Most of Iraq’s population speaks Mesopotamian Arabic, which is a Variant of the Arabic language also spoken in Iran, Syria and Turkey. Arabic has been the primary language in the history of Iraq given that Islam has dominated the region’s religious environment for centuries.

Iraq’s constitution recognizes Arabic and Kurdish as the official languages of the country. Standard Arabic is used for official purposes, however most of the inhabitants of Iraq use the Mesopotamian Arabic. Mesopotamian Arabic is spoken in two primary dialects: Gelet Mesopotamian Arabic and Qeltu Mesopotamian Arabic. The variant of Arabic used in Iraq has been heavily influenced by Turkish, Persian, Aramaic and Akkadian languages.

Kurdish is spoken in three major dialects: Northern Kurdish, Southern Kurdish and Central Kurdish. Northern Kurdish is the largest variant of the language, and is mainly used in the north of the country. Southern Kurdish is used in the Khanaqin district in the east of Iraq, while Central Kurdish (also called Sorani) is spoken in Iraq as well. Kurds comprise approximately 10 to 15% of the total population of Iraq. Iraq recognized Kurdish as an official language in 2004, becoming the only nation to ever recognize Kurdish officially.

There are two regional languages recognized in Iraq: Syriac-Aramaic and Feyli Lurish. Syriac-Aramaic is a variant of Middle Aramaic which is spoken by Syrian Christians who live in northern Iraq. This language is taught is several of Iraq’s public schools. Feyli Lurish is recognized as an official minority language. This language is spoken by the ethnic group of Iraqi Lurs, who call themselves Feylis and who mainly live in Iraq’s central and eastern parts. This community communicates in Feyli, which is classified as a Lurish language.

Iraq has several other minority languages and dialects, such as Armenian, Turkmen, Persian, Gorani, Domari, as well as some Neo-Aramaic languages. There have been various efforts implemented by the government of Iraq in order to preserve minority languages such as the Syriac language, as well as to protect the Iraqi Christian culture which has been on a downward trajectory in the recent years.


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