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Language isolate
Dead languages
By country

Turkey Iran Iraq Oman Saudi Arabia Egypt Sudan Libya Syria Yemen Israel Tunisia Lebanon Algeria Morocco Mauritania United Arab Emirates Kuwait Western Sahara Qatar Jordan
By family
Figures in 1000
% of all in MENA
292,800 60.0%
288,000 59.0%
78,200 16.0%
59,830 12.0%
74,900 15.0%
31,300 6.4%
23,600 4.8%
19,350 3.9%
9,900 2.0%
3,300 0.7%
2,300 0.5%
1,850 0.4%
1,720 0.4%
25 <0.1%
5,370 1.1%
Index /

Languages of the MENA are mainly divided between three language families: Semitic; Iranian; and Turkic. Together these families encompass 91% of the total population.
Three languages of each group are clearly dominant: Arabic; Persian; and Turkish. Together these languages count for 77% of all people in the region.
These three language groups, and languages, define the MENA region. Where these languages end, also the MENA region ends, politically, ethnically and geographically.
Among the remaining languages, three more have crucial importance in the understanding of the MENA: Kurdish; Hebrew; and Berber. In particular is Berber important to note, since it contrary to Kurdish and Hebrew is under constant pressure from Arabic. Berber is the original language of North Africa, and although largely replaced with Arabic, it remains a vital and important language in many regions.
Beyond this, most languages fall into one of three categories. Either languages are small and natural to the MENA; they are the result of migrations; or the languages are part of non-MENA regions, that are in the MENA due to the mechanism of modern state borders.
There is quite some confusion about divisions between languages, and the size of the different communities. Confusion over classifications and divisions even happens with larger languages. Researchers disagree over which languages are to be considered Kurdish; the Zaza-Gorani languages may often be found merely as part of the Kurdish family. Some of the Iranian languages close to Persian may also be simply classified as Persian dialects; and then it may even be the matter for languages spoken by 1 to 3 million.
How many speak each language is clearly a field where even the best sources can be extremely erroneous. LookLex have several times seen how figures simply do not add up, and among the explanations to this, is that figures may in some cases have been set up to 50 years ago, and since then adjusted manually to fit the population growth. In handling this, LookLex have made new calculations to have correct total sums, but also taken into account figures for ethic groups and knowledge about population in certain towns and cities and provinces. We believe that the figures you will find with us, in the cases where they differ substantially from other leading sources, are more correct. Yet, and this is vital, much that one could wish to know, can only be described by guesswork. The category of Other languages is a category that is important to notice, but as it is described, it falls merely into the category of guesswork.

Arabic script dominates in the MENA, in all countries but Turkey and Israel. Arabic script is used even in Iranian languages like Persian and Kurdish. Turkish uses Latin script, while Hebrew script is dominant in Israel. Berber languages have tentative use of its own alphabet, based upon historical writing systems. Even in languages where all inhabitants read and write Arabic, Latin script is common, and in most countries, it is common that signs are shown in dual Arabic/Latin.
Some of the smaller languages have their own alphabets, and these may well be in common use. This applies in particular to Armenian and Georgian. Both these languages and alphabets are kept alive by the respective national states.
Several languages have no writing system, this applies in particular to smaller languages in countries where the national language is another. The largest languages without a writing system are Gilaki with near 4 million speakers and Domari, with near 2 million.

| Arabic | Hebrew | Aramaic |

| Turkish | Azerbaijani | Turkmen | Qashqai |

| Persian | Kurdish | Balochi | Gilaki | Lori | Mazandarani | Zazaki | Talysh |
Several languages to this group, described by artices. The list below is only for the largest Iranian languages, click above for the smaller languages.

| Beja | Berber |

| Pulaar | Wolof | Soninke | Bambara | Nubian | Tedega |

| Armenian |

| Zande | Pulaar |

| Domari |

| Circassian / Adyghe | Kabardian |
| Abkhaz | Abaza | Georgian | Laz |

| Brahui |


By Tore Kjeilen