Khalaj language

Native to Iran, Azerbaijan[1]
Region Northeast of Arak in Markazi Province of Iran
Native speakers
42,000 (2000)[2]
Language codes
ISO 639-3 klj
Glottolog turk1303[3]

Khalaj, also known as Arghu, is a divergent Turkic language spoken in Iran and Azerbaijan.

ISO confusion

Ethnologue and ISO list an Iranian language "Khalaj" with the same population,[4] but Glottolog states it does not exist.[5] The Khalaj speak their Turkic language and Farsi, and the supposed Iranian language of the Khalaj is spurious.[6]


Further, features such as preservation of three vowel lengths, preservation of word-initial Proto-Turkic *h, and lack of the sound change *dy has led to a non-Oghuz classification of Khalaj. An example of these archaisms is present in the word hadaq ("foot"), which has preserved the initial *h and medial *d. The equivalent form in nearby Oghuz dialects is ayaq (compare Turkish ayak). Therefore, it is an independent language that became distinct very early from other extant Turkic languages.[7][8] Because of the preservation of these archaic features, some scholars have speculated that the Khalaj are the descendants of the Arghu Turks. It's considered as "last examples" of Old Turkic by some Turkish scholars.[9]

Geographical distribution

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


It is often claimed that vowels in Khalaj occur in three lengths: long (e.g. [qn] 'blood'), half-long (e.g. [bʃ] 'head'), and short (e.g. [hat] 'horse'). This view has been challenged by A. Manaster Ramer.[10] Additionally, some vowels are realized as falling diphthongs, as in [quo̯l] ('arm, sleeve').




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:

Nominative -
Dative-A, -KA
Accusative-I, -NI
Instrumental-lAn, -lA, -nA


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:


(Excerpt from Dorfer & Tezcan (1994) pp. 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. Frawley 2003, p. 310.
  2. Khalaj at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  3. Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Turkic Khalaj". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  4. Khalaj (Iranian) at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  5. Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Khalaj (Iranian)". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  6. Hammarström (2015) Ethnologue 16/17/18th editions: a comprehensive review: online appendices
  7. Doerfer 1971
  8. Archived November 9, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.
  9. Mehmet Ölmez, Halaçlar ve Halaçça, Türk Halkları ve Dilleri: 2, s. 15-22.
  10. Alexis Manaster Ramer: Khalaj (and Turkic) vowel lengths revisited, Wiener Zeitschrift für die Kunde des Morgenlandes 85, 1995.


Further reading

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