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Learn the Azerbaijani Language & Culture

Overview of the Azerbaijani Language

Azerbaijani is spoken in the Republic of Azerbaijan (where it is the official language) and in some of the surrounding areas. There are also many Azerbaijani speakers in Iran.

Azerbaijani is also sometimes referred to as Azeri or Azeri Turkish. It is a member of the Turkic branch of the Indo-European language family and is closely related to Turkish. The Azerbaijani language has also been influenced by Arabic and Persian.

The Azerbaijani Alphabet and Azerbaijani Pronunciation

One of this language's distinguishing features is that it has used three different alphabets within the last 100 years. Up until the 1920s, it was written in a version of the Arabic alphabet, reflecting the heavy Turkish influence. Then, for ten years between 1929 and 1939, a version of the Latin alphabet came into official use. Later, while Azerbaijan was under the control of the Soviet Union, an adapted form of the Cyrillic alphabet was imposed on the language. Only when the area regained independence in 1991 was the current version of the alphabet developed.

The alphabet used today is a variation of the Latin alphabet, with several special characters. The most notable is ə, which was a part of the Azerbaijani Cyrillic alphabet in addition to the current alphabet. This vowel is very common in Azerbaijani words.

The Azerbaijani alphabet is shown below.

Capital Letters:
Azerbaijani Capital Letters

Lowercase Letters:
Azerbaijani Lowercase Letters

Azerbaijani vowels are grouped into two categories: hard vowels and soft vowels. One of the distinct features of the Azerbaijani language is the concept of vowel harmony. This principle, which is present in most Turkic languages, dictates that whenever a grammatical suffix is added to a word, the vowel in the suffix must conform to the vowel category in the last syllable of the word. Syllables with hard vowels must be followed by suffixes with hard vowels and syllables with soft vowels must be followed by suffixes with soft vowels. This pattern gives Azerbaijani a distinctive sound.

Be aware that some older Azerbaijani speakers, especially those educated during the Soviet era, may be more familiar with the Cyrillic alphabet than the current Latin one. In Iran, Azerbaijani speakers may still use the Arabic alphabet.

Azerbaijani Vocabulary

Azerbaijani vocabulary has been greatly influenced over the years by the Arabic language. It has also picked up many words from Persian, particularly in Iran, where many Azerbaijani speakers are bilingual. Despite the years when Azerbaijan was part of the Soviet Union, Azerbaijani absorbed fewer Russian loanwords than many minority languages in similar circumstances.

When foreign words or names are used in an Azerbaijani text, they will be spelled phonetically using the Azerbaijani characters that best convey the sound of the word.

Azerbaijani Grammar

Azerbaijani nouns have singular and plural forms. They are also declined to show case, meaning they change form to indicate their role in a sentence. However, nouns do not have gender. Neither do pronouns, although pronouns have cases similar to those of nouns. Subject pronouns are frequently omitted in speech because the form of the verb makes the subject obvious. Azerbaijani adjectives do not have to agree with the nouns they modify in number or case. Azerbaijani verbs are conjugated to show tense, mood, and person.

An Azerbaijani sentence is constructed differently than that an English. The word order for Azerbaijani sentences is usually Subject-Object-Verb, as compared to the Subject-Verb-Object pattern common in English.

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