Talysh language

Talysh language

nativename=толышә зывон (tolyšǝ zyvon)
states=Iran, Azerbaijan
region=Southwestern Caspian Sea (Mainly: Gilan and Ardabil provinces.)
speakers=2 million

The traditional heartlands of the Talysh language are the northern regions of the Iranian provinces of Gilan and Ardabil and the southern regions of Masalli, Lenkoran, Lerik and Astara in the Republic of Azerbaijan. The Talysh language is a member of the northwest group of Iranian language. Historically, the language and its people can be traced through the middle Iranian period back to the ancient Medes. Talysh refer to themselves andtheir language as Tolish. The origin of the name Tolish is not clear but is likely quite old, predating the migration of the Iranian peoples to the southwestern shores of the Caspian. In western literature the people and the language are sometimes referred to as Talish or Talesh.

Talysh has three dialects — Northern (in Azerbaijan and Iran), Central (in Iran) and Southern (in Iran). Northern Talysh (the part in the Republic of Azerbaijan) was historically known as Talish-i Gushtasbi. These dialects are mutually intelligible.

Northern Talysh distinguishes itself from Central and Southern Talysh not only geographically but culturally andlinguistically as well. Speakers of Northern Talysh are found almost exclusively in the Republic of Azerbaijan but can also be found in the neighbouring regions of Iran, along the Caspian Sea 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, Lenkaran, Lerik and Masalli. The differences between the varieties are minimal at the phonetic level (Mammedov 1971) and at the lexical level (Pireiko 1976, Rastorgueva 1991). Mammedov (1971) suggests a more useful dialectal distinction is one between the varieties spoken in the mountains and those spoken in the plains. In addition, he identifies the influence of other speech communities in the Talysh region on the varieties of Talysh.

There are a wide variety of estimates for the number of Talysh speakers with reliable estimates running anywhere from 500,000 to 1 million.


Taleshi (or Talyshi and also Tolashi) is the language of an old nation in the north of Iran so called Talesh. Taleshi is also spoken in the southern parts of the Republican of Azerbaijan which separated from Iran after a famous political treaty between Iran and Russia, the so called Turkamanchai Treaty. There are, in the north of Iran, 7 cities that speak Taleshi such as Masal, Rezvanshar, Talesh, Astara, Fouman, Shaft and Masoleh. However the only city whose people speak exclusively Taleshi is the township of Masal and Masouleh. In other cities, in addition to Taleshi language, people speak Gilaki and Turki-Azari. In part of the Republic of Azerbaijan, most of the villagers speak Taleshi and people in cities speak Turki. Generally speaking, the written books and texts concerning Taleshi are rare. However, In the recent decades a scientific and research movement has come about in this old region in poetry, history, literature, etc. for the sake of a new generation of graduated youth from universities.

For the latest research on Taleshi, see Garnik Asatrain and Habib Borjian, “Talish: people and language: The state of research,” "Iran and the Caucasus" 9/1, 2005, 43-72.

External links

* [http://simurg-art.by/art/Tolishradio.php TolishRadio]
* [http://www.ethnologue.com/show_language.asp?code=tly Ethnologue report for Talysh]
* [http://www.azargoshnasp.net/languages/talyshi/TALYSHSUMGAYIT.pdf Positive Orientation Towards the Vernacular among the Talysh of Sumgayit]
* [http://www.azargoshnasp.net/languages/talyshi/talyshlanguage.pdf Example of Talyshi Language]

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