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Documentation and description of Talyshi


Language Talyshi
Depositor Gerardo De Caro
Affiliation SOAS
Location Azerbaijan
Collection ID 0196
Grant ID FTG0119, FTG0163
Funding Body ELDP
Collection Status Collection online
Landing Page Handle


Summary of the collection

This is an audio and video collection of Talyshi, a North-western Iranian language spoken on the Caspian coastline between Iran and Azerbaijan. The language is divided into three highly divergent dialectal clusters. The central and southern dialects are still poorly described and scarcely known outside Iran, where wordlists and Persian translations are available.

All recordings will be transcribed and translated, with at least 10% of the recordings annotated in detail. These texts will be supplemented by an electronic lexicon of approximately 2500 words, a skecth grammar and an analysis of argument marking patterns.


Group represented

Talysh people of Gilan and Ardabil, Iran.

Although the Talysh try to stress their common origin and cultural heritage, the political split of the region has produced differences in their social background and accentuated linguistic diversity. Northern Talyshi, by far the most cohesive variety, is mainly spoken in the (formerly Soviet) Republic of Azerbaijan. Here the Talysh form a relevant minority community which widely uses the native language, along with Azeri, in the everyday context; the influence of Russian, still mastered by elder speakers, is declining. Northern Talyshi is to date the better-documented among the Talyshi clusters.

Quite different is the sociolinguistic situation in Iran, where Talyshi dialects are much more divergent and only occasionally written down in the Perso-Arabic script. Although Persian is the only official language, Talyshi speakers are also proficient in the dominant languages of the region (Azeri and Gilaki), which appear to be increasingly preferred in daily life by younger generations. Language shift is especially evident in areas of economic interest, as shown by the obsolescence of some coastal dialects.It is thus problematic, on linguistic and historical grounds, to individuate one Talyshi language community.


Language information

Talysh is a Western Iranian language, spoken in Iran and Azerbaijan. Alternate names: Talesh, Talish, Talyshi. Talyshi belongs to the North-Western group of the Iranian branch of the Indo-European family. It is commonly classified within a further subgroup, called ‘Azari’ (Kasravi 1925; Yarshater1989; Lecoq 1989) or ‘Tatic’ (Stilo 1981), also including various clusters of Tati and transitional vernaculars spoken in the high and central plateau. The Tatic group is thought to have evolved from an Azerbaijan-autochthonous form of Middle Iranian (“Middle Median”) which was widely spoken and written in the region before the massive settlement of Turkic-speaking tribes since the XI century. As for modern Talyshi, three main dialect clusters are usually detected: Northern (Lenkoran-Astara area), Central (Hashtpar coastal area), Southern (Masuleh-Masal internal area). The northern and southern cluster differ considerably and show a low degree of mutual intelligibility, possibly due to the long-term interaction with different neighbouring Tati dialects (Stilo to appear); the central cluster presents transitional features.


Other information

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Acknowledgement and citation

To refer to any data from the collection, please cite as follows:

De Caro, Gerardo. 2017. Documentation and description of Talyshi. Endangered Languages Archive. Handle: Accessed on [insert date here].

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