Judith Routamaa & Abdollah Nazari (SIL International & Turkish American Association) “Language and Religion among the Turkmen of Iran: Observations on the Speech of Three Generations”


The interplay between the language and religion of the Turkmen of Iran has been little documented to date. One recently conducted study (Nazari and Routamaa 2015) notes that religion plays a foundational role in the culture and worldview of the Iranian Turkmen, and that as a result religious terms and themes overflow spontaneously into the language, regardless of linguistic genre or domain.

This paper seeks to further investigate the relationship between language and religion, focussing in particular on the speech of three generations (elderly, middle-aged and young), with the aim of highlighting trends and analysing reasons for possible similarities or differences in the nature and extent of the use of religious terms and themes across generations. Parameters such as levels of education, residence (urban or rural), and belief (devout or nominal) will be considered.

The presentation is based on data collected between 2011 and 2015, including almost 700 minutes of recordings of various genres: natural conversations, life stories, folktales, informal and semi-structured interviews. Much of the data was collected in the Turkmen-speaking area of Iran from a wide spectrum of men and women, representing elderly, middle-aged and young generations, educated and non-educated, and from both urban and rural settings. A smaller part of the data was gathered from Iranian Turkmen speakers who have recently moved to Turkey.


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