Languages of Iran

languages of a geographic region

Languages spoken in the Islamic Republic of Iran belong to several language families, the major ones being the Indo-European languages spoken by majority of Iranians and the Turkic languages spoken by many significant minority of Iranians. The other language families are Afro-Asiatic, Caucasian and Dravidian. The Persian language, which belongs to Iranian branch of Indo-European language family, is the official language and lingua franca of Iran.

Language policy Edit

Constition Edit

The current language policy of Iran is addressed in Chapter Two of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran (Articles 15, 16). It asserts that the Persian language is the lingua franca of the Iranian nation and as such, required for the school system and for all official government communications.[1] In addition, the constitution recognizes the Arabic language as the language of Islam, giving it formal status as the language of religion and regulating its spread within the Iranian national curriculum.[2]

Due to the nation's social and ethnic diversity, the constitution also acknowledges and permits the use of minority languages in the mass media as well as within the schools, in order to teach minority-language literature.[1]

Evaluation Edit

Iran is a culturally diverse country composed of many ethnicities, religions, and languages. According to Minority Rights Group (MRG), though minorities may account for half of Iran’s population, a homogenous national identity rooted in the Persian language and Shi’a Islam has long been imposed upon Iranian citizens, with the effect of the repression, exclusion and marginalization of minority communities.[3] Moreover, despite provisions in Iran’s constitution to the contrary, the use of minority languages in the country is repressed in all aspects of public life, from the media to education. Minority-language publishing houses have found their offices sealed off in recent years.[3]

Linguistic rights in Iran Edit

One can purchase newspapers, books, music tapes, and videos in Azerbaijani and Kurdish, and there are radio and television stations in ethnic areas that broadcast news and entertainment programs in even more languages.[4] Considerable publication (book, newspaper, etc.) taking place in the two largest minority languages in the Azerbaijani and Kurdish languages, and in the academic year 2004–05 B.A. programmes in the Azerbaijani language and literature (in Tabriz) and in the Kurdish language and literature (in Sanandaj) are offered in Iran for the very first time.[5] In addition, Payame Noor University, which has 229 campuses and nearly 190,000 students throughout the country, in 2008 declared that Arabic will be the "second language" of the university, and that all its services will be offered in Arabic, concurrent with Persian.[6]

Regional and local radio programmes are broadcast in Arabic, Armenian, Assyrian, Azerbaijani, Balochi, Garmsiri, Georgian, Persian, Kurdish, Mazandarani, Turkmen, and Turkish.[7]

Language families Edit

Main language families in Iran
Rank Language family Languages, dialects and varieties
1 Indo-European language family Iranian
  • Persian
  • Kurdish
  • Luri
  • Mazanderani
  • Achomi
  • Gilaki
  • Balochi
  • Tati
  • Talysh
  • Gorani
  • Semnani
  • Bashkardi
  • Garmsiri
  • Sorkhei
  • Sangsari
  • Kuhmareyi
  • Sivandi
  • Khunsari
  • Natanzi
  • Gazi
  • Soi
  • Gozarkhani
  • Karan
  • Karingani
  • Armenian
  • Romani
2 Turkic language family
  • Azerbaijani
  • Turkmen
  • Qashqai
  • Khorasani Turkic
  • Khalaj
  • Sonqori
  • Afshar
  • Chaharmahali Turkic
3 Afro-Asiatic language family
  • Arabic
  • Aramaic
  • Hebrew
4 Caucasian language family
  • Georgian
  • Circassian languages (Adyghe, Kabardian)
5 Dravidian language family Brahui

Indo-European languages Edit

Native speakers of Iranian branch of the Indo-European language family make up 78% of the population of Iran.[8] The largest Iranian-speaking peoples of Iran are the Persians, Kurds, Lurs, Gilaks, Mazanderanis, Talysh and Balochis.

Iranian languages in Iran included Persian, Luri, Kurdish, Gilaki and Mazanderani, and Balochi.[9] The largest group of people in present-day Iran are Persians who speak dialects of the language called Farsi in Persian.[10] The Lurs live in northern Fars and southern Zagros, and Kurds live in the Zagros mountains, north of the Lurs, up to and over the frontiers with Armenia and the Republic of Azerbaijan, while the Balochs live in Iranian side of Baluchistan, which have borders on Pakistan, as a smaller minority.[10][11] The Gilaks, Talysh and Mazanderanis live in the Gilan and Mazandaran in northern Iran.

There were an Iranian language called Āḏarī before the spread of the Turkic language, commonly called Azerbaijani, in the region.[12] The dialects of Tati, who is suggested to be a descendant of Āḏarī, are still spoken by small communities in Iran.[12][13] There are also amall Iranian languages, dialects and varieties in Iran including the Achomi, Gorani, Semnani, Bashkardi, Garmsiri, Sorkhei, Sangsari, Kuhmareyi, Sivandi, Khunsari, Natanzi, Gazi, Soi, Gozarkhani, Karan and Karingani.

Native speakers of Armenian branch of Indo-European languages included in the group that includes less than 1% population of the Iran.[3] Armenians are found regionally in Azerbaijan and in the area of Isfahan, where they had been deported, in the early 17th century by Abbas the Great. Moreover, a considerable number of Armenian speakers immigrated there from the Ottoman Empire in the early part of the 20th century (early and later immigrants mostly settled in the capital and urban centers, but some also in villages).[14] Since the mid-19th century, Armenians had their own schools where Armenian was the only language of instruction and Persian and French were taught as foreign languages. The closure of these schools and their limited reopening have damaged the Armenian language.[15]

The Indo-Aryan language has been preserved by some Gypsies in Iran, which is still spoken in two villages near Qazvin and near Quchan in northern Khorasan, these speakers were deported from the European part of the Ottoman Empire, present-day Bulgaria, and have largely retained that variety of Romani language.[14]

Turkic languages Edit

Native speakers of Turkic langauges and dialects make up 18% of the population of Iran.[8] The largest Turkic-speaking peoples of Iran are the Azerbaijanis, Turkmens, Qashqais and Khorasani Turks.

Only in few other regions (Caucasus and Southern Siberia) one can find a nearly comparable diversity of Turkic languages as in Persia. The number of their speakers varies from several thousands to several millions. Altogether, one-sixth of today’s Iranian population is turcophone or bilingual.[16]

In Iran, there are two distinct branches of Turkic: Oghuz Turkic languages and dialects that represent the southwestern branch of Turkic, and Khalaj, which presents a tiny branch of its own. Most widely spoken is Azerbaijani.[17] Turkic languages and dialects of Iran included Azerbaijani, Qashqai, Khorasani Turkic, Turkmen, Central Oghuz dialect varieties, Sonqori, Afshar and Khalaj.[17][16] The Azerbaijani lost the vocal harmony typical of Turkic languages.[18] Hendrik Boeschoten gives the following estimates for speakers of Turkic languages in Iran, with a total population then of 62 million: Azerbaijani, 13 million; Qashqai, 570,000; Khorasani Turkic, 400,000; Turkmen, 500,000; Khalaj, 28,000. However, Bulut in 2005, estimates 40,000 for Khalaj.[17]

The Iranian Azerbaijanis who commonly known as Iranian Azeris, are a Turkic-speaking people of mostly Iranian origin[10][19][20] and Azerbaijani is a Turkic language learned and spoken by Iranian peasants.[18]

Afro-Asiatic languages Edit

Among Afro-Asiatic languages, Arabic speakers make up 2% of the population of Iran, while Aramaic and Hebrew speakers are in the group that includes less than 1%.[8] The largest Afro-Asiatic-speking peoples of Iran are the Arabs, Assyrians and Jews, all speaking languages from the Semitic branch.

First Aramaic and then Arabic had considerable contact with Iranian languages.[21] Their impact differs. Aramaic was made the official language of communication by Achaemenid ruler Darius the Great, and hence is referred to as Imperial Aramaic, which considerably contributed to the success of the empire. It initiated a literary tradition that continued into Middle Iranian times, finally to be replaced by the various literary languages.[21] Aramaic dialects continued to be spoken in the northwestern regions of Iran by small Christian and Jewish communities, and left their reflexes in the local Jewish-Iranian dialects and local varieties of Judeo-Persian.[21] By contrast, Arabic had become the new administrative and religious-scientific superstrate language after the conquest of Persia in the mid-7th century, when Arabic tribes and administrative groups began to settle throughout Greater Iran for some three hundred years. Of these, only few pockets have remained in eastern and southern Persia, and until recently they had remained virtually unstudied.[21]

Although, after the Arab invasion of Persia in the 7th century, many Arab tribes settled in different parts of Iran, it is the Arab tribes of Khuzestan that have retained their identity in language and culture to the present day and there was a great influx of Arab-speaking immigrants into the province from the 16th to the 19th century, including the migration of the Banu Kaʿb and Banu Lam.[10]

Caucasian languages Edit

Among Caucasusian languages, Georgian and Circassian speakers included in the group that includes less than 1% population of the Iran.[8] Many thousands of Georgians and Circassians, who were transplanted to Iran by Safavid ruler Abbas the Great were peasants, and they were settled in villages in the Iran hinterland. According to A. F. Stahl, by the early 1900s Georgians were intermarrying with Persians. However, most of them continued to speak Georgian, as is indicated by Basil Nikitin.[22] Circassian langauges (incl. Adyghe, Kabardian) was also once widely spoken by the large Circassian minority, but, due to assimilation over the many years, no sizable number of Circassians speak the language anymore.

Windfuhr claimed that Georgians and Circassians were quickly assimilated culturally and linguistically, and even excluded Circassian from the Caucasian languages spoken in Iran.[14]

Dravidian languages Edit

Brahui language is spoken in Baluchestan (as well as the adjacent areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan). The language is the northernmost remnant of the Dravidian languages, which are now found mainly in the southern Indian subcontinent, but may once have been more widely found in Iran.[14]

References Edit

  1. 1.0 1.1 "Constition of Islamic Republic of Iran, Chapter II: The Official Language, Script, Calendar, and Flag of the Country, Article 15". Iran Chamber Society. Archived from the original on 9 June 2023. Retrieved 9 June 2023.
  2. "Constition of Islamic Republic of Iran, Chapter II: The Official Language, Script, Calendar, and Flag of the Country, Article 16". Iran Chamber Society. Archived from the original on 9 June 2023. Retrieved 9 June 2023.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 "Language discrimination in Iran". Minority Rights Group. Archived from the original on 11 June 2023. Retrieved 11 June 2023.
  4. Keddie, Nikki R (with a section by Richard, Yann). 2006. Modern Iran: Roots and Results of Revolution. Yale University Press. p. 313.
  5. Annika Rabo, Bo Utas, ed. (2005). The Role of the State in West Asia. Swedish Research Institute in Istanbul. p. 156. ISBN 978-9186884130. "There is in fact, a considerable publication (book, newspaper, etc.) taking place in the two largest minority languages in the Azerbaijani language and Kurdish, and in the academic year 2004–05 BA programs in the Azerbaijani language and literature (in Tabriz ) and in the Kurdish language and literature (in Sanandaj) are offered in Iran for the very first time"
  6. عربی دومین زبان دانشگاه پیام نور شد (in Persian). Retrieved November 20, 2011.
  7. World of Information Staff, “ Middle East Review 2003 2003: The Economic and Business Report”, Kogan Page, 2003. pp 52–53
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 "What Languages Are Spoken In Iran?". WorldAtlas. Archived from the original on 9 June 2023. Retrieved 9 June 2023.
  9. Fyre 2004, pp. 321–326: "The only measure of ethnic diversity that appears inofficial statistics is identification by the language normally used at home: Iranian languages, including Persian, Luri (Lori), Kurdi (Kordi), Gilaki and Māzanda-rāni, and Baluchi (Baluči); and non-Iranian languages, including Azeri Turkish, Arabic, and Turkmeni."
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 Fyre 2004, pp. 321–326.
  11. "People of Iran: Ethnic groups". Encyclopædia Britannica. Archived from the original on 10 September 2023. Retrieved 10 September 2023.
  12. 12.0 12.1 Yarshater 1988, p. 238–245.
  13. Tapper 1988, p. 234–238.
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 14.3 Windfuhr 2006b, p. 393–396.
  15. Amurian & Kasheff 1986, p. 478–483.
  16. 16.0 16.1 Knüppel 2000.
  17. 17.0 17.1 17.2 Windfuhr 2006, p. 396–401.
  18. 18.0 18.1 Planhol 2004, p. 204–212.
  19. Roy 2000, p. 6.
  20. Arkelova 2015, p. 279.
  21. 21.0 21.1 21.2 21.3 Windfuhr 2006, p. 401.
  22. Oberling 2001, p. 496–497.

Sources Edit

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  • Knüppel, Michael (2000). "TURKIC LANGUAGES OF PERSIA: AN OVERVIEW". Encyclopædia Iranica.
  • Tapper, R. L. (1988). "AZERBAIJAN vi. Population and its Occupations and Culture". Encyclopædia Iranica, Vol. III, Fasc. 3. pp. 234–238.
  • Fyre, R. N. (2004). "IRAN v. PEOPLES OF IRAN (1) A General Survey". Encyclopædia Iranica. Vol. XIII. Fasc. 3. pp. 321–326.
  • Windfuhr, Gernot (2006). "IRAN vii. NON-IRANIAN LANGUAGES (8) Semitic Languages". Encyclopædia Iranica, Vol. XIII, Fasc. 4. p. 401.
  • Oberling, Pierre (2001). "GEORGIA viii. Georgian communities in Persia". Encyclopædia Iranica, Vol. X, Fasc. 5. pp. 496–497.
  • Yarshater, Ehsan (1988). "AZERBAIJAN vii. The Iranian Language of Azerbaijan". Encyclopædia Iranica, Vol. III, Fasc. 3. pp. 238–245.
  • Roy, Olivier (2000). The New Central Asia. New York University Press. ISBN 978-1-84511-552-4.
  • Amurian, A.; Kasheff, M. (1986). "ARMENIANS OF MODERN IRAN". Encyclopaedia Iranica, Vol. II, Fasc. 5. pp. 478–483.
  • Windfuhr, Gernot (2006b). "IRAN vii. NON-IRANIAN LANGUAGES (6) in Islamic Iran". Encyclopædia Iranica, Vol. XIII, Fasc. 4. pp. 393–396.
  • Arkelova, Victoria (2015). "On the Number of Iranian Turkophones". Iran and the Caucasus. 19 (3): 279–282. doi:10.1163/1573384X-20150306. JSTOR 43899203.
  • Planhol, Xavier de (2004). "IRAN i. LANDS OF IRAN". Encyclopædia Iranica. Vol. XIII. Fasc. 2. pp. 204–212.
  • Tohidi, Nayareh (2009). "Ethnicity and Religious Minority Politics in Iran". In Gheissari, Ali (ed.). Contemporary Iran: Economy, Society, Politics. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-537849-8.