The Kurdish Linguistic Tragedy 1

The political realities imposed on Kurds in different parts of Kurdistan have contributed to the marginalization of Kurdish and its splitting into different spoken varieties sometimes even mutually unintelligible (Kirmanji and Sorani)  i.e. without the umbrella of a commonly accepted written standard form with the exception of Sulaymania Kurdish which rose to the standard language in the ( Iraqi) Sorani Kurdistan because of its prestigious cultural character.  However, choosing Hawler (Arbil) as the capital might lead to some change which could manifest itself in the future.

Thus despite the advantages of the Kurds becoming multilingual,  the Kurdish language suffered extensively, remained poor in vocabulary / structure and became additionally heavily dependent on borrowings from the dominant languages even after the boost the Kurdish has experienced since South Kurdistan became semi-independent. There are still Kurds who write and communicate in Arabic and some who are even ashamed of referring to themselves as Kurdish. The Kurds have been obliged to learn languages from completely different family of languages such as Arabic being a Semitic language and Turkish belonging to the Turkic group.

 In addition, Islam has contributed largely to the Arabization and inferiority of Kurdish for many centuries now. Although Kurdish is genetically related to Persian, the Persians on their part showed no interest in defending and promoting it. On the contrary, they have had no scruples about collaborating with the Turks and the Arabs to wipe out an important Iranian language.

Yet, the Kurds have learnt the languages of their colonial powers with astonishing speed even without the necessary school education motivated by Islam and the need to function in societies and cultures different from their own. The political systems and media being a monopoly of the dominant languages have added their part to a partial assimilation of the Kurds and the inferiority of the Kurdish language.


3 May 2016