Gilaki language

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گیلکی Giləki
Native toIran, province of Gilan and parts of the province of Mazandaran and Qazvin
RegionSouthwest coast of the Caspian Sea
Native speakers
2.4 million (2016)[1]
  • Western Gilaki
  • Eastern Gilaki
  • Galeshi
Language codes
ISO 639-3glk
Gilaki Language Location Map.PNG
Areas where Gilaki is spoken as the mother tongue
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The Gilaki language (گیلکی Giləki) is an Iranian language of the Northwestern branch, spoken in Iran's Gilan Province. Gilaki is closely related to Mazandarani and the two languages have similar vocabularies.[2] Though the Persian language has influenced Gilaki to a great extent, Gilaki remains an independent language with a northwestern Iranian origin.[3][4][5][6] The Gilaki and Mazandarani languages (but not other Iranian languages)[7] share certain typological features with Caucasian languages (specifically South Caucasian languages),[7][8][9] reflecting the history, ethnic identity, and close relatedness to the Caucasus region and Caucasian peoples of the Gilak people and Mazandarani people.


The language is divided into three dialects: Western Gilaki, Eastern Gilaki, and Galeshi (in the heights and mountains of Gilan, Mazandaran, Qazvin and Alborz provinces[10][11][12][13]). The western and eastern dialects are separated by the Sefid River.[14]

There are three main dialects but larger cities in Gilan have slight variations to the way they speak. These "sub-dialects" are Rashti, Rudbari, Some’e Sarai, Lahijani, Langerudi, Rudesari, Bandar Anzali and Fumani، Alamouti, Taleghani and .....[5]

Eastern Gilaki is also spoken in the city of Ramsar, Tonekabon and even up to Chalous and the surrounding areas. Although it is slightly mixed with Mazandaran in these areas, it is still considered a Gilaki dialect.[15][16][17]


Gilaki, is an inflected and genderless language. It is considered SVO. However, some tenses may be SOV.[18]However, it has many grammatical similarities to English.


Map of common languages in the northern half of Iran

Gilaki is the language of the majority of people in Gilan province and also a native and well-known language in Mazandaran, Qazvin and Alborz provinces. Gilaki is spoken in different regions with different dialects and accents.[19][20][21][22][23][12][13][11][17] The number of Gilaki speakers is estimated at 3 to 4 million.[24][25][26]


Gilaki has the same consonants as Persian, but different vowels. Here is a table of correspondences for the Western Gilaki of Rasht, which will be the variety used in the remainder of the article:

Gilaki Persian Example (Gilaki)
i e
e(ː) , /ei seb
ɛ(œ) e iɛrɛ
ə æ, e mən
a lag
ä æ zäy
ɒ (perhaps allophonic) lɒ.nə
o , /ɔ d͡ʒoɾ
u o/ ɡul
ü u tüm

There are nine vowel phonemes in the Gilaki language:

Front Central Back
Close i iː u uː
Mid e ə o
Open a ɒ

The consonants are:

Gilaki Consonants
  labial alveolar post-alveolar velar uvular glottal
 voiceless stops p t t͡ʃ k ʔ
 voiced stops b d d͡ʒ ɡ  
 voiceless fricatives f s ʃ x ~ χ h
 voiced fricatives v z ʒ ɣ ~ ʁ  
 nasals m n   ŋ  
 liquids   l, ɾ ~ r      
 glides     j    

Verb system[edit]

The verb system of Gilaki is very similar to that of Persian. All infinitives end in -tən/-dən, or in -V:n, where V: is a long vowel (from contraction of an original *-Vdən). The present stem is usually related to the infinitive, and the past stem is just the infinitive without -ən or -n (in the case of vowel stems).

Present tenses[edit]

From the infinitive dín, "to see", we get present stem din-.

Present indicative[edit]

The present indicative is formed by adding the personal endings to this stem:

Singular Plural
dinəm diním(i)
diní diníd(i)
diné diníd(i)

Present subjunctive[edit]

The present subjunctive is formed with the prefix bí-, bú-, or bə- (depending on the vowel in the stem) added to the indicative forms. Final /e/ neutralizes to /ə/ in the 3rd singular and the plural invariably lacks final /i/.

Singular Plural
bídinəm bídinim
bídini bídinid
bídinə bídinid

The negative of both the indicative and the subjunctive is formed in the same way, with n- instead of the b- of the subjunctive.

Past tenses[edit]


From xurdən, "to eat", we get the perfect stem xurd. To this are added unaccented personal endings and the unaccented b- prefix (or accented n- for the negative):

Singular Plural
buxúrdəm buxúrdim(i)
buxúrdi buxúrdid(i)
buxúrdə buxúrdid(i)


The imperfect is formed with what was originally a suffix -i:

xúrdim xúrdim(i)
xúrdi xúrdid(i)
xúrdi xúrdid(i)


The pluperfect is paraphrastically formed with the verb bon, "to be", and the past participle, which is in turn formed with the perfect stem+ə (which can assimilate to become i or u). The accent can fall on the last syllable of the participle or on the stem itself:

Singular Plural
buxurdə bum buxurdə bim
buxurdə bi buxurdə bid
buxurdə bu buxurdə bid

Past subjunctive[edit]

A curious innovation of Western Gilaki is the past subjunctive, which is formed with the (artificial) imperfect of bon+past participle:

Singular Plural
bidé bim bidé bim
bidé bi bidé bid
bidé be/bi bidé bid

This form is often found in the protasis and apodosis of unreal conditions, e.g., mən agə Əkbəra bidé bim, xušhal bubosti bim, "If I were to see/saw/had seen Akbar, I would be happy".


There are two very common paraphrastic constructions for the present and past progressives. From the infinitive šon, "to go", we get:

Present progressive[edit]

Singular Plural
šón darəm šón darim
šón dari šón darid
šón darə šón darid

Past progressive[edit]

Singular Plural
šón də/du bum šón də/di bim
šón də/di bi šón də/di bid
šón də/du bu šón də/di bid

Compound verbs[edit]

There are many compound verbs in Gilaki, whose forms differ slightly from simple verbs. Most notably, bV- is never prefixed onto the stem, and the negative prefix nV- can act like an infix -n-, coming between the prefix and the stem. So from fagiftən, "to get", we get present indicative fagirəm, but present subjunctive fágirəm, and the negative of both, faángirəm or fanígirəm. The same applies to the negative of the past tenses: fángiftəm or fanígiftəm.

Nouns, cases and postpositions[edit]

Gilaki employs a combination of quasi-case endings and postpositions to do the work of many particles and prepositions in English and Persian.


There are essentially three "cases" in Gilaki, the nominative (or, better, unmarked, as it can serve other grammatical functions), the genitive, and the (definite) accusative. The accusative form is often used to express the simple indirect object in addition to the direct object. A noun in the genitive comes before the word it modifies. These "cases" are in origin actually just particles, similar to Persian ra.


For the word "per", father, we have:

Singular Plural
Nom per perán
Acc pera perána
Gen perə peránə

The genitive can change to -i, especially before some postpositions.


The 1st and 2nd person pronouns have special forms:

Singular Plural
Nom mən amán
Acc məra amána
Gen mi amí
Singular Plural
Nom tu šumán
Acc təra šumána
Gen ti šimí

The 3rd person (demonstrative) pronouns are regular: /un/, /u.ˈʃan/, /i.ˈʃan/


With the genitive can be combined many postpositions. Examples:

Gilaki English
re for
həmra/əmra with
ĵa from, than (in comparisons)
mian in
ĵor above
ĵir under
ru on top of

The personal pronouns have special forms with "-re": mere, tere, etc.


Gilaki adjectives come before the noun they modify, and may have the genitive "case ending" -ə/-i. They do not agree with the nouns they modify.

  • Example for adjectival modification: Western Gilaki: pilla-yi zakan (big children), Surx gul (red flower). Eastern Gilaki: Sərd ow (cold water) (ɑb-e særd in Persian), kul čaqu (dull knife) (čaqu-ye kond in Persian).

Possessive constructions[edit]

  • Examples for possessive constructions of nouns in Western Gilaki: məhine zakan (Mæhin's children) (Bæče-ha-ye Mæhin in Persian), Baγi gulan (garden flowers) (Gol-ha-ye Baγ in Persian). In Eastern Gilaki: Xirsi Kuti (bear cub) (Bæč-e Xers in Persian).


Gilaki Zazaki Kurmanji English Persian Persian transcription Baluchi
dim ruy/rı dêm face روی/چهره ruy/čehreh dim/deym
zäy pıte/doman dergûş / zarok baby/kid کودک/بچه kudak/bačeh zag
pile pɛr Kalîke kal grandfather پدربزرگ pedar bozorg pirok
zəmat peyam peyam message پیام payām
mərdə per Pîye zama/viştewru xezûr father of the husband پدرشوهر pedar šohar
kerk/murgh/kerat kerg mirîşk hen مرغ خانگی morgh xānegi morg
gow/gāb gaw/gab cow گاو gāv gowk
buĵor/cuer cor jor up بالا bālā borz
roĵā/kiĵi/sitarə astare stêrk star ستاره setāreh estar
kor/kiĵā/kilkā/lāku kêna/çêna keç girl دختر doxtar jinek/ dohtar/ jinen zag
rey/rikā/ri Laj/biko law boy پسر pesar bachek/ marden zag
putāl morcele morî ant مورچه murčeh morink
siftāl/garzak zerqet moz bee زنبور zanbur gowder
piča psing pisîk cat/pussy cat گربه/پیشی gorbeh/piši peshik
nesä siya reş shadow سایه sāyeh sāyag
vargadån/urgadån Vardan êxistin to hang آویزان کردن/آویختن āvixtan/āvizān kardan
pillə=pilla pîl/giran gir great بزرگ bozorg tuh/ mazan
zäk/zäy doman,qîj,leyr zarok child بچه bačeh zag
pɛr pîye,baw bav father پدر pedar pet/ pes
kåråš=kereš/fakeshen keresdan kişandin to draw on the ground کشیدن به دنبال kešidan
fuduštån/uduštån levnayış mijîn to suck مکیدن makidan
vastån waşten vîn appetite or desire اشتها و میل eštehā o meyl
šondån/fukudån şodan/şıdan rijandin / pê de berdan pouring of liquids ریختن مایعات rixtan-e māyeāt
lisk reser-lic sîsk / runik lubricious ليز / سور liz/sor
kərč kırç brittle ترد و شکننده tord o šekanandeh
där dâr dar tree دار و درخت dār / deraxt dāar/ drachk/ mach(date tree)
malĵå/čičini miliçik tîvil / qilîç sparrow گنجشک gonješk jenjeshk
bušu buşu biçe / here go برو boro bera/ shoten
fegir/fagir fekir bigre take it in your hand بگیر begir ger
fangir/fanigir megir megire / negire don't take in your hand نگیر nagir mager
purd pırd pir bridge پل pol
si koy u kerra çiya û kevir mountain and stone کوه و سنگ kuh o sang
kenes temas temas touch تماس tamās
morghanə hâk hêk egg تخم مرغ toxm-e morgh āmorg/ hek
lanti mar mar snake مار mār mār
kəlach qela qela crow کلاغ kalāgh
gərmalət isot, ferfer îsot pepper فلفل felfel pelpel
pamadur firang firing tomato گوجه فرنگی gojeh-ye farangi
vatərkəssən/vatərkəstən terqnaiden teqîn / peqîn explode ترکیدن terkidan
šimi šin seba/semed şıma ji bo te for you برای شما barāye šomā par shoma/ par ta/ shome ent/ ti ent
mi šin seba/semede mı ji bo min for me برای من barāye man par man/ mani ent
kiškazay kerge mirişk chicken جوجه jujeh
vərza gaw / ganêr male cow گاو نر gāv-e nar
leše mungâ mange bull گاو ماده gāv-e māddeh
jir/bijir ceir/cér jêr down پائین pā'in jahl/ cher
luchan çemard roll of the eyes چشم غره češm ghoreh
bəjar/bijar berzer zeviya rizê rice farm مزرعه برنج mazra'e-ye berenj
vachukastan vecyayen helkiştin climb بالا رفتن bālā raftan borz buten

Comparison of Gilaki, Kurmanci, Zazaki and Balochi[edit]

Gilaki English Kurmanci Zazaki Balochi
zay/zak baby/kid zarok doman,qîj Zag
ĵor up jor/jûr cor Borz
kor/kilka girl keç kêna/çêna jinek/janek
daar tree dar dar dāar
bušu go biçe so/şo boro
purd bridge pir pird
zama groom zava zama salonk/ zamās
kaft fell ket kewt kapt


  1. ^ Gilaki at Ethnologue (19th ed., 2016)
  2. ^ Dalb, Andrew (1998). Dictionary of Languages: The Definitive Reference to More Than 400 Languages. Columbia University Press. p. 226. ISBN 0-231-11568-7.
  3. ^
  4. ^ "GILAN x. LANGUAGES – Encyclopaedia Iranica".
  5. ^ a b "Gilaki".
  6. ^ "OLAC resources in and about the Gilaki language".
  7. ^ a b Nasidze, I; Quinque, D; Rahmani, M; Alemohamad, SA; Stoneking, M (April 2006). "Concomitant Replacement of Language and mtDNA in South Caspian Populations of Iran". Curr. Biol. 16 (7): 668–73. doi:10.1016/j.cub.2006.02.021. PMID 16581511. S2CID 7883334.
  8. ^ Academic American Encyclopedia By Grolier Incorporated, page 294
  9. ^ The Tati language group in the sociolinguistic context of Northwestern Iran and Transcaucasia By D.Stilo, pages 137-185
  10. ^ تاریخ بدخشان / تالیف میرزاسنگ محمدبدخشی ؛ باتصحیح و تحشیه منوچهر ستوده. Afghanistan Centre at Kabul University. 1988. doi:10.29171/azu_acku_ds375_bay43_meem38_1367.
  11. ^ a b "ALAMŪT – Encyclopaedia Iranica". Retrieved 2021-03-28.
  12. ^ a b Retrieved 2021-03-28. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  13. ^ a b ریاحی /, وحید. "دانشنامه جهان اسلام بنیاد دائرة المعارف اسلامی". دانشنامه جهان اسلام بنیاد دائرة المعارف اسلامی (in Persian). Retrieved 2021-03-28.
  14. ^ Stilo, Don "A Description of the Northwest Iranian Project at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology"
  15. ^ خائفی، عباس (۱۳۹۵). "بررسي ماضي نقلي در گويش هاي حاشيه درياي خزر". گردهمايي انجمن ترويج زبان و ادب فارسي ايران. ۱۱: ۲۰.
  16. ^ ویکی, پارسی. "معنی گیلکی". پارسی ویکی (in Persian). Retrieved 2021-03-28.
  17. ^ a b "شهرداری چالوس". Retrieved 2021-03-28.
  18. ^ Johanson, Lars; Bulut, Christiane (2006). Turkic-Iranian Contact Areas: Historical and Linguistic Aspects. ISBN 9783447052764.
  19. ^ "The Stateless Nations and the European Union", Stateless Nations, Palgrave Macmillan, 2012, doi:10.1057/9781137008206.0011, ISBN 978-1-137-00820-6, retrieved 2021-03-27
  20. ^ Huyse, Philip (2002-05-15). "Die iranischen Sprachen in Geschichte und Gegenwart. Wiesbaden, Reichert Verlag, 2000, IX + 106 p., 1 carte". Abstracta Iranica. 23. doi:10.4000/abstractairanica.35151. ISSN 0240-8910.
  21. ^ "IRAN vi. IRANIAN LANGUAGES AND SCRIPTS – Encyclopaedia Iranica". Retrieved 2021-03-27.
  22. ^ شماره کتابشناسی ملی:۲۸۷۹۶۷۷/طرح بررسی و سنجش شاخص‌های فرهنگ عمومی کشور (شاخص‌های غیرثبتی){گزارش}:استان گیلان/به سفارش شورای فرهنگ عمومی کشور؛ مدیر طرح و مسئول سیاست گذاری:منصور واعظی؛ اجرا:شرکت پژوهشگران خبره پارس -شابک:۱-۶۰-۶۶۲۷-۶۰۰-۹۷۸ *وضعیت نشر:تهران-موسسه انتشارات کتاب نشر ۱۳۹۱ *وضعیت ظاهری:۲۸۵ ص:جدول (بخش رنگی)، نمودار (بخش رنگی).
  23. ^ طرح بررسی و سنجش شاخص‌های فرهنگ عمومی کشور (شاخص‌های غیرثبتی){گزارش}:استان قزوین/به سفارش شورای فرهنگ عمومی کشور؛ مدیر طرح و مسئول سیاست گذاری:منصور واعظی؛ اجرا:شرکت پژوهشگران خبره پارس -شابک:۳-۵۳-۶۶۲۷-۶۰۰-۹۷۸ *وضعیت نشر:تهران-موسسه انتشارات کتاب نشر ۱۳۹۱ *وضعیت ظاهری:۲۶۸ ص:جدول (بخش رنگی)، نمودار (بخش رنگی).
  24. ^ "Gilaki". Ethnologue. Retrieved 2021-03-28.
  25. ^ "Iran Provinces". Retrieved 2021-03-28.
  26. ^ Held, Colbert C.; Cummings, John Thomas; Cotter, John V. (2018-05-04). Middle East Patterns. doi:10.4324/9780429493454. ISBN 9780429493454.

Further reading[edit]

  • Christensen, Arthur Emanuel. 1930. Dialect Guiläki de Recht [The Gilaki dialect of Rasht]. In Contributions à la dialectologie iranienne. Series: Kgl. danske videnskabernes selskab. Historisk-filologiske meddelelser; 17, 2. (translated into Persian 1995)
  • Purriyahi, Masud. 1971. Barresi-ye dastur-e guyesh-e Gilaki-ye Rasht [A Grammatical Study of the Gilaki dialect of Rasht]. Dissertation, Tehran University.
  • Sartippur, Jahangir. 1990/1369 A.P. Vižegihā-ye Dasturi va Farhang-e vāžehā-ye Gilaki [Grammatical Characteristics and Glossary of Gilaki]. Rasht: Nashr-e Gilakan. Dictionary.
  • Shokri, Giti. 1998. Māzi-ye Naqli dar Guyeshhā-ye Gilaki va Mazandarāni [Present perfect in Gilani and Mazandarāni Dialects]. Nāme-ye Farhangestān 4(4(16)):59–69. (quarterly journal of Iranian Academy of Persian Language and Literature) Article abstract in English.
  • Rastorgueva, V., Kerimova, A., Mamedzade, A., Pireiko, L., Edel’man, D. & Lockwood, R. M. 2012. The Gilaki Language. Uppsala: Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis.

External links[edit]