Northern Kurdish dialects group

Northern Kurdish dialects group (or Kurmanjí proper, sometimes refered to as Badínaní) is the Kurdish vernacular with the largest number of speakers, spoken by about three-quarters of the Kurds today, (See the map).

Northern Kurdish dialects group (or Kurmanjí proper, sometimes refered to as Badínaní) is the Kurdish vernacular with the largest number of speakers, spoken by about three-quarters of the Kurds today, (See the map).

The Kurmanjí has been proposed by Minorsky to evolve from the combination of Kurt and Mând, together meaning "Median Kurd". This may be less plausible than contending theories asserting that it may have evolved from Kurt and Manna, i.e., "Mannaean" Kurd. The original home of kurmanc was the Hakkâri region, which falls nicely within the territories of ancient Mannas.

Northern Kurdish dialects group is the language of most of the Kurds of Northern Kurdistan (Kurdistan in Turkey) and all the Kurds of Western Kurdistan (Kurdistan in Syria) and the Red Kurdistan (former Soviet Union), as well as being the predominant language of the Kurdish exclave in northern Khurasan in Iran and southern Turkmenistan. In fact, Northern Kurdish dialects group alone is spoken by a little over half of all Kurds, making it the most common Kurdish vernacular. There are at present about 18 million speakers of Northern Kurdish dialects group. Major subdialects of Northern Kurdish dialects group are Adyamani (or Marashi), Bekraní, Bírjendí, Botaní, Bayezídí, Hekkarí, Jiwanshírí, Qocaní, Senjarí, Urfí, Yunekí (or Judíkaní) and Surcí and various diaclets spoken by the Kurdish communities in the Elburz mountains.

As a major Kurdish tongue Northern Kurdish dialects group is relatively recent. Northern Kurdish dialects group is descended from the "Proto-Kurdish," a language spoken by Kurdish nomads in the mountains of the Hekkarí region west of Lake Urmiâ (Wirmí). It was not until the beginning of the 14th century and the progressive nomadization of Kurdistan that it expanded. It had begun to expand rapidly by the middle of the 16th century, when the destruction of the agriculturalist economy and massive deportations of the sedentary Kurds, coupled with the loss of overland trade routes through Kurdistan, paved the way for a fundamental change in Kurdish society. As the nomads gradually expanded from the Hakkâri region into various corners of Kurdistan, they carried with them, and in time imposed upon the remaining agriculturalists, their Northern Kurdish dialects group. With it they also introduced Sunni Islam of Shafi’ite rite as the predominant religion of the land.

Northern Kurdish dialects group first advanced out from Hekkarí through Badínan to Mosul, dividing Kurdistan into a Dimilí northern half and a Hewramí ( also called Goraní) southern half, with Northern Kurdish dialects group in the middle. The expansion then continued into the Dimilí linguistic domain, as it was the first to experience the full force of the socioeconomic calamities of the early modern times. The northern variety of Northern Kurdish dialects group in time became the predominant language of northern and western Kurdistan. The assault on the Hewramí domain began in the early 18th century with the onset of the socioeconomic disruption of this part of Kurdistan through wars and deportations. The Central Kurdish dialects group and the nomads carrying it expanded from the Sorân region (modern Arbil-Rewanduz area) into central and eastern Kurdistan, replacing Hewramí. The hegemony of the Southern Kurdish dialects group over Kurdistan was thus gradually broken by Northern Kurdish dialects group, which was expanding from the center. Southern Kurdish dialects group was in time marginalized and pushed into its present limited domains on peripheries of Kurdistan on both extreme ends of the land. The Northern Kurdish dialects group assault on Southern Kurdish dialects group has not ceased, and continues in full force until the present.


  1. Dr. A. Hassanpour, Nationalism and Language in Kurdistan 1918 – 1985, Mellen Research University Press, USA, 1992
  2. Jemal Nebez, Toward a Unified Kurdish Language, NUKSE 1976
  3. Prof. M. Izady, The Kurds, A Concise Handbook, Dep. of Near Easter Languages and Civilization Harvard University, USA, 1992


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