Languages of the Near & Middle East at SOAS: Kurdish
‘Kurdish’ is a label applied to a number of related (but not always mutually intelligible) language varieties within the Iranian branch of the Indo-European language family. Whilst the number of Kurdish speakers is considerable, precise numbers are impossible to determine since Kurds are spread over a huge geographical area spanning Turkey, the Caucasus, Iran, Iraq and Syria. There are even Kurdish-speaking communities as far east as Turkmenistan and Afghanistan. Kurdish has two main dialects: Kurmanji (also called ‘Northern’) and Sorani (‘Central’). Kurmanji is spoken in Turkey, Syria and northern parts of Iraq and Iran; Sorani is spoken predominantly in western Iran and in Iraq. Kurdish has been a literary language for over a thousand years, although it is with the poetry of Baba Tahir, at the start of the 11th century, that a firm literary tradition can be established. Kurmanji is usually written in the Latin alphabet whilst Sorani generally appears in Perso-Arabic script.
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