Khalaj language

  (Redirected from Turkic Khalaj language)

Khalaj is a Turkic language which is spoken in Iran today. Although it contains many old Turkic elements, it has become widely Persianized.[6][7] In 1978, it was spoken by 20,000 people in 50 villages southwest of Tehran,[3] but the number has since dropped to about 19,000.[1] It has about 150 words of uncertain origin.[8]

Native toIran
RegionParts of Qom Province (Mostly Khalajistan)
Native speakers
19,000 (2018)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3klj
Khalaj Turkic Language distribution map.png
Map of the location of the Khalaj Language.
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Surveys have found that most young Khalaj parents choose not to pass the language to their children, as only 5 out of 1000 families teach their children the language.[1]

Khalaj language is a descendant of an old Turkic language called Arghu.[2][9] The 11th century Turkic lexicographer Mahmud al-Kashgari was the first person to give written examples of the Khalaj language, which are mostly compatible with modern Khalaj.[7]

Gerhard Doerfer, who rediscovered Khalaj, has demonstrated that the language was the first to branch off from Common Turkic proper.[9]


The Turkic languages are a language family of at least 35 documented languages, spoken by the Turkic peoples.[10]

While initially thought to be closely related to Azerbaijani, linguistic study, particularly that done by Doerfer, led to the reclassification of Khalaj as a distinct non-Oghuz branch of Turkic language.[11] Evidence for this includes the preservation of the vowel length contrasts of Proto-Turkic (PT),[12] word-initial *h, and the lack of the sound change *dy characteristic of Oghuz languages.[13]

The preservative character of Khalaj can be seen by comparing the same words across different Turkic varieties; for example, in Khalaj, the word for "foot" is hadaq, while the cognate word in nearby Oghuz languages is ayaq (compare Turkish ayak). Because of the preservation of these archaic features, some scholars have speculated that the Khalaj are the descendants of the Arghu Turks.[citation needed]

Ethnologue and ISO formerly listed a Northwestern Iranian language named "Khalaj" with the same population figure as the Turkic language.[14] The Khalaj speak their Turkic language and Persian, and the supposed Iranian language of the Khalaj is spurious.[15][16]

Geographical distributionEdit

Khalaj is spoken mainly in Markazi Province in Iran. Doerfer cites the number of speakers as approximately 17,000 in 1968, and 20,000 in 1978;[3] Ethnologue reports that the population of speakers grew to 42,107 by 2000.[17][verification needed]


The main dialects of Khalaj are Northern and Southern. Within these dialect groupings, individual villages and groupings of speakers have distinct speech patterns.



Consonant phonemes[18]
Labial Alveolar Post-
Velar Uvular Glottal
Nasal m n ŋ
voiceless p t ç [t͡ʃ] k q
voiced b d c [d͡ʒ] ɡ ɢ
Fricative voiceless f s ş [ʃ] x h
voiced v z ʒ ğ [ɣ]
Approximant l j
Rhotic r


Vowel phonemes[18]
Front Central Back
unrounded rounded
Close i [i] ī [iː] ü [y] üː[yː] ı [ɨ] ıː[ɨː] u [u][uː]
Mid e [e][eː] ö [ø] öː [øː] o [o][oː]
Open ä [æ] äː[æː] a [a] aa [aː]

Doerfer claims that Khalaj retains three vowel lengths postulated for Proto-Turkic: long (e.g. [qn] 'blood'), half-long (e.g. [bʃ] 'head'), and short (e.g. [hat] 'horse').[19][20] However, Alexis Manaster Ramer challenges both the interpretation that Khalaj features three vowel lengths and that Proto-Turkic had this three-way contrast.[21] Some vowels of Proto-Turkic are realized as falling diphthongs, as in [quo̯l] ('arm').




Nouns in Khalaj may receive a plural marker or possessive marker. Cases in Khalaj include genitive, accusative, dative, locative, ablative, instrumental, and equative.

Forms of case suffixes change based on vowel harmony and the consonants they follow. Case endings also interact with possessive suffixes. A table of basic case endings is provided below:

Case Suffix
Nominative -
Dative -A, -KA
Accusative -I, -NI
Locative -čA
Ablative -dA
Instrumental -lAn, -lA, -nA
Equative -vāra


Verbs in Khalaj are inflected for voice, tense, aspect, and negation. Verbs consist of long strings of morphemes in the following array:

Stem + Voice + Negation + Tense/Aspect + Agreement


Khalaj employs subject–object–verb word order. Adjectives precede nouns.


The core of Khalaj vocabulary is Turkic, but many words have been borrowed from Persian. Words from neighboring Turkic dialects, namely Azerbaijani, have also made their way into Khalaj.


Khalaj numbers are Turkic in form, but some speakers replace the forms for "80" and "90" with Persian terms:

  • 1 - [biː]
  • 2 - [æ]
  • 3 - [yʃ]
  • 4 - [tœœɾt]
  • 5 - [bieʃ]
  • 6 - [al.ta]
  • 7 - [jæt.ti]
  • 8 - [sæk.kiz]
  • 9 - [toq.quz]
  • 10 - [uon]
  • 20 - [ji.giɾ.mi]
  • 30 - [hot.tuz]
  • 40 - [qiɾq]
  • 50 - [æ]
  • 60 - [alt.miʃ]
  • 70 - [yæt.miʃ]
  • 80 - [saj.san] (Turkic), [haʃ.tad] (Persian)
  • 90 - [toqx.san] (Turkic), [na.vad] (Persian)
  • 100 - [jyːz]
  • 1000 - [min], [miŋk]


Excerpt from Doerfer & Tezcan 1994, transliterated by Doerfer:[22]

Translation IPA In Latin alphabet
Once, Mullah Nasreddin had a son. biː ki.niː mol.laː nas.ɾæd.diː.niːn oɣ.lu vaːɾ-aɾ.ti Bî kinî mollâ nasrəddînîn oğlu vâr-arti.
He said, "Oh Father, I want a wife." hay.dɨ ki "æj baː.ba, mæŋ ki.ʃi ʃæɾum" Haüdı ki "Əy bâba, mən kişi şəyyorum."
He said, "My dear, we have a cow; take this cow and sell it. Come with the proceeds, we will buy you a wife!" hay.dɨ ki "bɒː.ba bi.zym biː sɨ.ɣɨ.ɾɨ.myz vaːɾ, je.tip bo sɨ.ɣɨ.ɾɨ saː.tɨ, naɣd ʃæj.i puˑ.lĩn, jæk biz sæ̃ ki.ʃi al.duq" Haüdı ki "Bâba bizüm bî sığırımüz vâr, yetip bo sığırı sâtı. Nağd şəyi pûlîn, yək biz sə̃ kişi alduq!"


  1. ^ Regarded as a different language, rather than a dialect.


  1. ^ a b c زبان خلجی در حال انقراض [Endangered Khalaj language]. همشهری آنلاین [Hamshahri Online] (in Persian). 2019-08-14. Retrieved 2021-07-26.
  2. ^ a b Johanson & Csató 1998, p. 81.
  3. ^ a b c Doerfer 1977, p. 17.
  4. ^ Doerfer 1977, p. 18.
  5. ^ Doerfer 1977, p. 20.
  6. ^ Knüppel 2009.
  7. ^ a b Ölmez 1995.
  8. ^ Doerfer 1977, p. 32.
  9. ^ a b Robbeets 2015, p. 8.
  10. ^ Dybo 2006, p. 766.
  11. ^ Kıral 2000, p. 89.
  12. ^ Cheung & Aydemir 2015, p. 80.
  13. ^ Doerfer 1977, p. 22.
  14. ^ "Khalaj". Ethnologue (17th ed.). SIL International. Archived from the original on 2013-04-02. Retrieved 2020-03-18. Different from Turkic Khalaj [klj] in Iran.CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  15. ^ Hammarström (2015) Ethnologue 16/17/18th editions: a comprehensive review: online appendices
  16. ^ "Request Number 2019-026 for Change to ISO 639-3 Language Code" (PDF). SIL International. 2019-03-12. Retrieved 2020-03-18.
  17. ^ Khalaj language at Ethnologue (22nd ed., 2019)
  18. ^ a b Shcherbak 1997, p. 472.
  19. ^ Doerfer 1971.
  20. ^ Doerfer & Tezcan 1980.
  21. ^ Manaster Ramer 1995, pp. 187–88.
  22. ^ Doerfer & Tezcan 1994, pp. 158–159.



Book chapters, journal articles, encyclopedia entriesEdit

Further readingEdit

External linksEdit