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Tat language (Caucasus)

Native to Azerbaijan, Dagestan (Russia)
Region North Caucasus, Transcaucasia
Native speakers
unknown (28,000 excluding Judeo-Tat cited 1989 –no date)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3 ttt
Glottolog musl1236[3]
Linguasphere 58-AAC-g

The Tat language or Tat/Tati Persian[4] or Tati (Tati: Tâti Zühun) is a Southwestern Iranian language and a variety of Persian[4][5][6][7][8] spoken by the Tats in Azerbaijan and Russia. Its written form is related to Middle Persian Pahlavi. There is also an Iranian language called Judeo-Tat spoken by Jews of Caucasus that is related to Tat.


  • General information 1
  • Dialects 2
    • Variants 2.1
  • Speakers 3
  • Ethnic population 4
    • Case study: Mǝlhǝm 4.1
  • Writing system 5
  • Linguistic migration 6
    • Tats and Azerbaijanis 6.1
  • Linguistic policies in Azerbaijan 7
  • See also 8
  • References 9
  • Further reading 10
  • External links 11

General information

The Tats are an indigenous Iranian people in the Caucasus.[9][10]

Tat is endangered,[11][12] classified as "severely endangered" by UNESCO's Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger.[13] Most scholars divide Tat into two general varieties: Jewish and Muslim, with religious differences correlating with linguistics differences.[14] Another, almost extinct variety of Tat is spoken by Christians of Armenian origin, who are called Armeno-Tats.


There are many dialects that share a number of the phonological and grammatical features of Tat including the dialect of Kalāsūr and Ḵoynarūd, two villages of the Ḥasanow (Ḥasanābād) district of Ahar, the dialect of Karīngān, a village of eastern Dīzmār in the Vazraqān district of Ahar sub-province, and the dialect of Galīnqaya, a village of the Harzand rural area (dehestān) in the district of Zonūz. There also exist dialects spoken in the Āḏarī-speaking villages of Azerbaijan.[15]

Vladimir Minorsky mentions in the first edition of Encyclopaedia of Islam that like most Persian dialects, Tati is not very regular in its characteristics, and occupies a position between modern Persian and the Caspian dialects.[16] According to him, The Great Russian Encyclopedia of 1901 gives the number of Tati speakers in 1901 as 135,000.[16] In the 1930s, Minorsky estimated the number of Tati speakers to be 90,000 and the decrease to be the result of gradual Turkicization.[16]


  • Aruskush-Daqqushchu
  • Lahyj
  • Balakhani
  • Devechi
  • Qyzyl Qazma
  • Qonaqkend
  • Absheron
  • Surakhani
  • Northern Tats
  • Malham
  • Quba[17]


According to the 1989 Soviet census, 30,000 Tats lived in the Soviet Union, of which 10,000 were in Azerbaijan.[14] Not all likely speak Tati, and this does not include the more rural locations that were not reached by the census. It is vital to stress that the Tats are one of the most assimilated of Azerbaijan’s ethnic groups. This is particularly true for urban Tats. All of this makes it difficult to identify the true number of the Tat ethnic group.[18]

The adults in most of the mountain and foothill communities reported they use Tat as their main language of interaction. They speak Tat with each other, but speak Azerbaijani with their children so that they will learn the language before beginning school. If the wife in the family is non-Tat speaking, however, the family is most likely to use Azerbaijani in the home. In the villages of Lahıc and Zǝyvǝ, women who marry in are reported to learn Tat.[14]

Ethnic population

Research has demonstrated that the word “Tat” does not have an ethnic origin. This is the term the Turks used to denote the settled Iranian-speaking population of Azerbaijan. This is proven by the names some groups of the Tat population have given themselves. For example the residents of the Apsheron settlements of Balakhany and Surakhany call themselves Pars, and those of the settlement of Lagich in the Ismailly district the Lohudj. It must be mentioned that in the 19th century, cattle herders called the seasonal workers from southern Azerbaijan Tat, although they were ethnic Turks.[18]

Baku was a Tat town in 1887

Case study: Mǝlhǝm

The town of Mǝlhǝm is largely Tat. Mǝlhǝm lies 6 km north of Şamaxı town on the A12 road. An estimated 1,500 residents live in Mǝlhǝm, a number higher than five years ago. The increase in population is primarily due to an increase in birth rate. According to the mayor, while approximately 10–15% of residents go to Baku to study or work, most return. Ethnically, the village is made up entirely of Tats, with the exception of a handful of ethnic Azerbaijani brides.[14]

Writing system

Tat was not written until 1935. Efforts are being made at preservation. "Since 1996, the Azerbaijani government has provided money for the development of minority languages, including Tat. Haciyev (personal communication) reports that Tat classes have been started in several schools in the Quba region using an alphabet based on the current Azerbaijani Latin alphabet." [14]

Linguistic migration

The prominence of the Tati language is directly related to migration. Additionally, most Tats in Azerbaijan live in the Apsheron zone, as well as the following districts: Khyzy, Divichi and Guba. The Tat people have been dispersed in northeast Azerbaijan. By their origin, the Tats are direct descendants of the Iranian-speaking population that migrated back in the era of the Sassanids to the Caspian coastal regions of Azerbaijan. Most of the Tats in Azerbaijan live in the Apsheron zone and the districts of Khyzy, Divichi, Guba and some others.[18]

Tats and Azerbaijanis

Coexistence between Tats and Azerbaijanis have combined much of the two cultures. Azerbaijani has largely overtaken Tati, which has also sparked a takeover in the ethnic consciousness of the Tats. The Tats and Azerbaijanis have gained much in common both industrially and culturally and in everyday life from their centuries of co-existence. Here a significant role has been played by the Azerbaijani language, which since the 19th century has been virtually the second native tongue for the Tats. The wide use of Azerbaijani, though, has imposed some constraints on the Tat language, which had become the general language in rural areas. Significant changes have taken place in the ethnic consciousness of the Tats. Many of them consider themselves to be Azerbaijani and have largely lost the Tat language.[18]

Linguistic policies in Azerbaijan

Azerbaijan has approached its linguistic policies in an interesting way. These policies include education in Tat. The development of a fundamentally new linguistic policy that reflected the country's ethnic minorities, again, which would have included the Tati people, is described by Latifa Mammadova as the following: "In the early post-Soviet years, Azerbaijan’s authorities faced the challenge of developing a fundamentally new concept of ethnic and linguistic policies, one that would be tactful toward the country’s ethnic minorities and mindful of the sensitivities of each. They started by elaborating a law on the protection of rights and freedoms of the country’s ethnic minorities in the area of culture. This document guaranteed fundamental rights for minority groups and individuals, including the right to receive education and publish press in their mother tongue. It also proclaimed some universal values of multicultural society, such as equality, partnership, tolerance, solidarity, and justice."[19]

See also


  1. ^ Tat at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Windfuhr, Gernot. The Iranian Languages. Routledge. 2009. p. 417.
  3. ^ Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Muslim Tat".  
  4. ^ a b Gernot Windfuhr, "Persian Grammar: history and state of its study", Walter de Gruyter, 1979. pg 4:""Tat- Persian spoken in the East Caucasus""
  5. ^ V. Minorsky, "Tat" in M. Th. Houtsma et al., eds., The Encyclopædia of Islam: A Dictionary of the Geography, Ethnography and Biography of the Muhammadan Peoples, 4 vols. and Suppl., Leiden: Late E.J. Brill and London: Luzac, 1913–38.
  6. ^ V. Minorsky, "Tat" in M. Th. Houtsma et al., eds., The Encyclopædia of Islam: A Dictionary of the Geography, Ethnography and Biography of the Muhammadan Peoples, 4 vols. and Suppl., Leiden: Late E.J. Brill and London: Luzac, 1913–38. Excerpt: Like most Persian dialects, Tati is not very regular in its characteristic features"
  7. ^ C Kerslake, Journal of Islamic Studies (2010) 21 (1): 147–151. excerpt:"It is a comparison of the verbal systems of three varieties of Persian—standard Persian, Tat, and Tajik—in terms of the 'innovations' that the latter two have developed for expressing finer differentiations of tense, aspect and modality..." [2]
  8. ^ Borjian, Habib, "Tabari Language Materials from Il'ya Berezin's Recherches sur les dialectes persans", Iran and the Caucasus, Volume 10, Number 2, 2006 , pp. 243–258(16). Excerpt:"It embraces Gilani, Ta- lysh, Tabari, Kurdish, Gabri, and the Tati Persian of the Caucasus, all but the last belonging to the north-western group of Iranian language."
  9. ^ H. Pilkington,"Islam in Post-Soviet Russia", Psychology Press, Nov 27, 2002. p. 27: "Among other indigenous peoples of Iranian origin were the Tats, the Talishes and the Kurds"
  10. ^ T. M. Masti︠u︡gina, Lev Perepelkin, Vitaliĭ Vi͡a︡cheslavovich Naumkin, "An Ethnic History of Russia: Pre-Revolutionary Times to the Present", Greenwood Publishing Group, 1996 . p. 80:""The Iranian Peoples (Ossetians, Tajiks, Tats, Mountain Judaists)"
  11. ^ Published in: Encyclopedia of the world’s endangered languages. Edited by Christopher Moseley. London & New York: Routledge, 2007. 211–280.
  12. ^ Do the Talysh and Tat Languages Have a Future in Azerbaijan?
  13. ^ UNESCO Interactive Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger
  14. ^ a b c d e John M. Clifton, Gabriela Deckinga, Laura Lucht, Calvin Tiessen, “Sociolinguistic Situation of the Tat and Mountain Jews in Azerbaijan,” In Clifton, ed., Studies in Languages of Azerbaijan, vol. 2 (Azerbaijan & St Petersburg, Russia: Academy of Sciences of Azerbaijan & SIL International 2005).
  15. ^ E. Yarshater, "The Iranian Language of Azerbaijan", ENCYCLOPÆDIA IRANICA, December 15, 1988
  16. ^ a b c V. Minorsky, "Tat" in M. Th. Houtsma et al., eds., The Encyclopædia of Islam: A Dictionary of the Geography, Ethnography and Biography of the Muhammadan Peoples, 4 vols. and Suppl., Leiden: Late E.J. Brill and London: Luzac, 1913–38. Excerpt: Like most Persian dialects, Tati is not very regular in its characteristic features"
  17. ^
  18. ^ a b c d Aliaga Mamedov, “Aspects of the Contemporary Ethnic Situation in Azerbaijan,” CA & CC Press (Sweden: AB Publishing House).
  19. ^ Latifa Mammadova, “Azerbaijan: Cultural Synergies and Diversity,” Ministry of Culture and Tourism of the Republic of Azerbaijan (paper presented at Linguistic and Cultural Diversity in Cyberspace: Proceedings of the International Conference at Yakutsk, Russian Federation, 2–4 July 2008, Sponsored by the Commission of the Russian Federation for UNESCO, Russian Committee of the UNESCO Information for All Programme, Interregional Library Cooperation Centre

Further reading

  • Donald W. Stilo, “The Tati Language Group in the Sociolinguistic Context of Northwestern Iran an Transcaucasia,” Iranian Studies: Journal of the Society for Iranian Studies (IranS) 14 (1981).
  • Gernot L. Windfuhr, “Typological Notes on Pronominal Cases in Iranian Tati,” Bulletin of the Asia Institute 4 (1990).
  • Giles Authier, “New Strategies for Relative Clauses in Azeri an Apsheron Tat,” In Clause Linkage in Cross-Linguistic Perspective: Data-Drive Approaches to Cross-Clausal Syntax (Berlin: de Gruyter Mouton 2012).
  • John M. Clifton, “Colonialism, Nationalism and Language Vitality in Azerbaijan,” in Responses to Language Endangerment: In honor of Mickey Noonan. New Directions in Language Documentation and Language Revitalization, ed. Elena Mihas, Bernard Perley, Gabriel Rei-Doval, Kathleen Wheatley (Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company, 2013): 201–205.
  • John M. Clifton, “Do the Talysh and Tat Languages Have a Future in Azerbaijan?” SIL International & University of North Dakota.
  • A.A. Saegehi, “New Words from the Old Language of Arran, Shirvan an Azerbaijan,” Iranian Journal of Linguistics 17.1 (2002) 21–40.
  • Abbas Taheri, “Tati Dialect of Takistan,” Iranian Journal of Linguistics 9.2 (1992) 25–39.

External links

  • Language Map of Azerbaijan.
  • Endangered Languages Project, Muslim Tat
  • Tat Numeral System
  • 100-word Swadesh list collected 2013 in Lahıc village
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