The Azerbaijani alphabet (Azerbaijani: Azərbaycan əlifbası, آذربایجان الفباسی, Азəрбајҹан әлифбасы) has three versions which includes the Perso-Arabic, Latin, and Cyrillic alphabets.
North Azerbaijani, the official language of Republic of Azerbaijan, is written in a modified Latin alphabet. This superseded previous versions based on Cyrillic and Arabic scripts after the fall of Soviet Union.
In Iran, where Iranian Azerbaijanis make up the second largest ethnic group after ethnic Persians, a modified Persian script is widely used to write the South Azerbaijani language.
Azerbaijanis of Dagestan and other parts of Russia still use the Cyrillic script.[better source needed]
The Azerbaijani Latin alphabet consists of 32 letters.
|Majuscule forms (uppercase/capital letters)|
|Minuscule forms (lowercase/small letters)|
From the nineteenth century there were efforts by some intellectuals like Mirza Fatali Akhundov and Mammad agha Shahtakhtinski to replace the Arabic script and create a Latin alphabet for Azeri. In 1929, a Latin alphabet was created by Soviet Union sponsored Yeni türk əlifba komitəsi (New Turkic Alphabet Committee; Јени түрк əлифба комитəси) in Baku which hoped that the new alphabet would divide the Azerbaijanis in the USSR from those living in Iran. An additional reason for the Soviet regime's encouragement of a non-Arabic script was that they hoped the transition would work towards secularizing Azerbaijan's Muslim culture and since language script reform, proposed as early as the 19th century by Azeri intellectuals (e.g. Mirza Fatali Akhundov), had previously been rejected by the Azeri religious establishment on the grounds that Arabic script, the language of the Koran, was "holy and should not be tampered with" there was some historical basis for the reform which received overwhelming support at the First Turcological Congress in Baku during 1926 where the reform was voted for 101 to 7. The Azeri poet Samad Vurgun declared "Azerbaijani people are proud of being the first among Oriental nations that buried the Arabic alphabet and adopted the Latin alphabet. This event is written in golden letters of our history" As a result, in the Soviet Union in 1926 the Uniform Turkic Alphabet was introduced to replace the varieties of the Arabic script in use at the time. In 1939 Joseph Stalin ordered that the Azeri script used in the USSR again be changed, this time to the Cyrillic script in order to sever the Soviet Azerbaijani Turks' ties with the Turkish people in the Republic of Turkey.
At the same time that the leaders of the Soviet Union were attempting to isolate the Soviet population of Azeri speakers from the neighboring populations in Persia and Turkey, the Persian government of the Azeri speaking Qajar dynasty was overthrown by Reza Shah (1925–41) who quickly established the Pahlavi dynasty and banned the publication of texts in Azeri.
When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991 and Azerbaijan gained its independence, one of the first laws passed in the new Parliament was the adoption of a new Latin-script alphabet.
The Azerbaijani alphabet is the same as the Turkish alphabet, except for Әə, Xx, and Qq, the letters for sounds which do not exist as separate phonemes in Turkish. When compared to the historic Latin alphabet, as well as the 1991 version: Ğğ has replaced the historic Ƣƣ ; the dotless Iı has replaced the historic I with half-oval Ьь (Also, the lowercase form of the letter B was changed from small capital ʙ to the usual b, while the uppercase form of the letter y was also changed from a Cyrillic-looking У to the usual Y.); the dotted İi has replaced the historic soft-dotted Ii, with the addition of the tittle on its uppercase counterpart, additionally I is now the uppercase counterpart of ı, while i is the lowercase counterpart of İ; Jj has replaced the historic Ƶƶ; Öö has replaced the historic Ɵɵ; Üü has replaced the historic Yy; and Yy has replaced the historic Jј. Әə was replaced by Ää, which was placed between Aa and Bb, but was then changed back to Әə, placed between Ee and Ff in the alphabet. Consequently, Jj, Yy, and some other several letters have also changed their phonetic values in comparison with the historical alphabet. The names of the letters are a, be, ce, çe, de, e, ə, fe, ge, ğe, he, xe, ı, i, je, ke/ka, qe, el, em, en, o, ö, pe, er, es, şe, te, u, ü, ve, ye, ze. Ww, which is only used in certain dialects and not part of the standard Azerbaijani alphabet, is named ikiqat ve.
When the new Latin script was introduced on December 25, 1991, A-umlaut (Ä ä) was selected to represent the sound /æ/. However, on May 16, 1992, it was replaced by the grapheme schwa (Ə ə), used previously. Although use of Ä ä (also used in Tatar, Turkmen, and Gagauz) seems to be a simpler alternative as the schwa is absent in most character sets, particularly Turkish encoding, it was reintroduced; the schwa had existed continuously from 1929 to 1991 to represent Azeri's most common vowel, in both post-Arabic alphabets (Latin and Cyrillic) of Azerbaijan.
The development of a Modern Standardized Azerbaijani Arabic Alphabet has been an ongoing project in Iran in the past several decades. Persian Alphabet, without modification or standardization is of course not suitable for Azerbaijani as 1. it contains multiple letters for the same consonant sounds, for example there are two letters for the sound [t] (ت، ط), and 2. Persian Alphabet does not have letters and diacritics for many of the vowels used in Azerbaijani and other Turkic languages. (Neither does Latin, where instead accents on "o" and "u", as well a brand new letter "ə" have been introduced)
The first steps in the process of standardization started with the publication of Azerbaijani magazines and newspapers such as Varlıq from 1979. Azerbaijani-speaking scholars and literarians showed great interest in involvement in such ventures and in working towards the development of a standard writing system. These effort culminated in language seminars being held in Tehran, chaired by the founder of Varlıq, Dr. Javad Heyat in 2001 where a document outlining the standard orthography and writing conventions were published for the public. This standard of writing is today canonized by the official Persian–Azeri Turkish dictionary in Iran titled "lugat name-ye Turki-ye Azarbayjani".
The use of Azerbaijani Arabic Alphabet, is widespread. However, due to a failure by the Iranian government to implement the constitutionally-required formal education of Azerbaijani language in the Iranian education system, and due to the spread of use of computers and smartphones, and the ease of using Latin alphabet on these platforms, the Latin alternative from Iran's northern neighbor has been gaining popularity in the last two decades.
In Azerbaijani Arabic alphabet, 9 vowels are defined. 6 of those vowels are present in Persian, whereas 3 are missing. Diacritics (including hamza) in combination with the letters alef (ا), vav (و) or ye (ی) are used in order to mark each of these vowels.
Important to note that similar to Persian alphabet, vowels in the initial position require an alef (ا) all the time (and if needed, followed by either vav (و) or ye (ی)). This excludes Arabic loanwords that may start with ʿayn (ع).
Below are the 6 vowel sounds in common with Persian, their representation in Latin and Arabic alphabets.
Below are the 3 vowels that don't exist in Persian, and are marked with diacritics.
|Arabic||اوُ / وُ||اوْ / وْ||ایٛ / یٛ||آ / ـا|
|Latin||U u||O o||I-ı||A a|
|Arabic||اۆ / ۆ||اؤ / ؤ||ای / ی||ائ / ئ||اَ / ـَ / ـه / ه|
|Latin||Ü ü||Ö ö||İ-i||E e||Ə ə|
Like other Turkic languages, Azerbaijani has a system of vowel harmony. Azerbaijani's system of vowel harmony is primarily a front/back system. This means that all vowels in a word must be ones that are pronounced either at the front or at the back of the mouth. In Azerbaijani there are two suffixes that make a plural. It's either ـلَر / lər and ـلار / lar, front and back vowels respectfully. Same variety of options for suffixes exist across the board in Azerbaijani. Here is how vowel harmony works, in an example of a word in which the vowels are all frontal:
And below are examples for back vowels:
A secondary vowel harmony system exists in Azerbaijani language, which is a rounded/unrounded system. This applies to some (not all) of suffixes. For example, there are four variations for the common suffix لی / lı li and لو / lu lü.
In Persian or Arabic alphabets, Diacritics are usually not written out unless it's in beginner language lesson books or in order to avoid confusion with a similarly written word.
In Azerbaijani Arabic Alphabet, there are conventions with regards to writing of diacritics.
For A-a (آ / ـا), the vowel is always written and shown with alef.
For Ə-ə (اَ / ـَ / ـه / ه), the initial vowel is written with an alef. Vowels in the middle of the word are written in two ways. They are either shown, i.e. written with a diacritic, which won't need to be written, unless in beginner language lesson books or in order to avoid confusion with a similarly written word. Or they are written with a final he (ـه / ه). The former is used in closed syllables (CVC), or in the first open syllable of the word. The latter is used in open syllables (CV) with the exception of the first syllable of the word. Note that the vowel he (ـه / ه) is not attached to the following letter, but is separated from it with a Zero-width non-joiner. For example the word gələcəyim (gə-lə-cəy-im) (my future) is written as گلهجگیم. Note that the first syllable of the word is open, but it's not marked. The second syllable is open, and thus the vowel is marked with he (ـه / ه), not attached to the following letter. Also note the breakdown of the word into syllables, this is because the word is made up of "gələcək" plus possessive pronoun "-im".
For E-e (ائ / ئ), the sound is shown with a hamzeh on top of a ye in almost all cases. The exceptions are loanwords of Persian, Arabic, or European origin. For example "enerji" (energy) is written as انرژی. Writing it as ائنئرژی is incorrect. Other examples include تلویزیون (televiziyon, meaning TV) ، علم (Elm, meaning science)، قانع (qane, meaning satisfied). In words, whether Azerbaijani or loanwords, if both "E" and "Y" come side by side, both letters are written. eg. قئید (qeyd), شئیدا (şeyda), ویئتنام (Vyetnam), غئیرت (ğeyrət). Loanwords from Persian or Arabic which contain the sound [i], but are adopted in Azerbaijani with an [e] sound, are shown with ئ, examples include تسبئح (təsbeh), بئساواد (besavad), پئشکش (peşkəş).
For İ-i (ای / ی), the sound is shown with ye (ی) all the time.
For I-ı (ایٛ / یٛ), the sound is shown with ye (ی) all the time. The writing of the diacritic is optional and not necessary, and is only ever actually done in beginner language lesson books or in order to avoid confusion with a similarly written word. Native speakers can usually read words without the use of diacritic, as they are aware of vowel harmony rules (meaning that they can interpolate the correct pronunciation of "ی" by the presence of other vowels in the word). In words like qızıl قیزیل (gold), it is the familiarity with the vocabulary that helps native speakers.
For round vowels, O-o (اوْ / وْ), U-u (اوُ / وُ), Ö-ö (اؤ / ؤ), and Ü-ü (اۆ / ۆ), it is recommended that the first syllable containing such vowel be marked with diacritic, while the rest can remain unmarked and solely written with a vav (و). This reduces the effort of marking vowels, while also providing readers with a clue with respect to vowel harmony, namely as to whether the vowels of the word are to be front or back. Examples include گؤرونوش (görünüş), اوْغوز (oğuz), دۆیون (düyün)
However, it is recommended that those who are new learners shall write diacritics on all round vowels. گؤرۆنۆش (görünüş), اوْغوُز (oğuz), دۆیۆن (düyün).
In daily practice, it is rare to see vowels other than Ö-ö (اؤ / ؤ) marked. This may be due to the fact that hamza is the only one of such symbols that's frequently written in Persian as well, and due to the fact that the inverted "v" diacritic for Ü-ü (اۆ / ۆ) does not exist on typical Persian keyboards.
While Azerbaijani Latin Alphabet has 9 vowels and 23 consonants, Azerbaijani Arabic Alphabet has 30 consonants, as there are sounds that are represented by more than one consonant. Highlighted columns indicate letters from Persian or Arabic that are exclusively used in loanwords, and not on native Azerbaijani words.
|No.||Letter||Latin Equivalent||IPA||Example||Latin spelling||Meaning|
|4||ث||S s||[s]||ثۆریّا||Sürəyya||Surayya (name)|
spinning top (toy)
|to go sour|
|20||غ3||Ğ ğ||[ɣ/ʁ (ʕ/ʢ)]||آغری
|23||ک5||K k||[c/cʰ/k (ç)]||کۆرک
fruit bunch (eg. grape)
to rut or rust
|29||ه / هـ1,7||H h||[h/hˁ]||هؤرمک||Hörmək||to braid|
This section contains the national anthem of Azerbaijan, in the current Latin, Cyrillic, Jaŋalif, Georgian, and Arabic alphabets.
|Azerbaijani in Latin script
|Azerbaijani in Arabic script
|Azerbaijani in Latin script
|Azerbaijani in Cyrillic script
(Still used in Dagestan)
|Azerbaijani in Cyrillic script|
|Azerbaijani in Latin script
|Azerbaijani in Latin script
|Azerbaijani in Arabic script|
- 1929 (Traditional)
The Arabic, Latin, and Cyrillic alphabets each have a different sequence of letters. The table below is ordered according to the latest Latin alphabet:
|ب||B b||B ʙ||Б б||B b||[b]|
|ج||C c||Ç ç||Ҹ ҹ||C c||[dʒ]|
|چ||Ç ç||C c||Ч ч||Ç ç||[tʃ]|
|د||D d||Д д||D d||[d]|
|ائ||E e||Е е, Э э1||Е е||[e]|
|ه-ٱ-اَ||Ə ə||Ä ä||Ə ə||[æ]|
|ف||F f||Ф ф||F f||[f]|
|گ||Ƣ ƣ||G g||Ҝ ҝ||G g||[ɟ]|
|غ||G g||Ƣ ƣ||Ғ ғ||Ğ ğ||[ɣ]|
|ح, ه||H h||Һ һ||H h||[h]|
|اؽ||Į į||Ь ь||Ы ы||I ı||[ɯ]|
|ای||I i||И и||İ i||[ɪ]|
|ژ||Ƶ ƶ||Ж ж||J j||[ʒ]|
|ک||Q q||K k||К к||K k||[c], [ç], [k]|
|ق||K k||Q q||Г г||Q q||[ɡ]|
|ل||L l||Л л||L l||[l]|
|م||M m||М м||M m||[m]|
|ن||N n||Н н||N n||[n]|
|ؤ||Ɵ ɵ||Ö ö||[œ]|
|پ||P p||П п||P p||[p]|
|ر||R r||Р р||R r||[r]|
|ث, س, ص||S s||С с||S s||[s]|
|ش||Ɜ ɜ||Ş ş||Ш ш||Ş ş||[ʃ]|
|ت, ط||T t||Т т||T t||[t]|
|ۇ||Y y||U u||У у||U u||[u]|
|ۆ||U u||У y||Ү ү||Ü ü||[y]|
|و||V v||В в||V v||[v]|
|ی||J j||Й й||Ј ј||Y y||[j]|
|یا||ЈА ја||Я я||ЈА jа||YA ya||[jɑ]|
|یئ||ЈE јe||Е е1||ЈЕ је||YE ye||[je]|
|یوْ||ЈO јo||Йо йо||ЈО јо||YO yo||[jo]|
|یۇ||JY jy||ЈU јu||Ю ю||ЈУ ју||YU yu||[ju]|
|ذ, ز, ض, ظ||Z z||З з||Z z||[z]|
1 – in the beginning of a word and after vowels
The Azeri Arabic alphabet originally contained the letter ڴ. Originally ڴ stood for the sound [ŋ], which then merged with [n]. Initial versions of the Azeri Latin alphabet contained the letter Ꞑꞑ, which was dropped in 1938. This letter no longer exists in the Azerbaijani Arabic orthographic conventions anymore either.
The letter Цц, intended for the sound [ts] in loanwords, was used in Azerbaijani Cyrillic until 1951. In Azerbaijani, like in most Turkic languages, the sound [ts] generally becomes [s].