Learn about the official language used in Azerbaijan and the inheritance of it.
18 November 2013| Last updated on 27 June 2017
The official language in Azerbaijan is Azeri (sometimes referred to as Azerbaijani), a language belonging to the Turkic language family, spoken in southwestern Asia by the Azerbaijani people. Azeri is a member of the Oghuz branch of the Turkic languages and is closely related to Turkish, Qashqai, Turkmen and Crimean Tatar. Turkish and Azerbaijani are known to closely resemble each other, and the native speaker of one language is able to understand the other, though it is easier for a speaker of Azerbaijani to understand Turkish than the other way around.
Over 80% of the Azerbaijani people speak Azeri as their first language and half of that number also speak fluent Russian due to Russia’s dominance over the economy and politics.
Varieties of Azeri
Azerbaijani is sometimes classified as two languages, North and South Azerbaijani. While there is a fair degree of mutual intelligibility between them, there are also morphological and phonological differences. They are two dialects of the same language.
North Azerbaijani, or North Azeri, is the official language of Azerbaijan. It is also spoken in southern Dagestan, along the Caspian coast in the southern Caucasus Mountains, and scattered through Central Asia.
The Shirvan dialect is the basis of Standard Azerbaijani. Since 1992 it has been officially written with a Roman script in Azerbaijan, but the older Cyrillic script was still widely used in the late 1990s.
South Azerbaijani, or South Azeri, is spoken in northwestern Iran and to a lesser extent in neighboring regions of Iraq and Turkey, with smaller communities in Afghanistan and Syria. Most sources report the percentage of Azerbaijani-Turkic-speakers at around 16 percent of the Iranian population, or about 12 to 13 million.
Azerbaijan Latin alphabets
In Azerbaijan, North Azerbaijani now officially uses the Latin script, but the Cyrillic script is also in wide use, while in Iran, South Azerbaijani uses the Perso-Arabic script. There is a one-to-one correspondence between the Latin and Cyrillic alphabets for North Azerbaijani (although the Cyrillic alphabet has a different order).