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The History of Kurdish Language

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kamaran View Drop Down
Immortal Guard
Immortal Guard

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  Quote kamaran Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Topic: The History of Kurdish Language
    Posted: 09-Sep-2014 at 05:56
The unprejudiced academics that study Kurdish history are united in the view that the Kurds are an ancient race (1). The Kurds have lived for many thousands of year’s -even longer than written documentation can reflect-in a land that has been described as the 'cradle of human civilisation'. We need only think of Jewish and Islamic mythology, which designates Mount Judi (Cudi) in Kurdistan as the resting place of Noah's ark (2); we know from history that in the land of the Kurds and its surrounding territories numerous advanced civilisations existed, such as that of Mesopotamia, of the Hittites, the Hurrites; the Karduchi, the Mittanis, the Parthians, and the Sassanids.

Additionally, many of the world's major religions have found their place in the land of' the Kurds, such as, for example, Mithraism (the Cult of the Sun), Mazdaism (Zoroastrianism), mystery religions, Judaism, Christianity, Manichaeism, and Islam. Even today in Kurdistan one finds a large number of Kurdo-syncretic religious communities (3) such as the Ezidi, Kakayi (Yarsan or Ali-Haqq, or 'People of Truth'), Alevi, Shabak, Sarayi, Bajwan, Haqqa, etc., all of whom bear witness to the fact that the Kurds are the heirs of a vastly rich cultural heritage.

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Centrix Vigilis View Drop Down

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  Quote Centrix Vigilis Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29-Sep-2014 at 16:09
All of which just proves the old adage that the everyone else. Either learned their language on their own initially. And then adopted other dialectic expressions and or word and phrase usage from others, as they interacted.

Or... primarily through diffusion, learned language as it developed from a variety of other peoples. Which is to say, they had none till they found some.
"Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence"

S. T. Friedman

Pilger's law: 'If it's been officially denied, then it's probably true'

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Ince View Drop Down

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  Quote Ince Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 23-Oct-2014 at 14:42
Trying to pinpoint Kurdish history is like doing Quantum Physics it is too confusing as Kurds are a mix of different iranian speaking people who probably came together after fall of the Sassanids and adopted the label Kurd which had meant Nomads.  Just as the term Saka was used for Iranian Nomadic tribes during the Achaemenids era.  Which is why I believe during the Parthian era the term Saka changed to Kurd for Nomads. 

Kurdish languages and it's origins is just as mysterious as it is for other groups like Gilaks,Talysh,Balochi.  

Reading many studies on the origins of the Kurdish languages many people have different opinions on it's origins.  
The current belief on most people minds about the Kurdish languages is.

Zaza-Gorani = Parthian , It could likely be correct as Gorani speakers live in a region that had Parthian presence.  As for the Zaza they could be descendants of the Parthians that ruled Armenia in Anatolia.
Kurmanji-Sorani = Saka-Median, this one is the most mysterious as it could be a mix of Cimmerian and Median.   Sorani seems to be have been influenced by Gorani tho.

Edited by Ince - 23-Oct-2014 at 16:02
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Ince View Drop Down

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  Quote Ince Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 13-Jan-2015 at 09:35
One of the biggest mystery's among the Kurdish people is the origin and the meaning of "Kurmanji/Kirmanji" I have been trying to find articles and posts on peoples opinion on it and I think I found something that merits a post on this thread that future people may read and ponder on it.

It is a post from a Kurdish user from a Kurdish forum

Etymology of "Kurmanj": Exploring the Origins of Kurdish

The term "Kurmanj" is what the bulk of Kurds may refer to themselves. It's a sort of an alternative national name, something to gratify Kurds within their privacy while singing a folklore Kurdish song before all those firm mountains and their snowcaps scrapping the Mediterranean clouds.

As a general knowledge, we all are aware that Northern Kurdish speakers, namely Kurmanjí speakers who comprise the largest Kurdish linguistic group, alternatively refer to themselves as "Kurmanj" or "Kormanj" (used by Khorasani Kurds in Northeastern Iran). Also Central speakers, Soraní ones, pronounce the term as "Kirmanj" and apply it to nomad or rustic people in a general sense. It's while the Eastern Soraní speakers, particularly those of Erdellan region, use the term "Kirmanj" in order to name their northern Soraní speaking neighbors of Mukryan region. Besides these, the central Zaza speakers resolutely refer to themselves as "Kirmanj". The varieties of this term as follows:

Northern: kurmanj, kormanj (Khorasani Kurdish), kurmanc (name of a mountain)

Central: kirmanj

Zaza: kirmanj

However the term is still kind of unfamiliar within the Orient, but it received a pretty good scale of western attention no sooner than the last century. That was because the modern scholars got acquainted with Kurdish language through Ottomans and later Turkey, wherein nine persons out of per ten Kurds speak Kurmanjí for sure. I should confess this acquaintance cannot be considered as a fortunate one since it ushered into such a misleading that made most western linguists to blunder by giving the general sense of "Kurdish" to "Kurmanjí". They exactly slipped up and reckoned their theories and articles on Kurdish language without Southern and Central dialects.

One of the first assumptions about the etymology of "Kurmanj" tells on a probable proto form "Kurdmanj". Then explains that it consists of two words: "Kurd" and "manj". The first one is clear but the second one should be an altered type of "majh" ~ "Pre-Islam Iranian clerics with sorts of magical power", as the assumption asserts. Therefore the term "Kurmanj" or "Kurdmanj" should be representing a "sacred clergy class amongst Kurds". But it ain't going to match with the reality anyways. First there are no explanations how come the Soraní speakers drop the "-u-" in "Kurd-"* and started off pronouncing it as "Kir-" without the faintest trace of spelling "Kurd" as "Kird" in all Central and Southern dialects. Also the suggested definition doesn’t make sense at all. It tells on "the clergy class" whilst the "Kurmanjí" speaking Kurds were chiefly nomads with a tough tribal society. And this reality about their lifestyle just coincides with the Central significance of "Kurmanj": "nomad Kurds". Also as an obvious fact in this case it's evidently Northern dialect which has changed the original "Kirmanj" to "Kurmanj". Since an at hand but famous example tells us: Northern "kurm", "qurm" ~ "worm", while Central and Southern "kirm" (also Persian "kérm").

The other hypothesis about etymology of "Kurmanj" proposes a "Kirman-j" combination and the all it adds on "Kirman-" is just a wondering whether it has to do something with the Iranian city of "Krmana", (modern "Kerman") mentioned in the Achaemenid inscriptions, or not.

For me it sounded more reasonable than the earlier assumption. I tried many thoughts and ideas in order to disclose its mystery. I even attempted to research probable connections between "Kurmanj" and another term with an obscure root: "German". However the lack of proper information debarred me from going too far in that case.

I should recite that during inquiring the etymology of "Kurmanj"/"Kirmanj" I was prosecuting my work on etymology of Kurdish lexical treasure. And I was getting exhausted of distinguishing Kurdish words and linguistic features which either seemed closer to the Southwestern Iranian characteristics or mostly you had to explain them entirely outside of Northwestern and Southwestern definitions. The features and words belonging to the later matter were completely amazing and those which were resembling Southwestern characteristics didn’t seem to be wholly borrowed from Persian. They mainly sounded inherent features rather than foreign loans. Also I couldn’t appease my sense of curiosity by telling myself the story of "Northwesternness" and "Southwesternness". Since I believe it's just an implausible excuse to explain the dissent between the conventional linguistic believes and the reality of Iranian speeches.

Meanwhile I was incrementally getting aware of the exclusive likenesses between Kurdish (its all speeches) and Northeastern Iranian languages (such as Bactrian, Sogdian, etc.). This just led to a wider horizon as soon as I recognized the incredible similarity between Kurdish and Khotanese Scythian. The likenesses between these two, which I am going to talk about em in another topic, are too interesting and fully amazing.

But I still couldn’t realize what must connect Kurds with Scythians in that incredible manner? Thinking on it just helped me to discern the scintilla that a Kirmanshani friend of mine gave me: in our conversation I willfully asked him about the Southern Kurdish sub-dialects, namely Kelhúrí, Gerrusí, Pehlí (Feylí), Lekí, Zengene, etc. and harped on Kurdish language as I always do. A usual trouble which every single individual has to deal with in case of writing about Southern Kurdish sub-dialects is that there is no certain general name to refer to them as. Local Kurdish scholars used to refer to these sub-dialects as "Goraní" or "Gúraní" but it became a confounding term as soon as the western scholars titled Hewramí Kurdish and its relative speeches and dialects as "Goraní" (since Kurds conventionally call a kind of archaic Kurdish poetry as "Goraní" which benefits from a speech similar to Hewramí for the sake of inditing). Thereafter we always have trouble to name the mentioned Southern sub-dialects in a proper manner. But that Kirmanshaní friend just told me the most precious term I could ever anticipate: "Well, yes I am also introduced with other Southern sub-dialects: Kelhúrí, Gerrusí, Ílamí, Lekí, Zengene, Feylí, Xaneqíní, or as we use to refer to them generally "Kirmajhí""

It was really exciting to hear it. At first I hastily assumed that it might be a distorted form of a possible "Kirmanjhí". But when I measured it rationally I figured out it's impossible to assume that it's derived from "Kirmanjhí". Because if "Kirmanjhí" is going to be another form of "Kirmanjí" and "Kurmanjí", with a probable change of "j" > "jh", so what for the Northern sub-dialects which are stubbornly apt to change "j" > "jh" didn’t change it that way? Why still "Kirmanj" and "Kurmanj" are the predominant spellings over the populous territories of Northern and Central dialects and there is not any noticeable trace of "Kirmanjh"?

I got the final answer when I turn the pages of my motherland's history once again. Specially those chapters pertaining to Scythian tribes that left their homeland somewhere in the Volga steps and roamed all the way till to intrude the ancient land of Hurrians. We can read about their loots within Hittite cities and other Anatolian places, and their temporary alliance with Assyrians, or fraternizing with their Iranian cousins: Medes. The most interesting and well-known part of Scythian waves is what Assyrians and Georgians refer to as "Gimer"*. They didn’t leave a good impression on the minds of Anatolian people of the ancient times. So that they received the sense of "residents of the darkling land" or "Cimmerians" in the western literature!

The last thing we can read about them is that they never ever showed up again in the history. It would be the most puerile thing if we considered they disappeared just like that! For sure they didn’t suddenly vanish neither got on an alien spaceship probably to try a spatial-pillage! They just instilled into the body of the western Medes. After that there raises a new nation which is neither Mede nor Scythian, but a blend of them with a pre-Aryan background pertaining to Hurrians: Kurds.

However there are not too much stuffs about Scythian/Cimmerian language but the Khotanese Scythian (a type of Scythian spoken in ancient Khotan ~ modern Chinese Turkistan) texts evidence that the modern Kurdish speeches in some sorts are a unique relative of it as well as they explain those features of Kurdish which don’t match with Northwestern and Southwestern Iranian characteristics.

Also as someone mentioned before over the "Etymology Kirmashan" topic, the earliest Zoroastrian text, Karnamag-i Ardashir-i Babagan, points out a "Krma Khwaday" (in unified Kurdish letters: Kirma Xweday) that means "the Lord of Krma/Kirma" as the king of where we today call it "Kirmashan" (official Persian "Kermanshahan"). The term "Kirma" is they key. Something we can use to clue ourselves in figuring out the true etymology of "Kurmanj"/"Kirmanj". For sure no one can say it with any certainty that the varied forms such as "Kimeru"*, "Gimr"*, "Gimer"*, etc. are the true-local names which Cimmerians used to refer to themselves. These are all Greek, Assyrian or Georgian types which could be easily far from the original form (just compare the name "Cyrus" with its original form of "Kurosh", or "Achaemenid" with "Hakhamaenesh" ). I try to say that the original form evidently should be a "Kirma" as the Zoroastrian text along with modern Kurdish national names and toponyms vouch for it.

From "Kirme" To "Kirmanj"

The Old Iranian "cít" has an alternative function in Iranian language. That's to say besides being used in meaning of "too/ also", it also acts as a suffix indicating the state of pertaining to something. In Northernwestern Iranian languages it appears as "-sh" (archaic Daylami); "-íj" (Mazandarani, Gilaki, southern Talyshi), "-ijh" (Northern Talyshi, Sangsari), "-jí" (Central dialects), and surprisingly "-cí" (only northern Gilaki dialect of Anzali). The above mentioned are almost used merely in order to indicate belonging to a place: "Enzelící" ~ "from Anzal"; "Enberunijh" ~ "from Anbaran", "Rají" ~ "from Rey". The same thing also appears in Zaza: Southern "-ijh", Central "-ij", and Northern "-iz".

In modern Kurmanji, Sorani, and Southern dialects it appears to connect something to another. Sorts of the same role as English "-ish" I could example. It appears as either "-ijh" or "-ish": e.g. pakish, paqijh ~ "clean", from "pak" and "-ish", "-ijh". Also it shows up in the famous Kurdish suffix: "-íshk" (like in "keníshk" ~ "girl") which is the modern form of Old Iranian "cít-eke").

So the term "Kirma" receives this suffix and becomes "Kirmajh" which you can still find it amongst Southern speakers. There is another Kurdish feature which is exclusively Kurdish: "jh" > "nj". It appears in some words: tanjí < tajhí ~ greyhound; dirinj < dirijh ~ from Old Iranian "diruj" ~ "demon". Therefore we get the term "Kirmanj" which later undergoes a Northern change of "kirm-" into "kurm-" and becomes "Kurmanj". It retains the former shape in the Zaza speech however. It's worthy of mention that we can speculate the etymology of "Crimea", an ancient dwelling of Cimmerians, in the same way. So far the only etymology for "Crimea" is a Tatar "Qirim" ~ "my hill" which is too simple to be taken serious.

The term "Kirmanshan" however could be originally "Kirman-Shahan", the first one which consists of "Kirman" ~ "Kirm(a)-an" (like "Sor-an", "Hewram-an", "Gor-an", "Eyr-an" ~ "Iran" etc.), as the official Persian name confirms too. The other pronunciation "Kirmashan" must be a dropping of the middle "-n-" due to the final one. The later form of "Kirmasha" is either dropped a middle "-n-" from original "Kirmanshah" or occasionally lost the final "-n" (as also happens in Lekí accents, and a phenomenon among Luri dialects).

There is another noticeable toponym, a place not too far from Kirmanshan, named "Kirmend" which is comprised of "Kirm-" and "-ente".

By the way the Scythian invasion toward Kurdistan left linguistic impacts besides ethnic one, which owe both fortunate and unfortunate consequences. These linguistic impacts later enhanced during the Parthian reign and the introduction of Parthian as the official language: diversities between Kurdish speeches. The contemporary Kurmanjí, Soraní, and Southern speakers who speak the same language from a linguistic outlook, seem to speak a variety closer to that of Scythians. It's just my initial hypothesis. At least they have kept the second national title, Kirmanj, in a wider range. More inquiries are required over this issue. But for beginning this knowledge can be really helpful in case of reconstructing the Proto Kurdish language.

By the way according to the above I prefer to classify Kurdish speeches into two major groups:

Kirmanjí* group:

Northern Kirmanjí or Kurmanjí

Central Kirmanjí or Soraní

Southern Kirmanjí or Kirmajhí

Pehlewaní group:

Goraní ? : Hewramí, Gúraní, Kakeí, Shebekí, Síwendí, etc.

Zaza**? : Southern or Dimbúlí, Central or Kirmanjkí, and Northern or Aléví

(Kirmanjí*: since the wide and extensive use of "-nj" instead original "-jh", I suggest to admit it

Zaza**: this is allegedly a scornful term of Armenian origin without any reasonable etymologies outside of that. Unfortunately this silly and disrespectful term has received a huge attention thru articles of misunderstood scholars and continuous efforts of some malevolent fellows over Turkey and their nerd moles)

I will remark the Scythian (which I believe is related with Cimmerian speech) elements in the Modern Kurdish speeches in an independent topic

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