Hawín and Hamín

Hawín and Hamín – The losing of old Kurdish /m/ in Kurmanjí and Soraní

By Hesen el-Ekrad, (hasankaracan@live.at)

Hawín and Hamín – The losing of old Kurdish /m/ in Kurmanjí and Soraní

By Hesen el-Ekrad, (hasankaracan@live.at)

The division of the Kurdish language into Kurmanjí and Pehlewaní branches commences with the consonant shift of the Old Kurdish /m/ into a /v/. Due to this transformation, Kurmanjí, Soraní, and Southern Kurdish separated from the Guraní/Hewramí and Zazakí/Dimilí dialect groups. This special shift was only carried out by the Kurmanjí branch. All other Iranic languages preserved the consonant /m/, which is traceable to the Proto-Indo-European, 3200 B.C.  

Among the Kurdish vernaculars, Kurmanjí, Soraní and Southern Kurdish changed the old Kurdish sound /m/ at the end or even in the middle of the word into a /v/ or /w/. This change is one of the primary hallmarks of Kurdish language division into the Kurmanjí and Pehlewaní branches. The Pehlewaní branch contains the dialects Guraní/Hewramí and Zazakí/Dimilí Groups, whereas the Kurmanji branch consists of Soraní, Kalhurí and other popular vernaculars. These main vernaculars went through the phonetic change of the consonant /m/ into a /v/ and preserved the Old-Kurdish diphthong /xw/, whereas Guraní/Hewramí and Zazakí/Dimilí lost the initial sound /x/ and only maintained the /w/. (By comparison: Soraní “xwardin” and Zazakí/Dimilí “werdene” – “to eat”).

On the basis of those two main reasons, some linguistics attempt at rejecting the Kurdish identity of the Zazakí/Dimilí and Guraní/Hewramí-speakers and do not assign these vernaculars to the Kurdish language groups. They assume that the Kurmanjí branch has to be the Yardstick for all Kurdish vernaculars, and oddly despite the clear fact that the speakers of Guraní/Hewramí and Zazakí/Dimilí call their mother tongue “Kurdish” and see themselves as Kurds.    

The hallmark of the Kurmanjí-Group is that it converted the /m/-sounds. This is a unique process among the Iranic Language family. Zazakí/Dimilí and Guraní/Hewramí were able to conserve the /m/-consonants, whose roots date from the Proto-Indo-European era. The word “zama” in Hewramí and Zazakí, for example, which is in Kurmanjí “zava”, originates from Proto-Indo-Europan “*geme-“  and has the same origin like the English “groom” in the word “bridegroom” (which is “Bräuti-gam” in German). In general, the Old Iranic Languages transformed the consonant /g/ into a /z/ or into similar sounding consonants like /j/ or /jh/. One might ascertain this by almost one hundred common words among the Indo-European languages.  

Another example is the word “hamín” from Hewramí, which changed into “havín” in Kurmanjí. It has the same origin in the English word “summer”. The Sanskrit "sámā-" changed in Avesta in to "hämä” and became later "hāmin". In some cases the Iranic languages mutated the /s/-sounds of Old-Indo-European into a /h/. Like the Proto-Indo-European "septm", which is "säptá" in Sanskrit, then "häptä" in Avesta and finally comes to be “heft” in Kurdish, which is related to the English “seven”.   

This consonant shift from /m/ into /v/ disconnected the Kurdish people into two groups, which was unnecessary. Politicized linguists advance this argument in order to divide the Kurdish people for political and strategice ends by denying the Kurdish identity of Zazakí and Hewramí-speakers.   

The Old-Kurdish “m-sound” should be unified among a standardized Kurdish, so that the Kurmanjí branch would approach Old Kurdish and also to Pahlawaní branch. Nevertheless the vowels of Kurmanjí should remain; the structure of the vocabulary should stay unmodified. So that the Kurmanjí and Soraní-speakers will be able to understand the Guraní-Zazakí vocabulary better. What we need to do is to replace the “v-sounds” by the Old-Kurdish “m-sounds” from Pahlawaní vernaculars, in order to remove the separation line between the two Kurdish linguistic branches.   

This chart shows clearly the developing from the Old-Kurdish consonants /m/ into /v/’s and shows in each case a recommendation for a potential version of the word in a Unified Kurdish.

Table 1:

1 English Old Kurdish Unified Kurdish Kurmanjí Soraní /
Kelhurí /
Hewramí / Zazakí
2 name nāmän (Avesta) nam nav naw nam / name
3 eye cäshmän (Avesta) cam cav caw /
cew /
cem / cim
4 tail dumä (Avesta) dúm dúv dúw dím / dim
5 step gāmä (Avesta) gam gav gaw gam / game
6 summer hāmin (Avesta) hamín havín hawín hamín / hamnan
7 guest mäemän (Avesta) míman mívan míwan méman
8 human

märet- (Avesta),
märtum (Pahlavi)

mirdom mirov mirdow /
9 half näeme (Avesta) ním nív níw ním / néme
10 to mesaure päitimā- (Avesta) péman pívan péwan pémay / pémitene
11 dinner shām (Pahlavi) shém shív shéw sham / shamí
12 seed täoxmän (Avesta) tom tov tow tom / toxim
13 raw āmá (Sanskrit) xam xav xaw xam
14 bridegroom zāmātär (Avesta) zama zava zawa zama
15 winter zäm- (Avesta),
zämistān (Pahlavi)
zimistan zivistan ziwistan zimistan
16 silver ä-sēm (Pahlavi) zím zív, sím zíw zíw / sém
17 trap dáman (Sanskrit) dam dav daw dam / dame
18 to flee raṁ- (Sanskrit) remín revín rewín reway / remayene
19 stone kamərəδa (Avesta) kemir kevir kewir kemir / kemer
20 earth, field zäm- (Avesta) zemí zeví zewí zemín

Biblography: Paul Horn, Grundriss der Neupersischen Etymologie, Strassburg, 1893; Paul, Ludwig: The position of Zazaki among West Iranian languages. Proceedings of the 3rd European Conference on Iranian Studies (held in Cambridge, 11th to 15th September 1995). Part I, Old and Middle Iranian Studies, ed. N. Sims-Williams, Wiesbaden 1998, p. 163-176; D. N. MacKenzie, The Dialect of Awroman (Hawrāmān-ī Luhōn), Hist.-Filos. Skr. Dan. Vid. Selsk. 4, no. 3, Copenhagen, 1966; David Neil MacKenzie: Kurdish dialect studies. Oxford Univ. Press, London 1961-1962; Nicholas Awde: Kurdish-English/English-Kurdish (Kurmanci, Sorani and Zazaki) Dictionary and Phrasebook. Hippocrene Books Inc., 2004;

Note: My name is Hasan Karacan. I was born in Cewlíg (Turkish: Bingöl) in 1982. I came to Austria in 1991 and started my education in Political science. I have a huge interest in kurdish language studies and I would like to explore the historical development of Kurdish vocabulary.