Kurdish language

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The Kurdish languages or Kurdish dialects, belonging to the Indo-Iranian branch of the Indo-European languages, are spoken in the region loosely called Kurdistan including Kurdish populations in parts of Iran (Persia), Iraq, Syria and Turkey.

Classification and related languages

The Kurdish languages form a dialect continuum, with comprehensibility diminishing as the distance from one's native dialect increases. The principal Kurdish languages are:

The Kurdish languages have their own historical development, continuity, grammatical system and rich living vocabularies. The claim that the Kurdish languages have as their direct ancestor the language of the ancient Persia's Medes seem not to be supported by the linguistic data.

Dialects and regional variants

Kurmanji Sorani Dimili Persian German English
Gir/Mezin Gewre/Mezin Gird Bozorg Groß Great
Erd Herd Zamin Erde Earth
Bilind Berz Berz Bolend Hoch High
Masî Masî Mase Mahi Fisch Fish
Roj/Hetav Roj/Hetaw/Xor Roj Xorshid Sonne Sun
Av Aw Awe Ab Wasser Water
Bîhar Behar Wisar Bahar Frühling Spring
Tarî Tarîk Tarî Tarik Dunkel Dark
Dev Dem Fek Dahan Mund Mouth
Şev Şew Şewe Shab Nacht Night
Mez Mez Masa Miz Tisch Table
Zer Zer/Altûn Zerd Zar Gold Gold
Ziman Ziman Ziwan Zaban Sprache Language

Kurdish dialects can be divided into three primary groups:

  • the Northern Kurdish dialects group also called Kurmanji and Badínaní,
  • Central Kurdish dialects group also called Sorani (see also basic linguistic differences between these two major branches) and
  • the Southern Kurdish dialects group also called Pahlavani or "Pahlawanik" group in some sources.

The two other major branches of Kurdish language are:

  • the Dimílí group, also called Zaza, and
  • the Auramani group, also called Gorani (Gúraní) in some sources.

These are further divided into scores of dialects and sub-dialects.

The detailed classification of Kurdish dialects is problematic. There is no widely-accepted appellative system for the various Kurdish dialects;not only in Western scholarly opinion, but even among the Kurds themselves. This often prompts arguments if these four different dialects are a language on their own or not.
All of the native designators for local language and dialects are based on the way the spoken language of one group sounds to the unaccustomed ears of the other. For instance, Dimila and their vernacular, Dimili, are called Zaza by the Badínaní speakers, with reference to the preponderance of Z sounds in their language (Nikitin 1926). Meanwhile, the Dimila call the Badínaní dialect and its speakers Xerewere. The Gorans refer to the Soraní as Kurkure and Wawa. The Soraní speakers in turn call the Gorans and their vernacular, Goraní or Mecú Mecú, and refer to the tongue and the speakers of Badínaní as Ji Babu.

A proposed system for the classification of the dialects is as follows:

  • North Kurdish (Kurmanji)
    • In Iran (Persia), tribes of Herki, Milan, Shekak, Jelali, Heydari in Northern regions and western Azarbaijan province
    • In Iran, Kurds in Khorasan.
    • In Turkey, almost all the Kurds who live in Erzurum, Dogubayazid, Hakkari, Shamdinan, Behdinan, Abdin, Mardin and Diyarbakir.
    • all Kurds who live in the former Soviet Union.
    • In Iraq, most of the tribes who live in Duhok, Akra, Amedi, Zakho and Sanjar, Mosul.
    • In Syria, all Kurds.
  • Central Kurdish (Sorani)
    • In Iraq: Most of the Kurds who live in Sulemanya, Kirkuk, Erbil, Ruwanduz.
    • In Iran: From south of Urmia lake to west of Kirmashan and is divided into Mukri dialect of Mahabad and dialect of Sanandaj.
  • South Kurdish (Pehlewanî)
    • Kermashani Kurdish dialect
    • Gorani Kurdi dialect
      • Old Gorani - Kurdish dialect of Ahl-e Haqq(Yaristan, Kakeyí)
      • Macho Macho religious dialect
      • Old Gahvarei dialect
      • Old Korejoei dialect
      • Old Bivenji dialect
      • Old Kinduleh dialect
      • Bajalan dialect spoken in Iraq opposite Sar-pul-e zohab
    • Sanjabi dialect
    • Kalhur dialect
    • Laki dialect
    • Kolyaei dialect
    • Sahne and Harsin dialect
  • Zaza/Dimili/Kurdish dialect in Dersim of Turkey.
  • Hawrami dialects

Writing system

Today, Kurds use three different writing systems. Kurdish in Iran and Iraq is written using the Modified Arabic alphabet. In Turkey and Syria, it is written using the Modified Latin alphabet (Kurdish alphabet). In these modified alphabet, special letters are used for particular vowels. The modified Arabic alphabet is the standard writing system in Iraqi Kurdistan and Iranian Kurdistan. On the other hand, the modified Latin alphabet is used mainly for Kurmancî dialect in Turkey and Syria. As an example, see the following online news portal published in Iraqi Kurdistan [1]. Also see the VOA News site in Kurdish [2]. The Kurds in the former USSR use a modified Cyrillic alphabet. There are also attempts for a unified international recognised Kurdish alphabet based on ISO-8859-1. Please see *[3]. For a comparison of different Kurdish alphabets see [4].

Kurdish phonology

Template:IPA notice According to the Kurdish Academy of Language, Kurdish has the following phonemes:

Bilabial Labiodental Apical Postalveolar Palatal Velar Uvular Glottal
Stops p b t d k g q
Fricatives f v s z ʃ ʒ x h
Affricates ʧ ʤ
Nasals m n ŋ
Laterals l ɫTemplate:Fn
Flaps ɾ
Trills r
Approximants ʋ j

Template:Fnb: Non-latin scripts also have letters for /ħ/, /ʕ/, and /ɣ/. These may indicate variation among dialects in phoneme inventory, language change, or influence from nearby languages.

Template:Fnb: Just as in many English dialects, the velarized lateral does not appear in the onset of a syllable.

  front central back
short long short long short long
close i ʉ   u
mid e ə   o  
open   a    

The vowel pairs /i/ and /iː/, /e/ and /eː/, and /u/ and /uː/ contrast in length and not quality. This distinction shows up in the writing system; long vowels have a circumflex ( ^ ) and short vowels do not. As it is with most languages, Kurdish short vowels are not represented at all in the Arabic script..

In the following sections, the Latin Kurmanji Kurdish alphabet will be used. (see [[5].])

Indo-European linguistic comparison (1)

  • Common words between Kurdish and Persian
Central Kurdish (Sorani) Northern Kurdish (Kurmanji) Dimili (Zazaki) Avesta Persian German English
Gewre Mezin/Gir Gird Maza Bozorg Groß Great
Berz Berz Berz Bereza Bolend Hoch High
Masî Masî Mase Masıya Mahi Fisch Fish
Xor/Roj Roj/Xor Roj Hor Xorshid Sonne Sun
Mêş Mêş Mêse Mexşi Meges Fliege Fly

Indo-European linguistic comparison (2)

  • Common words between Kurdish and Persian
English German Persian Kurdish
very sehr (xêylî) خیلی Zor / fire
woman frau (zen) زن Afiret/jin
drop tropfen (çekîden) چکیدن dirope / dilope
short kurz (kutah) کوتاه kurt
great groß (bozorg) بزرگ gewre
hope hoffen (omîd) امید hêvî / hîwa
moon mond (mah) ماه mang / heyv
earth erde (zemîn) زمین erd/herd
evening abend (esr) عصر êware / êvar
honey honig (esel/engebîn) عسل / انگبین hengwên
beautiful schön (zîba) زیبا cûwan
here hier (înca) اینجا êre
iron eisen (ahen) آهن asin

Differences between Persian and Kurdish

Despite having some similarities in a number of basic words as seen above, these two languages are indeed very different. One of the main differences is the Grammar issue.(see [6]) The second difference is that Persian has been affected heavily by Arabic vocabulary over a period of several centuries after the Muslim conquest of Sassanid Empire. However, Kurds have been able to keep many of the original words, partly due to their geographical isolation. As a result, Modern Kurdish uses far less arabic loan words than Persian does. This fact is illustrated in the following table.

English Persian(Arabic loanword) Kurdish(Soranî)
Season (Fasl) ﻝﺼﻓ Werz
History (Tarikh) ﺦﻳﺮﺎﭡ Mêjû
North (Shomal) ﻝﺎﻣﺸ Bakûr
Ratio (Nesbat) ﺕﺑﺳﻧ Rêje
Right (Hagh) ﻖﺣ Maf
Centre (Markaz) ﺯﮐﺭﻣ Nawend
Barrier (Mane') ﻊﻧﺎﻣ Kosp
Corpse (Jenaze) ﻩﺯﺎﻨﺟ Term
Economy (Eghtesad)ﺩﺎﺻﺗﻗﺍ Abûrî
Prose (Nasr) ﺮﺛﻧ Pexşan
Important (Mohem) ﻡﮭﻣ Girîng
Opportunity (Forsat) ﺖﺻﺮﻓ Derfet
Literature (Adabiyat) ﺕﺎﯿﺑﺩﺍ Wêje
Election (Entekhabat) ﺕﺎﺑﺎﺨﺘﻧﺍ Helbijardin

In addition to the above, there are other differences in the vocabulary of the two languages. In the next table, a list of original pure persian words will be given which are different than their pure Kurdish equivalents. Here by pure we mean non-arabic original words of each language.

English Persian (non-arabic word) Kurdish
Tale (Dastan) ﻥﺎﺘﺳﺍﺩ Çîrok
Driving (Ranandegi) ﯥﮔﺪﻨﻧﺍﺭ Ajotin/ Lêxurîn
Injury (Zakhm) ﻢﺧﺯ Birîn
Research (Pazhoohesh) ﺶﮪﻭﮋﭘ Lêkolîn
Response (Pasokh) ﺦﺳﺎﭘ Welam/Bersiv
Future (Ayandeh) ﮦﺪﻨﯾﺁ Dahatû
Past (Gozashteh) ﮫﺘﺷﺬﮔ Rabirdû
Value (Arzesh) ﺵﺯﺭﺍ Bayex
Earthquake (Zamin Larzeh)ﮦﺯﺮﻟﻦﯿﻣﺯ Erdhejan
Special (Vizheh) ﮦﮋﯾﻭ Taybet
Ice (Yakh) ﺦﯾ Sehol
Race (Nezhad) ﺩﺍﮋﻧ Regez
Expert (Karshenas) ﺱﺎﻨﺷﺭﺎﻛ Pispor

As the last comparison, a table of different verbs in both languages is given.

English Persian Kurdish
To Forgive (Bakhshidan) ﻥﺪﯿﺸﺨﺑ Lêburdin
To Move (Harekat kardan) ﻥﺩﺮﮐ ﺖﮐﺮﺣ Bizûtin
To Produce (Tolid kardan) ﻥﺩﺮﮐﺪﯿﻟﻮﺗ Berhem hênan
To Encourage (Targhib kardan) ﻥﺩﺮﮐ ﺐﯿﻏﺮﺗ Handan
To Play (Bazi kardan) ﻥﺩﺮﮐ ﻯﺯﺎﺑ Leyistin
To Come (Amadan) ﻥﺪﻣﺁ Hatin
To Go (Raftan) ﻦﺘﻓﺭ Çûn
To Throw (Andakhtan) ﻦﺘﺧﺍﺪﻧﺍ Xistin
To inform (Ettela' dadan)ﻥﺩﺍﺩ ﻉﻼﻁﺍ Rageyandin
To Strike (As in "Labor Strike") ('Etesab kardan) ﻥﺩﺮﮐ ﺏﺎﺼﺘﻋﺍ Mangirtin
To Transfer (Enteghal dadan) ﻥﺩﺍﺩﻝﺎﻘﺘﻧﺍ Guhastin/Guwastinewe
To Learn (Yad gereftan) ﻦﺘﻓﺮﮔﺩﺎﯾ Fêrbûn
To Send (Ferestadan) ﻥﺩﺎﺘﺳﺮﻓ Nardin

A historical List of the Kurdish Literature and Poets

  • Religious

Mishefa Reş, The religious book of the Êzidî(Yezidi) Kurds. [7](in French) It is held to have been written by Shaykh Hasan (born ca. AD 1195), a nephew of Shaykh Adi ibn Musâfir, the sacred prophet of the Yezidis.

  • In Gornaî Dialect

1) Perîşan Dînewerî (d. ca. 1395),

2) Muhemmed Faqîh-Teyran (1590-1660)

3) Mustefa Bêsaranî (1642-1701),

4) Muhemmed Kendulaî (late 17th century),

5) Xana Qubadî (ca. 1700-1759),

6) Muhemmed Zengene Xemnakî Kerkûkî (early 18th century),

7) Mîrza Şafî Dînewerî (mid- 18th century),

8) Şeyda Ewramî (1784-1852),

9) Ehmed Beg Kumsî (1796-1889),

10) Mestûre Mah-Şeref Xatûn Qadirî Zend (1805-1848)

11) Mewlewî (1806-1882)

12)Muhammad Welî Kirmanşahî (d. ca. 1901)

  • In Kurmancî Dialect

1) Elî Herîrî, (1425-1490?)

2) Mulla Ehmed (1417-1494) of Hekkarî, the author of Mawlud, a collection of verse and an anthology;

3) Selîm Selman, (mid 16th century) (romance of Yusif u Zulaykha in 1586)

4) Şeyx Ehmed Cezîrî (Melay Cezîrî) (1570-1640) of Buhtân, who is considered one of the greatest of all Kurdish poets;

5) Ehmedê Xanî (1651-1707) (The epic drama of Mem û Zîn)

  • In Soranî Dialect

1) Hacî Qadir Koî (1817-1897)

2) Şêx Reza Talebanî (1835-1909)

For more detail see [8]. Also see [9] for an English translation of a poem by Ehmedê Xanî and [10] for a list of Kurdish poets and writers.

  • Famous Poets and writers of the 20th century

1) Pîremêrd (Tewfîq Beg Mehmûd Axa) (1868-1950). (See [[11]])

2) Celadet Alî Bedirxan or Jeladet Ali Bedir Khan (1893 [1897?]-1951).

3) Ereb Şemo (1897-1978). (Ereb Shamilov)

4) Seyda Cigerxwîn (1903-1984).

4) Abdulla Goran (1904-1962). The founder of modern Kurdish poetry. (see [12])

5) Hêmin (1920-1986).

6) Hejar (1920-1990)

7) Cemal Nebez (1933- ).

8) Şêrko Bêkes (Sheko Bekas)(1940- ). (see [13])

9) Letîf Helmet (1947- ).

10) Ebdulah Peşêw (Abdullah Pashew)(1947- ). (see [14])

11) Refîq Sabir (1950- ). (see [15])

Kurdish Dictionaries

  • Kurdish-Kurdish Dictionary

1) Khal, Sheikh Muhammad, Ferhengî Xal (Khal Dictionary), Kamarani Press, Sulaymaniya, 3 Volumes, Vol. I, 1960, 380 p. Vol. II, 1964, 388 p. Vol. III, 1976, 511 p.

  • Kurdish-English Dictionaries

1) Chyet, Michael L. , Kurdish Dictionary: Kurmanji-English, Yale Language Series, U.S., 2003 (896 pages) (see [16])

2) Abdullah, S. and Alam, K. , English-Kurdish (Sorani) and Kurdish (Sorani)-English Dictionary, Star Publications / Languages of the World Publications, India, 2004 (see [17])

3) Awde, Nicholas, Kurdish-English/English-Kurdish (Kurmanci, Sorani and Zazaki) Dictionary and Phrasebook, Hippocrene Books Inc.,U.S. , 2004 , (see [18])

4) Raman : English-Kurdish(Sorani) Dictionary, Pen Press Publishers Ltd, U.K., 2003, (800 pages) (see [19])

5) Saadallah, Salah, English-Kurdish Dictionary, Avesta/Paris Kurdish Insititue, Istanbul, 2000, (1477 pages) (see [20])

6) Amindarov, Aziz, Kurdish-English/English-Kurdish Dictionary, Hippocrene Books Inc.,U.S., 1994 (see [21])

7) Rizgar, Baran (M. F. Onen), Kurdish-English/English-Kurdish (Kurmancî Dictionary) UK, 1993, 400 p. + 70 illustrations (see [22])

  • Kurdish- Other Languages Dictionaries

1) Blau, Joyce, Kurtçe/Turkçe, Kurtçe/Fransizça, Kurtçe/Ingilizçe sozluk =Kurdish/Turkish/French/English dictionary / Turkcesi Fetullah Kakioglu. Istanbul : Sosyal Yayinlar, 1991.

2) Sharafkandi, Abdurrahman (Hejar), Henbane Borîne, Ferhengî Kurdî-Kurdî-Farsî (Kurdish-Kurdish-Persian Dictionary) Tehran : Sorush Press, 1991, 1032 pages , x-19-429510-8

3) Kedaitene, E.I. , Muktiani, K. and Mitrokhina, V., Uchebnyi Russko-Kurdskii Slovar (Russian-Kurdish Dictionary) Izadatelstvo "Russkii IAzyk" Moscow, 1977

4) Kurdoev, Kanat Kalashevich, Kurdsko-Russki Slovar (Kurdish-Russian Dictionary), GIINS, Moscow, 1960, 890 p.

5) Kurdoev, Kanat Kalashevich, Kurdsko-Russki Slovar (Soranî Kurdish-Russian Dictionary) , Russkii IAzyk, Moscow, 1983,752 p.

6) Mukriyani, Giw, Al-Murshid/Raber (Guide), Arabic-Kurdish Dictionary, Kurdistan Press, Hawlêr (Arbil), 1950, 404 p.

7) Mukriyani, Giw, Ferhengî Mehabad (Mahabad Dictionary), Kurdish-Arabic Dictionary, Kurdistan Press, Hawlêr (Arbil), 1961, 795 p.

8) Nizamoddin, Fazel, Estêre Geşe (The bright Star), Ferhengî Kurdî-Erebî (Kurdish-Arabic dictionary),Al-Ajyal Press, Baghdad, 1977, 771 p.

9) Rashid, Mujde, Kurdisk-Svensk Ordbok (Soranî)(Ferhangî Kurdî Swêdî), Studentlitteratur, Sweden 1994, 358 p.

Also see [23] and [24] for more information.

External links and references


als:Kurdisch da:Kurdisk (sprog) de:Kurdische Sprache el:Κουρδική γλώσσα eo:Kurda lingvo fa:زبان‌های کردی‌تبار fr:Kurde id:Bahasa Kurdi it:Lingua curda ku:Zimanê kurdî nl:Koerdisch ja:クルド語 ru:Курдский язык sv:Kurdiska tr:Kürtçe