Azerbaijani for beginners

Pronunciation

Like other Turkic languages in the former USSR, Azeri has gone through several changes of alphabet over the past century. Until the 1920s it was written in the Arabic alphabet, from 1928 to 1938 it, along with the other Turkic languages, was switched to Latin. From then on it was written in a modified Cyrillic script, and in 1992 it switched to a Latin alphabet, this time based on the one used in Turkey. In South Azerbaijan (Iran) Azeri is still written with the Arabic script.

The latin alphabet:

a b c ç d e ə f g ğ h x ı i j k q l m n o ö p r s ş t u ü v y z

and the cyrillic:

а б в г ғ д е ә ж з и ы ј к ҝ л м н о ө п р с т у ү ф х һ ч ҹ ш ‘

While the Cyrillic is being phased out and is hardly ever seen on the internet, it is still used in printing. since we’ll be using the Latin in this course these are only included for completeness’ sake.

Latin Cyrillic Arabic IPA Approx. English sound
A a А а آ ا [ ɑ ] as a in English “father”
B b Б б ب [ b ] as b in English “beet”
C c Ҹ ҹ ج [ ʤ ] as j in English “jam”
Ç ç Ч ч چ [ ʧ ] as ch in English “chair”
D d Д д د [ d ] as d in English “dart”
E e Е е ائ [ e ] as e in English “end”
Ə ə Ә ә اَ [ æ ] as a in English “ant”
F f Ф ф ف [ f ] as f in English “fire”
G g Ҝ ҝ گ [ gʲ ] as g in English “gear”
Ğ ğ Ғ ғ غ [ ɣ ] No exact equivalent; like Arabic ghayn
H h Һ һ *(ه (ح [ h ] as h in English “hat”
X x Х х خ [ x ] No exact equivalent; like Scottish loch
I ı Ы ы ای [ ɯ ] as e in English “happen”
İ i И и ای [ ɪ ] as i in English “pin”
J j Ж ж ژ [ ʒ ] as g in English “massage”
K k К к ک [ kʲ ] as k in English “keel”
Q q Г г ق [ g/x/k ] as g in English “go”
L l Л л ل [ l/ɫ ] as l in English “lard”
M m М м م [ m ] as m in English “man”
N n Н н ن [ n ] as n in English “need”
O o О о او [ ɔ ] as o in English “pore”
Ö ö Ө ө اؤ [ ø ] as e in English “herd”
P p П п پ [ p ] as p in English “pear”
R r Р р ر [ r ] as r in English “row”
S s С с (س (ث ص [ s ] as s in English “soot”
Ş ş Ш ш ش [ ʃ ] as sh in English “shield”
T t Т т ت ط [ t ] as t in English “toad”
U u У у او [ ʊ ] as oo in English “hood”
Ü ü Ү ү او [ y ] as u in English “abuse”
V v В в و [ v ] as v in English “vase”
Y y Ј ј ی [ j ] as y in English “yard”
Z z З з (ز (ذ ض ظ [ z ] as z in English “zoo”

 Vowels

• a (а), e (е), i (и), o (о), u (у). these are more or less the same as the ‘pure’ vowels of Spanish, and don’t have any traces of diphthongization like in English.

• ә (ә), ö (ө), ü (ү). these are pronounced more or less like the German umlaut vowels ä, ö, and ü.

• ı (ы) is the same as its Turkish counterpart.

• Most of these vowels have long equivalents but this is not phonemic, i.e. it does not change the meaning of words. they mainly occur in loan words from Persian/Arabic, so if you know either of these languages it can help you figure out where the long vowels are.

• In Russian loan words, an unstressed o gets pronounced a – avtomat (автомат) gets pronounced aftamát. Again, knowing Russian will help you figure out the proper pronunciation of such words.

Consonants

• b (б), f (ф), h (һ), l (л), m (м), p (п), s (с) , y (ј), z (з) are pronounced more or less as in English. l (л) has the same dark/light contrast it has in North American English – with back vowels it sounds like the ll in wall, with front vowels like the l in leaf.

• Voiceless stops are pronounced aspirated unless they are doubled.

• r (р) – not pronounced as breathily as in Istanbul Turkish, but still very weak, not rolled.

• v (в) – is the same as in many European languages (other than English) a sound sort of in between w and v, but tending towards v with front vowels and closer to w with back vowels. At the ends of (back vowel) syllables it gets pronounced w – dovşan (rabbit) → dowşan.
Coming before voiceless stops in Russian loans it can be pronounced like f – avtobus – aftobus

• dentals d (д), t (т), n (н) are just that, dental (like in French, Spanish, etc) and not alveolar as they are in English and German.

• k (к), – like English k, but it tends to get palatized near front vowels and even in some back vowel words (example – bakı ‘baku’, which sounds almost like bakyı)

• g (ҝ), q (г) – both are pronounced more or less like g, but g is associated with front-vowel words and is more palatized, while q is associated with back vowel words and (in theory at least) does not palatalize even with front vowels. q corresponds to the Arabic letter ق in loan words from that language.
At the ends of syllables in words of Turkic origin, it gets pronounced like x. When it’s found in the same position in Arabic loans, it tends to get pronounced like a k.

• ‘ – marks an ع in loan words from Arabic. in Azeri, it has no pronunciation of its own, but it does make preceding vowels longer. While it officially has been removed from the Latin alphabet you will still meet it occasionally.

• voiced stops b, c, d, get pronounced (but not written) like their voiceless equivalents p, ç, t at the end of a word.

There are some other minor details of pronunciation, which we will not concern ourselves with here.

Vowel Harmony

Those of you who know Turkish or another Turkic language will be familiar with these rules.

Front vowels: e ə i ü ö
Back vowels: a ı u o

Words of Turkic origin can contain only front or only back vowels (exceptions are words like iraq, irmaq – ı can never begin a word in Azeri). When adding suffixes any vowels contained in the suffixes have to match the vowels in the root:

də/da (“in”)
vağzalda (back vowel) – in the train station
məktəbdə (front vowel) – in the school

There are two kinds of vowel harmony, 2-way and 4-way.
2-way has only two alternatives, a/ə.
4-way is a bit more complicated, because the choice depends not only on whether a vowel is front or back, but also whether it’s rounded or not.

Therefore:
Roots ending in a/ı get the suffix vowel ı.
Roots ending in e/ə/i get the suffix vowel i.
Roots ending in o/u get the suffix vowel u.
Roots ending in ö/ü get the suffix vowel ü.

When harmonizing suffixes, there is also a kind of ‘consonant harmony’ involving the letters k/q y/ğ.
• Words ending in q turn this into ğ when followed by a vowel initial suffix: bıçaq (knife) – bıçağı (his knife)
• Words ending in k turn this into y: ürək (heart) – ürəyi (his heart).
• There is no change when adding consonant-initial suffixes: bıçaq → bıçaqlar (knives)

In suffixes containing one of these consonants, however, all four variations are possible:
• O, çatacaq – he will arrive (-caq – future tense forming suffix)
• Mən çatacağam – I will arrive (-am first person ending)
• O, gələcək – he will come
• Mən gələcəyəm – I will come

Exercises

Exercise A: Read aloud:

1) bibi
2) göy
3) ingiliscə
4) almanca
5) əmi
6) portuqalqa
7) ispanca
8 ) qohum
9) uşaq
10) xala
11) qardaş
12) bəlkə
13) rusca
14) mavi
15) boz
16) çəhrayı
17) qırmızı
18) fransızca
19) yaxşi
20) bacı
21)
22) bəli
23) kitab
24) pis

Gender, Articles, Plural, Noun Cases, Pronouns, Locative Case -da

Gender

There is no grammatical gender in Azeri. The pronoun „O” and endings associated with it can mean he/she/it.

Articles

There are no articles, although the word bir (“one”) can be used as an indefinite article:
bir kitab “a book”.

In other cases, the definiteness or indefiniteness of an article has to be guessed from the context:
çay ucuzdur – “the tea is cheap” *or* “tea is cheap”

Plural

The plural suffix is -lar for back-vowel words, and -lər for front vowel words.

kitab-lar – book-s
ev-lər – house-s

When a singular word stands for things in general, such as in the expressions reading books, writing letters, etc the plural noun in English is translated as a singular in Azeri:

Mən kitab oxuyuram – I am reading books/a book
Mən məktub yazıram – I am writing letters/a letter
(another example from Google: mən bütün oğlanlara məktub yazıram. – I am writing letters to all the boys)

Similarly, when preceded by a number or other quantity word, the noun is in the singular:

iki qələm – two pens
çox kitab oxuyuram – I read many books

Noun cases

There are six cases in Azeri: Nominative, Genitive, Dative, Accusative (or definite direct object case), Locative, and Ablative. These will be covered in more detail below, but for now the endings:

Nominative (no ending)
Genitive (n)ın (possession – kişi-nin maşını “the man-‘s car”)
Dative (y)a (motion towards – ev-ə “to-the house”)
Accusative (n)ı (definite direct objects – məktub-u yazdı “he wrote the letter”)
Locative da (shows where an object is located – ev-də “in the house”)
Ablative dan (motion away from – ev-dən “from the house”)

Nominative case generally marks the subject or an indefinite object in a sentence. To mark a definite direct object, the case ending -(n)ı is used (from now on 4-way harmonizing suffixes will only be given with “ı”, and 2-way harmonizing suffixes with “a”.)

çay içirəm – I am drinking tea.
çayı içirəm – I am drinking *the* tea

After nouns ending in a consonant, the ending is simply tacked on:

kitab-ı (the) book
ev-i the house
top-u the ball
gül-ü the flower

For words ending in a vowel, the buffer consonant -n- is added:

meyvəni yeyirəm – I eat *the* fruit
lampanı alıram – I am buying the lamp
etc.

There is one major exception – the word su “water” which takes the buffer consonant -y-:

suyu içdim – I drank the water.

Other “exceptions” are nouns where a final vowel disappears when a case ending beginning in a vowel is added:

şəkil picture → şəkl-i
burun nose → burn-u

These will be noted as they appear.

Pronouns

mən I
sən you (familiar singular)
o he/she/it
biz we
siz you (polite singular or plural)
onlar they

Since verbs conjugate according to person, personal pronouns are often not used.

(Mən) kitab oxuyuram. – I am reading a book.

The definite direct object case of the pronouns is formed just like other nouns:
məni, səni, onu, bizi, sizi, onları

məni gördün you saw me
səni çağırdım I invited you
etc

Locative Case -da

As the name suggests, this case shows where an object is located:

stolda on the table
məktəbdə at the school
evdə in the house/at home

As you can see, this single prefix takes the place of the various locative prepositions in English.

The plural suffix always comes before other suffixes, so:

ev-lər-də in (the) houses
maşın-lar-da in the cars

Vocabulary

kitab book
top ball
gül flower
çay tea
qələm pen
məktub letter, missive
meyvə fruit
lampa lamp
su water
maşın car
alma apple
şəkil picture
quş bird
daş stone
üzük ring
ev house
bıçaq knife
ürək heart
stol table
mənzil apartment

Exercises

Exercise A: Put the correct plural ending on the nouns below:
1) quş (bird)
2) daş (stone)
3) üzük (ring)
4) ev (house)
5) bıçaq (knife)
6) ürək (heart)
7) stol (table)
8 ) mənzil (apartment)

Exercise B: Do the same with the locative suffix.

Exercise C: Complete the sentences below by putting the nouns in the definite direct object case:
1) mən_ çağırdı – He invited me.
2) maşın_ satdıq – We sold the car.
3) şəkil_ çəkdim – I took the picture (exception).
4) alma_ yedim – I ate the apple.

Solutions

After you’ve done the exercises you can check whether your answer is correct using the following solutions:

Solution of Exercise A:
1) quşlar
2) daşlar
3) üzüklər
4) evlər
5) bıçaqlar
6) ürəklər
7) stollar
8 ) mənzillər

Solution of Exercise B:
1) quşda
2) daşda
3) üzükdə
4) evdə
5) bıçaqda
6) ürəkdə
7) stolda
8 ) mənzildə

Solution of Exercise C:
1) məni çağırdıHe invited me.
2) maşını satdıqWe sold the car.
3) şəkli çəkdimI took the picture (exception).
4) almanı yedimI ate the apple.


Verb “To Be”, Question Particle

The Verb “To Be”

As in many languages, this one is irregular (as such it is probably the only irregular verb in Azeri). In the present tense it’s a suffix added to the end of the last word in a sentence. The conjugation is as follows (by now you should have a good grip on vowel harmony so these will be given in the base back/unrounded vowel forms):

Mən -(y)am
Sən -san
O -dır
Biz -(y)ıq
Siz -sınız
Onlar -dır(lar)

So as an example let’s take the word “müəllim” (teacher):

Mən müəlliməm
Sən müəllimsən
O müəllimdir
Biz müəllimik
Siz müəllimsiniz
Onlar müəllimdir(lər)

After words ending in a vowel a buffer consonant (y) is added before suffixes beginning in a vowel:

Mən tələbəyəm (tələbə = student)
Biz tələbəyik
etc.

For words ending in the “harmonizing” consonants q or k, these change accordingly when adding vowel-initial suffixes:

Balıq (“fish”) Mən balığam – I am a fish.
Sən balıqsan

Note:

1. The *singular* form of the noun is used regardless of whether the subject is singular or plural. So “Biz müəllimlərik” would be incorrect.
2. Since the pronoun is inherent in the ending the separate pronouns can be omitted:
(mən) həkiməm – (I) am a doctor
3. the -dır ending, unlike in Turkish, is obligatory and can’t be omitted. As for the -lar of the 3rd person plural, it’s omitted for inanimate objects (AFAIK this also includes animals) and retained for animates (that is, people):
Onlar tələbədirlər – They are students.
Onlar stoldur – Those are _tables_.
4. the endings -sınız and -dır(lar) are shortened in colloquial pronounciation:
sınız → sız
dır(lar) → dı(lar)

For the negative the particle “deyil” is used. This is put after the last word in the sentence, and the personal suffix is attached to deyil:

Mən sürücü deyiləm – I am not a driver

The endings are the same as in the affirmative, except in the third person, where they are omitted for inanimates and optional (but usually omitted in colloquial language) for animates:

Bu stol deyil – This is not a table
Onlar həkim deyil (or deyildirlər) – They are not doctors

Note: in colloquial language “deyil” often gets pronounced “döl”

The Question Particle

This is a vowel harmonizing suffix -mı added to the last word in the sentence (including other suffixes):
Sən tələbəsənmi?

Unlike Turkish, this is optional and is usually indicated by tone of voice (in fact I have met Azeri speakers from Iran who were completely unaware that such a suffix existed). Also unlike Turkish, it is not written separately and comes after the second person suffixes
(Az. Sən tələbəsənmi   Tr. Sen öğrenci *misin*?)

Vocabulary

müəllim teacher
balıq fish
həkim doctor
şagird pupil
fəhlə worker, labourer
ovçu hunter
sürücü driver
riyaziyyatçı mathematician

Exercises

Exercise A: Write out the entire present tense conjugation (Mən ….-am, sən …-san etc.) of the verb “to be” using the following words:
1) şagird (“pupil”)
2) fəhlə (“worker, labourer”)
3) ovçu (“hunter”)
4) sürücü (“driver”)
5) riyaziyyatçı (“mathematician”)

Exercise B: Do the same in the negative (Mən …deyiləm etc. since the final word is invariable you may do this with only one of the above nouns) (you may optionally do the same with the affirmative+question particle “ovçudurmu?“)

Exercise C: Translate to Azerbaijani (remember – the suffixed verb “to be” and “deyil” _always_ come last)
1) I am in the house.
2) I am not at university (“universitet”)
3) It is on the table.
4) We are not in the cars.
5) This house is not expensive (“baha”)

Solutions

Solution of Exercise A:
1) Mən şagirdəm
2) Sən fəhləsən
3) O ovçudur
4) Biz sürücüyük
5) Siz riyaziyyatçısınız

Solution of Exercise B:
1) Mən şagird deyiləm (şagirdəmmi?)
2) Sən fəhlə deyilsən (fəhləsənmi?)
3) O ovçu deyil (ovçudurmu?)
4) Biz sürücü deyilik (sürücüyükmü?)
5) Siz riyaziyyatçı deyilsiniz (riyaziyyatçısınızmı?)

Solution of Exercise C:
1) Evdəyəm
2) Universitetdə deyiləm
3) Stoldadır
4) Maşınlarda deyilik
5) Bu ev baha deyil


Genitive Pronouns, Possessive Suffixes

Genitive Pronouns

The genitive pronouns are as follows:

Mənim, sənin, onun, bizim, sizin, onların.

For the 1st person the ending is -im, for everything else it’s -in.

Possessive Suffixes

The possessive suffixes are as follows:

mənim -(ı)m my
sənin -(ı)n your
onun -(s)ı his/her/its
bizim -(ı)mız our
sizin -(ı)nız your
onların -(s)ı/ları their

These are all four-way harmonizing suffixes.

For the third person plural there are two possibilities; -(s)ı is used if the possessed noun is singular, -ları if it’s plural:
onların it-i – their dog
onların it-ləri – their dogs

Likewise, if the possessed noun with other pronouns is also plural it takes the plural suffix:
bizim itlərimiz – our dogs

The letters in brackets are variations used depending on whether the word ends in a consonant or a vowel. to illustrate, we’ll use the consonant-final kitab (“book”) and vowel-final meyvə (“fruit”):

mənim kitab-ım my book
sənin kitab-ın your book
onun kitab-ı his/her/its book
bizim kitab-ımız our book
sizin kitab-ınız your book
onların kitab-ı their book
mənim meyvə-m my fruit
sənin meyvə-n your fruit
onun meyvə-si his/her/its fruit
bizim meyvə-miz our fruit
sizin meyvə-niz your fruit
onların meyvə-si their fruit

So as you can see, consonant-final words require a vowel-initial suffix, and vice-versa.

The full pronouns are of course optional and used mainly for emphasis.

The genitive of regular nouns is formed with the suffix -(n)ın; -nın after vowels, -ın after consonants. the possessed noun likewise takes the 3rd person possessive suffix:
adam-ın ev-i – the man’s house
ana-nın bağça-sı – the mother’s garden

This suffix can also be added to possessive suffixes:
ana-m-ın bağça-sı – my mother’s garden

or the plural ending:
adam-lar-ın mənzil-i – the men’s apartment

One exception: su (“water”), which has the buffer consonant -y- instead of -n-:
suyun dadı – the taste of water (“water’s taste”)

To express possession (“I have x”) the construction is noun+possessive suffix + var.
kitabım var – i have a book (or the book) (lit. “my book is/exists”)
böyük itin var – you have a large dog

To do the same in the negative (“I don’t have x”) var is replaced by yoxdur (note: unlike turkish the -dur is necessary, in Azeri “yox” alone means “no”)
mənim itim yoxdur – i don’t have a dog (“my dog isn’t”)
sənin evin yoxdur(mu)? – don’t you have a house?

There’s another, simpler possessive construction using the locative ending -da:
pul məndədir – I have the money (“the money is on me”)

Vocabulary

it dog
adam man
ana mother
bağça garden
dadı taste
böyuk large
pul money

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