Gilaki Language
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Gilaki Language
Native toIran, province of Gilan and parts of the province of Mazandaran and Qazvin
RegionSouthwest coast of the Caspian Sea
Native speakers
2.4 million (2016)[1]
  • Western Gilaki
  • Eastern Gilaki
  • Galeshi
Language codes
Gilaki Language Location Map.PNG
Areas where Gilaki is spoken as the mother tongue
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The Gilaki language ( Gil?ki) is a Caspian language, and a member of the northwestern Iranian language branch, spoken in Iran's Gilan Province. Gilaki is closely related to Mazandarani and the two languages have similar vocabularies.[3] Though the Persian language has influenced Gilaki to a great extent, Gilaki remains an independent language with a northwestern Iranian origin.[4][5][6][7] The Gilaki and Mazandarani languages (but not other Iranian languages) share certain typological features with Caucasian languages (specifically South Caucasian languages),[8][9][10] 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). The western and eastern dialects are separated by the Sefid River.[11] According to Ethnologue, there were more than 2 million native speakers of Gilaki in 1993.[12] By 2016, there were 2.4 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, Rudesari, Bandar Anzali and Fumani.[13]

Eastern Gilaki is also spoken in the city of Ramsar, Tonekabon and surrounding areas. It has been influenced by the Mazandarani language and is sometimes referred to as Gil-Mazani although most refer to it as Ramsari, it is still considered a sub-dialect of Gilaki.


Gilaki, similar to Mazandarani, is an inflected and genderless language.[14] It is considered SVO. However, some tenses may be SOV.[15]


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(:) i:, e:/ei seb
?(oe) e i?r?
? æ, e m?n
a a: lag
ä æ zäy
? (perhaps allophonic) a: l?.n?
o u:, o:/? do?
u o/u: ?ul
ü u tüm

There are nine vowel phonemes in the Gilaki language:

Front Central Back
Close i i: y u u:
Mid e? ?~? o?
Open-Mid ?
Open a ?

The consonants are:

Gilaki Consonants
  labial alveolar post-alveolar velar uvular glottal
 voiceless stops p t t k ?
 voiced stops b d d ?  
 voiceless fricatives f s ? x ~ ? h
 voiced fricatives v z ? ? ~ ?  
 nasals m n   ?  
 liquids   l, ? ~ r      
 glides     j    

Verb system

The verb system of Gilaki is very similar to that of Persian. All infinitives end in -t?n/-d?n, or in -V:n, where V: is a long vowel (from contraction of an original *-Vd?n). The present stem is usually related to the infinitive, and the past stem is just the infinitive without -?n 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
din?m diním(i)
diní diníd(i)
diné diníd(i)

Present subjunctive

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

Singular Plural
bídin?m bídinim
bídini bídinid
bídin? 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 xurd?n, "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
buxúrd?m buxúrdim(i)
buxúrdi buxúrdid(i)
buxúrd? 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+? (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
buxurd? bum buxurd? bim
buxurd? bi buxurd? bid
buxurd? bu buxurd? 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., m?n ag? ?kb?ra bidé bim, xu?hal 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 ?on, "to go", we get:

Present progressive

Singular Plural
?ón dar?m ?ón darim
?ón dari ?ón darid
?ón dar? ?ón darid

Past progressive

Singular Plural
?ón d?/du bum ?ón d?/di bim
?ón d?/di bi ?ón d?/di bid
?ón d?/du bu ?ón d?/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 fagift?n, "to get", we get present indicative fagir?m, but present subjunctive fágir?m, and the negative of both, faángir?m or fanígir?m. The same applies to the negative of the past tenses: fángift?m or fanígift?m.

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 per? perán?

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


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

Singular Plural
Nom m?n amán
Acc m?ra amána
Gen mi amí
Singular Plural
Nom tu ?umán
Acc t?ra ?umána
Gen ti ?imí

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


With the genitive can be combined many postpositions. Examples:

Gilaki English
re for
h?mra/?mra with
?a from, than (in comparisons)
mian in
?or above
?ir 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" -?/-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: S?rd ow (cold water) (?b-e særd in Persian), kul ?aqu (dull knife) (?aqu-ye kond in Persian).

Possessive constructions

  • Examples for possessive constructions of nouns in Western Gilaki: m?hin zakan (Mæhin's children) (Bæ?e-ha-ye Mæhin in Persian), Ba?i gulan (garden flowers) (Gol-ha-ye Ba? in Persian). In Eastern Gilaki: Xirsi Kuti (bear cub) (Bæ?-e Xers in Persian).


Gilaki Zazaki Kurmanji English Persian Persian transcription Baluchi
dim ruy/r? dêm face /? ruy/?ehreh dim/deym
zäy p?te/doman dergû? / zarok baby/kid ?/ kudak/ba?eh zag
pile p?r Kalîke Kal grandfather ? pedar bozorg pirok
z?mat peyam Peyam Massage m?s?zh
m?rd? per Pîye zama/vi?tewru xezûr father of the husband ? pedar ?ohar
kerk/murgh/kerat kerg mrî?k hen morgh x?negi morg
gow/g?b gaw/g?b cow g?v gowk
bu?or/cuer cor jor up ? b?l? borz
ro/ki?i/sitar? astare star / stêrk star set?reh estar
kor/ki/kilk?/l?ku kêna/çêna keç girl ? doxtar jinek/ dohtar/ jinen zag
rey/rik?/ri Laj/biko law boy pesar bachek/ marden zag
put?l morcele morî ant mur?eh morink
sift?l/garzak zerqet moz bee zanbur gowder
pi?a psing psik cat/pussy cat ?/? gorbeh/pi?i peshik
nesä siya re? shadow ? s?yeh s?yag
vargadån/urgadån Vardan êxistin to hang ?/ ?vixtan/?viz?n kardan
pill?=pilla pîl/giran mezin/gir great ? bozorg tuh/ mazan
zäk/zäy doman,qîj,leyr zarok child ba?eh zag
p?r pîye,baw bav father pedar pet/ pes
kårå?=kere?/fakeshen keresdan k?în/k?andin to draw on the ground ke?idan
fudu?tån/udu?tån levnay mejîyan to suck makidan
vastån wa?ten vîstin/vîyan appetite or desire ? e?teh? o meyl
?ondån/fukudån ?odan/dan rijandin / pêda berdan pouring of liquids rixtan-e m?ye?t
lisk reser-lic sîsk / runik lubricious / liz/sor
k?r? k?rç brittle ? tord o ?ekanandeh
där dâr dar tree ? ? d?r / deraxt d?ar/ drachk/ mach(date tree)
mal?å/?i?ini miliçik tîvil / qilîç sparrow gonje?k jenjeshk
bu?u bu?u biçe / here go boro bera/ shoten
fegir/fagir fekir bigre take it in your hand ? begir ger
fangir/fanigir megir megire / negire don't take in your hand ? nagir mager
purd p?rd pird bridge pol
si koy u kerra çiya u kevir mountain and stone ? kuh o sang
kenes temas temas touch ? tam?s
morghan? hâk hêk egg toxm-e morgh ?morg/ hek
lanti mar mar snake m?r m?r
picha psing psik cat ? gorbeh
k?lach qela qela crow ? kal?gh
g?rmal?t isot, ferfer isot pepper ? felfel pelpel
pamadur firang firing tomato ? gojeh-ye farangi
vat?rk?ss?n/vat?rk?st?n terqnaiden teqîn explode terkidan
?imi ?in seba/semed ma sewa we / jibo we for you ? bar?ye ?om? par shoma/ par ta/ shome ent/ ti ent
mi ?in seba/semede m? sewa min / jibo min for me ? bar?ye man par man/ mani ent
ki?kazay kerge chicken ? jujeh
v?rza gaw / ganêr male cow g?v-e nar
le?e mungâ mange bull ? g?v-e m?ddeh
jir/bijir ceir/cér jêr down p?'in jahl/ cher
luchan çemard roll of the eyes ?e?m ghoreh
b?jar/bijar berzer zeviya rizê rice farm ? mazra'e-ye berenj
vachukastan vecyayen helki?tin climb ? ? b?l? raftan borz buten

Comparison of Gilaki, Kurmanci, Zazaki and Balochi

Gilaki English Kurmanci Zazaki Balochi
zay/zak baby/kid zarok doman,qîj Zag
?or up jor/jûr cor Borz
kor/kilka girl keç kêna/çêna jinek/janek
daar tree dar dar d?ar
bu?u go biçe so/?o boro
purd bridge pir pird
zama groom zava zama salonk/ zam?s
kaft fell ket kewt kapt


  1. ^ Gilaki at Ethnologue (19th ed., 2016)
  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. ^ Dalb, Andrew (1998). Dictionary of Languages: The Definitive Reference to More Than 400 Languages. Columbia University Press. p. 226. ISBN 0-231-11568-7.
  4. ^
  5. ^ "GILAN x. LANGUAGES - Encyclopaedia Iranica".
  6. ^ "Gilaki".
  7. ^ "OLAC resources in and about the Gilaki language".
  8. ^ 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 (7): 668-73. doi:10.1016/j.cub.2006.02.021. PMID 16581511.
  9. ^ Academic American Encyclopedia By Grolier Incorporated, page 294
  10. ^ The Tati language group in the sociolinguistic context of Northwestern Iran and Transcaucasia By D.Stilo, pages 137-185
  11. ^ Stilo, Don "A Description of the Northwest Iranian Project at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology"
  12. ^ "Gilaki: A language of Iran" Ethnologue
  13. ^ "Gilaki".
  14. ^ "Mazandarani".
  15. ^ Johanson, Lars; Bulut, Christiane (2006). Turkic-Iranian Contact Areas: Historical and Linguistic Aspects. ISBN 9783447052764.

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. Vi?egih?-ye Dasturi va Farhang-e veh?-ye Gilaki [Grammatical Characteristics and Glossary of Gilaki]. Rasht: Nashr-e Gilakan. Dictionary.
  • Shokri, Giti. 1998. M?zi-ye Naqli dar Guyeshh?-ye Gilaki va Mazandar?ni [Present perfect in Gilani and Mazandar?ni Dialects]. N?me-ye Farhangest?n 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

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