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Kurdish language

Kurdish (Kurdî)
Spoken in: Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Syria, Armenia, Lebanon
Region: -
Total speakers: 35 Million
Ranking: 29


Official status
Official language of: part of Iraq


Geographic distribution

The Kurdic languages (also called dialects of Kurdish) are spoken in the region loosely called Kurdistan including Kurdish populations in parts of Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey.

Classification and related languages

The Kurdic languages belongs to the Iranian branch of the Indo-European family of languages, being closest to Persian among other languages. Kurdic dialects and languages are members of the northwestern subdivision of the Iranian branch of this largest family of languages in the world. The Kurdic languages, mostly mutually unintelligible, are Kurmanji , Sorani, Gorani and Auramani . The Zaza language is also considered a Kurdic language by some but many linguists do not agree with that. The Kurdic languages have their own historical development, continuity, grammatical system and rich living vocabularies. The claim that the Kurdic languages have as their direct ancestor the language of the Iranian Medes is not supported by the scientific and linguistical facts and data. Ca. 25 million people in the western parts of the Iranian Plateau and Eastern Anatolia, speak different Kurdic languages.

Dialects and regional variants

Kurdic languages (also called Kurdish dialects) can be divided into three primaries groups:

  1. the Northern Kurdish dialects group also called Kurmanji and Badínaní,
  2. Central Kurdish dialects group also called Sorani (see also basic linguistic differences between these two major branches) and
  3. the Southern Kurdish dialects group also called Pahlavani or "Pahlawanik" group in some sources. The two other major branches of Kurdish language are, Dimílí group also called "Zaza" and Auramani group also called Gorani (Gúraní) in some sources. These are further divided into scores of dialects and sub-dialects as well.
  • North Kirmanji (Kurmanji)
    • In Iran, 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 former Soviet Union.
    • In Iraq, most of the tribes who live in Akra, Emadiyeh, Zakho and Sanjar, Mosul.
    • In Syria, all Kurds.
  • Central Kirmanji (Sorani)
    • In Iraq: Most of the Kurds who live in Suleymani, Kirkuk, Erbil, Ruwanduz.
    • In Iran: From south of Urmia lake to west of Kermanshah and is divided into Mukri Kirmanji of Mahabad and Kirmanji ofSanandaj.
  • South Kirmanji (Pehlewanî)
    • Kirmanshahi Kurdi dialect
    • Gorani Kurdi dialect
    • Sanjabi dialect
    • Kalhur dialect
    • Kolyaei dialect
    • Sahne and Harsin dialect
    • Hawrami dialects
      • Zaza/Dimili/Kirmanjki dialect in Dersim of Turkey.
      • Hawraman-e Takht dialect
      • Hawraman-e Lehon dialect
      • Javrud dialect
      • Paveh and Juanrud dialect
      • Old Gorani(language of Ahl-e Haq)
      • 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

In some Kurdish sources the Persid language of Luri, a south west Iranian language has been classed as a subgroup of Kurdic languages. Although most linguists agree that Luri is from the same branch as Persian and belongs to the Persid (Persian-based) languages. There is no standard nomenclature for the divisions of Kurdish dialects, not just in the works of Western scholars but among the Kurds themselves. All the native designators for local language and dialects are based on the way the spoken language of one group sounds to the unfamiliar ears of the other. Dimila and their vernacular, Dimili, are therefore called Zaza by the Badínaní speakers, with reference to the preponderance of Z sounds in their language (Nikitin 1926). 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, Mecú Mecú, and refer to the tongue and the speakers of Badínaní as Ji Babu.

Writing system

Today, Kurds use three different non-standard writing systems. Kurdish in Iran and Iraq is written using Arabic alphabet. In Turkey and Syria, it is written using the Latin alphabet. Kurds in the former USSR use a modified Cyrillic alphabet.

Kurdish Pronunciation

Kurdish has the following consonants roughly like their English counterparts:

[b] as in boy


[h] as in how


[t] as in toy

[ch] as in choose


[j] as in juice


[v] as in voice

[d] as in day


[l] as in loose


[y] as in yes

[f] as in fine


[m] as in mice


[z] as in zoo

[g] as in go


[n] as in nice


[zh] as in pleasure

[p] as in put


[w] as in want


Kurdish also has the following consonants that English does not have:

[x]: like German ach
[gh]: like [x] only pronounced with the vocal cords vibrating
[r]: like the Spanish or Italian [r]
[q]: a k pronounced very far back in the mouth

The Kurdish vowel system is almost the same as English:

[i] close to the vowel in bit
[i:] close to the vowel in beet
[e] close to the vowel in bet, in some dialects closer to bat
[e:] close to the vowel in bait
[a] close to the vowel in box
[u] close to the vowel in put
[u:] close to the vowel in boot
[o] close to the vowel in boat

The vowels [i] and [i:], [e] and [e:], and [u] and [u:] are considered to be short and long pairs, and this is indicated in the spelling systems: in the roman systems, the long vowels are usually spelled with a ^ over them. In the Arabic script, the long vowels are represented by symbols, and the short vowels not represented at all.

See also

KurVAL: Kurdish Virtual Academy of Language

Linguistical comparison

Sorani Kurmanji Zazaki Avesta Persian German English
Gewre Mezın/Gir Gird Maza Bozorg Groß Big
Berz Berz /Bilind Berz Bereza Bolend Hoch High
Masî Masî Mase Masıya Mahi Fisch Fish
Roj Roj/xor Roj Hor Xorshid Sonne Sun
Mêş Mêş Mêse Mexşi Meges Fliege Fly

External links and references

Last updated: 10-24-2004 05:10:45