Languages of Iran

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This article deals with the languages found in Iran. The Iranian languages article deals with the linguistic branch of the Indo-European languages family
Languages of Iran
Official languages Persian
Main languages Persian, Gilaki and Mazandarani 59%, Azerbaijani and other Turkic dialects 18%, Kurdish 10%,Luri 7% Balochi languages 2%, Arabic 2%, Armenian, Georgian, Neo-Aramaic, Hebrew 2%[1]
Minority languages Turkmen, Armenian, Georgian, Circassian, Assyrian, Hebrew, and Brahui
Sign languages Persian Sign Language
Common keyboard layouts
Persian keyboard
Iran main languages

Different publications have reported different statistics for the languages of Iran. There have been some limited censuses taken in Iran in 2001, 1991, 1986 and 1949-1954.[2] The following are the languages with the greatest number of speakers (data from the CIA World Factbook):[3]

According to the Kurdish-Belgian-American scholar Mehrdad Izady whose work can be found at Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs, Gulf 2000 Project website,[5] the Iranian census of 2001 mentions that 68% speak Persian as first language,[6] while he himself gives the following figures:

  • Persian 55.3%
  • Azerbaijani and Turkic dialects 13%
  • Kurdish 7%
  • Lurish 6.9%
  • Gilaki 3.6%
  • Mazandarani 3%
  • Balochi 2.5%
  • Arabic 1.8%
  • Other languages include Turkmen, Armenian, Georgian, Circassian, Syriac, Qashqai, Russian, Hebrew, Brahui, Raji, Minabi, as well as other Western Iranian languages (Lari, Talysh, Tatic, Raji, etc.)

Classification of the languages of Iran. Categories:

Indo-European (Iranic mainly)

Semitic (Arabic)


Other (such as Kartvelian)

A census taken in the Iranian month of Mordad (July 21 – August 21) in 1991. In this census, all 49,588 mothers who gave birth in the country, were issued birth certificates. They were asked about their mother-tongue.[7] which were : 46.2% (Persian), 20.6% (Azerbaijani), 10% Kurdish, 8.9% Luri, 7.2% Gilaki and Mazandarani, 3.5% Arabic, 2.7% Baluchi, 0.6% Turkmen, 0.1% Armenian, and 0.2% Others. The local dialect of Arabic spoken in Iran is Khuzestani Arabic, an Iraqi Arabic dialect, but the varieties of Arabic taught across Iran to students in secondary schools, regardless of their ethnic or linguistic background, are Modern Standard Arabic and Classical Arabic, the latter a liturgical language of Islam.

A recent survey by the US-based organization "Terror Free Tomorrow" with error is +/- 3.1 percent margin and uniform sampling based on provincial populations mentions the breakdown as following:[8]

  • Persian 50.5%
  • Azeri 21.6%
  • Gilaki and Mazandarani 6.9%
  • Kurd 7.6%
  • Lur 6.9%
  • Arab 2.7%
  • Baloch 1.4%
  • Turkmen 0.9%
  • Other 1.2%
  • Unknown/refused about 1-1.5%

Note that the "Terror Free Tomorrow" organization is vehemently anti-Iranian and its statistics haven't been taken inside Iran or by any recognized organization or specialist.

In 1986, there was also a nation-wide census done. See: (Farhad Nu’mani, Sohrab Behdad, Class and Labor in Iran: Did the Revolution Matter?, Published 2006, Syracuse University Press, 2006) [9] on the percentage of Iranians that known Persian, those who do not know and those who know it fluently.

The Library of Congress like the Encyclopedia of Islam (Leiden)[10] states Iran's ethnic groups as follows: Persians 65%, Azeris 16%, Kurds 7%, Lurs 6%, Arabs 2%, Baloch 2%, Turkmens 1%, Turkic tribal groups (e.g. Qashqai) 1%, and non-Persian, non-Turkic groups (e.g. Armenians, Georgians, Assyrians, Circassians, and Russians) less than 1%.[11]

Ethnologue list of languages in Iran[edit]

The following list details the languages spoken in Iran and lists the total number of speakers for each language (data from Ethnologue).[12] Note that these numbers add up to only 45 million, which is much less than Iran's current population of 75 million.

Extinct languages

The sum of the above figures is almost 5 million more than the population despite the fact that the numbers of people who speak certain languages are still "unknown" according to this list.[citation needed] There is wide variations in the use of verbs with similar meanings in the languages and dialects of Iran even in the same subdivisions which sometimes make understanding difficult or impossible between the far or even near regions speaking linguistically the same language or dialect e.g. between northern and southern Kurdish, Talysh, etc. On the other hand, there are similarities between the languages of far places which are completely different from the standard Persian.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ United States, CIA World Factbook.
  2. ^ Iran. rtish. Sitād-i Artish. Dāyirah-i Jughrāfiyāʾī. Title: Farhang-i jughrāfiyāʾī-i Irān : ābādīhā. Imprint: [Tihrān] : Dāyirah-i Jughrafiyāʾī-i Sitād-i Artish, 1328-1332 [1949-54] Description: 10 v. : illus., maps (part fold. col.) Notes: Vols. 1-9 compiled under the general editorship of Hossein ʻAlī Razmārā. See for summary: (Ehsan Hooshmand, “Faslnaameyeh Goftegoo”, “A closer look at religious and ethnic statistics in modern Iran”, 2005, Tehran) The article can be found here:
  3. ^ CIA World Factbook
  4. ^ "Iran – کاهش غیرمنتظره نرخ رشد جمعیت در ایران". DW Persian. Retrieved 19 July 2012. 
  5. ^ - language map of Iran
  6. ^ Mehrdad Izady (2006-2011)
  7. ^ "در مرداد 1370، هنگام صدور شناسنامه براي نوزادان، درباره زبان ٤٩ هزار و ٥٥٨ مادر در سطح كشور سوال مطرح شد كه نتيجه حاكي از سهم حضور ٥٣٬٨ درصدي زبان هاى غيرفارسي در ايران بود. بر اساس نمونه گيري مذكور، توزيع سهم هر يك از زبان ها (به درصد) به اين شرح بود: ٤٦٬٢ فارسي؛ ٢٠٬٦ تركي آذربايجاني؛ ١٠ كردي؛ ٨٬٩ لري؛ ٧٬٢ درصد گيلكي و شمالي؛ ٣٬٥ عربي ؛ ٢٬٧ بلوچي؛ ٠٬٦ تركمني؛ ٠٬١ ارمني؛ و ٠٬٢ ساير زبان ها ". Source: زنجاني‌، حبيب‌ الله‌، محمد ميرزايي‌، كامل‌ شاپور و امير هوشنگ‌ مهريار، جمعيت‌،توسعه‌، بهداشت‌ باروري‌، چاپ‌ دوم‌، تهران‌، نشر و تبليغ‌ بشري‌، 1379. Zanjani, H.,Mirzai,M.,Shapur, K., Mehriyar, A.H., “Population, Growth, Mortality Rate”, Second Edition, Tehran, Tabligh-e-Bashari Publishers, 2000.
  8. ^ [1]
  9. ^ (Farhad Nu’mani, Sohrab Behdad, Class and Labor in Iran: Did the Revolution Matter?, Published 2006, Syracuse University Press, 2006)
  10. ^ See Iran in Encyclopedia of Islam, Leiden. C.E. Bosworth (editor)
  11. ^ Library of Congress, Library of Congress – Federal Research Division. "Ethnic Groups and Languages of Iran". Retrieved 2009-12-02. 
  12. ^ Ethnologue report for languages of Iran

External links[edit]