dialects of northern Iraq

vii. The dialects of north-western Iran comprising Tabriz and Orumieh up to the vicinity of Qazvin in the East.

viii. The dialect of the south-east of the Caspian Sea (Galugāh).

The following dialects can also be added to the above-mentioned categories: Eastern Anatolian, Qashqāi, Inālao, Songhori, the dialects of the south of Qom, and the Afshāri dialect of Kabul.
One of the major distinctions between the Āzari Turkish dialects of the Republic of Azerbaijan and its surrounding areas and the Āzari Turkish dialects prevalent in Iran is the origin of the words and terms that have permeated into them. In the Republic of Azerbaijan, most of the permeated words and terms are of Russian or Latin origin whereas in Iran, most of the permeations are of Fārsi or Arabic origin


The Semitic Languages

Semitic is one of the five most important branches of the large family of Afro-Asian languages and, based on the latest linguistic researches, is divided into the two main, Eastern Semitic and the Western Semitic branches. The Eastern Semitic branch comprises the two, Akkadian and Eblaite languages, both of which are extinct now, whereas the Western Semitic which is sub-divided into numerous branches includes all the living Semitic languages.

The oldest surviving effects in the Semitic language are some Akkadian inscriptions that were written in cuneiform. This language was in use sometime between 2350 and 2200 BC.
The most important common characteristics of the Semitic languages are as follows:
- The verb roots are comprised of consonants and generally consist of three consonants (trilateral);
- Variations of the basic meanings of verbs are derived by altering their verb stems;

- All the nouns are either masculine or feminine;

- There are only two main tenses, past and present/future while the rest of the tenses are compounded from these two basic tenses;

- There is no distinction between the masculine and feminine in the first person gender conjugation;
- There is no verb denoting the meaning of “to have”;

- There is no indirect speech;

- The normal verbal sentence word order is verb-subject-object.

The Semitic languages that are in use in Iran include Assyrian, Arabic, and Mandaic.
1. Assyrian: Assyrian belongs to the family of modern Semitic languages and is used in Iran, Turkey, Iraq, and Syria as well as by the migrant Assyrians of the USA, Russia, Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Georgia. The main center of the Assyrian-speaking people in Iran is the western coastline of the Lake Orumiyeh, even though some of them live in Tehran, Tabriz, Hamadān as well as other parts of the country.

The Aramaic language belongs to the North-Western sub-branch of the Central-Semitic languages which is itself a branch of the Western Semitic languages. This language has thus far passed through five phases viz. Old Aramaic (c. 850-612 BC), Imperial Aramaic (c. 600-200 BC), Middle Aramaic (200 BC-250 AD), Late Aramaic (200-1200 AD) and Modern Aramaic. Modern Aramaic has further been divided into the two main groups of Western Modern Aramaic and Eastern Modern Aramaic. Western Modern Aramaic today survives only in three villages in the north-east of Damascus. However, Eastern Modern Aramaic consists of various languages and dialects and is divided into three sub-groups, viz. Turoyoh Aramaic, Mandaic, and North-Eastern Modern Aramaic. The Assyrian language is the most important member of the North-Eastern Modern Aramaic group of languages.

The Assyrian language which is also referred to as “Aisur”, “Eastern Syriac” and “Nasturi” (Nestorian) comprises such varying dialects that the Assyrian-speaking people from different regions, for instance the Assyrian-speaking Jews and Christians of cities like Orumieh and Sanandaj, do not follow each other’s languages. Such dialects can also be referred to as independent languages. The spread of this language in different regions has resulted in the adoption of terms from Fārsi, Arabic, Kurdish, Turkish, and even the Russian and Georgian languages. The Assyrian language that is spoken in Iran has been greatly influenced by the Kurdish, Fārsi, and the Āzari-Turkish languages.

Today, the Assyrian Christians use two different types of the Syriac scripts for writing in their own language. The Ya’ghubi (Jacobite) Syriac script is used only in Syria while the other Assyrians use the Nasturi (Nestorian) Syriac script and sometimes write their capital letters in the Estrangelo script (Fig. 2). The Syriac script runs from right to left and originally only contained consonants. However, now certain inflections are used above and below the letters to indicate vowels. Moreover, some written texts have also been found in the Syriac language using the Latin and Cyrillic scripts .
2. Arabic: There are differing views regarding into which category the Arabic language can be classified among the Western Semitic languages. Some linguists are of the opinion that the Arabic language falls under the North-Western branch while others believe that it belongs to the South-Eastern branch. However, evidence is available to prove that Arabic has common characteristics with, both, the North-Western as well the Southern Semitic groups of languages. Therefore, some linguists prefer to refer to it as a Central or Central-Southern Semitic language. The Arabic languages possesses two main dialects: The Eastern dialect which is used in Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Kuwait, Oman, the UAE, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, Jordan, Egypt, Chad, Nigeria, and among a few groups in Afghanistan and Uzbekistan; and the Western dialect used in Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, and Mauritania. The Maltese language, too, is considered to belong to the Western dialect but it also possesses certain characteristics of the Eastern dialect. Moreover, some linguists consider Maltese to be a separate language from the same family group as the Arabic language. Maltese has been highly influenced by the European languages, and Italian in particular.

Considering that Arabic is the religious language of the Muslims, thousands of words from this language have permeated into the Iranian languages (like Fārsi, Kurdish, Pashto) as well as Turkish, Hindi (also Urdu and Bengali), and the African languages like Hausa and Swahili.
Prior to the advent of Islam in Iran, some branches of the Bani-Tamim tribe lived in Khuzestān but after Islam, a large number of Arab tribes flooded into Iran and settled down in the different parts of the country. In the course of time, these Arabs lost touch with their own mother-tongue to the extent that, today, their descendents who have settled in places like Āzarbāyjān, Esfahān, Khorāsān, Qom, Kordestān, and Lorestān speak either in the Āzari-Turkish, or the Fārsi, or the Kurdish languages. Nevertheless, until some time back, a few Arabic-speaking villages could be found in the Khorāsān province around Sarakhs, Torbat Haydariyah, Qāyen, and in the Arabkhāneh, Nahārjānāt, and the Nahbandān villages near Birjand. Today, most of the Arab-speaking people of Iran live in the Khuzestān province and on the southern coastlines of Iran. Some scholars have identified one hundred and sixty Arab tribes and clans in Khuzestān. The Khuzestāni Arabic should be classified under the Eastern dialects of the Arabic language. The influence of the Fārsi language on the Khuzestāni Arabic can be identified with the presence of the syllable “ch” in it (for instance, the term “asākarah” is written as “asācharah” and “ajrash” is written as “achrash”).

As mentioned earlier in the section on Iranian Languages, the Arabic script has been derived from the Nabatean script which is a modified version of the Aramaic script.
3. Mandaic: The Mandaic language is a survivor of the Babylonian dialect which along with Palestinian and Syrian dialects constitute the three dialects of the Late Aramaic (c. 200-1200 AD). Today, this language is regarded as a branch of the Eastern Modern Aramaic languages.
This language is only spoken among the Mandaeans of Iran and Iraq. The Mandaeans, who are also referred to as the “Moghtasilah” and the Sabians, belong to the non-Christian Gnostic (Ganusi) sects. They are mainly concentrated in the southern regions of Iraq as well as the Khuzestān province of Iran. The followers of this sect can be found in large cities like Basra, Kirkuk, Mosul, and Baghdad in Iraq as well as in Khorramshahr and Ahwāz in Iran. The Iraqi Mandaeans all speak in the Arabic language and their colloquial language is facing extinction.
The Mandaic script has directly been derived from the Aramaic script and is the only Semitic script that is always inflected with vowels. This script runs from right to left.


Indo-European Languages

The Indo-European family of languages is the largest and the most important language family in the world and speakers of these languages can be located throughout the world. On the basis of latest researches, the main branches of this family of languages are as follows:

i. Āryan comprising Indic or Indo-Āryan and Iranian;

ii. Armenian;

iii. Anatolian;

iv. Tocharian

v. Italic

vi. Venetic;

vii. Celtic;viii. Germanic;

ix. Baltic;

x. Slavic; and

xi. Albanian.

The oldest surviving written texts from this family of languages are some documents in the Hittite language, the most important language from the Anatolian branch, some of which belong to c. 18th Century BC.

Armenian: This language is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages and is the official language of the Republic of Armenia. Besides Armenia and Iran, the speakers of this language can also be found in the Republic of Azerbaijan, Georgia, Lebanon, Egypt, Syria, Turkey, as well as in countries like Romania, Poland, France, and the USA. The oldest written texts in this language are some inscriptions in the Greek script belonging to the 5th Century AD. Owing to the long interactions between the Armenian-speakers and the speakers of other language branches, the Armenian language has been influenced by other languages to such an extent that the phonetic structure of this language reveals a great resemblance to the Caucasian languages and a large number of words have permeated into it from the Greek, Syriac, and especially the Iranian languages. The permeation of Iranian words in this language is so remarkable that it was earlier considered to have belonged to one of branches of the Iranian languages. However, in the year 1875 AD, Hubschmann proved that the Armenian language should be regarded as an independent branch of the Indo-European languages.
The Armenian language has passed through the three, Old (5th-12th Centuries AD), Middle (12th-17th Centuries AD), and Modern (17th Century onwards) phases. The written language, called classical Armenian or “Grabar”, remained the Armenian literary language, with various changes, until the 19th century and continues to remain the canonical language of the Armenian church. The Armenian language comprises two main dialects. The dialect that is based on the language of the Arārāt region and Yeravan in particular is referred to as Eastern Armenian whereas the offshoot of the language of the Armenians of Istanbul is referred to as the Western Armenian language. The Armenian languages spoken in Iran fall under the category of Eastern Armenian languages. The main concentration of the Iranian Armenians are in the cities of Tehran, Esfahān, Tabriz, Khoie, Salmās, and Jolfa.

Some of the most important characteristics of the Armenian language are as follows:

- The stress is always on the last syllable;

- Lack of grammatical genders;

- Nouns are declined in seven cases;

- The adjective precedes the noun and is indeclinable;

- There are only two main tenses, past and present/future while the rest of the tenses are compounded from these two basic tenses;

- The normal verbal sentence word order is verb-subject-object.

The Armenian script was invented on the basis of the Greek and Syriac scripts by a Christian priest called Saint Mashtots (also called Mesrop or Mesrob) in 406 AD. In the 12th century two new phonemes were added to it for indicating “o” and “f”. The Armenians believe that before Mashtots, a Syriac bishop named “Daniel” had invented a script for their language, which went out of use since it was not suitable to the phonetics of the Armenian language.
Romani (Romano): The Romani language belongs to the Indic or Indo-Aryan branch of the Indo-Iranian family of languages which is spoken mainly by gypsies (this language is different from the Romanian language which belongs to the Italic branch of languages). Gypsies are the descendents of the Rajputs of northwest India who had escaped from there after the advent of Islam in the Middle Ages and migrated to Europe via Iran and Asia Minor. Today, gypsies can be found in most of the countries of the world including Spain, Ireland, India, and even China and the Philippines. As regards the gypsies of Iran they are spread throughout the country.
The Romani language has several dialects and since the gypsies have spread throughout the world, this language has either been deeply influenced by the various regional languages, or has at times even fallen prey to them. Some linguists believe that the Romani language, which is spoken in Europe is divided into eight main groups. Today, most of the speakers of this language speak either in the Velachi or the Balkan Romani dialects.

Presently, the only known form of the Romani language in Iran is the Romano dialect with limited number of speakers in Quchān as well as the Zargar and Bāqerābād villages of Ābyek of Qazvin and the winter quarters of the people of Zargar. The other gypsies of Iran speak in the language of the places in which they have settled and, at times, even speak in code languages that they have invented on the basis of the grammatical structure of the dialect of their region of which reference can be made to the Jugiyān dialect of Astarābad, the Ghorbati dialects, and the Seliri dialect, which is used around Firuzkuh. Nevertheless, some original Hindi words can also be found in these code languages.

The Romani language has no script, but the gypsies of Europe use Latin and Cyrillic scripts to write in their language.


The Brahui Language

This language is the only one belonging to the North-Eastern branch of the great family of Dravidian languages, the speakers of which are mainly concentrated in the central, eastern, and southern parts of India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Nepal, and the Maldives. The original precedent of this language had separated from the main body of the Dravidian languages around 4000 BC and presently Brahui is the only Dravidian language that is mainly spoken outside India. The main center of this language is Baluchestan of Pakistan, but there are some people living in northern India, Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, and Iran who also use this language. Brahui-speaking Iranians live in the Lutak, Hosaynābād, and Seh Kuheh villages on the outskirts of the Mt. Khwājeh in Sistān as well as around the Khāsh city in Baluchestan. A number of them are also spread in the Khorāsān (especially Sarakhs) and Golestān (especially Gonbad Qābus) provinces. Some people have mistakenly considered Brahui as a branch of Kurdish language.

Like the other Dravidian languages, Brahui too, possesses an agglutinative structure, lacks grammatical concepts, and its verbs are generally situated at the end of the sentence while its most outstanding feature is that the verb is made negative by negative particles used in the middle of the verb. Only about fifteen percent of the Brahui terms are original Dravidian words and most of them have infiltrated into it from the Baluchi language. Moreover, some Hindi, Fārsi, and Arabic words have also found their way into this language, either directly or through the Baluchi language.

The Brahui language does not possess any particular script and the Arabic script is used for writing its popular literature.



Georgian is the most important language in the South Caucasian family of languages also known as the Kartvelian languages. The main center for this language is Georgia although this language is also spoken by some people in Iran and Turkey. Georgian-speaking Iranians presently live in some regions of the town of Faridan. They are mainly the descendents of the prisoners of war that the Safavid king, Shāh Abbās, had brought to Esfahān. Moreover, the Shāh Abbās had also settled some of these war captives in the Khorāsān, Māzandarān, Gilān, and Fārs provinces but these groups have become assimilated with the rest of the Iranians and have forgotten their original mother tongues. The oldest written Georgian texts date back to the 5th Century AD. As a result of the prolonged interaction between the Georgians and the Iranians, many Iranian terms have come to enter into the Georgian language either directly or through the Armenian language.
The most important characteristics of the Georgian language are as follows:

- It lacks grammatical genders;

- It lacks definite articles;

- There is no defined syntax and a verb can appear either at the beginning, middle, or at the end of a sentence;

- The nouns are declined in seven cases;

- The subject of intransitive verbs can be the doer or otherwise.

Georgian is the only Caucasian language that has its own script. The Old Georgian was written in a script called “Khutsuri” which had been invented by Saint Mashtots who was also the inventor of the Armenian script. This script was, however, replaced by another one called the “Mkhedruli” in the 11th Century AD. The Mkhedruli script originally had forty characters but now contains only thirty-three characters.[1]

[1] Rezaie Baghbidi , Hasan ” Iran Entry ” The Great Islamic Encyclopedia . Ed. Kazem Musavi Bojnourdi.Tehran: The Center of Great Islamic Encyclopaedia , 1989-, V.10 , pp.551 – 557