Khalaj language

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Native to Iran, Azerbaijan[1]
Region Northeast of Arak in Markazi Province of Iran
Native speakers
42,000 (2000)[2]
  • Khalaj
Language codes
ISO 639-3 klj
Glottolog turk1303[3]
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters.

Khalaj, also known as Arghu, is a divergent Turkic language spoken in Iran and Azerbaijan.

Ethnologue and ISO list an Iranian language "Khalaj" with the same population,[4] but Glottolog lists it as spurious.[5] The International Encyclopedia of Linguistics, Volume 3 by Williamm J. Frawley lists it as an Iranian language as well, and mentions furthermore that, apart from being spoken in both Iran and Azerbaijan, that it is related to Kurdish and Talysh.[1]


Khalaj has traditionally been classified with Azerbaijani dialects, primarily because of its proximity to them. However, it is not a dialect of Azerbaijani, as previously supposed. Further, features such as preservation of three vowel lengths, preservation of word-initial Proto-Turkic *h, and lack of the sound change *dy has led to a non-Oghuz classification of Khalaj. An example of these archaisms is present in the word hadaq ("foot"), which has preserved the initial *h and medial *d. The equivalent form in nearby Oghuz dialects is ayaq. Therefore, it is an independent language that became distinct very early from other extant Turkic languages.[6][7] Because of the preservation of these archaic features, some scholars have speculated that the Khalaj are the descendants of the Arghu Turks.

Geographical distribution

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


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
Labial Alveolar Palatal Velar Uvular Glottal
Nasal m n ŋ
Plosive voiceless p t t͡ʃ k q
voiced b d d͡ʒ ɡ ɢ
Fricative voiceless f s ʃ x h
voiced v z ʒ ɣ
Approximant l j
Flap ɾ


Khalaj vowels

It is often claimed that vowels in Khalaj occur in three lengths: long (e.g. [qn] 'blood'), half-long (e.g. [bʃ] 'head'), and short (e.g. [hat] 'horse'). This view has been challenged by A. Manaster Ramer.[8] Additionally, some vowels are realized as falling diphthongs, as in [quo̯l] ('arm, sleeve').




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.iɾ.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 Dorfer & Tezcan (1994) pp. 158–159)

Translation IPA
Once, Mullah Nasreddin had a son. biː ki.niː mol.laː nas.ɾæd.diː.niːn oɣ.lu vaːɾ-aɾ.ti
He said, "Oh Father, I want a wife." hay.dɨ ki "æj baː.ba, mæŋ ki.ʃi ʃæɾum"
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.tib̥ bo sɨ.ɣɨ.ɾɨ saː.tɨ, naɣd ʃæj.i puˑ.lĩn, jæk biz sæ̃ ki.ʃi al.duq"


  1. 1.0 1.1 Frawley 2003, p. 310.
  2. Khalaj at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  3. Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Turkic Khalaj". Glottolog. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. Khalaj (Iranian) at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  5. Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Khalaj (Iranian)". Glottolog. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. Doerfer 1971
  7. [1] Archived November 9, 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  8. Alexis Manaster Ramer: Khalaj (and Turkic) vowel lengths revisited, WZKM 85, 1995.


  • Frawley, William J. (2003). International Encyclopedia of Linguistics. Volume 3. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0195139771.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links

Further reading

  • Doerfer, Gerhard (1971). Khalaj Materials. Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Publications. ISBN 0-87750-150-5. OCLC 240052.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Doerfer, Gerhard (1998). Grammatik des Chaladsch. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz. ISBN 3-447-02865-3.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Doerfer, Gerhard & Tezcan, Semih (1994). Folklore-Texte der Chaladsch. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Johanson, Lars & Csató, Éva Ágnes (1998). The Turkic Languages. London: Routledge.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>