Azeri, the second largest language in Iran, is a Turkic language, but its lexicon is heavily influenced by Persian, an Indo-European language. This thesis examines the effect of Persian on Azeri morphosyntax. Turkic languages are head-final: in noun phrases, modifiers appear before head nouns. In contrast, Persian is head-initial: modifiers follow head nouns. Azeri allows both head-final and head-initial structures. A field study conducted with ten Azeri speakers in Tabriz, Iran, revealed that in two domains—relative clauses and noun compounds—the two types of structures are used almost equally. However, older, monolingual speakers prefer head-final structures, while younger, educated, bilingual speakers prefer head-initial structures. This shows that Azeri is becoming persified, as predicted in such situations of language contact involving a politically-dominant language. However, all speakers accept head-final structures, showing the persistence of Turkic morphosyntax despite a millennium of intense social and cultural contact with Persian.
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Thesis advisor: Gerdts, Donna
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