The Laz language is a South Caucasian language of the Zan branch spoken mainly by the Laz people along the Black Sea coast in the northeast of Turkey and the southwestern corner of Georgia. In Turkey it is spoken in the towns of Pazar (Atina), Ardeşen (Artaşeni), Çamlıhemşin (Vica) and Fındıklı (Vitze) in Rize Province and Arhavi (Arkabi), Hopa (Xopa), Borçka (Boçxa) in Artvin Province. There are also Laz villages in the western parts of Turkey founded by refugees of the 1877–8 war in the cities of Sakarya, Kocaeli, Bolu and Düzce.
The Laz people refer to themselves as Lazi, and their language is called Lazuri.
There are five major dialects (Xopuri, Vitzuri, Ark’abuli, Çxaluri, Atinuri and Art’aşenuri) of Laz. The differences between the dialects are minor though the level of mutual intelligibility is low.
Laz is accepted as a definitely endangered language by the UNESCO criteria due to the rapid decrease in the number of competent speakers of Laz among the younger generation.
This Laz course was created by our wonderful intern, Zeynep Burak. She has a BA in Linguistics from Boğaziçi University and is Laz and a heritage speaker of Laz. For the past 3 years, Zeynep has been working with researchers as well as Indigenous language societies to preserve and nurture the multilingual environment of Turkey as part of numerous societies and projects.
"Most of the Elder fluent speakers in my community do not have higher education, so even though they are excellent Laz speakers, they lack the certain skills and means to teach in an official setting. Also, many of them feel anxiety and self-doubt about teaching Laz due to the indoctrination they bared in school and the stigma they faced later in their lives for speaking their language. Learning about 7000 Languages’ vision and values alleviated their apprehension and empowered them to regain confidence to speak and teach their language which is invaluable."