Documentation of the language and lifestyle of the Galesh

Documentation of the language and lifestyle of the Galesh

Language: Mazandarani, Ziarati, Galeshi
Depositor: Carina Jahani
Location: Iran
Deposit Id: 0094
Grant id: PPG0043
Funding body: ELDP
Level: Deposit

Summary of deposit
The Galesh are herdsmen in the Alborz mountains. Their total number is unknown, but diminishing rapidly due to the modernisation of the Iranian society. The deposit includes documentation collected as part of a project investigating if the language of the Eastern Galesh in Golestan is similar to any of the languages of the settled population in the area or if it should be regarded as a language of its own. In Galeshi there are many terms for husbandry and dairy production, which are not found among the agriculturalists. Since the lifestyle of the Galesh is severely threatened this project will document important aspects of it before it is too late.

Group represented
The Galesh cow-herding community in the Ziarat valley, Golestan, Iran

Language information
There is a group called the Galesh in the Alborz mountains of the northern provinces, Gilan, Mazandaran, and Golestan, Iran, whose language and culture is severely endangered due to modernisation of the local economy and lifestyle. The Galesh are herdsmen, who previously lived a semi-nomadic gender segregated life. The wives and children settled in the nearest village, and only the men went to the their workplace or in search of new seasonal pastures for their cows. The dialect spoken by the Galesh in Ziarat, which can be described as a variant of Mazandarani, is under heavy influence from Persian. Persian influence can be observed at all levels of morphosyntax as well as in the vocabulary. However, Ziarati still retains its Mazandarani identity, which can be observed particularly in the verb system.

Deposit contents

The deposit contains a set of interviews with people whose lifestyle has undergone drastic changes in the past 50 years, from a cooperative system of cow herding to individual possession of a few cows or total abandoning of the traditional lifestyle. This change is well described by five people who have experienced it themselves. There is also a professional film, which shows traditional methods of dairy production as well as daily life in Ziarat, religious ceremonies, cooking, weaving etc. and many photos.

Other information

Outputs of the documentation project include the following monograph which includes five life stories from a Galesh community in the village of Ziarat, situated in the Province of Golestan, east of the Caspian Sea in Iran.

Shokri, G. Jahani, C. & Barani, H. (2013). When Tradition Meets Modernity: Five Life Stories from the Galesh Community in Ziarat, Golestan, Iran. In Studia Iranica Upsaliensia, 21, Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis. ISSN 1100-326X; urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-207630

The texts are presented in phonemic transcription with English and Persian translations and a grammatical sketch. The three appendices consist of one text in phonetic transcription, a glossary, and notes on the photos and film found on the CD accompanying the book. The sound files of the five texts are also included on the CD.

Acknowledgement and citation

This deposit was submitted by Carina Jahani, Guiti Shokri, Uppsala University, Sweden, and Hossein Barani, Gorgan University, Iran.


Collection online
Resources online and curated


Carina Jahani
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Affiliation: Dept. of Linguistics and Philology, Uppsala University, Sweden

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Data from 2020 November 29 to 2020 November 29
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<p>In this text, we get to know a cow-herdsman who since childhood has lived and worked in traditional Galesh herdsmen’s cooperatives. This occupation is called Galesh. Today, however at the age of 65, he and his co-workers have been forced to leave their traditional lifestyle and the forest, which also means that the cooperative Galesh economy has been destroyed. Our consultant has continued his traditional economy, but only privately and very small-scale. He lives off the outcomes of his cows, the dairy products which he sells, and the occasional male calf that he slaughters for meat. This interview was recorded in the pasture of Jerkhun, close to the Ziarat village, while he was away from the village taking care of his cows. Here, Abbas Alaeddin talks about his life as a Galesh in the past, how he rented pastures and how he worked for the Galesh headmen. He also talks about the hierarchy among the Galesh.</p> <p>Content: introduction of himself and the place of his pasture, how to make cheese, how dairy products were sold in the past and how life has changed now, pasture contracts, how cows were fed in the past and how things have changed now, the advantage of cows for the forest, how butter is made, traditional utensils, issues of identity and how the Galesh identify as Mazandaranis.</p>

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<p>In this text, we meet the wife of Abbas Alaeddin, the herdsman. She talks about how she has raised her children, what she did when they fell ill, about traditional medicine, about childbirth, cooking etc. in past days and nowadays. The changes in village life during her lifetime are evident in this text. Mrs. Alaeddin is illiterate and comes from the lower strata in society and is hardly in touch with town life at all. She has only been in town a couple of times.</p>

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<p>In this text, we meet the village tailor and cotton-carder, Ayyub Abarsiji. He talks about his occupation and work as a tailor and cotton-carder, local clothing, as well as his engagement in religious issues. He also finishes his interview by reciting some religious poems in Persian.</p>

Recorded on: Unknown

<p>A film by: Dr. Hossein Barani, Department of Rangeland Management, Gorgan University of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, Gorgan, Iran; and Javad Amighi, MA student, Department of Rangeland Management, Gorgan University of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, Gorgan, Iran.</p> <p>Producer: Dr. Hossein Barani, Department of Rangeland Management, Gorgan University of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, Gorgan, Iran.</p> <p>The film was made between October 2008 and August 2009.</p>

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A stable with a donkey. The donkey is regarded as a very lowly animal and is mainly employed for carrying heavy loads. In order for the donkey not to get sores from the loads, woolen cloth (felt) is put on its back.

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A cock and several hens in their natural environment.

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A dog resting in the fallen autumn leaves.

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A cow that got a bit too fascinated with the camera.

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