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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.

* source: 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 - 553

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