The Kurdish languages belong to the Indo-European language family and are thus distantly related to English and most other European languages. Persian (Farsi), however, is the major language most closely related to Kurdish. On the other hand, despite their close geographic and religious connections, Arabic and Turkish belong to completely separate language families.
   The Kurdish language is approximately the 40th in numerical strength among the several thousand languages spoken around the world today. Until very recently, however, it faced what might be termed linguicide, or extermination, especially given the official policies in Turkey. However, with the rise of the Internet, the creation of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in Iraq, and Turkey's evolving more tolerant attitude, it would seem that the Kurdish language is no longer in danger of being destroyed.
   Given their geographic and political divisions, there is also a wide variety of Kurdish dialects. To add to the confusion, there are no standard names for these different languages and dialects. In addition, the various Kurdish languages and dialects use three different alphabets: Latin (in Turkey and in most of the Kurdish diaspora), Arabic (in Iraq, Iran, and Syria), and, to a much lesser extent, Cyrillic (in the former Soviet Union and now Russia). Exceptions, of course, exist in this usage of different alphabets.
   At the present time, some would argue there are only two main Kurdish languages or branches of Kurdish. Kurmanji and Sorani may be considered major dialects of one language, belong to the southwestern branch of Iranian languages, and have by far the most speakers. (Others, however, would consider these two to be separate languages.) Gurani and Dimili (Zaza) may be considered dialects of a second language, belong to the northwestern branch of the Iranian languages, and have far fewer speakers. As already noted, there are many different dialects of each one of what may be called the two main Kurdish languages. If one were to compare the Kurdish languages to the Romance languages, the relationship between the two main Kurdish languages might be somewhat analogous to that between French and Italian. To further complicate matters, however, some would consider the southeastern dialects of Kurdish spoken in Iran from Sanadaj to Kirmanshah to be yet another Kurdish language. These southeastern dialects are closer to modern Persian than Sorani.
   This lack of Kurdish language standardization is not unique. In China, for example, Mandarin (the official language) and Cantonese — along with numerous other dialects — continue to coexist. Although the former is recognized as standard German, two principal divisions of the German language still persist as Hoch-deutsch (High German) and Plattdeutsch (Low German). There are also two official forms of Norwegian, bokmal (book language)— also called riksmal (national language)—and nynorsk (New Norwe-gian)—also known as landsmal (country language). Modern Greek, too, has two different versions, a demotic or popular literary style and a reformed classical style.
   Amir Hassanpour's lengthy detailed analysis (Nationalism and Language in Kurdistan, 1918-1985) is perhaps the major recent study in English of the Kurdish language, while Michael Chyet's new dictionary of more than 800 pages (Kurdish-English Dictionary/ Ferhenga Kurmanci-Inglizi) is perhaps the leading work in its field.
   See also Literature; Yekgirtu.

Historical Dictionary of the Kurds. .

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