qashqai map 1

Qashqai qızılbash tribes

Qašqāʾi is a language of southwestern or Oghuz (see ḠOZZ) branch of Turkic languages, spoken in the Iranian provinces of Hamadan and Fārs, especially in the region to the north of Shiraz.

Until the middle of the 20th century nearly no Qašqāʾi (and Äynallu) materials had been published. The earliest records of the Qašqāʾi language were made by Aleksandr Romaskevich and Sir Aurel Stein. These materials, which are very precise descriptions of these dialects, were included in Tadeusz Kowalski’s description (Kowalski, 1937). Romaskevich collected his materials (35 phonetically recorded songs) in the region of Shiraz. These records had remained the most extensive materials for a long time. After that, researchers like Oliver Garrod, Karl Heinrich Menges, and M. Th. Ullens de Schooten also collected materials on the Qašqāʾi language, but these were never published. The unpublished materials of Menges (recorded in the Samirom area) are different from Kowalski’s records in many ways (Caferoğlu and Doerfer, p. 286). Later, some studies of the southwestern dialects of Turkish, or Azerbaijani, dealt with Qašqāʾi marginally and brought insignificant results (Gabain). Further materials were collected by Wolfram Hesche, Hartwig Scheinhardt, and Semih Tezcan in the region of Firuzābād during the Turcological expeditions to Iran in 1967, 1968, and 1973, initiated by Gerhard Doerfer. Finally, these Qašqāʾi materials were published in Oghusica aus Iran (Doerfer, Hesche, and Ravanyar), together with three texts from the collection of K. H. Menges. Extensive Qašqāʾi materials were collected by Gunnar Jarring, but they mainly remain unpublished. In the 2000s, Éva Ágnes Csató Johanson has been working on the Qašqāʾi language (Csató Johanson, 2001, 2005, 2006).

Various points of view were held regarding the relationship of Qašqāʾi to the southwestern dialects of Turkish. On the basis of Qašqāʾi samples published by Romaskevich, Kowalski wrote that the Qšqāʾi language can be defined as the dialect most closely related to the Azerbaijani language (Kowalski, p. 4). In the same way, Annemarie von Gabain stated that in the provinces of Hamadan and Fārs, the vernaculars of Äynallu and Qašqāʾi were close to the Azerbaijani language (Gabain, p. 174). In the opinion of Gerhard Doerfer, the two languages (Äynallu and Qašqāʾi) are so close to the Azerbaijani that one can call them its dialects (Doerfer, 1969, p. 14). K. H. Menges, on the other hand, argued that Qašqāʾi (and Äynallu) were more closely related to the Ottoman Turkish than to the Azerbaijani, and he supposed that they formed a third group of dialects within the southwestern Turkic languages. He wrote: “Since certain Qašqāʾi dialects exhibit a greater similarity with Osman-Turkish than with Āzarbājdžānian, the study of the Qašqāʾi dialects lead me to a reconsideration of the subdivisions of the southwestern Turkish languages (Osman, Āzarbājdžānian, Türkmen): Ottoman and Azerbaijani are not two languages, but two different dialect groups of one SW Turkic language—Osmano-Āzarbājdžānian, to which as a third group belong the Qašqāʾī dialects in the South. Thus, we have in the SW-Turkic language area two languages: Osman-Āzarbājdžān-Qašqāʾī in the West and Southwest, and Türkmen in the East of that area” (Menges, p. 278). Caferoğlu and Doerfer agreed to the fact that Qašqāʾi deviates from Azerbaijani, but refused Menges’s conception of its closer relationship to Ottoman Turkish (Caferoğlu and Doerfer, p. 281). Yet Doerfer expressed an opinion similar to that of Menges, when he wrote that Qašqāʾi, as well as Ottoman, represented dialectal groups of one language: “But he [Menges] surely is right when he adds that Osman-Turkish and Azerbaijani actually are only dialects of one language” (Doerfer, 1970, p. 219). Doerfer assumed that Qašqāʾi, Sonqori, and Äynallu—which was seen by Menges as a sub-dialect of Qašqāʾi only (Caferoğlu and Doerfer, p. 281)—represented transitional forms between Azerbaijani and Khorasan-Turkish (Doerfer, 1977, p. 54). Further to that, Doerfer considered the dialects spoken to the north of Ḵalajestān (see KHALAJ ii. LANGUAGE OF THE KHALAJ), Pugerd, and Āštiān (34˚ N, 50˚ E) to be closely connected with Qašqāʾi (Doerfer, 1998, p. 274). In terms of its structure, Qašqāʾi shows some closeness to the dialects of Qazvin (northeast of Tehran) and Soleymānābād (southwest of Hamadan; see Doerfer, 1998, p. 274).

The classification given in TABLE 1 demonstrates the position of Qašqāʾi, Sonqori, and Äynallu within the Oghuz branch of Turkic languages (the classification is based on Doerfer, 1975-76, pp. 81-94; Idem, 1976b, pp. 247 ff.; Idem, 1976a, pp. 137 ff.; Idem, 1978, pp. 191-97; Idem, 1990, p. 19; Idem, 1991, pp. 107-9; Doerfer and Hesche, 1988, p. 62; Idem, 1993, pp. 20-21).

Qašqāʾi seems to have the following vowels: i, e, ä, a, å, ï, u, ü, o, ö, and the following consonants: p, b, m, f, v, t, d, n, s, z, š, ž, č, 3˘, k, g, q, γ, χ, ŋ, l, r, h. According to Kowalski, there are long and short forms of all vowels (Kowalski, pp. 54 f.). In Qašqāʾi, ä became a (e.g., man ‘I’, Kowalski, p. 55), and o/ö are narrowed to u/ü (e.g., ūlur, ülüm, Kowalski, p. 55). Initial ii-, iï-, and iü- in Qašqāʾi became i- and ü- (e.g., ulduz < iulduz, see Kowalski, p. 55; see TABLE 2).

In the vocabulary of *Qašqāʾi (as well as in that of Äynallu), the influence of Persian is recognizable. Besides that, both the materials collected by Romaskevich (cf. Kowalski, Glossar, pp. 44-53) and the texts collected in Firuzābād by Doerfer’s collaborators (Doerfer, Hesche, and Ravanyar, index, pp. 114-31) show numerous borrowed elements of Arabic origin. The vocabulary of administration and the military has—as it would be expected—especially many words of Persian origin (e.g., pāsban ‘guardian’ < Pers. pāsbān; peykan ‘arrow-head’ < Pers. peykān; šah ‘king’ < Pers. šāh). The religious lexicon is borrowed from Arabic, but transmitted through Persian, and, consequently, it reveals specific Persian features. Furthermore, there is a remarkable and expected influence of Persian elements in the medical terminology (e.g., bimar ‘sick, ill’ < Pers. bimār; därd ‘pain’ < Pers. dard; dāru ‘medicine’ < Pers. dāru). Most of the toponyms are also of Persian origin or at least transmitted through it. There are a few Persian elements regarding morphology of Qašqāʾi as well as Äynallu, such as the comparative suffix –tar (e.g., yeytar ‘better’; see Caferoğlu and Doerfer, p. 300). The syntax, too, shows numerous elements borrowed from Persian (e.g., the Persian relative particle ke > Qašq. ki, or such figures of speech as xa … xa ‘whether … or’ < Pers. ḵᵛāh … ḵᵛāh).

For a music sample, see Qašqā’i.


M. Adamović, Konjugationsgeschichte der türkischen Sprache, Göttingen, 1979.

S. Arazkuliev, Türkmen diliniŋ gısgača dialektologik sözlügi, Ashgabat, 1977.

L. Beck, The Qashqa’i People of Southern Iran, Los Angeles, 1981.

Idem, The Qashqa’i of Iran, New Haven, 1986.

R. Berdyev, Ocherk dialektov turkmenskogo yazyka (A survey of dialects of the Turkmen language), Ashgabat, 1970.

A. Caferoğlu and G. Doerfer, “Das Aserbaidschanische,” in Philologiae Turcicae Fundamenta 1, Wiesbaden, 1959, pp. 280-307.

É. Á. Csató Johanson, “Present in Kashkay,” Turkic Languages 5, 2001, pp. 104-19.

Idem, “On Copying in Kashkay,” in Linguistic Convergence and Areal Diffusion: Case Studies from Iranian, Semitic and Turkic, ed. É. Á. Csató, Bo Isaksson, and C. Jahani, London, 2005, pp. 271-83.

Idem, “Gunnar Jarring’s Kashkay Materials,” in Turkic-Iranian Contact Areas. Historical and Linguistic Aspects, ed. L. Johanson and C. Bulut, Wiesbaden 2006, pp. 209-25.

G. Doerfer, “Die Turksprachen Irans,” Türk Dili Araştırmaları Yıllığı, Belleten, 1969, pp. 13-23.

Idem, “Irano-Altaistica (Turkish and Mongolian Languages of Persia and Afghanistan),” in Current Trends in LinguisticsVI: Linguistics in South West Asia and North Africa, The Hague, 1970, pp. 217-34.

Idem, “Zum Vokabular eines aserbaidschanischen Dialekts in Zentralpersien,” in Voprosy tyurkologii. K shestidesyatiletiyu akademika AN Azerb. SSR M. S. Shiralieva, Baku, 1971, pp. 33-62.

Idem, “Das Vorosmanische. Die Entwicklung der oghusischen Sprachen von den Orchoninschriften bis zu Sultan Veled,” Türk Dili Araştırmaları Yıllığı, Belleten 1975-76, 1976, pp. 81-131.