Languages of Iraq

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Languages of Iraq
Official languages (Standard) Arabic, Kurdish, Syriac-Aramaic, Armenian
Main languages Mesopotamian Arabic
Regional languages Syriac-Aramaic, South Azeri ("Turkmen" in the constitution)1
Minority languages Neo-Aramaic languages, Armenian, South Azeri
Main foreign languages English
Sign languages Iraqi Sign Language

There are a number of languages spoken in Iraq, but Mesopotamian Arabic (Iraqi Arabic) is by far the most widely spoken in the country.

Contemporary languages

Arabic is the majority language, Kurdish is spoken by approximately 15-20% of the population, South Azeri (called Turkmen locally),2 Neo-Aramaic languages and others by 5%.3 Other smaller minority languages include Mandaic Shabaki, Armenian, and Persian.

Arabic, Kurdish, Persian, and South Azeri are written with versions of the Arabic script, the Neo-Aramaic languages in the Syriac script and Armenian is written in the Armenian script.

Official languages

Arabic and Kurdish are the official languages,4 while Assyrian Neo-Aramaic and South Azeri (referred to as respectively "Syriac" and "Turkmen" in the constitution) are recognized regional languages.5 In addition, any region or province may declare other languages official if a majority of the population approves in a general referendum.6

History

The language with the longest recorded period of use in Iraq is Aramaic, which has a written tradition dating back for 3200 years or more and survives today in its descendants, the Neo-Aramaic languages.

The earliest recorded languages of Iraq were Sumerian and Akkadian (including ancient Assyrian-Babylonian). These languages are now extinct. Sumerian was displaced by Akkadian by 1700 BCE, and Akkadian was displaced by Aramaic gradually, from 1200 BCE to 100 CE. Sumerian and Akkadian (including all Assyrian and Babylonian dialects) were written in the cuneiform script from 3300 BCE onwards. The latest positively identified Akkadian text comes from the first century CE.7

References

  1. ^ Ethnologue; David Dalby. 1999/2000. The Linguasphere Register of the World's Languages and Speech Communities (Observatoire Linguistique), p. 346
    Hendrik Boeschoten. 1998. "The Speakers of Turkic Languages," The Turkic Languages, ed. Lars Johanson and Éva Ágnes Csató, Routledge, pp. 1–15, see p. 5
  2. ^ Constitution of Iraq. uniraq.org
  3. ^ "Iraq, CIA World Factbook". CIA. 31 July 2012. Retrieved August 08, 2012. 
  4. ^ Constitution of Iraq, Article 4 (1st)
  5. ^ Constitution of Iraq, Article 4 (4th)
  6. ^ Constitution of Iraq, Article 4 (5th)
  7. ^ John Huehnergard and Christopher Woods, 2004 "Akkadian and Eblaite", The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the World's Ancient Languages ISBN 0521562562, p. 218.







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