The official language of Iran is only one: Persian. Seven more languages are recognized regional languages: Azerbaijani, Kurdish, Lori, Mazandarani, Gilaki, Balochi and Arabic.
The map of languages spoken in Iran is as complex and confusing as is the case with ethnic groups. Ethnologue lists as many as 66 languages, of which 31 has more than 20,000 speakers. Sizeable languages, with more than 1 million, count as many as 12. The largest language is Persian, which although the language of the state, is the daily language of less than 50% of the population.
Although the high number of languages within one state's borders, there is a limited number of language groups: Iranian, Turkic, Semitic plus Domari. Many of the languages within each group are intelligible to one another.
There is also important influences from other language groups, like Mongolian.
Estimates for languages in Iran are highly uncertain, differing greatly between different sources. The figures given here are rough estimates, calculated upon relative sizes from other sources compared to the total number of inhabitants in Iran. As an illustration, some sources indicate that the total speakers of a first language in Iran is up to 20% higher than the actual number of inhabitants.
Iranian languages dominate the central heartland of Iran. The different languages usually form majority communities in certain regions. The names for region, people, and language are often practically the same.
Non-Persians are often fluent in Persian, being the language of the state. The exception here is Kurdish speakers, that form communities so large that even trade and education need not cross the border of their own language.
Most of the Iranian dialects are sometimes classified as merely dialects of Persian.
Turkic languages dominate strongly in the northwest, where Iran borders to Iran and Azerbaijan. But Turkics live in pockets around Iran, also in the northeast as well as in the Zagros mountains in the southwest.
One very interesting aspect, is that Turkish is not listed among the languages of Iran.
Arabic is the only notable Semitic language of Iran, forming majority communities in the west and southwest, bordering Iraq. Arabic speakers also form tiny pockets of majority communities far away.
Domari speakers form no majority anywhere, rather they represent large minorities in several cities and towns. Also they are also not represented at all in many cities. Their main regions are Kurbat and Luli in west; Mehtar in Fars and Kohgiluyeh va Boyerahmad Province; Karachi in north.
Their Iranian dialects may be very different from one another. Many Domari have good conduct in the dominant language of their region, counting Persian; Lori; and Qashqai.
In a very small region in the northwest, Armenian speakers have substantial communities, but most Armenians make up quarters in the large cities.
With its attested languages, Iran is already a highly diverse country. But there are several more languages for which sources and descriptions disagree upon. In short, some languages are defined by some scholars, while other consider these to be merely dialects of another language. In several cases, and then for small languages, no research has been done in many years, sometimes even several decades. These languages may very well have disappeared by now.
From Ethnologue, these are the languages with more than 1,000 speakers that LookLex find insufficient attested to be included here:
Parsi-Dari is listed with 350,000 speakers, all to be Zoroastrians. But this religion has in Iran only 60,000. There is, however, another language, the Dari-Zoroastrian, which had 11,500 speakers in 1999. It appears that these two are the same, but that the latter is the only correctly updated.
Bashkardi, Natanzi, Nayini, Sivandi, Soi and Gazi all listed with 7,030 speakers in 2000. It appears that very little data from an older research have survived a little bit too well.
Northwestern Fars and Southwestern Fars both also have the same number of speakers, 7,500 in 2006.