Gilaki language

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گیلٚکی زٚوان (ɡilɵki zɵvān)
Gilaki in Nastaliq style (گیلکی)
Native toIran, province of Gilan and parts of the province of Mazandaran and Qazvin also Alborz
RegionSouthwest coast of the Caspian Sea
Ethnicity4.6 million Gilaki (2021)[1]
Native speakers
1.45 million (2021)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3glk
Areas where Gilaki is spoken as the mother tongue
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Gilaki (گیلٚکي زٚوؤن romanized: ɡilɵki zɵvön) is an Iranian language of the Northwestern branch, spoken in south of Caspian Sea by Gilak people. Gilaki is closely related to Mazandarani.[2] The two languages of Gilaki and Mazandarani have similar vocabularies.[3][4][5][6] The Gilaki and Mazandarani languages (but not other Iranian languages)[7] share certain typological features with Caucasian languages (specifically Kartvelian language),[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[10][11][12][13] and Galeshi/Deylami.[14][15] The western and eastern dialects are separated by the Sefid River,[16] while Galeshi is spoken in the mountains of eastern Gilan and western Mazandaran.[15]

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, Fumani, Alamouti and Taleghani.[5]

Gilaki, which has two main dialect types, eastern and western, with the Safidrūd River as the general border, is a member of the Caspian subgroup. [17] There are many subdialects of Gilaki, and, progressing to the east, it gradually blends into Mazandarani. The intermediate dialects of the area between Tonokābon and Kalārdašt serve as a transition between Gilaki and Mazandarani. The differences in forms and vocabulary lead to a low mutual intelligibility with either Gilaki or Mazandarani, and so these dialects should probably be considered a third separate language group of the Caspian area.[18] In Mazandaran, Gilaki is spoken in the city of Ramsar and Tonekabon. Although the dialect is influenced by Mazandarani, it is still considered a Gilaki dialect.[19][20]

Furthermore, the eastern Gilaki dialect is spoken throughout the valley of the Chalus river.[21]

Apart from four Turkish-speaking villages higher up, the inhabitants of Alamut speak Gilaki and those of Rudbar Tati.[22] In Qazvin province, Gilaki is spoken in northern parts of the province, in Alamut.[23][24]


Gilaki, is an inflected and genderless language. It is considered SVO, although in sentences employing certain tenses the order may be SOV.[25]


Map depicting areas where the various dialects of Gilaki are spoken

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.[26][27][28][29][30][12][13][11][31] The number of Gilaki speakers is estimated at 3 to 4 million.[32][33][34] Ethnologue reports that the use of Gilaki is decreasing as the speaker population is decreasing.[35]


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

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

English Gilaki Mazandarani Kurmanci Zazaki Balochi
baby/kid zay/zak/kūte vače/kote zarok doman/qîj Zag
up ĵor jur/jār jor/jûr cor Borz
girl kor/kilka kijā/deter keç kêna/çêna jinek/janek
tree daar dār dar dar dāar
go bušu bur/bašo biçe so/şo boro
bridge purd perd/pel pir pird puhl
groom zama zomā zava zama salonk
fell kaft daket ket kewt kapt


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Further reading[edit]

  • Christensen, Arthur Emanuel (1930). "Dialect Guiläkī de Recht" [The Gilaki dialect of Rasht]. Contributions à la dialectologie iranienne (PDF). Kgl. danske videnskabernes selskab. Historisk-filologiske meddelelser. Vol. 17. Archived from the original (PDF) on 9 January 2024. (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). Vižegihā-ye Dasturi va Farhang-e vāžehā-ye Gilaki [Grammatical Characteristics and Glossary of Gilaki]. Rasht: Nashr-e Gilakan.
  • Shokri, Giti (1998). "Māzi-ye Naqli dar Guyeshhā-ye Gilaki va Mazandarāni" ماضی نقلی در گویش های مازندران و گیلان [The Present Perfect Tense in the Dialects of Mazandaran and Gilan]. Nāme-ye Farhangestān. 4 (16): 59–69.
  • Rastorgueva, V. S.; Kerimova, A. A.; Mamedzade, A. K.; Pireiko, L. A.; Edel’man, D. I. (2012). The Gilaki Language. Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis. Vol. 19. Translated by Lockwood, Ronald M. Uppsala: Uppsala Universitet. ISBN 978-91-554-8419-4.

External links[edit]