The Middle East is full of languages such as Kurdish, Turkish, Persian, Arabic, Armenian, Assyrian, Azerbaijani, Hebrew, Greek, Georgian and many more. We love all languages, and the aims of Kurdish Writing are to help present, standardize and save the Kurdish language.
Why the Kurdish language?
We have noticed that many people wish to learn the Kurdish language but cannot find many resources to do so. Learning Kurdish is often limited to certain dialects, such as Kurmancî, because not all of the dialects have many accessible resources to learn them. The standardization of the Kurdish language is a solution that already exists, however there is currently little agreement on how to achieve this. At Kurdish Writing, we aim to compile resources through our research on the Kurdish language to present practical ways to standardize the language.
Here is a list of strategies we believe can help to standardize Kurdish:
- Use of the Latin Alphabet
We love all writing systems. Throughout history the Kurdish language has been written in Cuneiform, Latin, Arabic/ Abjad, Armenian, Cyrillic scripts and more. Today, the dialects of Kurmancî and Zazakî are generally written in the Latin script whereas the other dialects are generally written in the Arabic/ Abjad script. However, having different writing scripts for different dialects makes it more difficult for communication between speakers of the dialects. Also, language resources become less accessible when different writing scripts are used. The Latin script is becoming increasingly used in the Kurdish language. Once every dialect uses the Latin script, communication between speakers of the dialects will become easier.
- Identification of loan-words
Loan-words are fascinating because they demonstrate closeness between cultures and languages. The Kurdish language is spoken amongst other languages in the Middle East, such as Turkish, Persian, Arabic, Armenian, Assyrian, Azerbaijani, Hebrew, Greek, Georgian and many more. We see a large number of vocabulary being shared between each of these languages. However, it is important to preserve every language with their grammar and vocabulary. There are numerous cases where Kurdish vocabulary is no longer used and even becoming lost due to loan-words acting as a replacement. We do not wish to remove loan-words, rather we wish to present Kurdish vocabulary alongside them. We see this as a way to make Kurdish language resources more accessible.
- Reclassification of the Kurdish language
Kurdish is an Indo-European language.
The Kurdish language and culture are not Iranic, Iranian or Indo-Iranian.
We love all languages, including Indo-Iranian languages such as Persian. However, our research proves to us that classifying Kurdish as Indo-Iranian is very inaccurate and makes it more challenging to standardise the Kurdish language. It contradicts the history and development of the Kurdish language. The etymology of Kurdish vocabulary has been heavily manipulated to make them appear “Iranian”.
An example is the word “gund” in the Kurdish language, meaning village. This word also appears in the ancient Luwian language, carrying the same meaning. The Luwians referred to the Kurdish settlement area as “Gondwana”, meaning “land of the villages”. However, it has been falsely claimed that the word comes from Iranian languages, as “xund/ ghund” may appear in Persian. Even if this word is used in Persian, there are also other words in Persian that mean “village”. Meanwhile, the Luwian etymology has often been disregarded. This is the general theme that is seen in a countless number of other Kurdish words, in order to give Kurdish a false “Iranian” identity.
Truly, vocabulary from the Kurdish language is not Iranic/ Iranian/ Indo-Iranian. Other attempts have been made to falsely suggest that the Kurdish language was not initially Indo-European, but became “Indo-Europeanized”, causing the ancient Kurdish language to become replaced with an “Iranian” one. Furthermore, the word “Iranic” is a manipulation of the word “Iranian”, being another attempt to give the Kurdish language a false Iranian identity.
Other important features seen in the Kurdish language include grammatical gender, ergativity, pronouns and phonology. We see that Kurdish fits best in its own branch of Indo-European languages. Our research along with background knowledge shows us that Kurmancî, Soranî, Zazakî, Hewramî, Kełhuřî, Luřî are dialects of the Kurdish language. We find it fascinating to discover the similarities and differences between each of the dialects.
Currently, there are multiple writing systems being used for the Kurdish language. The usage of different writing systems only makes the Kurdish dialects even more separated from each other.
The Kurdish Latin Alphabet is suitable for every dialect of Kurdish. The Latin script is used for the Kurmancî and Zazakî dialects. It is becoming increasingly used in the other Kurdish dialects, including Soranî.
Using the Latin script for every dialect of Kurdish would make it easier for Kurdish to be recognised as a distinct language, and for every dialect to be recognised as dialects of the Kurdish language.
Kurmancî, Soranî, Zazakî, Hewramî, Kełhuřî and Luřî are dialects of the Kurdish language. The Kurdish language is spoken in the Kurdistan which is geographically based in the Zagros Mountains, Taurus Mountains, Anatolia, Transcaucasia and Upper Mesopotamia.
Kurdish is classified as an Indo-European language. It is known to be a language which developed many thousands of years ago within Kurdistan. Kurdish is not Iranic/ Iranian/ Indo-Iranian. However, many attempts have been made to erroneously consider Kurdish as an Iranic/ Iranian/ Indo-Iranian language. Furthermore, some dialects of Kurdish such as Zazakî, Hewramî, and Luřî are often falsely separated from the other dialects to be considered as independent Iranian languages. It only becomes easier for this to occur when different writing systems and foreign vocabulary are used.
The standardization of the Kurdish language could unify its dialects and allow its recognition as a stand-alone language belonging to the Indo-European language family. As the Kurdish language is Indo-European, not Indo-Iranian, the diagram illustrated here would be much more accurate than almost any other language tree with regards to the classification of the Kurdish language. As Kurdish language standardization progresses, the classification of the language and the way it is presented/ illustrated may develop further.
There can be an almost countless number of approaches to the standardization of Kurdish. Any content in this website is not new to the Kurdish language. Rather, the website contains the Kurdish Alphabet, and Kurdish vocabulary that already exists.
A detailed approach that this website provides is stated below.
Standardization of the Kurdish alphabet
The Hawar Alphabet is a Latin alphabet that was produced by Celadet Alî Bedirxan in 1932. This alphabet consists of 31 letters and has successfully become the standard alphabet for the Kurmancî and Zazakî dialects. In the other Kurdish dialects, there are a few sounds that are used in speech, which do not correspond to a letter in the Hawar alphabet. Additional letters were added to form the Kurdish Latin Alphabet in 2014. This alphabet can be found within the Kirmaşanî Alphabet and Pronunciation Guide, by Muhamadreza Bahadur. This alphabet appears to successfully standardize Kurdish writing as it preserves and develops the Hawar alphabet whilst being considerate to every dialect of Kurdish.
Awareness and preservation of Kurdish vocabulary
Kurdish is a distinct language with many dialects. Yet, many Kurdish speakers have used words from other languages when speaking Kurdish, particularly words from Arabic, Persian, Turkish, and English. Many of these words have slightly changed in spelling and pronunciation when used in Kurdish, yet they come from languages other than Kurdish. An example is the Arabic word “جامعە” which has often been used in Soranî Kurdish. This word means “university” in English. The Kurdish word “Zanko” can be used instead. By using Kurdish words when speaking Kurdish, any ideas of Kurdish being a form of Arabic, Turkish, or Iranian could become diminished. An approach of this website is to provide a library of words that will preserve and build awareness of Kurdish vocabulary.
Standardization of Soranî
Kurdish Soranî is a dialect of Kurdish. It is already recognised as a form of Kurdish. However, the Abjad writing system that is used in Soranî, along with foreign vocabulary and grammar, has deeply affected this dialect. A large amount of vocabulary from Turkish, Arabic and Persian are often used when Soranî is spoken. Its grammatical gender system is known to have been lost. Many pronouns are now missing from this dialect, resulting in enclitics acting as a replacement. This replacement should be removed; the Kurdish grammatical gender system and Kurdish pronouns should be returned to Kurdish Soranî. A key approach of this website is to standardize and present solutions for the standardization of Kurdish Soranî.
Addressing misconceptions about the Kurdish language
Although the Kurdish language has been preserved, speakers and writers of Kurdish often use an immense amount of non-Kurdish vocabulary and grammar. This website aims to present the authentic Kurdish language by exposing the foreign aspects that have sneaked their way into the language. It is also a way to clearly present that Kurdish is a distinct Indo-European language, one that is not Iranic/ Iranian/ Indo-Iranian.
Awareness of the individual
It can easily be assumed that the standardization of a language mainly depends on discussions and agreements made between people who have studied languages and have a certain position of authority. However, standardization can start from any individual. For example, if one person communicates in the Kurdish (Latin) alphabet, in contexts where it is appropriate to do so, it may encourage more people to do the same. Awareness and familiarity could reach more people until the alphabet becomes a standard form of written communication. This may lead to other aspects, such as foreign vocabulary and grammar that are used in the Kurdish language, to become recognised and addressed. This website aims to bring awareness, regarding the standardization of Kurdish, to any individual.
Adding more languages and dialects to the website
The full website is now available in English.
More features may be added in the future:
- Full websites in Kurmancî and Soranî.
- A temporary website in Soranî using the Abjad script – for speakers of Soranî who may have less familiarity with the Latin writing system.
- Along with Soranî, a library of words in Kurmancî within the Vocabulary page.
- Full websites in other Kurdish dialects and other languages.
Why has this website been made
Many languages are known to be endangered, which could mean that these languages are at a risk of undergoing changes until parts of them become diminished. The Kurdish language, with all of its dialects, could be an example. As many foreign words, issues with grammar, and different writing systems are currently seen, it suggests that not much attention has been given to the Kurdish language and its standardization, relative to many other languages. Also, many false ideas have been presented regarding the Kurdish language. Erroneous ideas such as Kurdish being a sub-group of Iranian languages can be destructive to its standardization and development. Meanwhile, there appears to be a lack of easily accessible resources for learning the Kurdish language. There seems to be even less resources available for learning the Zazakî, Hewramî, Kełhuřî and Luřî dialects of Kurdish. Furthermore, many websites present false ideas about the Kurdish language, even websites that provide resources for learning the Kurdish language. This website grants an opportunity for recognition of the Kurdish language as a distinct language with all of its dialects. It aims to show the authentic aspects of the language and to provide clear-cut solutions for Kurdish language standardization.
Why use the Latin Script
The Kurdish language has its own ancient writing scripts and systems. However, there is currently little information that is accessible concerning these. The historical presence of the Kurdish language itself has often been replaced by false names of independent languages. A few examples, which have also been given a false Iranic/ Iranian/ Indo-Iranian identity, are “Median”, “Avestan”, “Parthian”, “Pahlavi”.
Overwhelming historic evidence shows that the Kurds were also known as the Medes, Parthians and Sassanians. Median is the Kurdish language that was spoken during the Median Empire. This has been falsely classified as a “north-western Iranian” language called “Median”. The Kurdish language that was spoken when the ancient Avesta scripture was written is known as Zend. This has been falsely classified as an “Eastern Iranian” language called “Avestan”. The Kurdish language spoken during the Parthian Empire is known as (Old) Palawani/ Palawanig. This has been falsely classified as a “north-western Iranian” language called “Parthian” or “Arsacid Pahlavi”. The Kurdish language spoken during the Sassanian Empire is known as (New) Palawani. This has been falsely classified as a “north-western Iranian” language called “Pahlavi” or “Middle Persian”. The word Palawani/ Palawanig remained as the word Palewan (Kurmancî)/ Pałewan (Soranî) in the modern Kurdish language, which roughly translates to ‘champion’ or ‘wrestler’, carrying the same meaning that it did throughout history.
Meanwhile, the distortion of history relating to the denial of Kurdish existence has added even more ambiguity to the history and origin of the Kurdish language; the Kurdish language is not Indo-Iranian/ Iranian/ Iranic. Alongside the Latin script, the Kurdish language could have its own writing script/s and system/s used. This can be done by discovering the ancient Kurdish writing scripts and systems. For ultimate standardisation, final modifications of a writing script/system for use in the modern-day may be acceptable as long as these are essential, minimal and carried out carefully.
Before carrying out the discovery, preservation and development of the ancient Kurdish writing systems and scripts, the Kurdish language needs to be standardised through the Latin script. The Latin writing system is used in the Kurmancî and Zazakî dialects. It is becoming increasingly used in the other Kurdish dialects, including Soranî. Not only does it generally appear to be the preferred system to use in the Kurdish language, the Kurdish Latin Alphabet has been developed at various points during recent history which has made it suitable for all dialects of the Kurdish language. Furthermore, the Latin writing system is used in a large number of modern-day languages, many of which are also Indo-European languages.
You can standardize the Kurdish language
Anyone can standardize the Kurdish language.
Some ways to standardize:
- Create media (e.g. documents, videos) that present the Kurdish Latin Alphabet.
- Communicate with others online using the Kurdish Latin Alphabet.
- Teach the Kurdish Latin Alphabet.
- Add the Kurdish language to libraries/ translators, ensuring that any vocabulary comes from the Kurdish language
- Use the Kurdish Latin Alphabet when adding Kurdish Soranî to libraries/ translators. For example, Soranî is being added to Google Translate in the Abjad script. It would be incorrect to use the Abjad script because the standardization of the Soranî dialect would require the Latin script, which is used for the Kurmancî and Zazakî dialects.
There are possible ways, other than this website, to standardize the Kurdish language.
Grammar and gender
Although grammatical gender and gender pronouns exist today in the other Kurdish dialects, they are no longer used in Soranî. One method for standardizing Kurdish would be to re-introduce grammatical gender and gender pronouns into Soranî. If possible, the rules for grammatical gender could be discovered directly from old texts in Kurdish Soranî. Otherwise, grammatical gender within the other Kurdish dialects can be analysed and compared between each other to produce the most accurate system for Soranî. This may lead to other features, currently present in Soranî, to be revised.
Revision of the letter Q
The letter Q in Kurdish is present in many foreign words. The letter Q represents the same sound as the letter “ق” in Arabic. It seems likely that the sound, just like the sounds represented by the letters “غ” and “ع” and “ح“, could have been introduced from Arabic. As the standardization of Kurdish involves replacing foreign words with Kurdish vocabulary, a result may be the letter Q being used much less in the language. Hence, it makes sense to consider the removal of the sound represented by the letter Q from the language. Once this aspect is removed, the letter Q should be removed from the Kurdish Alphabet as long as it cannot provide a useful role in the language.
The words displayed on the Vocabulary page on this website have had foreign vocabulary filtered out. It can be seen that the letter Q is not present within any of the Kurdish words. This provides further evidence that the sound represented by the letter Q could have been introduced from another language, hence not being from the Kurdish language.
Etymology in the Kurdish language
Discovering the etymology of words that are used within the various dialects of Kurdish would allow us to discover which words are from the Kurdish language and which words are loan-words. Ultimately, this can allow all the Kurdish dialects to be recognised as dialects of the Kurdish language that share Kurdish vocabulary.