Iran

Iran has a population of nearly 80 million, made up of diverse ethnicities and linguistic backgrounds. However, despite the wide range of differences within the population, there is only one official language in Iran, the Persian language.

Persian is the country’s lingua franca, as established by the Constitution of Iran, which outlines it as the national language. As the official national language, Persian is used for formal government communications and in public school systems, and is spoken by around 53% of the population. Furthermore, it is recognized as the language of the Islam religion. Persian is also known as Farsi, and it belongs to the Indo-European language family, particularly the Indo-Iranian subgroup. The Persian language originated from the Old Persian language of the Achaemenid Empire and the Middle Persian of the Sasanian Empire. The use of minority languages in Iran is permitted to some degree and in some forms of public information, Persian has been largely promoted as the only language of public administration, parliamentary sessions and bureaucratic paperwork, in an attempt to promote nationalism by the Persian government.

Despite the inherent dominance of the Persian language, Iran has a multicultural and multilinguistic landscape. Other widely spoken languages in Iran include Turkic languages and dialects which are spoken by about 18% of the population, Kurdish, spoken by about 10% of the population, Gilaki and Mazandarani, which together account for about 7%, Luri at about 6% and Arabic and Balochi at 2% each.

Azerbaijani is one of the most commonly spoken Turkic languages in Iran, with the vast majority of its speakers concentrated in the northwestern region of Iran, also known as Iranian Azerbaijan. Azerbaijani belongs to the Western Oghuz division of the Turkic language family and is closely related to Turkish and Crimean Tatar.

The Kurds speak the Kurdish language, which belongs to the Northwestern Iranian subgroup of the Indo-European language family. It is mainly concentrated in the northwestern region of Iran, but it also shares some similar characteristics with the Persian language, which is primarily concentrated in Iran’s southwestern region. The Kurdish language is divided into three groups: Northern (spoken in the northwestern area), Southern (spoken in the provinces of Ilam and Kermanshah), and Central (spoken in the Kurdistan province).

Apart from the aforementioned languages, there is also a number of minority languages which can be heard all over Iran. These include Circassian (a Northwest Caucasian language), Armenian (an Indo-European language largely influenced by Iranian languages), Georgian (a Kartvelian language spoken by Georgian immigrants in Iran), Hebrew (spoken by the small Jewish population) and Assyrian (an Afro-Asiatic language which belongs to the Northeastern Aramaic subgroup and can be heard throughout the Urmia region in northwestern parts of Iran). Together, the speakers of these languages account for less than 1% of the total population of Iran.

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