Western and Central Asia, which includes the Anatolian Peninsula, the Caucasus Mountains, the Armenian Highland, the Iranian Plateau and the fertile valleys of Transoxiana, is among places of the earliest human settlement. Due to its eventful history, which has witnessed different civilisations, states and empires encountering each other for thousands of years, this geographical area today possesses remarkable cultural and linguistic richness.
This geographical area is currently home to over half of all speakers of modern Turkic and Iranian languages, including Turkish, Uzbek and Azeri, the Turkic languages with the largest number of speakers, as well as Persian, a language of 2,500 years of uninterrupted literary tradition.
In the Caucasus, known as “the mountain of languages” to early travellers, over 60 languages are spoken in an area covering 400,000 km². Most of them belong to language families found only here and, due to geographical reasons, have historically been spoken in relative isolation (some even limited to a single village), being therefore hardly, if at all, mutually intelligible today. Despite such limited spread, most languages of the Caucasus are far from being considered endangered.
Two local languages – Georgian and Armenian, both having unique writing systems – have written literary traditions dating back to the 5th century CE.
Extinct ancient languages of the area, such as Elamite, Urartian and Anatolian languages, continue to arouse scholarly interest. ILARA offers courses in Classical Georgian and Classical Armenian, as well as in a series of lesser-known Turkic languages spoken in and outside of Western and Central Asia. More courses on the languages of the area, including indigenous ones, are offered are part of seminars conducted at the EPHE–PSL.