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Kurdish language

Kurdish language

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كوردی Kurdî Кчфг'и
Spoken in: Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Syria, Armenia, Lebanon 
Region: Middle East
Total speakers: 20–40 million (disputed
Ranking: 33 (disputed)
Language family: Indo-European
   Western Iranian
    Northwestern Iranian
Writing system: Kurdish alphabet(modified Arabic alphabet in Iraq and Iran, modified Latin alphabet in Turkey and Syria, modified Cyrillic in the former USSR) 
Official status
Official language of: Iraq
Kurdish Autonomous Region
Regulated by: no official regulation
Language codes
ISO 639-1: ku
ISO 639-2: kur
ISO/FDIS 639-3: variously:
kur — Kurdish (generic)
ckb — Central Kurdish
kmr — Northern Kurdish
sdh — Southern Kurdish 

Areas where Kurdish is spoken with unofficial status (light red) or official status (red) or is a co-official language (green)

The Kurdish language is an Iranian language spoken in the region called Kurdistan, including Kurdish populations in parts of Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey.<ref>Geographic distribution of Kurdish and other Iranic languages</ref> Kurdish is an official language in Iraq while it is banned in Syria where it is forbidden to publish material in Kurdish.<ref>Repression of Kurds in Syria is widespread, Amnesty International Report, March 2005.</ref> Before August 2002, the Turkish government placed severe restrictions on the use of Kurdish, prohibiting the language in education and broadcast media.<ref>Special Focus Cases: Leyla Zana, Prisoner of Conscience</ref> The Kurdish alphabet is still not recognized in Turkey, and use of the Kurdish letters X, W, Q which do not exist in the Turkish alphabet has led to judicial persecution in 2000 and 2003 <ref>[1](p.8)</ref> <ref>[2]</ref>. In Iran, though it is used in the local media and newspapers, it is not allowed to be taught in schools <ref>The Kurdish Language and Literature, by Joyce Blau, Professor of Kurdish language and civilization at the National Institute of Oriental Language and Civilization of the University of Paris (INALCO).</ref> <ref>The language policy of Iran from State policy on the Kurdish language: the politics of status planning by Amir Hassanpour, University of Toronto</ref>. As a result many Iranian Kurds have left for Iraq where they can study in their native language.<ref>Neighboring Kurds Travel to Study in Iraq</ref>

The Kurdish language belongs to the western sub-group of the Iranian languages which belong to the Indo-Iranian branch of the Indo-European languages family. The most closely related languages to Kurdish are Balochi, Gileki and Talysh, all of which belong to the north-western branch of Iranian languages. Persian which belongs to the south-western branch, is also considered a related language, however the differences between Kurdish and Persian are far stronger than the similarities<ref>Kurdish, Encyclopaedia of the Orient</ref>.


[edit] Origin and roots

Most of the ancestors of today's Kurds spoke various languages of the Indo-European family during the millennia BC. An exception to this was Hurrian, a non-Indo-European language belonging to the Caucasian family which is thought to have exerted a great deal of influence on Kurdish. These older languages which already had mixed and shaped closely related dialects were replaced by Iranic (a branch of Indo-European) languages around 850 BCE, with the arrival of the Medes to Kurdistan <ref>A. Arnaiz-Villena , J. Martinez-Laso, J. Alonso-Garcia, The correlation Between Languages and Genes: The Usko-Mediterranean Peoples, Human Immunology, vol.62, p.1057, 2001 </ref>. Some experts believe that Hurrian influence on Kurdish is most evident in its ergative grammatical structure and in toponyms<ref>A. Arnaiz-Villena, E. Gomez-Casado, J. Martinez-Laso, Population genetic relationships between Mediterranean populations determined by HLA distribution and a historic perspective, Tissue Antigens, vol.60, p. 117, 2002</ref>. Today, more than three-quarters of Kurdish clan names and roughly two-third of topographical and urban names are of Hurrian (Khurrite) origin <ref>M.R. Izady, Exploring Kurdish Origins, Kurdish Life, No. 7, Summer 1993</ref>, e.g., the names of the clans of Bukhti, Tirikan, Bazayni, Bakran, Mand; rivers Murad, Balik and Khabur, lake Van; the towns of Mardin, Ziwiya, Dinawar and Barzan. So it is safe to say that the historical development of the Kurdish language (both grammar and vocabulary) is distinct and different than the other members of the Iranian language family.

[edit] History

Little is known about Kurdish in pre-Islamic times. The sacred book of the Yazidis, Mishefa Reş (Black Book) was written in Kurmanji Kurdish by Shaikh Adi's son in early 13th century <ref>[3]</ref>. From the 15th to 17th centuries, classical Kurdish poets and writers developed a literary language. The most famous classical Kurdish poets from this period are Ali Hariri, Ahmad Khani, Malaye Jaziri and Faqi Tayran.

In the beginning of the 20th century the countries that controlled the Kurdish-speaking regions refused to accept Kurdish as an official language and placed restrictions on its use. Today, only in Iraq, Kurdish is an official language. In Turkey the use of Kurdish is allowed, though with restrictions; In Iran, Kurdish is used in some publications, but it is not allowed to be taught in schools. Syria still opposes the use of Kurdish in the country.

In March 2006, Turkey allowed private television channels to begin airing Kurdish language programming. However, the Turkish government said that they must avoid showing children's cartoons, or educational programs that teach the Kurdish language, and can only broadcast for 45 minutes a day or four hours a week. The programs must carry Turkish subtitles.<ref>Turkey to get Kurdish television</ref> Kurdish blogs have emerged in recent years as virtual fora where Kurdish-speaking Internet users can express themselves in their native Kurdish or in other languages.

[edit] Grammar

The Kurdish language is a typical example of an ergative language. There are many variations of ergativity such as split-ergativity or ergative-absolutive, especially in the past tense forms in the Kurdish language. In Kurdish the object agrees with the subject and the verb agrees with the object and thus is unlike Persian, Turkish and Arabic in which the object has an accusative marker and the verb in all tenses agrees with the subject of the sentence. Kurdish also shows clitic reversing in all tense forms in sentences. Linguists believe Kurdish has inherited this attribute of ergativity from the language of the Hurrians (Khurrites) who are believed to be one of the main ancestors of the Kurds.

A simple example of ergative-absolutive in Kurdish (Sorani):
  • Pênûsekeyan bo hênayn.
  • Pênûs-eke-yan bo hêna-yn.
  • Object-definite-subject preposition verb(past)-object.
  • Pen-the-they for brought-us.
  • They brought the pen for us.

In the above example the word pênûs(-eke) [= (the) pen] which is the object of the sentence agrees with the subject in case and becomes pênûseke-yan, and the verb hêna (brought) agrees with the indirect object of the sentence in case and becomes hêna-yn.

In addition to these, Kurdish uses various adpositions i.e. both prepositions and postpositions marking at the same time on a head noun. None of its neighbouring languages do so.

[edit] Dialects

According to Encyclopaedia Britannica, Kurdish has two main northern and central dialects. The northern dialect, or Kurmanji is spoken in northern half of Iraqi Kurdistan, Caucasus, Turkey, Syria and northwest of Iran. The central group, called Kurdi, or Sorani, is spoken in west of Iran and central part of Iraqi Kurdistan. Subdialects of Kurdish include Kermanshahi, Laki, Gorani, and Zazaki <ref>[4]</ref>.

According to Philip Kreyenbroek (1992), it may be misleading to call Kurmanji and Sorani/Kurdi "dialects" because they are in some ways as different from one another as German and English. However, it is useful to comment on the differences between the two varieties.

Kurmanji or northern Kurdish is more archaic than the other dialects in both phonetic and morphological structure, and it is conjectured that the differences between central and northern dialects, have been caused by the proximity of central group to the other Iranian languages.<ref>D.N. MacKenzie, Language in Kurds & Kurdistan, Encyclopaedia of Islam.</ref>.

According to Encyclopaedia of Islam, although Kurdish is not a unified language, its many dialects are interrelated and at the same time distinguishable from other western Iranian languages. The same source, classifies different Kurdish dialects as two main groups of northern and central. Northern group (Kurmanji) is spoken in Turkey, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Mosul and Bahdinan regions in Iraq and Kurdish communities in Khorasan (northeast of Iran). Central group (Sorani) is spoken in Arbil, Sulaimaniya, Kirkuk (all in Iraq) , Mahabad and Sanandaj (in Iran). Other dialects such as Kirmanshahi and Laki are spoken in the south and east of Sorani speaking region. <ref>D.N. MacKenzie, Language in Kurds & Kurdistan, Encyclopaedia of Islam.</ref>.

According to Ethnologue's classification of the dialects is as follows <ref></ref>:

It is also called Kurmanji and spoken by all Kurds in Turkey, all Kurds in Syria and the former Soviet Union. Kurds in Northern regions of western Azarbaijan province, in northern Khorasan of Iran, and in Dohuk and Mosul governorates in Iraqi Kurdistan speaks this dialect.

It is spoken by most of Iraqi and Iranian Kurds.

It is spoken in Western Iran (Kermanshah, Ilam provinces) Eastern Iraq bordering these provinces including Xanaqin.

[edit] Indo-European linguistic comparison

Due to the fact that Kurdish language is an Indo-European language, there are many words that are cognates in Kurdish and other Indo-European languages such as Avestan, Persian, Sanskrit, German, English, Latin and Greek. (Source: Altiranisches Wörterbuch (1904) for the first two and last six.)

Kurdish Avestan Persian Sanskrit Greek English German Latin Lithuanian Russian PIE
ez "I" azəm man aham egō I (< OE ) ich ego ja *h₁eĝh₂om
jin "woman" janay- "woman" zan janay- gynē queen (OHG quena) femina (OPruss. genna) žená *gʷenh₂-
mezin "great" maz-, mazant mah(ī)-/mahānt-megas much (< OE mićil, myćil) (OHG mihhil) magnus *meĝh₂- "big, great" <ref>[5]</ref>
mêzer "headband/turban" (from Greek?, cf. <ref>[6], p.38</ref>)miθra- "contract, Mithra"mihr "sun" (< "Mithra") mitra "contract, Mitra" mitra "headband" (from Iranian?) (mitre "bishop's tall hat" - from Greek <ref>[7]</ref>)(Mitra - from Greek) (mitra - from Greek) *mei- "to tie"
pez "sheep"pasu- "sheep, goats" paśu "animal" fee (< OE feoh "cattle") Vieh "cattle" pecus "cattle" pekus "ox" pastuh "shepherd"*pek̂-u- "sheep"<ref>[8]</ref>,<ref>[9]</ref>
çiya "mountain" chakād "summit"kakúd-, kakúbh- "peak/summit" cacūmen *kak-, *kakud- "top"<ref>[10]</ref>
zîndu "alive" jiyan "to live" jī-/gay- zende "alive", zîstan "to live" jīvati bios "life", zōō "live" quick quick "bright" vīvus "alive", vīvō "live", vīta "life" gývas živój *gʷih₃(u̯)-
mang "moon" māh- māh mās- mēn "month" moon, month Mond, Monat mēnsis "month" mėnuo/mėnesis mésjac *meh₁ns-
mirdu "dead", mirdin "to die" mar-, məša- morda "dead", mordan "to die" marati, mrta- brotos "mortal", ambrosios "immortal" murder Mord "murder" morior "die", mors "death" mirti "to die" umerét’"to die", mërtvyj "tot" *mer-, *mr̻to-
ser "head" sarah- sar śiras- ker[as] "horn", kara "head", krā[nion] "cranium" dial. harns "brain" [Ge]hir[n] "brain" cereb[rum] "brain" cherep "skull"*k̂erh₂s-
sed "hundred" satəm sad śatam [he]katon hund[red] Hund[ert] centum šimt[as] sto *dk̂m̻tom
[di]zan[im] "I know" zan[în] "to know" zan- [mi]dān[am] "I know", dān[estan] "to know" jān[āti] [gi]gnō[skō] know kennen nō[scō], [co]gn[itus] žin[au]"I know" žin[oti] "to know" zná[ju]"I know" zn[at’]' "to know" *ĝneh₃-

[edit] Comparison between other indigenous languages [citation needed]

Following is a sample list of some words of ancient Urartian spoken from about 1000 BC, or earlier, until 585 BC found in Kurdish; However there are yet stronger similarities between Kurdish and other indigenous ancient languages spoken once in the same region, such as Hurrian. (The list is for comparison only).

Urartian Kurdish English
ale ale he says
aba awat desire
ada idi again
patari bajar city
bid-u bid-ewe give back
ibirani pirani whole
par-u par-inewe cross over
kuri qul foot
şia çún go
şal-i sal year
sue lake
huş-u hawiş-tin throw

[edit] Writing system

Main article: Kurdish alphabet

The Kurdish language uses three different writing systems. In Iran and Iraq is written using a modified version of the Arabic alphabet (and more recently sometimes with Latin Alphabet in Iraqi Kurdistan). In Turkey and Syria, it is written using the Latin alphabet. As an example, see the following online news portal published in Iraqi Kurdistan <ref>[11]</ref>. Also see the VOA News site in Kurdish <ref>[12]</ref>. Kurdish in the former USSR uses a modified Cyrillic alphabet. There is also a proposal for a unified international recognised Kurdish alphabet based on ISO-8859-1.<ref>The Kurdish Unified Alphabet</ref>

[edit] Phonology

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

[edit] Consonants

Bilabial Labiodental Apical Postalveolar Palatal Velar Uvular Glottal
Stops p b t d k g q
Fricatives f v s z ʃ ʒ ç h
Affricates ʧ ʤ
Nasals m n ŋ
Laterals l ɫ<ref>: Just as in many English dialects, the velarized lateral does not appear in the onset of a syllable.</ref>
Flaps ɾ
Trills r
Approximants ʋ j

[edit] Vowels

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, for instance in the Kurdish Latin alphabet, short vowels are represented by o, u, i and e and long vowels have a circumflex ( ^ ), such as û, î and ê. Unlike Arabic, all vowels in Kurdish are mandatory and should be written down.

[edit] Dictionaries

[edit] Kurdish-only dictionaries

  • Wîkîferheng (Kurdish Wiktionary)
  • Husein Muhammed: Soranî Kurdish - Kurmancî Kurdish dictionary (2005)
  • 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.

[edit] Kurdish-English dictionaries

  • Chyet, Michael L. , Kurdish Dictionary: Kurmanji-English, Yale Language Series, U.S., 2003 (896 pages) (see <ref>[13]</ref>)
  • Abdullah, S. and Alam, K. , English-Kurdish (Sorani) and Kurdish (Sorani)-English Dictionary, Star Publications / Languages of the World Publications, India, 2004 <ref>[14]</ref>
  • Awde, Nicholas, Kurdish-English/English-Kurdish (Kurmanci, Sorani and Zazaki) Dictionary and Phrasebook, Hippocrene Books Inc., U.S., 2004 <ref>ISBN 0-7818-1071-X</ref>
  • Raman : English-Kurdish(Sorani) Dictionary, Pen Press Publishers Ltd, UK, 2003, (800 pages) <ref>ISBN 1-904018-83-1</ref>
  • Saadallah, Salah, English-Kurdish Dictionary, Avesta/Paris Kurdish Insititue, Istanbul, 2000, (1477 pages) <ref>[15]</ref>
  • Amindarov, Aziz, Kurdish-English/English-Kurdish Dictionary, Hippocrene Books Inc.,U.S., 1994 <ref>ISBN 0-7818-0246-6</ref>
  • Rizgar, Baran (M. F. Onen), Kurdish-English/English-Kurdish (Kurmancî Dictionary) UK, 1993, 400 p. + 70 illustrations <ref>ISBN 1-873722-05-2</ref>

[edit] References


[edit] See also

[edit] External links

[edit] Religious texts

[edit] Kurdish broadcast programs

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Indo-Iranian languages
Indo-Aryan Sanskrit: Vedic Sanskrit - Classical Sanskrit | Prakrit: Pāli - Magadhi | Hindustani (Registers: Hindi, Urdu) | Bengali (Dialects: Chittagonian, Sylheti) | Angika | Assamese | Bhojpuri | Bishnupriya Manipuri | Dhivehi | Dogri | Gujarati | Konkani | Mahl | Maithili | Marathi | Mitanni | Nepali | Oriya | Punjabi | Romani | Sindhi | Sinhala
Iranian Avestan | Persian: Old Persian - Middle Persian (Pahlavi) - Modern Persian (Varieties: Farsi, Dari, Tajik) Bukhori | Bactrian | Balochi | Dari (Zoroastrianism) | Gilaki | Kurdish | Mazandarani | Ossetic | Pamir | Pashto | Saka | Sarikoli | Scythian | Shughni | Sogdian | Talysh | Tat | Wakhi | Yaghnobi | Zazaki |
Dardic Dameli | Domaaki | Gawar-Bati | Kalasha-mun | Kashmiri | Khowar | Kohistani | Nangalami | Pashayi | Palula | Shina | Shumashti
Nuristani Askunu | Kalasha-ala | Kamkata-viri | Tregami | Vasi-vari

ar:لغة كردية ca:Kurd da:Kurdisk (sprog) de:Kurdische Sprachen el:Κουρδική γλώσσα es:Idioma kurdo eo:Kurda lingvo fa:زبان کردی fr:Kurde ko:쿠르드어 hy:Քրդերեն io:Kurda linguo id:Bahasa Kurdi it:Lingua curda he:כורדית ku:Zimanê kurdî hu:Kurd nyelv nl:Koerdisch ja:クルド語 no:Kurdisk språk nn:Kurdisk språk oc:Curd pl:Język kurdyjski pt:Língua curda ro:Limba kurdă ru:Курдский язык sk:Kurdčina fi:Kurdi sv:Kurdiska tr:Kürt dilleri zh:库尔德语

Kurdish language

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