Gilaki language

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گیلکی Giləki
Native to Iran, province of Gilan and parts of the province of Mazandaran and Qazvin
Region Southwest coast of the Caspian Sea
Native speakers

4 million (2006)

3.3 million (1993)[1]
  • Western Gilaki
  • Eastern Gilaki
  • Galeshi
Language codes
ISO 639-3 glk
Glottolog gila1241[2]
Linguasphere 58-AAC-eb
Gilaki Language Location Map.PNG
Areas where Gilaki is spoken as the mother tongue
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The Gilaki language (گیلکی Giləki) is a Caspian language, and a member of the northwestern Iranian language branch, spoken in Iran's Gīlān Province.[3][4] Gilaki is closely related to Mazandarani and the two languages have similar vocabularies. The Gilaki and Mazandarani languages (but not other Iranian languages) share certain typological features with Caucasian languages (specifically South Caucasian languages),[5][6][7] reflecting the history, ethnic identity, and close relatedness to the Caucasus region and Caucasian peoples of the Gilaki people and Mazandarani people.


The language is divided into three dialects: Western Gilaki, Eastern Gilaki, and Galeshi (in the mountains of Gilan). Furthermore, the Gilaki language is closely related to Mazanderani, and the two languages have similar vocabularies.[citation needed]The western and eastern dialects are separated by the Sefid River.[8] According to Ethnologue, there were more than 3 million native speakers of Gilaki in 1993.[9] By 2006 there were 4 million native speakers of Gilaki.

There are three main dialects but larger cities in Gilan have slight variations to the way they speak. These "sub-dialects" are Rashti, Rudbari, Some’e Sarai, Lahijani, Langerudi, Rudsari, Bandar Anzali and Fumani.[10]

A slightly differente style of Gilaki (eastern dialect) is spoken in the city of Ramsar, Mazandaran. The dialect has been influenced by the Mazandarani language and is sometimes referred to as Mazandarani-Gilaki although most refer to it as Ramsari.


Gilaki, similar to Mazandarani, is an inflected and genderless language.[11] It is considered SVO, but in some tenses it may be SOV, depending on dialects however.[12]


Gilaki has the same consonants as Persian, but different vowels. Here is a table of correspondences for the Western Gilaki of Rasht, which will be the variety used in the remainder of the article:

Gilaki Persian Example (Gilaki)
i e
e(ː) , /ei seb
ə æ, e mən
a zai
ɒ (perhaps allophonic) lɒ.nə
o , /ɔ d͡ʒoɾ
u o/ ɡul

The consonants are:

Gilaki Consonants
  labial alveolar post-alveolar velar glottal
 voiceless stops p t t͡ʃ k ʔ
 voiced stops b d d͡ʒ ɡ  
 voiceless fricatives f s ʃ x h
 voiced fricatives v z ʒ ɣ  
 nasals m n      
 liquids   l, ɾ      
 glides     j    


The Gilaki and Mazandarani languages (but not other Iranian languages) share certain typological features with Caucasian languages (specifically South Caucasian languages),[5][6][7] reflecting the history, ethnic identity, and close relatedness to the Caucasus region and Peoples of the Caucasus of the Gilaki people.

Verb system

The verb system of Gilaki is very similar to that of Persian. All infinitives end in -tən/-dən, or in -V:n, where V: is a long vowel (from contraction of an original *-Vdən). The present stem is usually related to the infinitive, and the past stem is just the infinitive without -ən or -n (in the case of vowel stems).

Present tenses

From the infinitive dín, "to see", we get present stem din-.

Present indicative

The present indicative is formed by adding the personal endings to this stem:

Singular Plural
dinəm diním(i)
diní diníd(i)
diné diníd(i)

Present subjunctive

The present subjunctive is formed with the prefix bí-, bú-, or bə- (depending on the vowel in the stem) added to the indicative forms. Final /e/ neutralizes to /ə/ in the 3rd singular and the plural invariably lacks final /i/.

Singular Plural
bídinəm bídinim
bídini bídinid
bídinə bídinid

The negative of both the indicative and the subjunctive is formed in the same way, with n- instead of the b- of the subjunctive.

Past tenses


From xurdən, "to eat", we get the perfect stem xurd. To this are added unaccented personal endings and the unaccented b- prefix (or accented n- for the negative):

Singular Plural
buxúrdəm buxúrdim(i)
buxúrdi buxúrdid(i)
buxúrdə buxúrdid(i)


The imperfect is formed with what was originally a suffix -i:

xúrdim xúrdim(i)
xúrdi xúrdid(i)
xúrdi xúrdid(i)


The pluperfect is paraphrastically formed with the verb bon, "to be", and the past participle, which is in turn formed with the perfect stem+ə (which can assimilate to become i or u). The accent can fall on the last syllable of the participle or on the stem itself:

Singular Plural
buxurdə bum buxurdə bim
buxurdə bi buxurdə bid
buxurdə bu buxurdə bid

Past subjunctive

A curious innovation of Western Gilaki is the past subjunctive, which is formed with the (artificial) imperfect of bon+past participle:

Singular Plural
bidé bim bidé bim
bidé bi bidé bid
bidé be/bi bidé bid

This form is often found in the protasis and apodosis of unreal conditions, e.g., mən agə Əkbəra bidé bim, xušhal bubosti bim, "If I were to see/saw/had seen Akbar, I would be happy".


There are two very common paraphrastic constructions for the present and past progressives. From the infinitive šon, "to go", we get:

Present progressive

Singular Plural
šón darəm šón darim
šón dari šón darid
šón darə šón darid

Past progressive

Singular Plural
šón də/du bum šón də/di bim
šón də/di bi šón də/di bid
šón də/du bu šón də/di bid

Compound verbs

There are many compound verbs in Gilaki, whose forms differ slightly from simple verbs. Most notably, bV- is never prefixed onto the stem, and the negative prefix nV- can act like an infix -n-, coming between the prefix and the stem. So from fagiftən, "to get", we get present indicative fagirəm, but present subjunctive fágirəm, and the negative of both, faángirəm or fanígirəm. The same applies to the negative of the past tenses: fángiftəm or fanígiftəm.

Nouns, cases and postpositions

Gilaki employs a combination of quasi-case endings and postpositions to do the work of many particles and prepositions in English and Persian.


There are essentially three "cases" in Gilaki, the nominative (or, better, unmarked, as it can serve other grammatical functions), the genitive, and the (definite) accusative. The accusative form is often used to express the simple indirect object in addition to the direct object. A noun in the genitive comes before the word it modifies. These "cases" are in origin actually just particles, similar to Persian ra.


For the word "per", father, we have:

Singular Plural
Nom per perán
Acc pera perána
Gen perə peránə

The genitive can change to -i, especially before some postpositions.


The 1st and 2nd person pronouns have special forms:

Singular Plural
Nom mən amán
Acc məra amána
Gen mi amí
Singular Plural
Nom tu šumán
Acc təra šumána
Gen ti šimí

The 3rd person (demonstrative) pronouns are regular: /un/, /u.ˈʃan/, /i.ˈʃan/


With the genitive can be combined many postpositions. Examples:

Gilaki English
re for
həmra/əmra with
ĵa from, than (in comparisons)
mian in
ĵor above
ĵir under
ru on top of

The personal pronouns have special forms with "-re": mere, tere, etc.


Gilaki adjectives come before the noun they modify, and may have the genitive "case ending" -ə/-i. They do not agree with the nouns they modify.

  • Example for adjectival modification: Western Gilaki: pilla-yi zakan (big children), Surx gul (red flower). Eastern Gilaki: Sərd aw (cold water) (ɑb-e særd in Persian), kul čaqu (dull knife) (čaqu-ye kond in Persian).

Possessive Constructions

  • Examples for possessive constructions of nouns in Western Gilaki: məhin zakan (Mæhin's children) (Bæče-ha-ye Mæhin in Persian), Baγi gulan (garden flowers) (Gol-ha-ye Baγ in Persian). In Eastern Gilaki: Xirsi Kuti (bear cub) (Bæč-e Xers in Persian).


Gilaki Zazaki English Persian Persian transcription
dim ruy/rı face روی/چهره ruy/čehreh
zäy pıte/doman baby/kid کودک/بچه kudak/bačeh
pile per Kalîke grandfather پدربزرگ pedar bozorg
zəmat peyam Massage ماساژ māsāzh
mərdə per Pîye zama father of the husband پدرشوهر pedar šohar
kerk/murgh kerg hen مرغ خانگی morgh xānegi
gow cow گاو gāv
buĵor / cuer cor up بالا bālā
roĵä/kiĵi/setarə astare star ستاره setāreh
kor/kiĵä/kilka/läku kêna/çêna girl دختر doxtar
rey/rikä/ri Laj/biko boy پسر pesar
putär morcele ant مورچه murčeh
siftäl=garzak zerqet bee زنبور zanbur
piča psing cat/pussy cat گربه/پیشی gorbeh/piši
nesä siya shadow سایه sāyeh
vargadån Vardan to hang آویزان کردن/آویختن āvixtan/āvizān kardan
pilə=pila pîl/giran great بزرگ bozorg
zak/zay doman,qîj,leyr child بچه bačeh
per pîye,baw father پدر pedar
kåråš=kereš keresdan to draw on the ground کشیدن به دنبال kešidan
fuduštån levnayış to suck مکیدن makidan
vastån waşten appetite or desire اشتها و میل eštehā o meyl
šondån şodan/şıdan pouring of liquids ریختن مایعات rixtan-e māyeāt
lisk reser-lic lubricious ليز / سور liz/sor
kərč kırç brittle ترد و شکننده tord o šekanandeh
där dâr tree دار و درخت dār / deraxt
malĵå, čičini miliçik sparrow گنجشک gonješk
bušu buşu go برو boro
fegir fekir talk it in your hand بگیر begir
fegir or fengir megir don't take in your hand نگیر nagir
purd pırd bridge پل pol
si koy o kerra mountain and stone کوه و سنگ kuh o sang
kenes temas touch تماس tamās
morghanə hâk egg تخم مرغ toxm-e morgh
lanti mar snake مار mār
picha psing cat گربه gorbeh
kəlach qela crow کلاغ kalāgh
gərmalət isot, ferfer pepper فلفل felfel
pamador firang tomato گوجه فرنگی gojeh-ye farangi
vatərkəssən terqnaiden explode ترکیدن terkidan
šime šin seba/semed şıma for you برای شما barāye šomā
mi šin seba/semede mı for me برای من barāye man
kiškazay kerge chicken جوجه jujeh
vərza male cow گاو نر gāv-e nar
leše mungâ bull گاو ماده gāv-e māddeh
jir / bijir ceir/cér down پائین pā'in
luchan çemard roll of the eyes چشم غره češm ghoreh
bəjar berzer rice farm مزرعه برنج mazra'e-ye berenj
vachukastan vecyayen climb بالا رفتن bālā raftan

Comparison of Gilaki, Kurmanci, Zazaki and Balochi

Gilaki English Kurmanci Zazaki Balochi
zay/zak baby/kid zarok doman,qîj Zag
ĵor up jor/jûr cor Borz
kiĵa/kilka girl keç kêna/çêna
daar tree dar dar dāar
bošu go biçe so/şo
purd bridge pird pird
zama groom zawa zama
kaft fell keft kewt kapt

See also


  1. ^ Gilaki at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Gilaki". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History. 
  3. ^ Coon, "Iran:Demography and Ethnography" in Encyclopedia of Islam, Volume IV, E.J. Brill, pp. 10,8. Excerpt: "The Lurs speak an aberrant form of Archaic Persian" See maps also on page 10 for distribution of Persian languages and dialect
  4. ^ Kathryn M. Coughlin, "Muslim cultures today: a reference guide," Greenwood Publishing Group, 2006. p. 89: "...Iranians speak Persian or a Persian dialect such as Gilaki or Mazandarani"
  5. ^ a b Nasidze, I; Quinque, D; Rahmani, M; Alemohamad, SA; Stoneking, M (April 2006). "Concomitant Replacement of Language and mtDNA in South Caspian Populations of Iran". Curr. Biol. 16: 668–73. PMID 16581511. doi:10.1016/j.cub.2006.02.021. Retrieved 4 April 2014. 
  6. ^ a b Academic American Encyclopedia By Grolier Incorporated, page 294
  7. ^ a b The Tati language group in the sociolinguistic context of Northwestern Iran and Transcaucasia By D.Stilo, pages 137-185
  8. ^ Stilo, Don "A Description of the Northwest Iranian Project at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology"
  9. ^ "Gilaki: A language of Iran" Ethnologue
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^

Further reading

  • Christensen, Arthur Emanuel. 1930. Dialect Guiläki de Recht [The Gilaki dialect of Rasht]. In Contributions à la dialectologie iranienne. Series: Kgl. danske videnskabernes selskab. Historisk-filologiske meddelelser; 17, 2. (translated into Persian 1995)
  • Purriyahi, Masud. 1971. Barresi-ye dastur-e guyesh-e Gilaki-ye Rasht [A Grammatical Study of the Gilaki dialect of Rasht]. Dissertation, Tehran University.
  • Sartippur, Jahangir. 1990/1369 A.P. Vižegihā-ye Dasturi va Farhang-e vāžehā-ye Gilaki [Grammatical Characteristics and Glossary of Gilaki]. Rasht: Nashr-e Gilakan. Dictionary.
  • Shokri, Giti. 1998. Māzi-ye Naqli dar Guyeshhā-ye Gilaki va Mazandarāni [Present perfect in Gilani and Mazandarāni Dialects]. Nāme-ye Farhangestān 4(4(16)):59–69. (quarterly journal of Iranian Academy of Persian Language and Literature) Article abstract in English.
  • Rastorgueva, V., Kerimova, A., Mamedzade, A., Pireiko, L., Edel’man, D. & Lockwood, R. M. 2012. The Gilaki Language. Uppsala: Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis.

External links

  • Scientific Information Database of the Iranian Academic Center for Education, Culture, and Research
  • Sample recording in Gilaki
  • Dictionary of Gilaki (Dialect of Lahijan) and some of its characteristics
  • Open access recordings of a Gilaki song and basic word list are available through Kaipuleohone
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