Language Revival

Welcome to the Language Revival page. You can find posts about the Kurdish language and ways to enhance the revival of this language so that it can continue to develop and thrive.

We recognise that the Kurdish language has always truly formed an independent branch of the Indo-European language family.

Etymology and meaning of the words Kurd and Kurmancî, and names for the Kurdish settlement area.

The word Kurd

In the ancient Sumerian language, the word Kur represents or could be translated to ‘mountain’. A suffix was added to form the word Kurti. This became a name to refer to people who lived in the mountains, specifically referring to the people who lived in the Zagros and Taurus mountains. Over time, the t in this word was often interchangeable with d, forming the word Kurd.

Along with Sumerian, other names have been given to people living at/ around the Zagros-Taurus mountains. These names (in English) are Hurrian, Mitanni, Urartian, Nairi, Kassite, Hittite, Luwian, Mede, Elamite, Mannean, Lullubi, Gutian.

Why is this important?

The word Kurd appears often in the Kurdish language, including in the name of the language itself. It makes sense for more research to be carried out on the etymology, usage and transformation of this word along with other words to represent people who have lived in the Zagros and Taurus mountains. Furthermore, attempts have been made to give the word Kurd an Iranian etymology. Although the Sumerian etymology of this word has already been found, false information such as the word Kurd meaning “tent-dweller/ nomad” and originating from “Middle Persian”, has been spread.

Names for the Kurdish settlement area

In ancient history, the Kurdish settlement area has been given a number of names, some of which may include Kurda, Karda, Kardox, Corduene, Gordyene, Gondwana*. Later in history, the suffix -stan was added to form the word Kurdistan.

Why is this important?

It makes sense to explore the etymology of the suffix -stan. We see a number of words in the Kurdish language that use the suffix -stan, such as ‘Daristan’, ‘Gułistan’, ‘Kwêstan’, ‘Şaristan’. Even the word for Winter in Kurdish is ‘Zivistan’ (Kurmancî), ‘Zimistan’ (Zazakî), ‘Zistan’ (Soranî). The suffix -stan can be traced back to the word ‘stāna’, meaning ‘place’ in Zend (Avestan) Kurdish.

As well as Kurdish, other Indo-European languages such as Armenian use the suffix -stan, such as in the word ‘Հայաստան’ (Hayastan) which means Armenia. The suffix -stan is also related to the Indo-European root -stā- in all its forms, which can be seen in other Indo-European languages. Examples include the word “стоять” (stoyat’) in Russian, the words “stand” and “state” in English, and many other words in Greek.

The Indo-European suffix -stan and the root -stā are both seen in a number of languages. The suffix -stan does not originate from “Iranian”, as we will discuss below.

It is falsely claimed that the suffix -stan comes from “Proto-Indo-Iranian”. This is a reconstructed language and is hypothetical. The Kurdish language, known as Zend, that was used to write the ancient Avesta scripture has falsely been considered as an independent, Eastern Iranian language called “Avestan”. This has made it easier to make the false claim of -stan originating from Persian, even though it does not.

The hypothesized “Proto-Indo-Iranian” language along with the classification of languages as “Indo-Iranian” or “Iranic” heavily relies on the manipulation of ancient forms of Kurdish along with the separation of modern Kurdish dialects. The identity of the Kurdish language has now been reduced to an “Iranian dialect continuum”. An example of this manipulation can be seen regarding the Median language which was spoken by the Medes and predates the formation of the Achaemenid Empire. Whilst it is claimed that no texts in the Median language have survived, and that not much information on Median has been found, the language has been falsely classified as “North-western Iranian”.

An example of the separation of modern Kurdish dialects can be seen with the Zazakî dialect of Kurdish. This dialect shares a lot of vocabulary with other Kurdish dialects. It also has grammatical features such as ergativity and grammatical gender that are seen in other Kurdish dialects. Other names for this dialect, used by native Kurdish Zazakî speakers, include Kirmanckî and Kirdkî. These words are cognates with the words Kurmancî/ Kirmancî and Kurdî respectively, seen in other Kurdish dialects such as Kurmancî and Soranî. However, the Zazakî dialect has been falsely considered as “non-Kurdish” and an “Iranian language” belonging to the “Zaza-Gorani languages”.

The true etymology of the word Kurdistan should be found. Whilst the word Kurdistan is truly of (non-Indo-Iranian) Indo-European etymology, rediscovering the other historical names that refer to the Kurdish settlement area will be further proof against the imposition of a false Indo-Iranian/ Iranian/ Iranic identity.

It is important to note that historic variants of the Kurdish language, recognised as Indo-European, have been falsely labelled as either “Anatolian” or “Indo-Iranian”. Meanwhile, other historic variants of the Kurdish language, that have been denied its recognition as Indo-European, have been labelled as language isolates, or belonging to extinct language families.

*Did you Know?

The name Gondwana, roughly meaning ‘village land’, or “land of villages” was used in the ancient Luwian language to refer to the Kurdish settlement area. The word gund is still used in the modern Kurdish language, meaning ‘village’.

The word Kurmancî

The word Kurmancî has multiple meanings. It can represent a particular dialect of Kurdish that is known as ‘Kurmancî’. Meanwhile, the word is sometimes used to represent two particular dialects of Kurdish, currently known as Kurmancî and Soranî. However, this word truly represents the whole Kurdish language, including every dialect. The Soranî dialect of Kurdish is also referred to as Kirmancî. The Zazakî dialect of Kurdish is also referred to as Kirmanckî.

Why is this important?

It makes sense to explore the etymology of the word Kurmancî along with the names of each dialect of Kurdish. This could possibly show why the word Kurmancî carries multiple meanings. It could also allow us to understand the relationship between each dialect of Kurdish and how they developed through time.

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