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Talysh language

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Title: Talysh language  
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Subject: Old Azeri language, Hilal Mammadov, Tat people (Iran), Tati language (Iran), Persian language
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Talysh language

تالشی زَوُن
Native to Azerbaijan, Iran
Region The Western and Southwestern Caspian Sea coastal strip
Native speakers
900,000  (1993–1996)[1]
Persian alphabet in Iran
Latin script in Azerbaijan
Cyrillic script in Russia
Official status
Regulated by Academy of Persian Language and Literature
Language codes
ISO 639-3 tly
Glottolog taly1247[2]
Linguasphere 58-AAC-ed

The Talysh language (Tolışi / Толыши / تالشی زَوُن) is a Northwestern Iranian language spoken in the northern regions of the Iranian provinces of Gilan and Ardabil and the southern regions of the Republic of Azerbaijan. Historically, the language and its people can be traced through the middle Iranian period back to the ancient Medes. It includes many dialects usually divided into three main clusters: Northern (in Azerbaijan and Iran), Central (Iran) and Southern (Iran). There are a wide variety of estimates for the number of Talyshi speakers with reliable estimates running anywhere from 500,000 to 1 million. Talyshi is partially, but not fully, intelligible with respect to Persian. Talysh is classified as "vulnerable" by UNESCO's Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger.[3]


The origin of the name Tolish is not clear but is likely to be quite old. The name of the people appears in early Arabic sources as Al-Taylasân and in Persian as Tâlišân and Tavâliš, which are plural forms of Tâliš. Northern Talysh (in the Republic of Azerbaijan) was historically known as Tâlish-i Guštâsbi. Talysh has always been mentioned with Gilan or Muqan. Hamdallah Mostowfi writing in the 1340s calls the language of Gushtaspi covering the Caspian border region between Gilan to Shirvan is called a Pahlavi language connected to the language of Gilan.[4] Although there are no confirmed records, the language called in Iranian linguistics as Azari can be the antecedent of both Talyshi and Tati. Miller’s (1953) hypothesis that the Âzari of Ardabil, as appears in the quatrains of Shaikh Safi, was a form of Talyshi. That was also confirmed by Henning (1954).[5][6] In western literature the people and the language are sometimes referred to as Talishi, Taleshi or Tolashi. Generally speaking, written documents about Taleshi are rare.


In the north of Iran, there are six cities where Talyshi is spoken: Masal, Rezvanshar, Talesh, Fouman, Shaft, and Masoleh (in these cities some people speak Gilaki and Turkish as well). The only towns where Talyshi is spoken exclusively are the townships of Masal and Masouleh. In other cities, in addition to Talyshi, people speak Gilaki and Azerbaijani. In Azerbaijan there are eight cities were Talysh is spoken: Astara (79%), Lerik (49%), Lenkoran (35%), Masalli (30%), Belasuvar (24%), Nefchala (13%), Calilabad (9%) and Yardimli (4%).

Talyshi has been under the influence of Gilaki, Azeri Turkic, and Persian. In the south (Taleshdula, Masal, Shanderman, and Fumanat) Talyshis and Gilaks live side by side; however, there are less evidence that a Talyshi family replaces Gilaki with its own language. In this region the relation is more of a contribution to each other's language. In the north of Gilan, on the other hand, Azeri Turkic has replaced Talyshi in cities like Astara after the migration of Turkic speakers to the region decades ago. However, the people around Lavandvil and its mountainous regions has retained Talyshi. Behzad Behzadi, the author of "Azerbaijani Persian Dictionary" remarks that: "The inhabitants of Astara are Talyshis and in fifty years ago (about 1953) that I remember the elders of our family spoke in that language and the great majority of dwellers also conversed in Talyshi. In the surrounding villages, a few were familiar with Turkic".[7] From around Lisar up to Hashtpar, Azeri and Talyshi live side by side, with the latter mostly spoken in small villages. To the south of Asalem, the influence of Azeri is negligible and the tendency is towards Persian along Talyshi in cities. In the Azerbaijan republic, Talyshi is less under the influence of Azeri and Russian than Talyshi in Iran is affected by Persian.[8] Central Talyshi has been considered the purest of all Talyshi dialects.[6]

Classification and related languages

Talyshi belongs to the Northwestern Iranian branch of Indo-European languages. The living language most closely related to Talyshi is Tati. The Tati group of dialects is spoken across the Talysh range in the southwest (Kajal and Shahrud) and south (Tarom).[6] This Tatic family should not be confused with another Tat family which is more related to Persian. Talyshi also shares many features and structures with Zazaki, now spoken in Turkey, and the Caspian languages and Semnani of Iran.


The division of Talyshi into three clusters is based on lexical, phonological and grammatical factors.[9] Northern Talyshi distinguishes itself from Central and Southern Talyshi not only geographically but culturally and linguistically as well. Speakers of Northern Talysh are found almost exclusively in the Republic of Azerbaijan but can also be found in the neighboring regions of Iran, in the Province of Gilan. The varieties of Talysh spoken in the Republic of Azerbaijan are best described as speech varieties rather than dialects. Four speech varieties are generally identified on the basis of phonetic and lexical differences. These are labeled according to the four major political districts in the Talysh region: Astara, Lankaran, Lerik, and Masally. The differences between the varieties are minimal at the phonetic [10] and lexical level.[11] Mamedov (1971) suggests a more useful dialectal distinction is one between the varieties spoken in the mountains and those spoken in the plains. The morphosyntax of Northern Talysh is characterized by a complicated split system which is based on the Northwest Iranian type of accusativity/ergativity dichotomy: it shows accusative features with present-stem-based transitive constructions, whereas past-stem-based constructions tend towards an ergative behavior.[12] In distant regions like Lavandevil and Masouleh, the dialects differ to such a degree that conversations begin to be difficult.[8] In Iran, the northern dialect is in danger of extinction.

The major dialects of Talyshi
Northern (in Azerbaijan Republic and in Iran (Ardabil and Gilan provinces) from Anbaran to Lavandavil) including: Central (in Iran (Gilan province) from Haviq to Taleshdula/Rezvanshahr district) Including: Southern (in Iran from Khushabar to Fumanat) including:
Astara, Lankaran, Lerik, Masalli, Karaganrud/Kotbesara, Lavandavil Taleshdula, Asalem, Tularud Khushabar, Shanderman, Masule, Masal, Siahmazgar

Some Northern dialects' differences

The northern dialect has some salient differences from the central and southern dialects, e.g.:[8]

Taleshdulaei Example Lankarani Example Meaning
â âvaina u uvai:na mirror
dâr du tree
a za â zârd yellow
u/o morjena â mârjena ant
x xetē h h to sleep
j gij ž giž confused

Alignment variation

The durative marker "ba" in Taleshdulaei changes to "da" in Lankarani and shifts in between the stem and person suffixes:
ba-žē-mun → žē-da-mun

Such a diversification exists in each dialect too, as in the case of Masali[13]

Phonology and scripts

The vowel system in Talyshi is more extended than in standard Persian. The prominent differences are the front vowel ü in central and northern dialects and the central vowel ə.[6] In 1929, a Latin-based alphabet was created for Talyshi in the Soviet Union. However, in 1938 it was changed to Cyrillic-based, but it did not gain extensive usage for a variety of reasons, including political Stalinist consolidation of socialist nations. Nowadays, the Perso-Arabic script and Azeri Latin are used in Iran and Azerbaijan, respectively. The following tables contain the vowels and consonants used in Talyshi. The sounds of the letters on every row, pronounced in each language, may not correspond fully.


IPA 1929–1938 ISO 9 Perso-Arabic script KNAB (199x(2.0)) Cyrillic Other Romanization Example(s)
ɒː a a آ, ا a a â âv
æ a َ, اَ ǝ ә a, ä asta
ə ә - ِ, اِ or َ, اَ ə ə e, a esa
e e ِ, اِ e e e nemek
o o o ا, ُ, و o о o šalvo
u u u او, و u y u udmi
y u - او, و ü y ü salü, kü, düri, Imrü
i ъ y ای, ی ı ы i bila
i i ای, ی i и i, ị neči, xist
Notes: ISO 9 standardization is dated 1995. 2.0 KNAB romanization is based on the Azeri Latin.[14]


IPA Perso-Arabic script Romanization Example(s)
ɒːɪ آی, ای âi, ây bâyl, dây
اَو aw dawlat
æɪ اَی ai, ay ayvona, ayr
اُو ow, au kow
اِی ey, ei, ay, ai keybânu
æːɐ اَ ah zuah, soahvona, buah, yuahnd, kuah, kuahj
eːɐ اِ eh âdueh, sueh, danue'eh
ɔʏ اُی oy doym, doymlavar


IPA 1929–1938 ISO 9 Perso-Arabic script KNAB (199x(2.0)) Cyrillic Other Romanization Example(s)
p p p پ p п p pitâr
b в b ب b б b bejâr
t t t ت, ط t т t tiž
d d d د d д d debla
k k k ک k к k kel
ɡ g g گ g г g gaf
ɣ ƣ ġ غ ğ ғ gh ghuša
q q ق q ҝ q qarz
c, ç č چ ç ч ch, č, c čâki
j ĉ ج c ҹ j, ĵ jâr
f f f ف f ф f fel
v v v و v в v vaj
s s s س, ص, ث s с s savz
z z z ز, ذ, ض, ظ z з z zeng
ʃ ş š ش ş ш sh šav
ʒ ƶ ž ژ j ж zh ža
x x h خ x x kh xâsta
h h ه, ح h һ h haka
m m m م m м m muža
n n n ن n н n nân
l l l ل l л l lar
"L mixed with I" (maybe ?) - - - - - - xâlâ, avâla, dalâ, domlavar, dalaza
ɾ r r ر r р r raz
j y j ی y ј y, j yânza
Notes: ISO 9 standardization is dated 1995. 2.0 KNAB romanization is based on the Azeri Latin.[14]

Differences from Persian

The general phonological differences of some Talysh dialects with respect to standard Persian are as follows:[8]

Talysh Example Persian Example Translation
u duna â dâne seed
i insân initial e ensân human being
e tarâze u terâzu balance (the apparatus)
e xerâk o xorâk food
a in compound words mâng-a-tâv mah-tâb moonlight
v âv b âb water
f sif b sib apple
x xâsta h âheste slow
t tert d tord brittle
j mija ž može eyelash
m šamba n šanbe Saturday
mēra medial h mohre bead
ku final h kuh mountain


Talyshi has a subject–object–verb word order. In some situations the case marker, 'i' or 'e' attaches to the accusative noun phrase. There is no definite article, and the indefinite one is "i". The plural is marked by the suffixes "un", "ēn" and also "yēn" for nouns ending with vowels. In contrast to Persian, modifiers are preceded by nouns, for example: "maryami kitav" (Mary's book) and "kava daryâ" (livid sea). Like the most other Iranian dialects there are two categories of inflection, subject and object cases. The "present stem" is used for the imperfect and the "past stem" for the present in the verbal system. That differentiates Talyshi from most other Western Iranian dialects. In the present tense, verbal affixes cause a rearranging of the elements of conjugation in some dialects like Tâlešdulâbi, e.g. for expressing the negation of b-a-dašt-im (I sew), "ni" is used in the following form: ni-m-a-dašt (I don't sew)."m" is first person singular marker, "a" denotes duration and "dašt" is the past stem.


Talyshi is a null-subject language, so nominal pronouns (e.g., I, he, she) are optional. For first person singular, both "az" and "men" are used. Person suffixes are not added to stems for "men".[8] Examples:

  • men xanda. (I read.), az bexun-em (Should I read ...)
  • men daxun! (Call me!), az-daxun-em (Should I call ...)

There are three prefixes in Talyshi and Tati added to normal forms making possessive pronouns. They are: "če / ča" and "eš / še".

Normal Forms
Person Singular Plural
1st az/âz, men ama
2nd te šema
3rd ay ayēn
Possessive Pronouns
Person Singular Plural
1st če-men, če-mi ča-ma
2nd eš-te še-ma
3rd ča-y, ča čai:mun


  • preverbs: â/o, da, vi/i/ē/â, pē/pi
  • Negative Markers: ne, nē, ni
  • Subjunctive/Imperative prefix: be
  • Durative markers: a, ba, da

The following Person Suffixes are used in different dialetcs and for different verbs.[8]

Person Suffixes
Person Singular Plural
1st -em, -ema, -emē, -ima, -um, -m -am, -emun(a), -emun(ē), -imuna, -imun
2nd -i, -er(a), -eyē, -išaو -š -a, -erun(a), -eyunē, -iruna, -iyun
3rd -e, -eš(a), -eš(ē), -a, -ē, -u -en, -ešun(a), -ešun(ē), -ina, -un


The past stem is inflected by removing the infinitive marker (ē), however the present stem and jussive mood are not so simple in many cases and are irregular. For some verbs, present and past stems are identical. The "be" imperative marker is not added situationally.[15] The following tables show the conjugations for first-person singular of "sew" in some dialects of the three dialectical categories:[8]

Stems and imperative mood
Stems and Imperative mood
Northern (Lavandavili) Central (Taleshdulaei) Southern (Khushabari) Tati (Kelori)
Infinitive dut-ē dašt-ē dēšt-ē dut-an
Past stem dut dašt dēšt dut
Present stem dut dērz dērz duj
Imperative be-dut be-dērz be-dērz be-duj
Active voice
Active Voice
Form Tense Northern (Lavandavili) Central (Taleshdulaei) Southern (Khushabari) Tati (Kelori)
Infinitive - dut-ē dašt-ē dēšt-ē dut-an
Indicative Present dute-da-m ba-dašt-im dērz-em duj-em
Past dut-emē dašt-em dēšt-em bedut-em
Perfect dut-amē dašt-ama dēšt-ama dute-mē
Past imperfective dute-aymē adērz-ima dērz-ima duj-isēym
Past perfect dut-am bē dašt-am-ba dēšt-am-ba dut-am-bē
Future pima dut-ē pima dašt-ē pima dēšt-ē xâm dut-an
Present progressive dute da-m kâr-im dašt-ē kâra dērz-em kerâ duj-em
Past progressive dut dab-im kârb-im dašt-ē kârb-im dēšt-ē kerâ duj-isēym
Subjunctive Present be-dut-em be-dērz-em be-dērz-em be-duj-em
Past dut-am-bu dašt-am-bâ dēšt-am-bu dut-am-bâ
Conditional Past dut-am ban ba-dērz-im be-dērz-im be-duj-im
Passive voice
Passive Voice
Form Tense Northern (Lavandavili) Central (Taleshdulaei) Southern (Khushabari) Tati (Kelori)
Infinitive - dut-ē dašt-ē dēšt-ē dut-an
Indicative Present duta bē dam dašta babim dēšta bum duta bum
Preterite duta bēm dašta bima dēšta bima bedujisim
Imperfective preterite duta be-am be dašta abima dēšta bistēm duta bisim
Perfect duta beam dašta baima dērzistaima dujisim
Pluperfect duta beam bē dērzista bim dērzista bim dujisa bim
Present progressive duta bē dam kâra dašta babima kšra dēšta bum kerâ duta bum
Preterite progressive duta bēdabim kâra dašta abima kâra dēšta bistēymun kerâ duta bisim
Subjunctive Present duta bebum dašta bebum dēšta bebum duta bebum
Preterite duta beabum dašta babâm dēšta babâm dujisa biya-bâm
Case markers and prepositions

There are four "cases" in Talyshi, the nominative (unmarked), the genitive, the (definite) accusative and ergative. The accusative form is often used to express the simple indirect object in addition to the direct object. These "cases" are in origin actually just particles, similar to Persian prepositions like "râ".

Case markers and prepositions
Case Marker Example(s) Persian English
Nominative - sepa ve davaxa. Sag xeyli hâfhâf kard. The dog barked much.
Accusative -i gerd-i âda ba men Hame bede be man. Give them all to me!
-e âv-e-m barda Âb bordam. I took the water.
Ablative -kâ, -ku (from) ba-i-kâ-r če bapi Az u ce mixâhi? What do you want from him?
-ka, -anda (in) âstâra-ka tâleši gaf bažēn Dar Âstârâ Tâleši gab (harf) mizanand. They talk Talyshi in Astara.
-na (with) âtaši-na mezâ maka âtaš bâzi nakon. Don't play with fire!
-râ, -ru (for) me-râ kâr baka te-râ yâd bigē Barâye man kâr bekon Barâye xodat yâd begir. Work for me, learn for yourself.
-ken (of) ha-ken hēsta ča (čečiya) Az ân, ce bejâ mânde? (Hamân ke hast, cist?) What is of which is left?
ba (to) ba em denyâ del mabēnd Be in donyâ del maband. Don't take the world dear to your heart!
Ergative -i a palang-i do lorzon-i (Aorist) Ân palang deraxt râ larzând. That leopard shook the tree.


English Northern (Lavandavili / Lankaroni) Central (Taleshdulaei) Southern (Khushabari / Shandermani) Tati (Kelori / Geluzani) Persian
big yul yâl yâl pilla bozorg, gat, (yal, pil)
boy, son zoa, zua zôa, zue zu'a, zoa Pesar
bride vayü vayu gēša, veyb vayu, vēi arus
cat kete, pišik, piš peču peču, pešu, piši pešu gorbe, piši
cry (v) bamē beramestē beramē beramesan geristan
daughter, girl (little) kina, kela kilu, kela kina, kel(l)a kille, kilik doxtar
day rüž, ruj ruz ruz, roz ruz ruz
eat (v) hardē hardē hardē hardan xordan
egg uva, muqna, uya âgla merqona xâ, merqowna toxme morq
eye čâš čaš, čam čēm čašm čašm
father dada, piya, biya dada ? pedar
fear (v) purnē, târsē târsinē, tarsestē tarsē tarsesan tarsidan
flag filak parčam ? ? parčam, derafš
food xerâk xerâk xerâk xuruk xorâk
go (v) šē šē šē šiyan raftan (šodan)
house/room ka ka ka ka xâne
language; tongue zivon zun zavon zuân zabân
moon mâng, uvešim mâng mang mung, meng mâh
mother mua, mu, nana nana ? mâ, dēdē, nana mâdar, nane
mouth qav, gav ga, gav, ga(f) qar gar dahân, kak
night šav šaw šav šav šab
north kubasu šimâl ? ? šemâl
rice berz berz berj berenj berenj
say (v) votē vâtē vâtē vâtan goftan
sister huva, hova, ho xâlâ, xolo xâv, xâ xâhar
small ruk, gada ruk ruk velle, xš kučak
sunset šânga maqrib ? ? maqreb
sunshine haši âftâv ? ? âftâb
water uv, ôv âv âv âv âb
woman, wife žēn žēn, žen yen, žen zanle, zan zan
yesterday zina zir, izer zir, zer zir diruz, di


  1. ^ Talysh at Ethnologue (17th ed., 2013)
  2. ^ Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Talysh". Glottolog 2.2. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. 
  3. ^ UNESCO Interactive Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger
  4. ^ مستوفی، حمدالله: «نزهةالقلوب، به كوشش محمد دبیرسیاقی، انتشارات طهوری، ۱۳۳۶. Mostawafi, Hamdallah, 1336 AP / 1957 AD. Nozhat al-Qolub. Edit by Muhammad Dabir Sayyaqi. Tahuri publishers. (Persian)
  5. ^ Henning, W. B. 1954. The Ancient Language of Azerbaijan. Transactions of the Philological Society, London. p 157-177. [1]
  6. ^ a b c d Asatrian, G. and H. Borjian, 2005. Talish: people and language: The state of research. Iran and the Caucasus 9/1, p 43-72
  7. ^ Behzadi, B, 1382 AP / 2003 AD. Farhange Azarbâyjani-Fârsi (Torki), p. 10. Publication: Farhange Moâser. ISBN 964-5545-82-X
    In Persian: حقیقت تاریخی این است که آذربایجانی، ایرانی است و به زبان ترکی تکلم می‌کند. اینکه چگونه این زبان در بین مردم رایج شد، بحثی است که فرصت دیگر می‌خواهد. شاهد مثال زیر می‌تواند برای همه‌‌‌‌‌ این گفتگوها پاسخ شایسته باشد. اهالی آستارا طالش هستند و تا پنجاه سال پیش که نگارنده به خاطر دارد پیران خانواده ما به این زبان تکلم می‌کردند و اکثریت عظیم اهالی نیز به زبان طالشی صحبت میکردند. در دهات اطراف شاید تعداد انگشت‌شماری ترکی بلد بودند.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g Abdoli, A. 1380 AP / 2001 AD. Farhange Tatbiqiye Tâleši-Tâti-Âzari (Comparative dictionary of Talyshi-Tati-Azari), p 31-35, Publication:Tehran, "šerkate Sahâmiye Entešâr" (Persian).
  9. ^ Stilo, D. 1981. The Tati Group in the Sociolinguistic Context of Northwestern Iran. Iranian Studies XIV
  10. ^ Mamedov, N., 1971. Šuvinskij govor talyšskogo yazyka (Talyshi dialect of Shuvi), PhD dissertation, Baku. (Russian)
  11. ^ Pirejko, L. A., 1976. Talyšsko-russkij slovar (Talyshi-Russian Dictionary), Moscow.
  12. ^ Schulze, W., 2000. Northern Talysh. Publisher: Lincom Europa. ISBN 3-89586-681-4 [2]
  13. ^ De Caro, G. Alignment variation in Southern Tāleši (Māsāl area). School of Oriental and African Studies / Hans Rausing Endangered Languages Project. [3]
  14. ^ a b Pedersen, T. T.. Transliteration of Non-Roman Scripts, Talyshi transliteration
  15. ^ Masali, K. 1386 AP / 2007 AD. Sâxte fe'l dar zabâne Tâleši (Guyeše Mâsâl) (Conjugations in Talyshi language (Masali dialect)). [4] (Persian)

Further reading

  • Abdoli, A., 1380 AP / 2001 AD. Tat and Talysh literature (Iran and Azerbaijan republic). Entešâr Publication, Tehran, ISBN 964-325-100-4. (Persian)
  • Asatrian, G., and Habib Borjian, 2005. Talish: people and language: The state of research. Iran and the Caucasus 9/1, pp. 43–72 (published by Brill).
  • Bazin, M., 1974. Le Tâlech et les tâlechi: Ethnic et region dans le nord-ouest de l’Iran, Bulletin de l’Association de Geographes Français, no. 417-418, 161-170. (French)
  • Bazin, M., 1979. Recherche des papports entre diversité dialectale et geographie humaine: l’example du Tâleš, G. Schweizer, (ed.), Interdisciplinäre Iran-Forschung: Beiträge aus Kulturgeographie, Ethnologie, Soziologie und Neuerer Geschichte, Wiesbaden, 1-15. (French)
  • Bazin, M., 1981. Quelque échantillons des variations dialectales du tâleši, Studia Iranica 10, 111-124, 269-277. (French)
  • Paul, D., 2011. A comparative dialectal description of Iranian Taleshi. PhD Dissertation: University of Manchester.
  • Yarshater, E., 1996. The Taleshi of Asalem. Studia Iranica, 25, New York.
  • Yarshater, E., "Tâlish". Encyclopaedia of Islam, 2nd ed., vol. 10.

External links

  • Positive Orientation Towards the Vernacular among the Talysh of Sumgayit
  • Example of Talyshi Language
  • B. Miller. Talysh language and the languages of Azeri (Russian)
  • A. Mamedov, k.f.n. Talishes as carriers of the ancient language of Azerbaijan (Russian)
  • A short note on the history of Talyshi literature (Persian)
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