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A practical Kurdish grammar

Auteur : L. O. Fossum
Éditeur : ISELOMS Date & Lieu : 1919, Minneapolis
Préface : L. O. Fossum Pages : 280
Traduction : ISBN :
Langue : AnglaisFormat : 135x195 mm
Code FIKP : Liv. Ang. Ku.Thème : Linguistique

Table des Matières Introduction Identité PDF
A practical Kurdish grammar

A practical Kurdish grammar

L. O. Fossum

I. S. E. L. O. M. S.

Chapter I

The Kurdish alphabet

I. There are thirty-two letters in the Kurdish alphabet. Four of these, namely گ (Gaf), ژ (Zha), چ (Chim), and پ (Pa), are strictly Persian letters, and the other twenty-eight have been borrowed from the Arabic.

2. Form of letters

Name - Unconnected characters - Joined to Letters – Pronunciation and transcription

Final – Medial – Initial



The Kurdish people have a very ancient history. Their existence and movements in the Zagros, Niphates, and upper Tigris - Euphrates regions, can be traced back to the early Assyrian period. It is claimed by many learned men, that there is a strong historic connection between the conquered Chaldeans and the Kurds, and that one or other of the Assyrian Dynasties and their successors were of Kurdish origin. Others claim that the Kurds belong to the great Medo - Persian group. Be that as it may, we know for a certainty that the Kurdish nation has produced a Saladin, a Nadir - Schah, a Kerim Khan (t1779), and many other eminent figures.

The Kurdish language embraces several dialects spoken in large districts of eastern Turkey, western Persia, and in the Persian province of Khorazan. To define this territory more accurately, we may mention the Turkish provinces of Erzeroum, Bitlis, Diarbekr, Mamuret-el-Aziz, Van and Mosul, and the Persian provinces of Azerbijan, Ardelen, and Luristan. And besides these, the Kurdish Colonies in Khorazan, which Schah Abbas I (1587-1628) transferred from the Turco - Persian frontier to serve as a buffer state against the Turcomans.

Just as the learned historians disagree as to the sources of ancient Kurdish ancestry, so the linguists also disagree as to the ancient source and mother of the Kurdish tongue. Some claim with considerable certainty that it springs from the Pehlewi language, others remotely link it to the Chaldean group, in the way that Armenian is linked to the Persian. Rawlinson opposes the former opinion in the following words: "These dialects of the Mountaineers of Zagros have been hitherto assumed by all writers as remnants of the ancient Pehlewi, but it appears to me on insufficient grounds: I regard them as derived from the old Farsi, the Farsi - Kadim, as it is called." Some claim that it is derived from the old Median language, others claim that Kurdish is one of the Modern Iranian languages, a sister language of Modern Persian, containing a considerable element directly borrowed from the latter, while others again make it simply a derivative of the New - Persian.

From whatever language it may have derived, it has certainly in many respects, undergone an individual and peculiar development of its own. For, as true as it is that it has a great many words directly borrowed or developed from the Persian, Arabic, Turkish, and other neighboring languages, so true it is also, that it has a great many words that are not to be found in any other tongue.

It is to be feared that too much has been made of the New - Persian as its mother. The reason for this tendency has been the fact that most writers who have made a study of the Kurdish language, have done so through Persian glasses, and have ridden the Persian 'pony' as the 'key' to every root and form.

It is well known that the Kurdish language embraces several dialects which differ as you approach the borders of the various tribal districts. Nearly all of these dialects, or groups of dialects, have been treated by eminent European linguists, and from the conclusion that these men have come to, as well as by a thorough study of their treatises, it does not at all seem impossible to bring these dialects together on a wider basis, so as to use one language for several groups of dialects.

The Pioneer Kurdish Grammarian was P. M. Garzoni, who spent nearly twenty years as a Missionary at Amadia, northeast of Mosul. His Grammar was printed in Rome, year 1779. Fortunately this first treatise on the Kurdish language was written at Amadia, within the borders of that district where, as was discovered later on, some of the best Kurdish dialects are spoken.

Since the time of Garzoni, some very able treatises on the same dialects of Amadia, and the dialects farther north, have been written by Justi, Lerch, and Rhea. We also have a splendid treatise on the dialects of the Bebeh Kurds around Suleimania by Chodsko; and another treatise on the dialects of the Mosul district, and of the Kurdish Colonists in Khorazan, by Prof. Beresin. Some years ago an Outline (Schitze) of the dialects of East-Central Kurdistan was written by Oscar Mann. And only a few years ago a very able treatise on the Kurdish language was written by E. B. Soane.

To discover the best Kurdish among these many dialects is not an easy task. Lerch states that it is useless to ask the Kurds as to which dialect is the best, for every Kurd claims that his own dialect is the purest and best. The linguists themselves have a tendency to give the same kind of an answer: The dialect they study the most becomes the purest and best 'for them.'

Prof. Beresin claims that the purest and best Kurdish is spoken in the district east of Mosul. Ker Porter comes very near to the same opinion when he claims that the Ravandoos group of dialects is one of the purest and best. Lerch, in comparing his Kermanji with other dialects, says: "I have found that the Kermanji that I have learned agrees very much with that of Garzoni and Beresin." And in speaking of the dialects still farther south, he says: "The Kurdish language of Suleimania also, according to the words collected by Rich, belongs to the Kermanji." By these two statements, Lerch has practically linked together all the dialects of West - Central Kurdistan, from Hakkari to Suleimania, into one large group which he calls 'Kermanji.'

As to the dialects spoken in East-Central Kurdistan, beginning with the districts north and west of Urmia, and going south through Ushno, Soujbulak, Sardesht, and Sakis, to the districts of Senna, it is interesting to hear what Missionary Hornli has to say. He visited those parts in 1835, and employed as teachers, two Somai Kurds who also knew the Hakkari dialect, one Bradost Kurd who also knew the Schikak dialect, and one Mukri Kurd. Besides these his private servant was a Soar Kurd from Mardin.

From the comparative study of these dialects, and from his attempt to translate the Gospel of St. John into Mukri Kurdish so as to be serviceable to them all, Missionary Hornli made the following discovery: "I found to my great joy, that the Kurds of these tribes understood each other quite well, and understood what I read to them in the Mukri dialect." And in speaking of the near relationship of the Somai, Bradost, Schikak, and Mukri dialects, he concludes in these words: "Ihre zusammenfassung unter einen gemeinschaftlichen Dialekt scheint mir nicht unmöglich." He further claims that the entire series of Kurdish dialects could be collected into two large groups, one for the North, and one for the South. In this statement, however, he undoubtedly overlooked the difficulty connected with the Zaza group of dialects in the extreme North. But even of these Zaza Kurds, Lerch, the greatest authority on that group of dialects, says: "In general the Zaza Kurds also understand the Kermanji."

As a conclusion, we seem to be justified in making the assertion, that for linguistic purposes, we may collect all the Kurdish dialects into three large groups, covering the three large districts of North, Central, and South Kurdistan. In North Kurdistan we have the Zaza group, in Central Kurdistan we have the Kermanji group, and in South Kurdistan we have the Lur and Kelhur group.

As to which of these three groups represents the purest and best Kurdish, we would join with Garzoni, Lerch, Rhea, Chodsko, Beresin, Hornli, and Parter in referring to Central Kurdistan, and more particularly to the group of dialects spoken by the noble Bebeh tribes in the districts of Suleimania. Among this group of tribes we find the best Kurdish literature in the form of history, legends, poetry, and prose.

In speaking of the Mukri tribe, which inhabits Persian territory south of Lake Urmia, Mr. E. B. Soane, in his book, "To Mesopotamia and Kurdistan in Disguise" says: "They speak the Kurdish language in all its purity of accent and grammatical form. Their dialect is the most ancient of all, and while its antiquity is probably not greater than that of its neighbors, its excellent preservation of ancient forms gives it a claim to be considered the standard by which to compare other dialects."

Much time has been spent on the preparation of this Grammar; but it has not been subjected to so thorough a revision as I should have liked. My design has been to discover the best Kurdish in the dialects of Central Kurdistan, particularly in the Somai – Soujbulak - Suleimania Groups, and to put it into as clear and simple a system as possible, so that others, like myself, may learn some practical Kurdish and labor for the social, moral, and spiritual uplift of the Kurds.

Hoping that this book will be of some use, I submit it to the favorable consideration of the public.


Soujbulak, Kurdistan, Persia, 1916

Sincere gratitude is expressed to the following educators and linguists, for examining the manuscript of this book, and for their corrections, suggestions, and encouraging remarks:

Prof. A. V. W. Jackson, Ph. D., L. L. D., and Prof. A. Johannan, Ph. D., both of Columbia University, New York City; Prof. Carl D. Buck, Ph. D., University of Chicago; Prof. F. Klaeber, Ph. D., University of Minnesota; Prof. M. Reu, D. D., Wartbury Seminary, Iowa; Prof. O. G. Felland, M. A., St. Olaf College, Minn.; Prof. Martin Hegland, Ph. D., Waldorf College, Iowa, and Rev. A. H. Gjevre, M. A., Minneapolis, Minn.

L. O. F.

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