Azerbaijan International

Autumn 2003 (11.3)
Page 69

Educational Opportunities
Indiana Offers Azeri

Below: Students in the first-year intensive language course of Azeri at the 2003 Summer Session at the University of Indiana at Bloomington. Dr. Shahyar Daneshgar (right) is the instructor. Azeri courses are offered every summer on a regular basis.

For the last several years, Indiana is the only university in the United States, offering a regular program of instruction in Azeri. For the last five years, they have offered a continuous, uninterrupted program of intensive language study each summer.

Indiana University has been linked to Azeri language-learning instruction in English beginning in the early 1960s. Interest in Azerbaijani was spurred on by the publication of a grammar book written by linguistics professor Fred W. Householder, Jr., along with Mansour Lotfi.

The text, entitled "Basic Course in Azerbaijani", was published in English in 1965 by Indiana University at Bloomington as part of the Uralic and Altaic Series (Vol. 45).

Currently out of print, the text was based on the Tabrizi (Iran) dialect and written with its own Latin-modified alphabet (non-official) since at that time the Azeri spoken in the USSR was written in the Cyrillic script, and in Iran it was, and continues to be, written with a modified Arabic script. Currently, the independent Republic of Azerbaijan has a population of 8 million. An estimated 25-30 million Azerbaijanis live in Iran.

Prior to Householder's work at Indiana, comprehensive language-learning material in English was scarce. In 1932, J. Christy Wilson, a Christian missionary to Tabriz wrote: "A Grammar of Azerbaijan Turkish". In 1957 Cyril Gordon Simpson published "The Turkish Language of Soviet Azerbaijan: Selections from the Press and from Modern Authors with a Grammatical Instruction" (124-pages). In 1962 Gerd Fraenkel completed his dissertation at Indiana entitled: "A Generative Grammar of Azerbaijani".

Beginning in the late 1980s, Indiana began offering intensive summer courses for some of the minority languages spoken in the former Soviet Union but it wasn't until 1994, that the first Azeri class was offered. Six students enrolled that year. After a few years' lapse, beginning in 1998, the course has been taught on a continuous, uninterrupted schedule. Shahyar Daneshgar, an Azerbaijani from Iran and Research Associate at the Inner Asian and Uralic National Resource Center at Indiana, is the main instructor.

In Summer 2002, an advanced class of Azerbaijani was offered for the first time. In 2003 it was taught by Zema Zeynalova from Baku. The majority of students who study Azerbaijani at Indiana are pursuing academic careers. For example, three of the four students who enrolled in the advanced class this past summer are planning to write dissertations related to Azerbaijan. Some have opted to learn the language simply out of a deep appreciation for the culture, particularly music. A few students go on to join the U.S. government or get involved with non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

In the summer of 2004, Indiana will again be offering both first and second year courses of Azerbaijani. Scholarships are available.

For more information about the Summer program in Azeri, contact: Indiana University, Inner Asian & Uralic National Resource Center (IAUNRC), Goodbody Hall 324, Bloomington, IN 47405. Phone: (812) 856-5263, E-mail: or write Shahyar Daneshgar: Details at the Web site:

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