Monday, August 28, 2017

Language facts: Azerbaijani

Azerbaijani, also known as Azeri (or Azeri Turkish), belongs to the Turkic language family and is spoken by some 25-35 million people. There are two variants of the language, North and South, and it is used by the Azerbaijani people in southwestern Asia (also referred to as Transcaucasia, or the South Caucasus region). 

Baku, the Capital of Azerbaijan
Source: AdobeStock.com
North Azerbaijani is the official language of Azerbaijan and is spoken mainly in Azerbaijan, southern Dagestan and along the Caspian coast. South Azerbaijani is spoken in East and West Azerbaijan and in parts of Iran and Kurdistan, Iraq, Syria and Asian Turkey. 
Azerbaijani is closely related to Turkish, Qashqai and Turkmen. There are various levels of mutual intelligibility between each of the named languages. Turkish and Azerbaijani speakers are actually able to communicate with each other quite easily, not only due to historical reasons, but also due to being exposed to each other's cultures via radio and television. 


Lingua franca of Transcaucasia

From about the 16th to 20th century, Azeri served as a lingua franca of the Transcaucasia region, which could also be a reason why it adopted so many loan words and expressions from the Persian, Arabic, Ottoman Turkish and Russian languages. After the region was conquered by the Russian empire in the 19th century, there was a split in the development of the language, as the Azeri-speaking community was divided between two states (Russia – later the Soviet union, and Persia – now Iran). The Soviets, albeit promoting the language development, made two significant changes to the language by changing its script two times in a relatively short period of time, from the Persian script to the Latin script and later to the Cyrillic one. The Azerbaijani community in Iran kept using the Persian script. Azerbaijani did not become an official language until 1956. 

Alphabet

The country decided to abandon Azbuka and switch to the Latin Script after gaining independence from the Soviet Union in 1990's. The language and its variants are practically still using 3 writing systems: Latin, Cyrillic, and Perso-Arabic. The North Azerbaijani use both Latin and Cyrillic scripts, while South Azerbaijani have adopted the Perso-Arabic writing system.
This is the Latin alphabet:


A Ə B C Ç D E F G Ğ H X I İ J K Q L M N O Ö P R S Ş T U Ü V Y Z a ə b c ç d e f g ğ ı i j k q l m n o ö p r s ş t u ü v y z

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