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Gender in Kurdish

D.N. MacKenzieD. N. MacKenzie, BSOAS Vol XVI, 1954

It is not generally accepted in European works that a distinction of grammatical gender exists in Kurdish. In the Northern group of Kurdish dialects the Izafe appears in a number of forms, e.g. a, ā, ē, ī, and the nominal oblique case ending as -ē and -ī. An anlysis of these forms into a clear system, with two declensions according to grammatical gender, has been made by members of the princely family of Bedir Xan. A comparison of all the avialble tests in the light of their analysis serves to confirm the general validity of the paradigms and therefore of a distinction of grammatical gender, disguised to a varying extent by the generalization of certain forms. The history of a number of words of known gender suggests that the distiction is inherited.

A hithert unexplained phenomenon is the appearance in the Central Kurdish Mukrî dialect of two forms of the nominal oblique case ending, -ē and -ī. The similarity of these forms to the corresponding Northern dialect forms is obvious. A comparison of related words in the two groups of dialects shows that in the Mukrī dialect also the difference of the forms marks a distinction of grammatical gender.

Many writers on Kurdish, from the time of Garzoni's Grammatica of 1787 down to Socin's Sprache der Kurden, have remarked on the variety of the forms in which the Izafe appears, even within a particular dilaect. Some have advanced theories concerning the phonetic context to account for the variety. It is simplest to quote Justi's review of these theories:

Gender in Kurdish 

By D. N. MacKenzie

Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, 
University of London, 
Vol. 16, No. 3 (1954), pp. 528-541 


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