Azeri compound nouns: The influence of Persian on a Turkic language

Parisa Erfani


This is a study of the effects of language contact on the structure of Azeri, a minority language spoken in Iran. Azeri, the second largest language in Iran, is a Turkic language, but it is heavily influenced by the national language Persian, an Indo-European language. Turkic languages are head-final: in noun phrases, modifiers appear before head nouns. In contrast, Persian is head-initial: modifiers follow head nouns. Notably, Azeri allows both head-final and head-initial structures. A field study conducted with ten Azeri speakers in Tabriz, Iran, revealed that in noun compounds the two types of structures are used almost equally. However, older and monolingual speakers prefer the head-final structure, while younger, educated bilingual speakers prefer the head-initial structure. This shows that Azeri is becoming persified in this domain, as predicted in such situations of language contact involving a politically-dominant language. However, all speakers accept head-final structure, showing the persistence of Turkic morphosyntax despite a millennium of intense social and cultural contact with Persian.


Language contact; Azeri morphosyntax; Turkic language; bilingualism; noun compounding

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Working Papers of the Linguistics Circle

EISSN: 1920-440X
ISSN: 1200-3344

University of Victoria