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Kurdish: Linguistics

Discuss about language(s) in English

PostAuthor: schoolmaster1954 » Mon Jan 01, 2007 6:16 pm

Science and Technological Glossary:
An Issue Facing Technical Writing in Kurdish
Rebwar Fatah
December 1998

Technical writing in Kurdish faces many complex issues that range from whether it is necessary to create technical glossary in Kurdish to how to create such glossary. It is hardly surprising that Kurdish language is facing such issues and problems since it has been under oppression and, in some parts of Kurdistan, even banned from the public realm for decades. Such prohibitions have brought the language to the brink of extinction and some experts now regard Kurdish as an endangered language. However, generating the needed technical glossary issue is not unique to the Kurdish in a sense. Even a well-developed European language (such as French) is facing such glossary problems. For example, French experts are still arguing whether to update the French dictionary with words like CD (Compact Disk), HTTP, (hypertext transfer protocol) and other terms that creep up as newer technologies develop and disseminate. These examples suffice to give a sense about some of the common problems linguists and language planners face. There are other more profound issues that need to be tackled.

The issues
Kurdish technical writing faces two major issues. One issue is succinctly summarised by asking this question: is it necessary to develop a technical writing glossary in Kurdish when English, at least a form of it, is rapidly becoming the scientific and technical language globally? In other words, is there a burning need to develop such glossary for Kurdish? If the answer to this question is yes, then, the second major issue is at hand which is: what is the methodology by which technical terms can be translated into Kurdish or created in Kurdish?
There may be several reasons to keep English as a technical and scientific language for higher education and postgraduate research in Kurdistan. First of all, English may still be needed since the Kurdish resources are not sufficient to keep research and development institutions on a par with international standards. English will be the technical language of people working in the frontiers of science and technology. Besides, this international technical language may be seen as global communication tool that is increasingly separated from main theme of English language. However, technical and scientific glossary needs to be developed in Kurdish for teaching up to the university level and for the general public to keep up with the outside world and to follow up the media. Although the Kudish language writing is well developed, in particular in the South (Iraqi Kurdistan) where, for decades, education up to the university level has been in Kurdish. Such education in Kurdish language has created an environment where translation of tens of science and technology textbooks became a reality. In addition, that very same environment also made it possible for individuals and institutions to publish a range of native books in science and technology. A prerequisite for developing science and technology curriculum in Kurdish has been the development of a range of technical glossary in Kurdish. Some of the groundwork has been laid out for such development. However, in today's age of rapid developments in scientific and technological fields, creating hundreds of new terms that challenge even a well-developed language such as French is not easily accomplished. Therefore, catching up with the salient vocabulary of the world of science and technology is an urgent issue facing Kurdish technical writing. Thus, a development of Kurdish science and technology language is essential.

Secondly, Kurdish is facing another critical issue: which terms need to be urgently created (translated) and what is the mechanism, formula or procedure by which they are to be created? But this issue needs not to be insurmountable. Kurdish language can build on its own experiences and indeed on the experiences of neighbouring nations, in particular that of the Arabs, Turks and the Persians. In addition, the pragmatism of English language also can be a guide for Kurdish. English language has enriched itself by borrowing words and terms form other languages - including from Kurdish. Words like "peshmerga " (Kurdish freedom fighter), "jash" (traitor, Kurd betraying Kurds) or "Anfal" (war booty that included 180,000 Kurds all ages who were caught during a campaign and massacred by the Iraqi regime)" have found their ways into English. These words have not replaced their English equivalents, but spiced up or supplemented English words and terms. For example, "peshmarga" created an instance of a "freedom fighter" that is a uniquely "Kurdish freedom fighter" and so on. The other useful example is "al-Antifada", which signifies a mass uprising, albeit a Palestinian one, which is also extended to other nations like Kurds. For example, Kurdish uprising in Turkey was termed as "Kurdish Intifada". Such expansions can clearly be seen in the word "solidarity" also which started with the uprising of Polish workers in Gdansk ship yards and expanded to any patriotic resistance globally. Naturally, these examples we cited above are not technical words but what we are interested here is the methodology and the usage of these borrowed (or created) words in English, which can be followed up in creating technical words in Kurdish language.

Blinded by nationalism
The lesson for Kurds, here, is that scientific and technological terms can be borrowed into Kurdish not in order to replace the existing Kurdish words but to supplement existing ones. Kurds can also learn form the failures of the Arab and Turkish nationalists. In Iraq, for example, the nationalist movement lead by the Baath party irked the linguistic world by "purification" of the language. The core of the Baath philosophy was to "Arabise" every word in the dictionary and in circulation - and this is what they did. This philosophy was also implemented in every aspect of life. This extermination of diversity in Arabic glossary manifested itself one day in the genocide of the Kurds, during the Iraq-Iran war (1982-88) and in the invasion of Kuwait (1990). Nonetheless, it bore bloody results and cost thousands of lives. In short, the consequences of such extremist policies and procedures are reflected in pariah status of today's Iraq and misery of the Iraqi people. Even the old Greek and Latin words were translated into Arabic. The standard of education, as a result, suffered from confusion and vagueness that was the natural outcome of the nationalistic agenda. These politically driven initiatives misjudged the strength of borrowed foreign words in a language (e.g. Arabic). In Arabic many of the nouns with broken plural have foreign origin. Having foreign words in a language is not a sign of weakness, but each foreign word in any language has a history behind it - its etymology denotes the link of one nation to another. The existence of numerous Arabic words in Persian is a sign of historical links that at one time connected the two cultural realms, perhaps via Islam. For example, the existence of Arabic, Turkish and Persian words in Kurdish classical poetry indicates that at one point in time Kurdish poets were educated in those languages, or that they were influenced by poets and literary movements in those languages.

Considering roots
Since most of the scientific and technical terms have originated from one or more of the Indo-European (e.g. Latin, old Greek, old French, English), Kurdish will have similar generative mechanisms to produce and incorporate them into its repository without too many difficulties, because Kurdish is another Indo-European language. Some Kurdish technical translations have been the result of second-hand translations from Arabic without taking into consideration the root(s) of the words in the original language. In most cases, the translators or creators did not have the knowledge of any European languages let alone the etymology of the words. This produced double - layered problems. Some of these words were poorly made-up in their adaptation into Arabic and a second-hand translation into Kurdish did not fare well either.
The Iraqi government forbids borrowing terms from Indo -European languages or basing technical words on their Indo-European roots. By law, Kurdish school curriculum experts had to borrow Arabic words, in the absence of a Kurdish equivalent for science and technology terms. This nationalist approach ignores the fact that Kurdish is an Indo-European language, hence it is better fit to generate the equivalent terms that are being translated or adapted into Arabic from one of the major Indo-European language. Similar language policies are followed by Turkey, Iran and Syria: the Kurds even at threshold of the 21st century are not allowed to utilise their language.

Among of all these countries that have colonised the Kurds, Turkey has had the most extremist position: Up until 1991 Kurdish language was banned in public sphere. This ban is still held in educational institutions. As a result of these prohibitive policies in Turkey, the biggest Kurdish dialect (in terms of the number of speakers and the spread of this dialect on geography), Kurmanji, has been left out of its generative capabilities to contribute to the overall Kurdish language development as much as Sorani has. Such is the status of Kurdish in the New World Order.

Several approaches can be taken in creating Kurdish technical vocabulary. Firstly, those terms that are well established and deeply rooted in the history of science and technology could be taken as they are. It is needless to translate them into Kurdish. Secondly, different dialects of Kurdish (e.g. Kurmanji, Sorani and Gorani) can be examined in order to find a corollary term, and if such a term does not exist in any of the Kurdish dialects, only then, creation of a new term could be attempted. We are providing some exemplary terms that could be borrowed as they are without coining a Kurdish counterpart since they are well-established international terms. And as it can be seen easily, most of them do not belong to any living languages.

* Computer: Latin computare, from com - (intensive) and putare to reckon
* Telecommunication: from Greek tele (distance) communication [Old French communite, from Latin communitas, -atis, from communis common
* Data: from Latin data things given, past participle neuter plural of dare to give. Itself borrowed from Persian.
* Atom: Greek atomos, from a- (privative) and tomos, verbal adjective of temnein to cut

Some terms have already been created e.g.:
* Multi-layer - fra-cheen: from "fra - many" and "cheen -layer" which come from two different Sorani sub-dialects and it means multi-layer which can be used in context of social structure or science.
* Globalisation - bajihanikirdin: from "Jihan - globe or world".
* Artificial intelligent - Jiri miro Kird: from "jiri -intelligence", "miro - human" and "kird - made"
* World Wide Web - Tori Barbilawi Jihan: form "tor - net", "barbilaw - widely open" and "jihan - world"
* Researcher - twejarawa: from "twej - layer" and adding suffix "awa" equivalent to English "er" to make it to subject, e.g. "play + er" gives "player".
* News group - Kori dangubas (in reference to the Internet): from "Kor - gathering or meeting" and "dangubas - news"

These few examples show the potential of Kurdish language in building up its scientific and technical vocabulary. However looking back, to its past experience, will help Kurdish experts to create the technical vocabulary that our language needs.
Standard glossary
Another issue that faces Kurdish language is unification and standardisation of the current technical terms. Some of the standard technical terms borrowed via the languages of the overlord states, e.g. Arabic, Persian, Turkish, etc. need to be standardised. For example, in East Kurdistan (Iranian Kurdistan), the terms are borrowed via Persian, while in the South, (Iraqi Kurdistan) the same terms are borrowed via Arabic. For example, for the term "chemistry" Eastern Kurds use "Shemic" and in the South the same term is known as "Kimia", similar sounding but different in its sounding nevertheless. In some cases, this borrowing has enriched Kudish language. For example, the term "bicycle" is used among the Kurds of Iraq while in Iran the term is "ducharkha - from du - two and charkha - wheels". While the latter has come form Persian, the closeness of Kurdish and Persian languages makes it difficult to realise that it is borrowed from the Persian. The outcome however is that there are two words for "bicycle" in Kurdish. Danishgah was a term used by older generations but when the first University in the south opened the term "Zanku" was used since "Danishgah was regarded as Persian - not Kurdish. Zanku came from "Zanist - science" and "Ku - suffix imply add or all". "Zaningeh" used in Kurmanji and also in MedTV to imply university which is coined from "Zanin - knowledge" and "geh - place", implying place of knowledge or place where knowledge is gained.
It is unnecessary to coin a word where one already does exist in another dialect. It is actually counter productive when Kurmanji speakers coin a term that has already been coined in Sorani - another Kurdish dialect, or vice versa. This can be seen as embracing further division among Kurdish dialects and Kurdish speakers.

The creator
As to who is going to coin or produce the needed technical vocabulary, surely, those who dabble in these issues must have the prerequisite knowledge for translating these terms that will require a combination of linguistic and technical skills. The creator must also know one of the European languages, in particular English. Many intellectual and educated Kurds are not short of these skills. The number of Kurdish scientists and engineers in Europe and the US are reasonably high. What remains is to establish links with universities in Kurdistan to identify the issues and problems that they are facing in this area. The language engineers (if we may use this term to denote those who are going to coin the terms) must have first-hand information about the needs of the Kurdish institutions, e.g. the curriculum for each course or subject matter that are to be taught at institutions of higher education.
I hope this short introduction triggers some discussion on this important issue and encourages Kurdish scientists and inventors to start writing in Kurdish, as Goran, the greatest Kurdish poet of this century, said:

Write, don't reason and don't be afraid

Burhan Belturan, Siamak Rezaei Durroei and Kurmanj Hakki enriched this paper with their knowledge. I am grateful to them.
Further Reference
Further information can be found in: Michael L. Chyet, 1996: STANDARDIZING THE MODERN JOURNALISTIC LANGUAGE IN KURDISH. Available on line from Kurd_lal: ... yet96.html
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PostAuthor: schoolmaster1954 » Mon Jan 01, 2007 6:20 pm

Somewhere, Mustafa Kemal is smiling.

Posted by Fragano Ledgister at August 7, 2006 10:35 AM
The story is a tragic story about how a language becomes a minor language in a world of "offical languages". I think the author, "the-kurdistani" tries to portray a conflict between turkish and kurdish in a naive way. And this naiveness reveals itself as the author blames Ocalan for writing in turkish, which is strange because the author is writing in english: this is not an example of assimilation, this is a very concious way of choosing the medium, the language. Ocalan and the author are talking to an audience they choose. The author could write this blog entry in kurdish to show an example of "unassimilatedness", but does not try that.
This paradox is very important i think, because it's not only kurdish that goes through a process of assimilation, turkish and many other languages are being assimilated. Within the last 25 years, turkish has been deeply assimilated by english (before that it was being assimilated by french, but that's another story). The assimilation process began with the official decision that english could be used for education; before that only a couple of colleges were using english as a base for education, but after the official decision it's hard to find a school which does not educate in english. This may seem as a chance for children who are not lucky to get their education in USA, like the 18 years old author of the post at "the-kurdistani", and a chance to be better educated in an english dominated world, but it has effects on turkish. The most interesting example for this may be the term "turkishness".
"Turkishness" seems like a translation of the word "türklük" which can mean "being turk" or "having the qualities of a turk". But probably the situation is the other way: "türklük" is a translation of the word "turkishness". Because, just a few years ago this word, which is a combination of the word "türk" and the suffix "lük" (which is same as the suffix "ness") was not used. You could say "türk olmak" ("to be turk") instead. But now turkish suffixes are used as they are used in english, and a word like "turkluk" or "turkishness" is invented but has absolutely no meaning. (This word is very popular in Turkey nowadays, and everyone is trying to understand what it means due to its use in some court cases against some authors like Orhan Pamuk, Elif Shafak..) So you see, there is not one assimilator, the process is very complicated and it has also to be said that in turkey it was not kurdish forbidden in classes: the official language dialect was "turkish used in istanbul, the old capital" and everyone used this dialect. It was not a matter of ethnicity, even if you were a "yörük" (turkish nomad) or an "Balkan turk" you could be humiliated for not being able to talk in "istanbul dialect". Now in a world of ethnic multiculturalism this humiliation has evaporated, but i believe in England or France, humiliation was a custom also if you did not speak in official dialect and language.
But, still beyond the question of who is being assimilated by whom, this turkish and kurdish topic is an important one. Because, while political conflicts of different interest groups go on in Turkey, it's not clearly understood how do these two different languages interfere. Can a Altaic language assimilate an Indo-European one? Is borrowing the other's words or using common words a sign of assimilation? Now i wrote this comment in english, am i assimilated? If i wrote this comment in my native language, turkish, i believe you could not publish it, because the "official" language of this site is english, so is this you assimilating me? But it was me trying to talk to you, at the site i with a great sympathy read, so how could i construct a dialogue (with a Bakhtinian sense) without talking in your language (which was yours but became ours as i tried to comment, to enter a dialogue)? So how will two ethnicities live together without assimilating each other, or how will two ethnicities or languages live not together after years of assimilating each other - this last question is totaly wrong for Turkey, because "Turkey's turkish" is a strange combination of many layered assimilations, a most strange example of Bakhtinian "heteroglossia"; it has been assimilated by many different languages which are within Anatolia and surrounding Anatolia. It's not just a "language of turks". It's a language constructed upon a Fino-Altaic skeleton and in Turkey this is clearly said even in textbooks as "Türkiye Türkçesi", meaning "Turkish of Turkey". But this is not revealed when you say just "turkish".
Most young kurds are in favour of "just using kurdish words", most young turks are also in favour of "just using turkish words." I believe this is a way of their attempt to protect themselves in a very ethnically marketed multi-culturalist world. They try to find ways to understand, to live, to object to daily problems, but most media gives them easy, short-termed conceptions. So an 18 years old boy thinks that "nice turks" living in richness "leaves to death" kurds after "assimilating" them. No need for sociological class analysis, no need for statistics, you can sum up the whole history with a couple of ethnicities in conflict and assimilating each other. But the truth is much more deeply located. In Turkey, this is true nowadays, but will be much more truer in about ten years: you can't easily find a job if you don't know english, and i am not talking about something like being a CEO (which is pronounced and used in turkish exactly the same way in english)or something like that, i am talking about being a waitress, chauffer, bell-boy or something like that. And this means money, "english education" has become a great sector in Turkey: an ordinary family spends most of their income for their children to learn english and this investment has no guarantee to payback to the child. You may invest a fortune, but you may not be lucky to get a job. So nowadays no one is making investment to turkish, it's just bad investment. It's not "turkishness" or "kurdishness" that's helping your survival, it's just your investment. So "nice" means "being capable of making investment." And i believe assimilation of english by force of liberal market is a much more important topic in Turkey nowadays.

And for "the turkish army", i would like to comment that it must be corrected, it's "Turkey's army" and that army does not only include "turks", military service is obligatory for every citizien of Turkey, and this includes every ethnicity living in Turkey. It's tragic to think that some "kurd" soldiers may have participated to the emigration, but the truth is they may have.

Posted by Sabri Gürses at August 8, 2006 05:40 AM
i've been passing by and saw this entry and i totaly see why people are worried and everything and i believe that all the cultures and languages are so important and i think kurdish language is a color of turkey and we should never loose it but gotta add that it's not just kurdish people's problem, like they are watching turkish tv and using turkish words while they are speaking, that's not a big thing, i mean look at the world, the same thing happens everywhere, people watching american TV and now english words are in every language, even in French and yes in Turkish... It's about media, internet and the way it's changing our lives and as a person who believes an alternative-globalism i think we can agree a bit of this IF we are NOT loosing our own languages, a few words will not kill anybody...

Posted by berque at August 8, 2006 06:28 AM
Sabri: Thanks for your thoughtful comment. I agree that "the-kurdistani" isn't thinking very clearly (blaming Ocalan for writing in Turkish while he himself writes in English is, as you say, something of a contradiction), and the interaction between majority and minority languages is always fraught with problems and difficult to handle satisfactorily. But the main thing (in my view) is not the borrowing of Turkish words, which is normal and not a problem except for linguistic nationalists, but the loss of the language entirely because the younger generation grows up using Turkish. I'm sure "the-kurdistani" is exaggerating -- he's young and emotional -- but the problem is real.

berque: I agree about "a few words," but as I said above, the real problem is when people stop using the language entirely.

Posted by language hat at August 8, 2006 08:06 AM
Strange thing is, in my opinion, kurdish is not lost. There is a strange dynamic in this problem: Last month Windows has made an agreement for a kurdish version of windows XP, the company must have seen a market, and probably other companies will be preparing translations of their products. But this means that there must be an official version of kurdish like there is one of turkish: there is not one "kurdish" still, it has its own dialects.
But, yes, the problem is real: in Turkey nowadays everyone (turks, kurds, everyone) blames the "other" for being unable to develop themselves. You may have noticed that "the-kurdistani" has mentioned that "mothers were very badly affected by this, because they were the ones who would stay at home" and "watch turkish tv": why do the women have to stay at home? why do they have to watch tv? Absurd it may seem, but in Turkey books sell only about 500-1000 copies for edition. In a country with about 70000000 people.
A language is lost when nobody writes or says poems in that language, was a saying i heard, and now we may add to this saying something like, "when everybody watches tv".

Posted by Sabri Gürses at August 8, 2006 12:53 PM
The loss of any language is unfortunate. When a language dies it is not just words which die but a certain way of thinking which dies with it too. Yet, the historical trend has been for most languages to steadily die out over time. For example, there are fewer languages now than there were 500 years ago, and even then, there were fewer languages than there were 2,000 years before that.

Kurdish is not the first language in Asia Minor (Turkey) to face extinction. The peninsula used to be the cradle of many prehistoric languages. At various times, it had sizeable Persian, Greek, Celtic and Armenian speaking populations as well.

While Turkish oppression of the Kurds and other minorities in Asia Minor has been no help, there has never really been any stability in this region and no language has ever gained the upper hand there permanently.

Posted by Brian at August 8, 2006 02:03 PM
Isn't it a bit much to say that "Kurdish faces extinction"? I believe it is thriving in Northern Iraq. Or are the dialects sufficiently different that the Kurdish of Eastern Turkey should be considered a separate language?

Posted by vanya at August 8, 2006 03:30 PM
Warning: Don't bet on the total accuracy of the following as it's based on different sources and different levels of understanding/memory.

Anyway: Kurdish in Turkey and Iraq has separate written standards (I don't know how if Iran does or if so how it compares with the others) One of the standards is called Kurmanji? I forget the name of the other (sur-something). In Turkey they use a latin-based alphabet and Iraq uses the Arabic script (with additions some Persian, some unique). I don't know how close the spoken versions are but IIRC "Kurdish" is like Quechua, Arabic and Chinese in that there were a number of different not necessarily mutually intelligible spoken forms.

I heard a paper at a conference a couple of years ago that claimed that in the midst of the horrors that Iraqi Kurds faced in recent decades a small linguistic brightspot is that Kurds speaking different dialects have learned to communicate across dialect differences (a learned skill I think) which has helped shape standard Iraqi Kurdish.

Posted by michael farris at August 8, 2006 04:55 PM
A language is a dialect with a TV station and a Windows UI.

Posted by caffeind at August 10, 2006 05:21 AM
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PostAuthor: schoolmaster1954 » Mon Jan 01, 2007 6:30 pm

Workshop on theoretical approaches to language contact
27th Generative Linguistics in the Old World
Thessaloniki, 18-21 April 2004

Vowel Adaptation in Zazaki*

Mary Ann Walter

1. Introduction

• Are there abstract representations in phonology?
• Do speakers perceive non-native contrasts veridically?
• Do speakers pay attention to non-phonemic contrasts in their own language?
• Do borrowers employ knowledge of the source language?
• “Is there linguistic evidence suggesting that it is the structure rather than the sociolinguistic history of the speakers that is the primary determinant of the linguistic outcome of language contact?”


• This case study of vowel adaptation from Turkish to Zazaki provides evidence for a ‘yes’ answer to all the above.
• The segment [o] is repaired, but [u] is borrowed faithfully.
• This corresponds to a structural difference in the phonology of Zazaki, in which [u] surfaces as a conditioned allophone but [o] does not.
• Borrowed [u] in novel environments is leading to a full-fledged phonemic contrast.

 The ultimate effect of language contact in this case is to enhance an existing structural distinction, rather than introduce a new one.

2. The linguistic environment

Figure 1: Area map of Zazaki linguistic community.

Turkish Armenian

Arabic Kurdish Neo-Aramaic

Persian Proto-Indo-Iranian

Figure 2: Subset of contact influences on and around Zazaki.
(adapted from Kahn 1976)

(1) a. Kurdish  Sorani, Kurmanji, Zazaki....
b. Turkish  Standard Turkish, Azeri Turkish....
c. Arabic  Classical, Levantine, Eastern....

2.1 Sprachbund phenomena
• construct/linking particles
• ergativity
• segment borrowing (Arabic pharyngeals, ?Armenian aspiration)
• phonotactics: simple onsets, complex codas, generally final stress
• either/or construction etc., shared function words
• massive vocabulary transfer (Armenian as relative of Persian; below)

Native Arabic Persian
Turkish roots 1443 2468 626
Table 1: Partial breakdown of Turkish root etymologies (TELL).

Language Arabic Turkish European Total
Zazaki 7 3 0 22
Turkish 7 n/a 2 22
Table 2: A glance at Zazaki and Turkish vocabulary origins.
Etymological breakdown of entries from randomly chosen dictionary page (Turgut 2001 and Hony 1947, respectively).

• Turkish is the primary influence on Zazaki.
• All education and public life conducted in it.
• High degree of Turkish/Zazaki bilingualism for at least a century.

3. The vowel systems

3.1 Inventories
Turkish vowel inventory Zazaki vowel inventory

i u ı u i u
e o a o e ı o

Figure 3 Figure 4

 Vowel length is contrastive in both languages.

3.2 Zazaki /u/ allophony
Although not phonemic, the segment [u] does surface in Zazaki as a conditioned allophone of /u/ following coronal consonants.

(2) UR  SR Gloss
a. uan uan, uan ‘shepherd’
b. u u, u ‘one’

Fed by word-internal hiatus-resolving raising:

(3) a. dw +  dewi ‘camel (fem.)’
b. tho + o thuyo ‘you and’

• The alternation is variable and characteristic of fast, informal speech.

3.3 Phonetic basis for the alternation

Vowel ı ıı, i, u, uu e, a, aa, o, oo ee
Duration (ms) 44 60-73 92-117 138
Table 3: Average vowel durations (4 tokens each).

 High vowels tend to be much shorter than the others.

Figure 5: Progression of F2 in Hz (x-axis) over time (y-axis) (averaged over three tokens per CV stimulus).

 Due to the length discrepancy, the coarticulatory fronting influence of a preceding coronal extends over a longer proportion of high vowels.
 Mid /o/ reaches its F2 target, but high /u/ does not.

3.4 L2 exposure: A helping hand?
• Exposure to tokens of /u/ in Turkish may help reinforce its status in Zazaki.
• Such exposure might also introduce another bias in favor of [u] versus [o], though frequency data is inconclusive:
(4) a. /u/-initial dictionary entries: 156
b. /o/-initial dictionary entries: 177
c. /u/-containing TELL entries: 1907
d. /o/-containing TELL entries: 669

• The frequency asymmetry, if any, is offset by salience discrepancy.
o High vowels are typically shorter than mid vowels
o The epenthetic vowel, which cross-linguistically is typically the shortest and most variable in a language (Lombardi 2002), is [u] in Turkish.
o [o] is expected to be longer and therefore more salient to Zazaki speakers.

4. Adaptation

• Path of transmission problem.
• Solution: consider only loans of unambiguously Turkish origin.
• Corpus: ~400 loanwords, available online (see references).

4.1 Treatment of [o].

Reflex # of tokens
o/ue 21
u 5
o 2
ew 1
Table 4: Borrowed reflexes of [o].

Zazaki Turkish Gloss
a. guere, gore göre about, according to
b. kuek, kok kök root, origin
c. kufta köfte meat rissole
d. öf öf interjection of disgust
e. öhö öhö interjection of contempt
Table 5: Selected [o] loanwords.

• [o] is typically borrowed as its mid back counterpart or its alternant, with a handful of exceptions as /u/.
• Preservation occurs in only a couple of onomatopoetic cases.
• The segment surfaces nowhere else except in one elicited verb, where it also appears to condition a preceding palatal velar:

(5) khjotbira ‘was sleeping’

4.2 Treatment of [u].
Reflex post-coronal post-non-coronal
u 16 10
u 1 15
ı 6 3
uı 1 7
i 2 1
e 0 1
Total 26 37
Table 6: Borrowed reflexes of [u].

Zazaki Turkish Gloss
a. düz düz flat, straight
b. sürgün sürgün pursuit, exile
c. gurz gürz iron club, mace
d. buelıg bölük part, subdivision
e. guerım görüm sister-in-law
f. kuıt küt blunt
Table 7: Selected [u] loanwords.

• Faithful preservation occurs.
• It is the preferred option when phonotactically licit (i.e. post-coronal).
o In this case, the usual alternation with back /u/ cannot apply.
• Also occurs in novel, non-post-coronal environments, though not as often.
• This parallels the distribution of native [u] tokens in dictionary:
o 46 post-coronal
o 6 post-non-coronal.

5. A Quick OT Analysis

For the native system:

1 2 3 4 5 6
* o *C V
+fr +hi
1a. /kol/
1b. kol *
1c. kol *
2a. /kul/
2b. kul *
2c. kul *
3a. /tul/
3b. tul * *
3c. tul *
4a. /tul/
4b. tul *
4c. tul * *
Table 8: Tableau for native allophony process.

 Constraints 2 and 4 variably ranked with respect to each other.

For the new periphery:
 Fix ranking of constraints 2 and 4.
 Promote constraint 5 above constraint 4.

6. Conclusions

6.1 The Lexicon
• Speakers have knowledge of the source language phonology, and use it to avoid alternations that would otherwise be expected based on the native phonology.
• Lack of expected alternations and presence of a segment in novel environments results in a new stratum in the lexicon, with less restrictive markedness conditions, in the sense of Ito & Mester’s (1999) core/periphery distinction.

6.2 Perception
• Non-native/allophonic contrast is perceived veridically.
• Note that no claim is made about the perceptibility of [o] vs [u].
• [o] could be perceived, but not produced, in a loanword model that dissociates perception and production grammars such as Kenstowicz’s (2001).
• In fact, discrimination of the round versus unround counterparts is expected to be better for mid than high vowels in the model proposed by Best (1995).
• The difference between [u] and [u] (a within-category distinction), should be perceived at a poor to moderate rate, but the difference between [o] and [o] at a moderate to very good rate (category vs deviant or uncategorized token).

6.3 Production
• The existence of an abstract phonological representation, whether phonemic or allophonic, implies the existence of an acoustic/articulatory target.
• In a production analogue to Kuhl’s (2000) perceptual magnets, such a target establishes a prototype that may be held in long-term memory, independently of transitory acoustic information.
• In its absence a given token (e.g. of [o]) might still be produced, but not purposefully.

 The existence of a representation is a precondition for phonological processes making reference to it.
 The presence of a structural category, even if allophonic, facilitates further language change in comparison to phones which lack one.


Best, C. (1995). A Direct Realist View of Cross-language Speech Perception. Speech perception and linguistic experience: Issues in cross-language research. Ed. by W. Strange. Timonium, MD: York Press.
Escudero, P. & P. Boersma. (2002). Turning an L1 Three-way Contrast into an L2 Two-way Contrast. Talk given at the 2nd International Conference on Contrast in Phonology.
Hasanpoor, J. (1999). A Study of European, Persian and Arabic Loans in Standard Sorani. Ph.D diss, Uppsala University.
Hony, H.C. (1947). A Turkish-English dictionary. Oxford: Clarendon.
Idsardi, W. & P. Imsri (2002). MEG and Behavioral Studies of the Perception of Stops by Thai and English Speakers: A Preliminary Report. Talk given at the University of Delaware Linguistics and Cognitive Science Graduate Student Conference.
Inkelas, S. et al. Turkish Electronic Living Lexicon.
Ito, J. & A. Mester. (1999). The Phonological Lexicon. Handbook of Japanese Linguistics. Ed. by N. Tsujimura. Malden: Blackwell.
Jones, A. (2001). A Lexicon-Independent Phonological Well-Formedness Effect: Listeners’ Sensitivity to Inappropriate Aspiration in Initial /st/ Clusters. MA thesis, UCLA.
Kahn, M. (1976). Borrowing and Variation in a Phonological Description of Kurdish. Ph.D diss., University of Michigan.
Kazanina, N. (2003). Phonetic vs. Phonological Representations in Auditory Cortex: A Cross-language Study.” Talk given at the KIT International Symposium on Brain and Language.
Kenstowicz, M. (2001). The Role of Perception in Loanword Phonology. Linguistique Africaine 20.
Kenstowicz, M. & A. Adler. Forthcoming. A Sketch of Zazaki Phonology. Studies in Zazaki Grammar. Ed. by M. Kenstowicz. Cambridge, MA: MIT Working Papers in Linguistics.
Kuhl, P.K. (2000). Language, Mind and Brain: Experience Alters Perception. The new cognitive neurosciences (2nd ed.). Ed. by M.S. Gazzaniga. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Pallier, C., L. Bosch & N. Sebastian-Galles. (1997). A Limit on Behavioral Plasticity in Speech Perception.” Cognition 64, B9-B17.
Paradis, C. & D. La Charite. (1997). Preservation and Minimality in Loanword Adaptation. Journal of Linguistics 33, 379-430.
Pegg, J., & J. Werker. (1997). Adult and Infant Perception of Two English Phones. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 102, 3742-3753.
Selcan, Z. (1998). Grammatik der Zaza-sprache. Berlin: Wissenschaft & Technik.
Silverman, D. (1992). Multiple Scansions in Loanword Phonology: Evidence from Cantonese. Phonology 9, 289-328.
Thomason, S. & T. Kaufman. (1988). Language Contact, Creolization, and Genetic Linguistics. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Todd, T.L. (1985). A Grammar of Dimili (also known as Zaza). Ph.D diss., University of Michigan.
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PostAuthor: schoolmaster1954 » Mon Jan 01, 2007 6:33 pm

Let’s Look Into Kurdish
Kurds are living in the borders of four states. These states are Turkey, Iran, Iraq and
Syria. The official languages of these countries are Turkish, Persian and Arabic.
Turkish is from Ural-Altaic, Arabic is from Semitic and Persian is from Indo-European
language families. Among these languages, only Persian is in the same language group with
However there is an interesting point that, both Arab and Persian official institutes and
their laws admit Kurdish existence as an independent language. But Turkish Republic's
current laws and officials still don't want to accept Kurdish language and its original
character. Of course we can regard as an exception the recent positive negotiations and the
projects which aim constitutional changing.
The idea to do not recognize the Kurdish reality is especially spreaded after the years of
Turkish republic foundation and became the formal ideology. As it is well known, before the
Turkish Republican era Kurds were identified and known with their own language, culture
and identity.
For instance Evliya Çelebi in his well known work Seyahatname writes about Kurdish
and its dialects. He emphasizes that Kurdish is an ancient and rich language and it is different
from Hebrew and Persian languages.
Şemsettin Sami in his work Kamul’ül Alam and Ziya Gökalp in his articles and his work
Kürt Aşiretleri Hakkında Sosyolojik Tetkikler (Sociological Observation About Kurdish
Tribes) tell that Kurdish is a rich and independent language and it does not resemble to other
After the foundation of the Turkish Republic especially in the 1924 constitution the
existence of Kurds were not recognized. Kurdish language and the Kurdish identity were
refused. However we know that in many documents of the Ottoman Empire there are the
expressions of the Kurd and the Kurdistan.
All of the Kurdologists fixed that Kurdish is an independent language and has no tie
with Arabic and Turkish languages. On the other hand Kurds and Persian are Arian. Their
languages are in the same group. But each one is an independent language. In the past years
Kurds had education in their own language. In the religious school the education and teaching
in the subjects like mathematic, logic, grammar, and jurisprudence were in Kurdish and
Arabic. With the new Education Law these schools were closed down and in the new system
it isn't given permission to the education and teaching in Kurdish.
Let’s Look Into Kurdish
Nowadays, there is relatively an atmosphere of negotiation. The people for statuesque
don't refuse the Kurdish, but they qualify it as a local and weak language and see the existence
of the present dialects and accents as a handicap for the education and teaching.
It is a reality that Kurdish has dialects and accents. This reality is not belongs to
Kurdish. There are dialects, accents in all languages. The standardization is asked for the
writing language. Whether in which language the standardization has been achieved both in
writing language and spoken language.
For a standard language there is a necessity to appropriate conditions and time in every
respect. They say that Kurdish is a mixed and collected language. Who can bring forward the
presence of a pure language? There are foreign words in all languages. It can be given an
interesting example about this matter. Languages of all Islamic countries are influenced by
Arabic. In the languages of the Christian nations the same influence is in question for the
Latin language. The source of this effect is religion. We should not forget that the language of
the Church is the Latin and the language of the Mosque is the Arabic.
At same time all the neighbor languages have affected each other on account of many
different reasons and have borrow words to each other. Today in Kurdish, Turkish and
Persian we see many Arabic words. At one time, since the Persian literature was impressive,
in Turkish, Kurdish and Arabic there are many Persian words. This is a very natural fact.
The Kurdish culture had inherited the Mesopotamian culture, for this reason it has got a
rich content. It had inherited to a lot of written documents. It is deduced from the available
documents that Kurds have used the writing for along time.
By this booklet we have no intention to support by evidence some well known things,
but it is duty for us to present the option of the Kurdish about this issue, because, there are
some baseless arguments about the Kurdish language. We hope that this booklet will open the
way for dialog and peace.
The Alphabets Which Kurds Had Used
The materials and documents in hand are informing us that Kurds have used many
alphabets during the history. But we don't know that which alphabet Kurds firstly used and
when they began to write. Except the alphabets we are going to give below, Kurds used the
symbols of Aramaic, Syrian and Greek, too.
The alphabets which Kurds used are these:
1-The Cuneiform Writing: Medes added six (6) new letters to it and they increased the
numbers of the letters from thirty six (36) to forty two (42).This alphabet is written from the
left side to the right.
2- The Avesta Alphabet: This alphabet consists of forty five (44) letters. Some sources
point out that there are forty eight letters in the Avesta alphabet.
3- The Aramaic alphabet: The oldest Kurdish documents were written in this alphabet.
These documents were found in the region of the Hewreman. As well as, it is said that
Kurdish writings are mostly written in it. Among the documents in hand, which were written
on gazelle skins, the oldest ones are goes back to the years of 88-87 B.C.
4-The early Pehlevi alphabet: with this alphabet a book named Dinkerd was written in
the sorani dialect.
Let’s Look Into Kurdish
5- The Masi Sorati alphabet: Arabic historian Ibn Wehsiye in his book which he
finished in the year of 855 A.C. says that Kurds used this alphabet (masi sorati) and he found
three samples which were written in it. This alphabet had thirty six (36) letters but Kurds
added six (6) other letters to it.
6- The alphabet which Yezidi Kurds use: for hundreds of the years this alphabet is being
used by Kurds and it is written from the right hand to the left hand. Some people are regarding
this alphabet as “The Alphabet of Magic (this is "huruful el sir" in Arabic). The holy Yezidian
book Mishefa Resh and Cilwe were written in this alphabet.
7- The Kurdish version of the Arabic alphabet.
8- The Kurdish version of the Latin alphabet.
9- The Kurdish version of the Cyrillic alphabet.
Except these alphabets, in the region of Zêwê in the East Kurdistan (Iranian part) a kind
of writing is observed which is placed on a silver tray. According to the researchers the
writing mentioned is a remaining of the 8 century B.C and it belongs to "Medes". Nobody has
not met much such writing except this document.1
The Place of the Kurdish among the World’s Languages
Kurdish language, as many linguists and kurdologists have pointed out, is belonging to
the family of Indo-European languages. Kurdish is take place among the sub-group of the
Iranian languages. It is from the northwest part this subgroup. Now let's give the names of
some languages which take place in the same group with Kurdish:
Persian, Kurdish, Beluci Osetian, Peshtoyian, Pamirian, etc.
For making the Kurdish language's position clearer and more understandable, let's give
our attention the classification of the languages. Philogistists traditionally divide the
languages into two parts and they do this according to the form and the origin. 2
a) Languages according to their forms
Linguists divide the languages into three main groups according to the morphology.
1) One syllable languages: Chinese and Tibetan languages.
2) Additive languages: Turkish and Hungarian.
3) Inflective languages: Indo-European and Semitic languages.
As Kurdish language is an oblique language we should give some information in the
matter of inflexion3. Linguists comment the inflexion like this; inflexion is the changing of the
root especially the changing of the vowels of the verb's root.4
1 For a brief information look at; Varli, Abdullah; Dîroka Dûgela Kurdan and Çelîker, Celadet; Kurtedîroka
alfabên ku kurdan bi kar anîne, the magazine of the Istanbul Kurdish Institute Zend the second issue, year 1994.
2 Aksan, Doğan; Her Yönüyle Dil 1 (Ana Çizgileriyle Dilbilim), Türk Dil Kurumu Publication, Ankara 1987.
3 Bedirxan, Celadet & Lescot Roger; Kürtçe Dilbilgisi, Doz Publication, 5th Edition, Istanbul 2000.
4 Aksan, Doğan; ibid.
Let’s Look Into Kurdish
The best example for the inflective languages is Arabic. In Arabic consonants don’t
change and the words are constructed with the vowels which come to the front position or in
the middle position of the word. For example; k, t, and p are three consonants and the words
"kitap, mektep, kâtip... etc are formed with the changing of the Vowels. Also C, H, L are three
consonants and with the changing of the vowels words like "cahil, cehele" are formed.
In Kurdish the change able classes of words are inflected, that is, they are changing
according to their functions. This rule is current for the root of the word too. For example the
verb "kirin" (to make) in the present tense is /di- k-im/. In this example only the letter /k/ is
left as a part of the verb. The prefix /di/ is for present time and the suffix /im/ show the
person. Let's give another example; the verb is "parastin". Firstly we are going to conjugate it
in the present tense and then in the past tense.
Ez di-parez-im.
Ez is the first singular personal pronoun. (The first group of the personal pronouns); di
is the prefix of the present tense; parêz is the verb's root (imperative form); im is the suffix of
the first personal pronouns.
Min parast.
Min is the first singular p.p (the oblique group); parast is the verb's root of the past
As the examples show, in Kurdish not only the vowel but the consonant also changes. It
can be seen from the verb "parastin" that, while conjugating in the present tense the verb's
root (parastin) /a/ changed into /ê/ and /s/ changed into /z/.
On the other hand, in Turkish, at any time, while conjugating the verb's root does not
change, always remains the same. As the root does not change its consonants doesn't change
into other letters. For example the verb "gitmek” (to go), its root is /git/. We can add many
affixes (the affixes of conjugation and additive) to its end such as "gittim", “gidecek",
"gitmislerdi"...etc. But the root doesn’t change.
b) Languages according to their origins
According to their origins, languages are divided into five main groups:
1) Indo-European (English, French, Kurdish, Persian).
2) The Semitic languages (Arabic, Hebrew, Acadian).
3) The Bantu languages (The south and middle African languages).
4) The Chinese languages.
5) Ural-Altaic languages (Finnic, Hungarian, Mongolian, Turkish).
As we said above, Kurdish is an Indo-European language. If focus on the Indo-
European languages, It is possible to face many similiar words. This is the same for all other
languages of the same family and group. Now, for this matter let's give the table below:
Let’s Look Into Kurdish
Kurdish English Germany French Persian Greek
stêr star stern astre sitare astron
kurt short kurz court - -
lêv lip lippe levre leb -
jenû - - geneou - -
dilop drop tropfen - - -
nav name name nom name -
no/na no nein non - -
tu - du tu/te - -
nû/niwe new neu neu - -
neh nine neun neuf - -
dot douther - - - -
bira brother - - brader -
In this subject Minorsky says5: “Kurdish, like Persian is one of the west Iranian
languages. As Andreas, Salamann, O.Mann-Meillet, Lent, T. Tedeco have said too, the west
Iranian languages are in two groups; the South and the West. And these groups were mixed.
In addition to this, in today languages there are many things which are unfamiliar to
each other. Kurdish and Persian, in many ways have characteristics of their own, that is,
Kurdish language belongs to the northwest group of the Iranian languages.”
Since Kurdish and Persian have many similar words, many people name the Kurdish as
a dialect of Persian. But the linguists who have studied on Kurdish are rejecting this idea.
Even so we want to show some differences between Kurdish and Persian.
The Differences Between Kurdish and Persian
As Kurdish and Persian languages are in the same group, in some aspects they are close
to each Other. For this reason, some states which are dominating the Kurds do not appreciate
the Kurds existence and regard their languages as a complicated and degenerated dialect of
the Persian. So we find necessary to expose the differences between the two languages. As
much as these two languages are familiar, they are different too and each one is an
independent language.
Kurdish is a gender in Kurdish words, but there is no gender in Persian words. In
Kurdish (in Kurmancî and Kirmanckî/Zazakî) there are two groups of pronouns. We don't see
such a thing in Persian. These two groups of pronouns, in Kurdish are used apart in transitive
verbs that is, Kurdish language is an “ergative” language.
Example for Kurmancî:
Min nan xwar.
Ez nên dixwim.
5 Minorsky, Vladimir; Kürtler (Kurds), Koral Publication, Istanbul 1992, pp: 76-78.
Let’s Look Into Kurdish
Example for Kirmanckî:
Min nan werd.
Ez nanî wena.
Besides this, in Kurdish language there is gender in the personal pronouns and
demonstration pronouns, but in Persian it is not like that. And there are two groups of
demonstration pronouns. Persian hasn't got such a specialty.
We can point out many differences of these two languages. But let’s listen to Minorsky
about this issue. Kurdolog Minorsky points out that Kurdish language and Persian are
different from each other and each one is independent.
Minorsky adds that there are important differences between Kurdish and Persian6.
1) Phonetic: The phonetic of the Kurdish is different from the Persian.
2) The changing of the sounds: In The words of the same root too there had been great
changing in the matter of the sounds.
3) The difference of the forms: from the pronouns to verb's conjugation, from the
affixes of the possessive pronouns to the noun phrases there are differences.
4) The etymological differences.
5) The differences of the words.
Kurdish Dialects
In the matter of Kurdish Dialects there are unfamiliar ideas. Especially some people
who are not willing to appreciate the Kurds and their languages, reflects all the Kurdish
accents as Kurdish dialects and sometimes the dialect itself as a language.
But this problem is enlightened by philologists and Kurdologists for a long time ago.
• In the 16 th century "Şerefxanê Bedlisi" in his famous work Şerefname7 numbers the
Kurdish dialects as below:
1) Kurmanci
2) Lori
3) Kelhûri
4) Gorani.
• As for G. Ginvinli, who did some investigations on Kurdish ethnography in 1836-
37, Kurdish language is in two groups: The upper part Kurdish, the downstairs Kurdish.
• Peter Lerch (1857-58) classifies Kurdish in five dialects: Zaza, Kurmanci, Kelhurî,
Goranî and Lurî.
6 The same book.
7 Şerefxanê Bidlîsî, Şerefname, Hasat Publication, Istanbul 1990.
Let’s Look Into Kurdish
• Oscar Mann separate Kurdish as the western Kurdish, the southern Kurdish, and the
eastern Kurdish. Mann regards Gorani/Zazaki as non-Kurdish.
• E. B. Soane in his study Grammar of Kurmanci or Kurdish Language (1913) divides
Kurdish into three parts: The upper part Kurdish, downstairs Kurdish and Lori-Zazaki
(Hewremani and Gorani)8.
• Ziya Gökalp in his study Kürt Aşiretleri Hakkinda Sosyolojik Tetkikler9
(Sociological Observations about Kurdish Tribes) evaluates Kurdish as five dialects:
Kurmanc, Zaza, Soran, Goran and Lor. Gökalp reports that they all existed from the ancient
• Dr. Mac Kenzie rates Kurdish in there groups: The northern group, the central group
and the southern group.
• Cemal Nebez classifies Kurdish in four parts: Northern Kurdish, southern Kurdish,
middle Kurdish, Goranî-Zazayî.
• Alaedin Secadi, in his work The Dictionary of Kurdish, Arabic and Persian
classifies Kurdish in two parts: the Kurmancî of Behdinî and Soranî.
• According to Dr. Kemal Fuad Kurdish have four dialects: 1) The western Kurdish,
2) The eastern Kurdish, 3) The southern Kurdish, 4) The Zazaki/Gorani Kurdish.
• Fuat Heme Xurşid in his work Zimanî Kurdî, Dabeşbûnî Cografyayî Diyalektekanîy
classifies Kurdish as; 1) The northern Kurdish, 2) The central Kurdish, 3) The southern
Kurdish, 4) Gorani.
• Emir Hesenpûr10 in his study Nationality and Languages in Kurdistan (1918-1985)
divides Kurdish into for dialects: Kurmanci, Sorani, Hewrami, and Kirmanşahi.
It is clearly seen from the studies of languages mentioned, they mostly, agree that in
Kurdish there are four dialects.
1) Kurmanci (Kirdasi)
2) The central Kurdish (Sorani)
3) Kirmancki (Kirdki, Zazaki/Gorani)
4) Lorani.
The northern Kurmanci and the southern Kurmanci are the two main dialects both of
them are regarded as dialects which have written literature. Recently The Kirmancki is also
step by step walking towards to be a written language.
Among the Kurdish dialects the one which is the most spoken is Kurmanci. Kurmanci is
spoken in whole region where kurds live.
In Turkey, there are only Kurmanci and Zazaki. Except the Central Anatolian and
Qerejdax where Şêxbizinî (shekhbizini) are living, an accent of Sorani is spoken there.
8 Viwan, Murad; Türkçe Açıklamalı Kürtçe Dilbilgisi, Jîna Nû, Sweden 1992.
9 Gökalp, Ziya; Kürt Aşiretleri Hakkında Sosyolojik Tetkikler, Sosyal Publication, first edition, Istanbul 1992.
10 Hesenpûr, Emîr; Nationalism and Language in Kurdistan, Mellen Research University Press, Canada 1992.
Let’s Look Into Kurdish
The complication in the matter of dialects is often because of the names giving. For
example; the northern Kurmanci is called as Behdini in the south and as Şikaki in the east.
However the be downstairs Kurmanci is called as simple Kurdish, Sorani. The same situation
is right for Zazaki too. Name such as Kirmancki, Dimilki, Dersimki, Sobê are used. For the
Hewrami the name Gorani is called. Es it is seen from the examples above the names which
all the investigators agree are names like Kurdi, Kurmanci, Kirmancki and Kirdki ,often used,
the others are the name of region's and tribes' names.
The Accent of Kurdish Dialects
People who don't want to admit Kurdish as an independent language are calling the
speech of the each city, even each village as an accent or sometimes as a dialect, too. As all
the languages have accents and dialects, there are in Kurdish also. We should not forget that
standardization is possible for the formal language but not for the informal language. Without
a political status and interference the standard language does not come into being.
Ehmedê Xanî (17th century) in his famous work Mem û Zîn11 divided Kurdish dialects
into three main accents let's expose his establishing with a couplet from his masterpiece Mem
û Zîn.
Bohtî û Mehmedî û Silivî (Bohtî and Mehmedî and Silivî)
Hin la'l û hinik ji zêr û zivî. (Some are pearl and some are from golden and silver)
We can take basis that saying of Ehmedê Xanî for Kurmanci accents. In a general way
researchers are put in order the accents to the other dialects like this:
The central Kurmancî (Soranî): Silemani, Mukri, Sineyi.
Kirmanckî (Zazakî): The Dêrsim accent and the Siwêreg accent.
The syntax teach us which position do the word classes take and how do they bind
together. That is, the state of the words and word classes opposing one another is the syntax.
In Kurdish the relation and the tie among the words are in this way; in Kurdish the
words attach to each other often with articles. The articles in Kurdish are in two kinds: The
definite and indefinite. Firstly let's give examples for definite articles.
Mala mezin (noun-adjective)
Mastê we (noun-pronoun)
Keçên bedew (noun-adjective)
For the indefinite articles we can give those examples:
Maleke mezin
Keçine bedew
11 Ehmedê Xanî, Mem û Zîn, Hasat Publication, third edition, Istanbul 1990.
Let’s Look Into Kurdish
As it comes in sight the connection of the words in Kurdish is opposite to Turkish.
Mala min
If we write this compound in Turkish, it will be like this,
Benim evim
In this example it becomes obvious that both the articles any languages and the position
of the elements are separate.
As well as, the Kurdish syntax, in many ways, differs from Persian syntax. Let's listen
to Minorsky's proves about this subject: “Kurdish syntax differs from the Persian syntax in
the matter of compound words and transitive verbs.”12
In Kurdish language the order of sentences' elements are separate from Turkish and
Persian’s syntax. In a Turkish direct sentence the predicate is always at the end of the
sentence. Example:
Ben dün Ankaraya gittim. (subject +complement + predicate)
Let's set up the same sentence in Kurdish:
Ez duh çûm Enqereyê. (subject + complement +predicate + complement)
For a sentence to be formed two main elements are necessary. These elements are the
subject and the predicate. From the easy to the complex let's give the sentences with their
Ez (I) çûm (went)
subject predicate
Predicate also can accomplish a sentence alone. As it is seen in the example above, if
you throw the first singular personal pronoun "çûm" (I went) can forms a sentence by itself.
In sentences the subject is at the beginning and the predicate is at the end. The syntax of
the transitive and intransitive verbs is different. In short, according to the complexity of the
sentence, the position of its elements is changed.
The elements of the sentences are ordered like this:
1) Subject + complement +predicate
Tu li serê çiyayê Sîpanê dijî.
subject complement predicate
2) Subject + object +complement + predicate
Sivên nanê xwe dereng xwar.
subject object complement predicate
12 Minorsky, Vladimir; ibid.
Let’s Look Into Kurdish
3) Subject + complement + predicate + complement
Hun dê tu caran neçin Geverê.
sub. comp. predicate comp.
In Kurdish the element which is going to be stressed comes close to the predicate.
Ez ê kevirekî bi tevşo bişkînim.
(3) (2) (1)
Ez ê bi tevşo kevirekî bişkînim.
(3) (2) (1)
Kevireki bi tevşo ez ê bişkînim.
(3) (2) (1)
Bi tevşo kevirekî ez ê bişkînim.
(3) (2) (1)
You can meet the inverted sentences in Kurdish. These sentences are appearing mostly
in the poems, conversations and some other articles.
Piştî ku roja me bû tarî [predicate] mirin xweştir e [predicate] ji amberê (E. Xani).
An attractive characteristic of Kurdish is its ergativity. The sentences constructed with
transitive verbs are different from the intransitive verb sentences. Therefore there are two
groups of pronoun in Kurdish. As well as the verb is conjugated sometimes according to the
subject and sometimes is appropriate to the object. Example:
Ez te dibînim. (I am seeing you)
Min tu dîtî. (I saw you)
In the first sentence the verb is conjugated according to the subject (ez), in the second
one it is according to the object. With this specialty we accounted above, in transitive verbs
the quantity of the noun in the past tense is known with the verb. Example:
Min sêv xwar. (I ate an apple)
Min sêv xwarin. (I ate the apples)
In the first example /sêv/ is singular and in the second sentence /sêv/ is plural.
In the present and future tense the plurality is known with the object.
Let’s Look Into Kurdish
Ez sêvê dixwim. (I am eating the apple)
Ez sêvan dixwim. (I am eating the apples)
In Kurdish there is a gender words and all the words are either masculine or feminine.
In addition the living creature the all things have genders too. But this is a grammatical
gender. The word's gender appears in two ways, with the article and with the inflection
affixes. Words are neutral by themselves. Example:
kevçî (spool), çav (eye), pênûs (pen), giyan (spirit), etc.
Gender with the article
Çavê şîn (blue eye), pênûsa zirîçî (pencil).
In this example the article /a/ is showing the feminine and the article /ê/ is showing the
Gender with the inflection
Siya darê (the shadow of the tree), nikulê dîkî (the beak of the hen).
In this example the affix /ê/ is showing the feminine and /ê/ is showing the masculine
In Kurdish the compound is formed with the articles. These articles are masculine and
feminine. As well as Kurdish articles have two forms; the definite and the indefinite. Since
there is no state for the nouns in Kurdish, the compound is formed with the article and
inflection affixes.
-ê : Singular, masculine and definite
-a : Singular feminine, and definite
-ên : Plural, definite (for both the genders)
-eki : Singular, masculine and indefinite
-eke : Singular feminine and indefinite
-ine : Plural, indefinite (for both the genders)
Another characteristic of Kurdish is the inflexion. In Kurdish some elements of the
sentence change according to their functions. In Kurdish the changeable elements (verb, noun,
pronoun, article, and countable noun) inflect. The plurality of the simple nouns and pronouns
are known with article and the verb, but in Kirmanckî (Dimilki) the plurality of the simple
nouns are known with the (î) affix. Example:
Let’s Look Into Kurdish
Min pênûs bir (singular and definite)
Min pênûs birin (plural and definite)
Min pênûsek bir (singular and indefinite)
Min say werd
Min sayî werdî
The inflexion of the masculine nouns in Kurdish is formed in two ways:
a) The "î" affix comes two the word's end.
b) If it contains /a/ or /e/ sound, these sounds change to /ê/. Example:
Simple Oblique
şivan gopalê şivanî/şivên
nan nên/nanî bîne
bajar Zîlan Ronahî ji aşî/êş tê.
nîvîskar Nivîskêr/nivîskarî xweş nivîsiye
gotîn gotinê ez êşandim
The inflexion of the feminine nouns:
The vowel "ê" comes to the word's end and forms the feminine inflection. Example:
Meha biharê
Porê jinikê
Since Kurdish is an oblique language, the personal pronouns have two forms.
One is the oblique form and the other is the direct form.
The direct ones The oblique ones
ez min
tu te
ew wê/wî
em me
hûn we
ew wan
Let’s Look Into Kurdish
Note: When a preposition places in front of the word classes, inflects them.
Kurdish is such a language that it takes affixes in the front, in the end and in the middle.
These morphemes are divided into two groups. One of them is the affixes which only the
constructed verbs are obtained with them. The other affixes, only the adjectives and nouns are
obtained with them. And sometimes a change is made in the word, and the noun is found.
Especially this state happens in the mood of the imperative verb. Example: Bi + şewit + e, /bi/
is the imperative mood, /şewit/ is the verb's root of the imperative mood, /e/ is the affix root of
the verb in imperative mood, and change the /i/ in the second syllable to /a/. So we obtain the
noun; in şewit /i/ is change to /a/ and şewit become şewat. Except this, from the verb root of
the imperative mood, the affixes of the subject nouns are obtained. We obtained from şewitîn
(to burn) şewat (fire). Example:
From the verb "kuştin" (to kill), bi-kuj-e (kill), if the /bi/ and /e/ is thrown then -kuj- is
remained, if we bring it before the word agir (fire) a word like this is formed; "agirkuj"
(firekiller it means fireman).
We won't mention widely about the articles, just for to make clear the subject and to
make the topic more comprehensive we are going to stand on it. Firstly let's give articles for
the verbs.
a) Verb forming affixes
ber + dan = berdan
der + anîn = deranîn
hil + kirin = hilkirin
ra + kirin = rakirin
ro + kirin = rokirin
ve + xwarin = vexarin
vê + xistin = vêxistin
ver + girtin = vergitin
tê + koşîn = têkoşîn
Now let's give some affixes which come to the end of the nouns and adjectives, and the
simple word are formed with them:
andin, isandin, ijandin
With the affixes above transitive verbs are obtained. Examples:
saz + andin = sazandin
nerm + ijandin = nermijandin
rep + isandin = repisandin
Let’s Look Into Kurdish
-în, -isîn, -ijîn
With these affixes intransitive verbs obtained.
rep + isîn = repisîn
saz + în = sazîn
nerm + ijîn = nermijîn
b) Noun and adjective forming affixes
After all these, now let's try with the affixes which the noun and the adjective are
formed with them. These nouns are in two groups: subject-noun and object-noun. These
affixes come to both at the front of the word and at the end of it. For these ones let's give
some examples. We are going to expose firstly prefixes; secondly the suffixes end thirdly the
middle-affixes with the examples.
The derivation of words with suffixes:
kar + ker = karker
ber + ek = berek
dar + ik = darik
ser + ok = serok
as + van = asvan
rim + baz = rimbaz
guh + ar = guhar
mal + dar = maldar
teng + asî = tengasi
kirîv + atî = kirîvatî
xwîn + î = xwînî
ser + oyî = seroyî
yekt + îtî = yekîtî
The derivation of words with prefixes:
a + aşûjin = aşûjin
ber + av = berav
ser + dest = serdest
ne + yar = neyar
tele + bext = telebext
hem + pa = hempa
hev +kar = hevkar
kele + girî = kelegirî
zir + keş = zirkeş
bi + kuj = bikuj
bele +guh = beleguh
gû + sterk = gûsterk
Let’s Look Into Kurdish
The derivation of words with the middle affixes:
ser + an + ser = seranser
dest + e + bira = destebira
şad + û + man = şadûman
rû + bi + rû = rûbirû
Every language has means and methods and also has its own characteristics. In addition
to this, there are some participant rules for languages. These common rules are generally
viewed among the languages of the same family. These is why, it is a very natural and normal
thing that some languages have common aspects in some ways and resemble to each other.
In these respect, from the subject we have pointed out above one by one it is seen that
Kurdish is different, in many ways from both Arabic and Persian and Turkish. Especially we
want to take the attention to the differences between Kurdish and Turkish. Because some
Turkish linguists pretend that Kurdish is not an independent language and Kurds, originally,
are Turkish too.
Since e clear idea to be mature about Kurdish and Turkish for the interested people. We
are going to show the difference of the two languages in some concrete aspects.
• Kurdish is from the Indo-European language family, Turkish is from Ural-Altaic.
• Kurdish is an inflective language; Turkish is an additive language,
• Kurdish has got genders but Turkish has not got.
• In Kurdish there are two groups of personal and demonstrative pronouns, there is not
the same thing in Turkish.
• In Kurdish and in Turkish the compound is opposite to each other.
• Kurdish gets affixes in the front, in the middle and in the end. But in Turkish the
affix is only in the end position.
• In Kurdish the word can take two or three consonants in the front. But in Turkish the
word begins with just one consonant.
• The Kurdish and Turkish grammars don't resemble to each other. Their syntax and
etymology are very different.
Let's come to the negotiations about Kurdish dialects and accents. As it is seen in other
languages, there are accents and dialects in Kurdish too. They are:
1) Kurmancî
2) The Central Kurdish (Soranî)
3) Kirmanckî (Kirdkî, Dimilkî, Zazakî
4) Loranî
Let’s Look Into Kurdish
There are only Kurmancî and Kirmanckî of these dialects in Turkey. In the Kurmancî
dialect there are three main accents; Botî, Silîvî and Mehmedî. The Botî accent is appreciated
as the base for the written language among them. The grammar books, the orthography and
dictionaries were prepared according to this opinion.
There are two accents of the Kirmanckî dialect; Dêrsimî and Siwêregî.
For a long time Kurdish language has been used as a teaching and education language.
Kurdish religion schools are the evidence of this. In these schools except Kurdish, Arabic also
was used.
The last word:
Kurdish is sufficient for itself, for the Kurds to be educated in their own language.
There is no obstacle in the matter of the language. The obstacle is the current laws of Turkey.
1. For a brief information look at: Varli, Abdullah; Dîroka Dûgela Kurdan and
Çelîker, Celadet; Kurtedîroka alfabên ku kurdan bi kar anîne, the magazine of the
Istanbul Kurdish Institute Zend the second issue, year 1994.
2. Aksan, Doğan; Her Yönüyle Dil 1 (Ana Çizgileriyle Dilbilim), Türk Dil Kurumu
Publication, Ankara 1987.
3. Bedirxan, Celadet & Lescot Roger; Kürtçe Dilbilgisi, Doz Publication, 5th edition,
Istanbul 2000.
4. Minorsky, Vladimir; Kürtler (Kurds), Koral Publication, Istanbul 1992, pp: 76-78.
5. Şerefxanê Bidlîsî, Şerefname, Hasat Publication, Istanbul 1990.
6. Viwan, Murad; Türkçe Açıklamalı Kürtçe Dilbilgisi, Jîna Nû, Sweden 1992.
7. Gökalp, Ziya; Kürt Aşiretleri Hakkında Sosyolojik Tetkikler, Sosyal Publication,
first edition, Istanbul 1992.
8. Hesenpûr, Emîr; Nationalism and Language in Kurdistan, Mellen Research
University Press, Canada 1992.
9. Ehmedê Xanî, Mem û Zîn, Hasat Publication, third edition, Istanbul 1990.
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PostAuthor: schoolmaster1954 » Mon Jan 01, 2007 6:44 pm

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The following chart summarizes an extensive survey and evaluation of the Kurdish peoples and the languages they speak.

I have followed the classification of languages and dialects used by the Summer Institute of Linguistics, as published in the Ethnologue, 13th Edition, 1996. (This was the current edition at the time of the research. Editions 14 (2000) and 15 (2005) maintain the same dialect and language designations as Edition 13.)

The Ethnologue listings represents a revision of names and dialect groupings among the Kurds, based on later research than other sources used. This appears to be the most recent schema summarizing research on the Kurdish languages. Previous sources were not consistent, so accounting for some variations from this presentation.

Observations and Findings with Conclusions follow the chart. This report has been updated several times since the original research, but the chart remains the same.

Dr. Orville Boyd Jenkins

Bajelan Iraq ZAZA-GORANI BAJELAN Shabak, Gurani Barzinji, Gergeri, Gorani, Hamawand, Hariri, Jaf, Mawsili, Manusi, Sarli, Yarsan Arbil, Eski Kaiak,
Mosul, Tobzawa Bajelan, Shabaki, Sarli, Kakai, Qizilbashi, Ibrahimi,
Bektashi BJM00 20,000 20,000 20,000
Dimli Turkey ZAZA-GORANI DIMLI Sivereki, Kori, Hazzu, Motki, Shabak, Dumbuli Zaza, Dimli Lolan, Xormak, Shamlu, Shaykhawand, Shadlu, Khajawand, Zafranlu, Stajlu, Quvanlu Elazig, Bingol,
Diyarbakir Alevi (Alawi), Shabaki ZZZ00 980,000 1,010,000 1,010,000
Dimli Syria ZAZA-GORANI DIMLI Zaza, Dimli Jezirah, Syria ZZZ00 20,000 1,010,000 1,010,000
Dimli Germany ZAZA-GORANI DIMLI Zaza, Dimli ZZZ00 10,000 1,010,000 1,010,000
Hawrami Iran ZAZA-GORANI HAWRAMI Gurani, Bajalani Guran, Hawraman Ahl-i-Haqq (Yaresan) HAC00 18,000 40,000 40,000
Hawrami Iraq ZAZA-GORANI HAWRAMI Gurani. Kakai, Macho Awaspi,
Eski Taiak, Tobzawa Ahl-i-Haqq (Kakai), Shabaki, Sunni HAC00 22,000 40,000 40,000
Herki Iran KURDISH HERKI associated with Kurmanji HEK00 *71,000 71,000
Herki Iraq KURDISH HERKI associated with Kurmanji HEK00 *71,000 71,000
Herki Turkey KURDISH HERKI associated with Kurmanji HEK00 31,000 *71,000 71,000
Kirmandz Armenia ZAZA-GORANI KIRMANJKI Zaza, Dimli, Dimilki QKV00 59,000 1,500,000 1,500,000
Kirmandz Georgia ZAZA-GORANI KIRMANJKI Zaza, Dimli, Dimilki QKV00 35,000 1,500,000 1,500,000
Kirmandz Turkey ZAZA-GORANI KIRMANJKI Tunceli, Varto Zaza, Dimli, Dimilki, Alevi Tunceli, Erzincan,
Cayirli, Elazig,
Sivas, Varto,
Also in Austria,
Denmark, France, Netherlands, UK,
Sweden, Switzerland Alevi (Alawi) QKV00 140,000 1,500,000
(Country totals not itemized in sources) 1,500,000
Kirmandz Germany ZAZA-GORANI KIRMANJKI Zaza, Dimli, Dimilki, Alevi QKV00 1,500,000 1,500,000
Carduchi Iran KURDISH KURDI Southern Kurd KDB03 2,760,000 2,760,000 7,329,500
Kurd Iran KURDISH KURDI Jafi, Kirmanshahi Southern Kurd, Sorani Barzinji, Jaf, Bosikan, Kurian, Musi, Sarmi, Talabani, Zekiri, Zubari Kermanshah (Bakhtaran), Khorasan, Kordestan, Sanandaj, West Azerbaijan Yezidi, Shabaki, Ahl-i-Haqq (Yaresan), Sarli KDB00 605,000 4,197,500 7,329,500
Kurd Iran KURDISH KURDI Mukri Central Kurd, Mukri Yezidi, Shabaki, Ahl-i-Haqq (Yaresan), Sarli KDB02 604,000 1,052,000 7,329,500
Kurd Iraq KURDISH KURDI Mukri Sorani Kurd Yezidi, Shabaki, Ahl-i-Haqq (Kakai), Sarli KDB02 448,000 1,052,000 7,329,500
Kurd Iraq KURDISH KURDI Arbili, Adaiani (Sanandaji), Khushnaw, Sulaymani, Pizhdar, Mukri, Warmawa, Garmiyani, Garrusi (Bijari), Kolya'i, Zangana, Kirmanshahi Sorani Kurd, Southern Kurd Arbil, Halabja, Kirkuk, Mosul, Sinjar, Soran, Sulamanya, Zengana Yezidi, Shabaki, Ahl-i-Haqq (Kakai), Sarli KDB00 2,785,500 4,197,500 7,329,500
Kurd Kuwait KURDISH KURDI Sorani Kurds KDB00 127,000 4,197,500 7,329,500
Kurd Netherlands KURDISH KURDI Sorani Kurds KDB00 4,197,500 7,329,500
Kurd United Kingdon KURDISH KURDI Sorani Kurds KDB00 4,197,500 7,329,500
Kurd Armenia KURDISH KURMANJI Kermanji, Northern Kurd KUR00 58,000 7,661,000 7,661,000
Kurd Azerbaijan KURDISH KURMANJI Kurmanji KUR00 20,000 7,661,000 7,661,000
Kurd Bahrain KURDISH KURMANJI KUR00 25,000 7,661,000 7,661,000
Kurd Belgium KURDISH KURMANJI Kermanji KUR00 22,000 7,661,000 7,661,000
Kurd France KURDISH KURMANJI Kermanji, Northern Kurd KUR00 74,000 7,661,000 7,661,000
Kurd Georgia KURDISH KURMANJI Kurmanji KUR00 33,000 7,661,000 7,661,000
Kurd Germany KURDISH KURMANJI Kermanji KUR00 480,000 7,661,000 7,661,000
Kurd Iran KURDISH KURMANJI Kermanji Sunni KUR00 200,000 7,661,000 7,661,000
Hakari Iraq KURDISH KURMANJI Hakkari KUR01 7,661,000
Kurd Iraq KURDISH KURMANJI Jezire (Botan) Kermanji, Northern Kurd Jazira, Mosul, Rwandiz, Sinjar, Zakhu KUR00 1,457,000 7,661,000 7,661,000
Kurd Jordan KURDISH KURMANJI Kermanji KUR00 4,000 7,661,000 7,661,000
Kurd Kazakhstan KURDISH KURMANJI Kurmanji KUR00 25,000 7,661,000 7,661,000
Kurd Kuwait KURDISH KURMANJI Kurmanji KUR00 48,000 7,661,000 7,661,000
Kurd Kyrghyzstan KURDISH KURMANJI Kurmanji KUR00 14,000 7,661,000 7,661,000
Kurd Lebanon KURDISH KURMANJI Kermanji, Northern Kurd KUR00 173,000 7,661,000 7,661,000
Kurd Netherlands KURDISH KURMANJI Kermanji KUR00 40,000 7,661,000 7,661,000
Kurd Norway KURDISH KURMANJI Kermanji KUR00 3,000 7,661,000 7,661,000
Kurd Sweden KURDISH KURMANJI Kermanji KUR00 10,000 7,661,000 7,661,000
Kurd Switzerland KURDISH KURMANJI Kermanji KUR00 53,000 7,661,000 7,661,000
Kurd Syria KURDISH KURMANJI Jezire Kermanji,
Western Kurd Arab Pinar,
Jazirah (Hasakan), Kurdh-Dagh, Damascus,
west of Aleppo,
Lake Khatun KUR00 938,000 7,661,000 7,661,000
Kurd Turkey KURDISH KURMANJI Guwii, Hakkari, Jezire (Botan), Urfi, Bayazidi, Surchi, Qochani, Birjandi, Alburz, Sanjari, Judkani Kurmanji, Bahdinani Doudjik, Jibran, Kizibakh, Subhan, Bokhti, Bakran, Tirigan, Karachul, Chol, Oghaz, Jambul, Devalu, Iva, Karaqich, Chichak Adiyaman, Agri, Ankara, Badinan, Bingol, Bitlis, Diyarbakir, Mus,
also Elazig, Sivas, Tunceli, others Alevi (Alawi), Yezidi,
Sufi orders KUR00 3,950,000 7,661,000 7,661,000
Kurd Turkmenistan KURDISH KURMANJI Kurmanji KUR00 3,000 7,661,000 7,661,000
Kurd UK KURDISH KURMANJI Kermanji KUR00 6,000 7,661,000 7,661,000
Kurd Uzbekistan KURDISH KURMANJI Kermanji, Northern Kurd KUR00 2,000 7,661,000 7,661,000
Feyli Iran LURI LURI Shia LRI02
Feyli Iraq LURI LURI near Baghdad Shia LRI02
Kurd Armenia SLAVIC, EAST RUSSIAN Kermanji, Northern Kurd RUS00 70,000 70,000 151,000,000
Shikaki Iran KURDISH SHIKAKI associated with Kurmanji SHF00 24,000 *64,000 64,000
Shikaki Iraq KURDISH SHIKAKI associated with Kurmanji SHF00 *64,000 64,000
Shikaki Turkey KURDISH SHIKAKI associated with Kurmanji SHF00 *64,000 64,000
Surchi Iraq KURDISH SURCHI associated with Kurmanji,
different form Surchi dialect
of Kurmanji SUP00 11,000 11,000 11,000
* These totals are uncertain. Populations reported here are from various sources available to me in 2000, but many were older. Thus these populations are presented only for relative comparisons. Mehrdad Izady (The Kurds: A Concise Handbook) reports the total of Kurds of all tribes and languages worldwide in 1992 as 28 million.

Summary of the Kurdish Peoples and their Speech Forms

The following comments summarize research on the Kurdish peoples, supplementing the conclusions presented in the chart. The purpose of the research was to clarify the names of the various Kurdish groups, and approximate populations, correlated as possible with religious sects and place names.

After observations and findings, I will present some conclusions as very basic considerations for communication strategy.

Observations and Findings


1. The various Kurdish people are commonly identified by the language they speak. Kurmanji is the most widely spoken Kurdish language.

2. Many names referring to various Kurdish people also are names of places. Even the "names" of many of the speech forms are place names, applied to the people and the speech of people in that area.

3. I have followed the classification of languages and dialects used by the Summer Institute of Linguistics, as published in the Ethnologue, 13th Edition, 1996, online. This represents a revision of names and dialect groupings among the Kurds, based on later research than other sources used. This appears to be the most recent schema summarizing research on the Kurdish languages.

4. Many sources available on the Internet were posted in 1997 or later, but were dated from 1992 to 1996, thus using older classifications and terminology, similar to what appeared in the 1992 (12th Edition) of the Ethnologue. I have correlated all available database figures to get a reasonable update, favoring most recent research.

5. Further, there was considerable discrepancy between various authors in older literature. The SIL terminology and classification, therefore, represents an update that is useful as a standard reference point.

6. The summary chart presents a correlation of selected place names, tribal or clan ethnic names, religious sects and alternative names for the peoples or speech forms.

7. The use of the various names is inconsistent, often in the same author. The various literature and authors use sect name, location name, tribe, language or ethnic name interchangeably. Identities are strong around religious sects. Sects may be associated with some ethnic names, but cut across strictly ethnic lines.

8. Religious affiliation, however, does affect speech forms somewhat, as the terminology specific to a certain Sufi or Shia (or "heretical") sect may be specialized, thus affecting certain vocabulary and thought-forms. Thus some writers have referred to the speech of some of the Yazdani (Cult of Angels) sects as dialects.

9. Shabak and Bajelan are vaguely referred to as separate religious or ethnic groups. No discrete figures or descriptions are available in sources. The terms Goran, Shabak and Bajelan are used interchangeably by some authors. Hawrami is more distinctly used, but is also associated with Shabak and Bajelan. Leezburg says the Shabak, strictly speaking, have never been a tribe.

10. It appears that each sect has a somewhat distinct subgroup identity within whichever broader language and ethnic group they belong to.

11. Various authors note that the term "Zaza" is considered derogatory for the Dimili peoples. Yet I see this term used commonly and positively as an identifier and self-name in literature and web sites by the Dimili people.


1. The Kurdish peoples speak 12 languages among them, as indicated on the chart. One source also showed Kurds in Iran speaking Eastern Farsi, but later data did not indicate that. I could not confirm that this language is spoken by any Kurdish group. There may be some Kurds with native language Arabic, but I found no information on this. Sources indicate Kurds with Turkish mother tongue.

2. A group of 70,000 Kurds in Russia speak Russian as a mother tongue. It is not clear if they also still speak one of the original Kurdish languages. Virtually all Kurds in Russia and the former USSR have Russian mother tongue. Many of these claim Russian ethnicity. Many sources report no Kurdish ethnicity in Russia.

3. Some peoples show no population, indicating some uncertainty in reported data. Global totals for those peoples are likewise uncertain, but are taken from a 1996 database, but repeated in later materials. Some of the figures were suspect, with identical country figures and global totals for several groups.

4. Kurmanji (Kurmanci) is the most widely spoken language of the Kurds. This language was commonly referred to in earlier literature as Northern Kurmanji. Most speakers of Kurmanji are found in Turkey. They are also the most dispersed into other countries outside "Kurdistan."

5. The next largest language group is Kurdi, also called Sorani, and formerly called Southern Kurmanji by some and Central Kurdish by others. Most speakers of speech forms considered to be dialects of Kurdi live in Iran, though the term Sorani and the Kurdi language seem more associated in popular thought with Iraq. (Soran is a place in Iraq.)

6. The term Kurmanji was also formerly used as a general term for the broader grouping including the former Northern Kurmanji (now Kurmanji) and Southern Kurmanji (now Kurdi). The term "Kurmanji" is applied now only to the northern forms of speech, as this is what those speakers call that language, while the Sorani Kurds call their language Kurdi ("Kurdish"), as do also some of the smaller Kurdish language groups.

7. Most of the Kurds in Syria are Kurmanji speakers (also called Bahdinani by some writers), but some in Syria are Dimli Kurds.

8. Most Kurmanji speakers are in Turkey. Most of the Kurdi speakers are in Iran. Almost all the Kurds in Iraq speak Kurdi, while most in Syria speak Kurmanji.

9. Kirmanjki speakers similarly call themselves Kirmandz or Kirmanj. (See Conclusion 8.)

10. Figures from SIL indicate most Kirmandz (Kirmanjki) are in Germany. This seemed a bit suspicious, but I found no information to contradict this indication.

11. Speakers of various speech forms are interspersed in much of the area. The chart indicates some key locations of each language group, where available in verified sources.

12. Each language tends to borrow terms from the dominant language in their geopolitical sphere, thus Kurmanji in Turkey has borrowed more from Turkish, while Sorani speakers in Iran and Hawrami speakers have borrowed from Persian, while Sorani speakers in Iraq tend to borrow Arabic terms. Likewise the Kurmanji and Dimli speakers in Syria have borrowed some Arabic terms.

13. The larger languages further have several dialects. The respective speech forms classified by SIL as dialects of the various languages, however, remain mutually intelligible among themselves, while the broader languages are characterized as not mutually intelligible.

15. Many Kurds are fluent in more than one of the languages spoken among the Kurdish peoples.

Political or National Identity

1. The Kurds are known for their resistance against ethnic, military and political oppression, desiring their own separate Kurdish political entity. There has, however, been some ambiguity among the various peoples considered Kurd.

2. The Kurdish people are of mixed origins, as are virtually every other ethnic group in the world. Some of the clans have Turkish names, and there are various traditions of origin, as well as various historical testimonies concerning them for three thousand years of recorded history. Some of the members of Yazdani sects are of Arabic origin. In Syria, for instance, many Turkish Alevi (Alawi) are of Arab origin. Likewise, some who now consider themselves Arab were originally of the Kurdish nation and language.

3. While there is a level of common ethnic identity among most of the Kurdish peoples, particularly in terms of nationalistic aspirations, there is still notable animosity or suspicion between the various religious sects that divide the Kurds. Also sects tend to follow family and clan lines, except among some of the smaller ethnic/religious groupings speaking the "smaller" languages.

4. History indicates not all Kurdish ethnic groups have been actively involved in protest against the non-Kurdish governments in the region. Indeed, some clans, tribes or other groupings have remained neutral, or been involved in the military of the various governments, even in operations against other Kurds.

5. There is a greater unity of identity now after the Anfal (Iraqi government campaigns against the Kurds 1987-89) and other recent persecutions, exercised against some uncommitted or marginal southern groups, who have now declared their identity as Kurds.

6. The Shabaki/Kakai sect has some converts from Arab tribes. Since the Anfal, these groups have more decisively identified with the Kurds.

7. Southern peoples are mixed at an early stage in history with another early population called Gorani. This is the source of the ethnic and place name, and language designation for some southern dialects of the Kurdish peoples.

8. There is a growing and vocal movement of Dimili/Zaza declaring they are not Kurds and wish to be politically and culturally independent. See Zaza/Dimili links at the end.

9. Many of the 70,000 or more Kurds in Russia are considered by scholars to be assimilated, and seem to claim Russian ethnicity.


A specific question investigated was the relationship between the terms Badinani and Kurmanji as a people/language name.

1. The term Kurmanji is attested from ancient times as the name of a people and language. It is reported that this is what the Kurmanji speakers call their language.

2. The term Badinani (Bahdinani) is used in some older literature interchangeably with the name Kurmanji to refer to the Northern groups of Kurdish speech. No source makes a distinction between two different peoples or languages with these two terms. Some sources do not use this term at all, including Encyclopedia Britannica, which uses the same schema otherwise, with the term "Kurmanji." Note that these are all used as language names.

3. The word Bahdinani is given in the Ethnologue as an alternative name (one that has some time in the past been used for the speech of some portion of the speakers) in Turkey and Azerbaijan for the listing of Kurmanji language.

4. Badinan is a place name in a heavy concentration of Kurds in Turkey who speak the Kurmanji language. Soran and Badinan are two towns (the "i" ending makes it an adjective, thus "of Badinan," or "of Soran") whose names have been used by some as a shorthand for these two groups. Sorani is more commonly used as the name of the group of Kurds speaking Kurdi. Badinan(i) is not as common or consistent in the literature for northern speech forms.

5. Badinan (Bahdinan) is a town in Southern Turkey, also found as Gürmese or Gürmeêe on some maps. This is the source of the use of this word to refer to some speakers of Kurmanji. Like Soran (Iraq) and Gorani (Iran), Badinani is a place name. The town is a good bit north of a line from Mosul and Aleppo, and about half way between. Some maps do not show Badinan or Gürmese, but show Batman, a nearby oilfield town.


General: The people group name is Kurd. They also have smaller groupings referred to as tribes, which also have a specific name. But the most common way of relating among the Kurds is by what language they speak. Then the religious sect seems to be a further differentiating or descriptive factor. Many of the tribal names, and also many names of speech forms (languages/dialects) are place names, applied to the people who live in that area and to their form of speech.

1. The vast majority of all Kurdish peoples live in Turkey (Kurmanji, Kirmanjki and Dimli) and Iran (Kurdi).

2. Language will be a primary identifying factor among the Kurdish people, and thus a primary factor in considering communication strategy within the community.

3. Religious affiliation is the next consideration for relationships and communication strategies. That is, language groupings must be further segmented by religion.

4. Because of the variety of sub-ethnic identities, religious sect divisions and uncertain political alignments, strategies must be varied for different groups, even among the same language group. Likewise the same sect cuts across various languages. This is most notable in the smaller languages and ethnic groups.

5. For any communication dealing with worldview and identity-affecting decisions, separate strategies will likely be needed at the local level, based on sect and local unique characteristics, as would be expected in any multi-cultural people. Thus a study of the larger religious sects will be of use and likely indispensable for clear communication of universal realities.

6. The largest language group of all Kurds is Kurmanji. That language is also the one most spoken by Kurds in Europe. Kurmanji is also the most common inter-language used among Kurds with different mother tongues. These expatriate (diaspora) communities would be a likely point of access. Thus Kurmanji would likely be the Kurdish people/language for accessing Kurds outside their "homeland."

7. If SIL's figures are correct, Kirmanjki is the next most likely language for European access. Few Kurdi speakers live outside Iran or Iraq.

8. By those figures, the Kirmanj (Kirmanjki speakers) are the largest single expatriate group of Kurds. They are mostly Alevi in faith. Ethnologue figures for Kirmanjki speakers are much lower than other sources. Ethnologue gives no specific populations for the European countries. Edition 14 gave a world total of 1,500,000. New Edition 15 gives no world total, and local Turkish populations only from the 1972 census.


"Ethnic Differentiation among the Kurds: Kurmanci, Kizilbash and Zaza," Paul White ... h/paul.htm

"Exploring Kurdish Origins," Mehrdad R. Izady

Information and Discussion about Kurds -- Kurdish Partnership Int'l

Language-Dialect Tree
(using pre-1996 names -- easy to correlate with post-1996)
http://encyclopedia.thefreedictionary.c ... h+language

Kurdpedia -- Languages, Kurdistan Maps

Kurds and Kurdistans

Religions in Kurdistan

Several articles on Kurdish Languages ... /text.html

Standardizing the Modern Journalistic Language in Kurdish

The Kurdish Question -- Its History and Present Situation

The Ethnologue, 13th Edition (14th and 15th Editions Online)


My Article: The Yezidis -- An Angelic Sect

http://altreligion.about com/library/faqs/bl_yezidism.htm
Yezidism --
Denge Ezidiyan -- Yezidi Online Magazine

Yezidi Religion and Culture
http://www.lalish org/en_index.html

Yezidi Religion and Society

Yezidis in Armenia

Zaza/Dimili and Alevism

Alevism ... /alev.html
Alevism -- Mehrdad R. Izady

Dimili or Zazaki People and Language
Many articles by various scholars

"Ethnic Differentiation among the Kurds: Kurmanci, Kizilbash and Zaza," Paul White ... h/paul.htm

Zaza/Dimili and Alevis
Zaza and Alevis Web

Print Resources consulted

"Kurdish Languages," Encyclopedia Britannica, 22:608.

Held, Colbert C. Middle East Patterns. Oxford: Westview Press, 1994.

Izady, Mehrdad R. The Kurds: A Concise Handbook. Washington, DC: Taylor and Francis, 1992.

Buckley, Richard, Ed. The Kurds: Caught Between Nations (Understanding Global Issues Series, 94/3). Cheltenham, England, UK: European Schoolbooks Publishing Ltd., 1994.

"Kurds of Iraq: A People Profile." File Paper, 1994. No author given.

14 September 2000
Last Updated 16 July 2005

Dr. Orville Boyd Jenkins

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