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Kurdish Grammar

The syntactic structure of language, like the phonological, morphological and semantic systems, undergoes varying degrees of change (codification) in the process of standardization. While dictionaries codify the orthographic, orthoepic, morphological and semantic structure of the lexicon, grammar books contribute to the codification of the overall structure, including syntax.

Kurdish lexicography predates grammatical description by approximately three centuries (cf. 8.4.4). The first grammatical description of Kurdish is limited to a few examples employed by Ali Taramakhi (17th century) in his Arabic grammar taught in the mosque schools of Kurmanji speaking parts of Kurdistan (cf. 4.2.2). If we disregard European grammatical studies (e.g., Garzoni 1787) which did not affect the standardization process, the first monographic work written by native speakers is Muqeddimet ul-'ilfan (Introduction to 'irfan 'knowledge, etc.') which deals with the "grammatical rules of the Kurdish language.' The book was published by a nationalist group in Istanbul in 1918 (cf. 7.2. 1).

The writing of grammars in Iraq began in response to the need of primary schools for a textbook. The first book, composed by Tawfiq Wahby, was not authorized by the Ministry of Education because of the writer's radical approach to orthographic reform (cf. 8.2.6). Sa'id Sidqi's (1928) more conservative, less reformist, work was the first grammar book adopted in the primary schools. While Wahby's work was based on traditional English and French grammatical models, Sidqi's description is based on traditional Arabic grammar. The book was used for a few years before the subject was removed from the curriculum of the primary schools in the 1940s (7.5.4). Wahby's work was privately published in 1929.

A major contribution was made by Nuri Ali Amin's Qewa'idî Zimanî Kurdî Rules of the Kurdish language', (vol. 1, 1956; Vol. 2, 1958). Amin used English grammar as a model for grammatical description and introduced new material and analysis together with purified terminology. By this time the Ministry of Education had readmitted grammar into the curriculum (cf. 7.5.4) and a four-member committee published a number of grammar books. The first was Rezjnant Kurdi 'Kurdish Grammar', for the fifth grade of primary school, compiled by Nuri Ali Amin, M. Khal and two other authors (Baghdad, 1960, 152 pp). These textbooks used simple language and were rich in exercises and examples. Although there are no significant syntactic differences among Sorani subdialects, the norm described by these grammars was recognizably that of the Sulemani subdialect.

Grammatical studies resumed after the 1961-70 stalemate in publishing (cf. 7.2.2. 1). Several features distinguish the works published since the early 1970s. First, research independent of pedagogical considerations is conducted and published in the press, especially in the Kurdish Academy's journal, in Bayan, Rosinbîrî Nö and Rojî Kurdistan. Secondly, description is now increasingly based on modem linguistics rather than on Arabic or Western grammatical models. Research is now focused on special areas such as phonetics, lexicology and particular problems such as affixation and word-formation. Comparative studies of Kurmanji and Sorani are also being conducted. Thirdly, more refined textbooks have been published for both primary and secondary school levels. Grammar books for the secondary schools prepared by committees sponsored by the Ministry of Education were published by 1980. According to a detailed review of these textbooks (Rosinbîrî Nö, No. 99, September 1983, pp. 75-90), all the terms are Kurdish.


  1. Prof. A. Hassanpour, Nationalism and Language in Kurdistan 1918 - 1985


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