Multilingualism in Iran; Unity or Pluralism? (A case study in East Azerbaijan Province)

Esmaeil Safaei Asl


In multilingual-multicultural Iran, from among existing languages, Persian language has, naturally and in the long historical run, taken the position of both national and the sole official language. So, it can be argued that the dominant language model in Iran is language unity based on the unity approach. In the present study, first the approaches of unity and pluralism in language planning are introduced in relation to the position of national/official languages and the amount of attention paid to local languages as well. Then a specific framework is proposed to evaluate the multilingual country of Iran. The considered framework encompasses factors such as the status of existing languages in the domains of radio, television and national/local publications. In order to answer the basic question about the effect(s) of laying emphasis on Persian ,both as the sole official and national language of Iran and as a determinant factor in national unity, on the status of Azeri as a non-official language in the country, the researcher referred to the well-documented resources related to East Azerbaijan's local radio, television and publications and, having extracted the amount of time allocated to Azeri language on local television and radio and the number of publications printed in Azeri, compared and evaluated their related statistical data with those related to Persian language in the mentioned domains. On the basis of the results obtained from the data analysis, it can be daringly claimed that language unity in Iran (at least in the case of Azeri language) has taken its sound version and not only is it far from being in pursuit of marginalizing and suppressing the local languages, but it has also helped them both maintain their status and enrich themselves day by day. Persian language is arguably not considered as a rival to local languages (at least Azeri) and beside Persian language introduced as the sole official language and the symbol of Iranian identity and national unity, other ethnic (local) languages are given the chance to maintain their real status. Due to such a language policy, rooted in justice-oriented policies of Islamic Republic of Iran, speakers of non-official languages in the country may develop more positive attitudes to Persian language and do their best to maintain the status of Persian as a determinant factor in the unification of all Iranians.

Keywords: multilingualism, language planning, official language, unity, pluralism

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ISSN (Paper)2224-5766 ISSN (Online)2225-0484

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