Khalaj language

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Native toIran
RegionParts of Kerman; Parts of Fars Province, and Northeast of Arak in Markazi Province of Iran
EthnicityKhalaj people
Native speakers
42,000 (2000)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3klj
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Khalaj, also known as Arghu, is classified as a divergent Turkic language spoken in western Iran, despite having much Persian influence.

ISO confusion[edit]

Ethnologue and ISO list an Iranian language "Khalaj" with the same population,[3] but Glottolog states it does not exist.[4] The Khalaj speak their Turkic language and Persian, and the supposed Iranian language of the Khalaj is spurious.[5]


While initially thought to be closely related to Azerbaijani, linguistic study, particularly that done by Gerhard Doerfer, led to the reclassification of Khalaj as a distinct non-Oghuz branch of Turkic language.[6] Evidence for this includes the preservation of the vowel length contrasts of Proto-Turkic (PT),[7] word-initial *h, and the lack of the sound change *dy characteristic of Oghuz languages.[citation needed]

The preservative character of Khalaj can be seen by comparing the same words across different Turkic varieties; for example, in Khalaj, the word for "foot" is hadaq, while the cognate word in nearby Oghuz languages is ayaq (compare Turkish ayak). Because of the preservation of these archaic features, some scholars have speculated that the Khalaj are the descendants of the Arghu Turks.[citation needed] Some Turkish scholars[who?] consider Khalaj to be one of the "last examples" of Old Turkic.[8]

Geographical distribution[edit]

Khalaj is spoken mainly in Markazi Province in Iran. Doerfer cites the number of speakers as approximately 17,000 in 1968; 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[9]
Labial Alveolar Postalveolar Palatal Velar Uvular Glottal
Nasal m n ŋ
Stop voiceless p t k q
voiced b d ɡ ɢ
Affricate voiceless t͡ʃ
voiced d͡ʒ
Fricative voiceless f s ʃ x h
voiced v z ʒ ɣ
Approximant l j
Rhotic r


Vowel phonemes[9]
Front Central Back
unrounded rounded
Close i [i] ī [iː] ü [y] üː[yː] ï [ɨ] ïː[ɨː] u [u][uː]
Mid e [e][eː] ö [ø] öː [øː] o [o][oː]
Open ä [æ] äː[æː] a [a] aa [aː]

Doerfer[10] claims that Khalaj retains three vowel lengths postulated for Proto-Turkic: long (e.g. [qn] 'blood'), half-long (e.g. [bʃ] 'head'), and short (e.g. [hat] 'horse'). However, Manaster Ramer (1995) challenges both the interpretation that Khalaj features three vowel lengths and that Proto-Turkic had this three-way contrast. Some vowels of Proto-Turkic are realized as falling diphthongs, as in [quo̯l] ('arm').




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 (1994:158–159)

Translation IPA In Latin alphabet
Once, Mullah Nasreddin had a son. biː ki.niː mol.laː nas.ɾæd.diː.niːn oɣ.lu vaːɾ-aɾ.ti Bî kinî mollâ nasrəddînîn oğlu vâr-arti.
He said, "Oh Father, I want a wife." hay.dɨ ki "æj baː.ba, mæŋ ki.ʃi ʃæɾum" Haüdı ki "Əy bâba, mən kişi şəyyorum."
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" Haüdı ki "Bâba bizüm bî sığırımüz vâr, yetib̥ bo sığırı sâtı. Nağd şəyi pûlîn, yək biz sə̃ kişi alduq!"


  1. ^ Khalaj at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Turkic Khalaj". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. ^ Khalaj (Iranian) at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  4. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Khalaj (Iranian)". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  5. ^ Hammarström (2015) Ethnologue 16/17/18th editions: a comprehensive review: online appendices
  6. ^ Kıral 2012, p. 89.
  7. ^ Cheung & Aydemir 2015, p. 80.
  8. ^ "Mehmet Ölmez, Halaçlar ve Halaçça, Türk Halkları ve Dilleri: 2, s. 15-22" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2018-08-18. Retrieved 2016-12-02.
  9. ^ a b Щepбак 1997, p. 472.
  10. ^ e.g. Doerfer (1971), Doerfer & Tezcan (1980)


Further reading[edit]

  • Bosnalı, Soneli (2012), "Dil Edimi Açisindan Halaççanin Konumu", Journal Of Black Sea Studies (in Turkish), 9 (32): 45–67
  • Doerfer, Gerhard (1971). Khalaj Materials. Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Publications. ISBN 0-87750-150-5. OCLC 240052.
  • Doerfer, Gerhard (1998). Grammatik des Chaladsch. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz. ISBN 3-447-02865-3.
  • Johanson, Lars; Csató, Éva Ágnes (1998). The Turkic Languages. London: Routledge.
  • Kabak, Baris (2004), "Acquiring phonology is not acquiring inventories but contrasts: The loss of Turkic and Korean primary long vowels", Linguistic Typology, 8 (3): 351–368, doi:10.1515/lity.2004.8.3.351
  • Minorsky, V. Minorsky (1940), "The Turkish Dialect of the Khalaj", Bulletin of the School of Oriental Studies, 10: 417–437

External links[edit]