Khalaj in the Persian Nasta'liq form
Native toIran
RegionDistributed throughout a number of villages in the Markazi Province from Qom to Ashtian and Tafresh[1]
Native speakers
19,000 (2018)[2]
to 20,000[3]
  • Talx-āb[5]: 17 [a]
  • Xarrāb[5]: 18 
  • Dāγān[5]: 20 
Language codes
ISO 639-3klj
Map of the location of the Khalaj Language.
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters. For an introductory guide on IPA symbols, see Help:IPA.

Khalaj is a Turkic language spoken in Iran. Although it contains many old Turkic elements, it has become widely Persianized.[6][7] Khalaj has about 150 words of uncertain origin.[5]: 32 

Surveys have found that most young Khalaj parents do not pass the language on to their children; only 5% of families teach their children the language.[2]

Khalaj language is a descendant of an old Turkic language called Arghu.[4][8] The 11th-century Turkic lexicographer Mahmud al-Kashgari was the first person to give written examples of the Khalaj language, which are mostly interchangeable with modern Khalaj.[7]

Gerhard Doerfer, who rediscovered Khalaj, demonstrated that it was an independent branch from Common Turkic.[8]


The Turkic languages are a language family of at least 35 documented languages spoken by the Turkic peoples.[9]

While initially thought to be closely related to Azerbaijani, linguistic studies, particularly those done by Gerhard Doerfer, led to the reclassification of Khalaj as a distinct non-Oghuz branch of the Turkic language family.[10] Evidence for the reassignment includes the preservation of the vowel length contrasts found in Proto-Turkic (PT),[11] word-initial *h, and the lack of the sound change *dy characteristic of Oghuz languages.[5]: 22 

The conservative 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 people are the descendants of the Arghu Turks.[12]

Ethnologue and ISO formerly listed a Northwestern Iranian language named "Khalaj" with the same population figure as the Turkic language.[13] The Khalaj speak their Turkic language and Persian, and the supposed Iranian language of the Khalaj is spurious.[14][15]

Geographical distribution

Further information: List of endangered languages in Asia § Iran

Khalaj is spoken mainly in Markazi Province in Iran distributed throughout a number of villages from Qom to Ashtian and Tafresh.[1] Doerfer cites the number of speakers as approximately 17,000 in 1968, and 20,000 in 1978.[5]: 17  Ethnologue reports that the population of speakers grew to 42,107 by 2000.[16][verification needed]


The main dialects of Khalaj are Northern and Southern. Within the dialect groupings, individual villages and groupings of speakers have distinct speech patterns.[citation needed]

The linguistic difference between the most distant dialects is not smaller (or even bigger) than Kazan Tatar and Bashkir or between Rumelian Turkish and Azerbaijani.[5]: 17 



Consonant phonemes[17]
Labial Alveolar Post-
Velar Uvular Glottal
Nasal m n ŋ
voiceless p t ç [t͡ʃ] k q
voiced b d c [d͡ʒ] ɡ ɢ
Fricative voiceless f s ş [ʃ] x h
voiced v z ʒ ğ [ɣ]
Approximant l j
Rhotic r


Vowel phonemes[17]
Front Central Back
unrounded rounded
Close i [i] í[iː] ü [y] ű[yː] ı [ɨ] í[ɨː] u [u] ú[uː]
Mid e [e] é[eː] ö [ø]

ő [øː]

o [o] ó[oː]
Open ə[æ] ə́[æː] a [a] á[aː]

Doerfer 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').[18][19] However, Alexis Manaster Ramer challenges both the interpretation that Khalaj features three vowel lengths and that Proto-Turkic had the same three-way contrast.[20] Some vowels of Proto-Turkic are realized as falling diphthongs, as in [quo̯l] ('arm').[citation needed]


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Nouns in Khalaj might 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 ∅ (unmarked)
Genitive -Un, -u:y, -i:, -i:n
Dative -A, -KA
Accusative -I, -NI
Locative -čA
Ablative -dA
Instrumental -lAn, -lA, -nA
Equative -vāra

The equative can also be expressed by the words täkin, täki and other forms.


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

Due to Persian influence, Khalaj has, like Qashqai, lost converb constructions of the form -Ib/-Ip.


Khalaj employs subject–object–verb word order. Adjectives precede nouns.


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The core of Khalaj vocabulary is Turkic, but many words have been borrowed from Persian. Words from neighboring Turkic languages (namely Azerbaijani), have also made their way into Khalaj.

For example, Khalaj numbers are Turkic in form, but some speakers replace the forms for "80" and "90" with Persian terms.


Excerpt from Doerfer & Tezcan 1994, transliterated by Doerfer:[21]

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 shall buy you a wife!" hay.dɨ ki "bɒː.ba bi.zym biː sɨ.ɣɨ.ɾɨ.myz vaːɾ, je.tip 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, yetip bo sığırı sâtı. Nağd şəyi pûlîn, yək biz sə̃ kişi alduq!"

A piece of poetry in Khalaj (transliterated into Turkish script):

Vaşqan baluqum xeleç teq var tilim
Canumda yiter baluqum o tilim
Til o baluqumu dunyalan teyişmem
Vaşqan turpaqum o xeleç teq tilim[22]


  1. ^ Regarded as a different language, rather than a dialect.


  1. ^ a b Ragagnin, E. (2020). "Major and Minor Turkic Language Islands in Iran with a Special Focus on Khalaj". Iranian Studies. 53 (3–4): 574. doi:10.1080/00210862.2020.1740881. S2CID 218924277.
  2. ^ a b زبان خلجی در حال انقراض [Endangered Khalaj language]. همشهری آنلاین [Hamshahri Online] (in Persian). 2019-08-14. Retrieved 2021-07-26.
  3. ^ Knüppel, Michael (15 April 2010). "Turkic languages of Persia: an overview". Encyclopædia Iranica.
  4. ^ a b Johanson & Csató 1998, p. 81.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g Doerfer 1977.
  6. ^ Knüppel 2009.
  7. ^ a b Ölmez 1995.
  8. ^ a b Robbeets 2015, p. 8.
  9. ^ Dybo 2006, p. 766.
  10. ^ Kıral 2000, p. 89.
  11. ^ Cheung & Aydemir 2015, p. 80.
  12. ^ Kuribayashi 2021, p. 469.
  13. ^ "Khalaj". Ethnologue (17th ed.). SIL International. Archived from the original on 2013-04-02. Retrieved 2020-03-18. Different from Turkic Khalaj [klj] in Iran.((cite web)): CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  14. ^ Hammarström (2015) Ethnologue 16/17/18th editions: a comprehensive review: online appendices
  15. ^ "Request Number 2019-026 for Change to ISO 639-3 Language Code" (PDF). SIL International. 2019-03-12. Retrieved 2020-03-18.
  16. ^ Khalaj language at Ethnologue (22nd ed., 2019) Closed access icon
  17. ^ a b Shcherbak 1997, p. 472.
  18. ^ Doerfer 1971.
  19. ^ Doerfer & Tezcan 1980.
  20. ^ Manaster Ramer 1995, pp. 187–88.
  21. ^ Doerfer & Tezcan 1994, pp. 158–159.
  22. ^ "Khalaj literary production in an electronic cultural environment": 100. ((cite journal)): Cite journal requires |journal= (help)



Book chapters, journal articles, encyclopedia entries[edit]

Further reading

  • Bosnalı, Soneli (2012), "Dil Edimi Açisindan Halaççanin Konumu" [Position of Khalaj Language in Terms of Acquisition] (PDF), Karadeniz Araştırmaları [Journal of Black Sea Studies] (in Turkish), 9 (32): 45–67, archived (PDF) from the original on 2018-04-24
  • Bosworth, C. E.; Doerfer, G. (2012). "K̲h̲alad̲j̲". In Bearman, P.; Bianquis, Th.; Bosworth, C. E.; van Donzel, E.; Heinrichs, W. P. (eds.). Encyclopedia of Islam (2nd ed.). Brill. doi:10.1163/1573-3912_islam_COM_0485.
  • Bulut, Christiane. "The Turkic varieties of Iran". In: The Languages and Linguistics of Western Asia: An Areal Perspective. Edited by Geoffrey Haig and Geoffrey Khan. Berlin, Boston: De Gruyter Mouton, 2019. pp. 398-444.
  • Doerfer, Gerhard (1985). "Kabulafscharisch Und Chaladsch (Ein Beitrag Mit Vielen Fragezeichen)". Central Asiatic Journal. 29 (3/4): 166–75. JSTOR 41927483. Accessed 3 Jan. 2023.
  • Doerfer, Gerhard (1988). Grammatik des Chaladsch [Grammar of Khalaj]. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz. ISBN 9783447028653. OCLC 21035642.
  • Doerfer, Gerhard (1997). "Türkische Sprachen Und Dialekte in Iran". Wiener Zeitschrift für die Kunde des Morgenlandes (in German). 87: 41–63. JSTOR 23863155. Accessed 3 Jan. 2023.
  • Kabak, Barış (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, S2CID 122917987
  • Minorsky, V. (1940), "The Turkish Dialect of the Khalaj", Bulletin of the School of Oriental Studies, 10 (2): 417–437, doi:10.1017/S0041977X00087607, JSTOR 608400, S2CID 162589866
  • Poppe, Nikolaus (1983). "Chaladsch und die Altaische Sprachwissenschaft". Central Asiatic Journal. 27 (1/2): 112–120. JSTOR 41927392. Accessed 3 Jan. 2023.
  • Ramer, Alexis Manaster (1997). "Khalaj Vowel Lengths: A Reevaluation of the Bazin Data". Central Asiatic Journal. 41 (1): 35–37. JSTOR 41928087. Accessed 3 Jan. 2023.