Azerbaijani is the official language of Azerbaijan. It is also the language of the majority population of the country. Several minority languages are also spoken in Azerbaijan. Most of these languages with the exception of a few like Armenian, Georgian, etc., are endangered languages. The use of English, treated as a foreign language in Azerbaijan, is steadily increasing in the country.
The Most Popular And Official Language Of Azerbaijan
Azerbaijani, also called the Azeri, is the most widely spoken language in Azerbaijan. The language is spoken by 92.5% of the population of the country. More than half of these speakers are monolingual implying that they can only communicate in Azerbaijani. Being a member of the Turkic family, Azerbaijani is closely related to the Turkish language. The language also serves as the official language of the country. Outside Azerbaijan, Azerbaijani is spoken in South Russia and Northern Iran. However, the dialects are different from that spoken in Azerbaijan. Despite the number of Azerbaijani speakers in Iran being higher than that in Azerbaijan itself, the language has been discouraged in Iran for decades. In Azerbaijan, Azerbaijani serves as the primary language of education and is used widely in government administration, media channels, and in the daily life of the people of the country.
The Minority Languages Of Azerbaijan
Several minority languages are spoken in Azerbaijan. Russian and Armenian are the most widely spoken minority languages in the country. Each of these two languages serves as the mother tongue of around 1.5% of the population of the country. Armenian is spoken almost exclusively in the break-away Nagorno-Kharabakh region of the country. The country also has a dozen other minority languages, many of which are endangered due to the extremely low number of speakers of these languages. Among the minority languages of Azerbaijan, all except Armenian, Georgian, Talysh, Lezgian, and Avar, are endangered. Although these languages have a small number of speakers in Azerbaijan, they are popular elsewhere. Even among these languages, Talysh, Lezgian, and Avar are classified as Vulnerable by the UNESCO’s Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger.
A Lezgic language, Lezgian is spoken by the Lezgins living in northern Azerbaijan. It is classified as a vulnerable language by UNESCO.
A language of the Northeast Caucasian family, Avar is spoken in parts of north-western Azerbaijan and Dagestan. It is spoken by about 762,000 people worldwide.
The Talysh language, an Iranian language, is spoken in parts of Iran and southern Azerbaijan. Although it has about 500,000 to 1 million speakers, its popularity is constantly decreasing. Thus, UNESCO also classifies this language as vulnerable in its Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger
The Endangered Languages Of Azerbaijan
Several minority languages that are spoken in Azerbaijan are endangered languages. These languages are spoken by less than 10,000 to less than 1,000 people. The modernisation of the country is also further decreasing the popularity of these languages. Here is a description of some of these languages:
Budukh is spoken by about 200 ethnic Budukhs in some parts of Quba Rayon in Azerbaijan. It is a Samur language belonging to the Northeast Caucasian language family. The language is designated as “severely endangered” in the UNESCO's Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger.
Also known as the Judeo-Tat, the Juhuri is spoken by the Mountain Jews of Azerbaijan and Dagestan. It is also spoken in Israel. A member of the Indo-European languages, Juhuri is closely related to Persian. It is classified as “endangered” by the UNESCO.
A Samur language of the Northeast Caucasian language family, Kryts is spoken in Azerbaijan’s Quba Rayon region. As of 1975, the language was spoken by about 6,000 people. The dialects of Kryts are all quite distinct and can even be classified as separate languages. Kryts is classified as a “severely endangered” language by the UNESCO.
Also classified as severely endangered, the Khinalug, a Northeast Caucasian language, has around 1,500 speakers in northern Azerbaijan’s Quba Rayon region. The UNESCO’s Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger labels Khinalug as a “severely endangered” language.
A Northeast Caucasian language, Cek or Jek is spoken by about 1,500 to 11, 000 people of the Jek community inhabiting the Jek village in northern Azerbaijan. It is not a written language but uses the Azeri language for literary representation.
The Rutul ethnic group living in parts of Azerbaijan and Dagestan speak the Rutul language. According to the 2010 census, there were about 30,000 speakers of this language worldwide. The UNESCO classified the Rutul as an endangered language.
The Tsakhur is spoken by the Tsakhurs in parts of Dagestan and northern Azerbaijan. About 13,000 people in Azerbaijan speak this language. The UNESCO labels this language as “definitely endangered.”
An Iranian language, the Tat is spoken by the Tat people of Azerbaijan and Russia. It is also one of the endangered languages of Azerbaijan.
The Udi language is spoken by about 4,000 people in Nij, an Azerbaijani village in Qabala Rayon. The language is also spoken in parts of the Oghuz Rayon in the country and in some parts of Russia. The Udi language belongs to the Northeast Caucasian language family and is classified as "severely endangered” by the UNESCO.
Immigrant Languages Of Azerbaijan
Immigrants to Azerbaijan speak their own languages or mother tongues. These include Assyrian, Belarusian, Georgian, Polish, Ukrainian, Iranian Persian, Dargwa, Tatar, Turkish, and some others. The number of speakers of these languages varies from a few hundred to a few thousand. The immigrant languages are used mainly at the homes of the immigrants and the usage of these languages is confined to the respective communities.
Foreign Languages Spoken In Azerbaijan
Both Russian and English play significant roles in the education system of Azerbaijan. These languages are taught as second and third languages in the country’s schools. The popularity of English is also fast growing in the country since knowledge in the language opens up better opportunities in education and work worldwide for the youth of the nation.