Remembrance and Hope:
An Introduction to the Dictionary
The goal of creating a dictionary is to reflect accurately the language in question as it is used by native speakers both in speech and in writing. In the case of Kurmanji, the northern dialect of Kurdish, the spoken language is far more developed and varied than the written language, largely because the Turkish, Iraqi, Iranian, and Syrian governments have banned the use of Kurdish for all official purposes. In practice, this means that most speakers of Kurmanji are illiterate, at least in Kurdish: if they have any formal education, it is in either Turkish, Arabic, or Persian. Only the Kurdish minority in formerly Soviet Armenia has had the opportunity to be educated in Kurmanji. On the other hand, the situation for Sorani, the central dialect of Kurdish—spoken in Iraqi and Iranian Kurdistan—is more balanced in this respect: many more native speakers of this dialect are also literate in it, and have consequently incorporated a more technical vocabulary into their everyday speech.
Kurmanji lexicographers are faced with a dilemma: when dealing with a language that has yet to develop a technical vocabulary, they have the task of providing what is used by people, and conversely feel a duty to provide the missing technical vocabulary. Modern lexicographers strive to present a work that is descriptive, i.e., a realistic reflection of the language as it is used by native speakers. When it comes to technical vocabulary known only by a small literate intelligentsia, however, the imposition of such vocabulary items on a populace unfamiliar with them, in the hope that some day such terms will gain currency and be accepted by the general population, creates the danger of making the dictionary into a prescriptive, rather than descriptive, work.
I have been compiling this dictionary for the past fifteen years. In undertaking this mammoth project, I have taken a critical look at the various Kurdish dictionaries already in existence (Kurdish-Russian, Kurdish-Turkish, Kurdish-Arabic, Kurdish-French, Kurdish-German, and more recently Kurdish-English)—taking care to weed out old errors—and adding material from my own fieldwork, both abroad and with immigrant communities in the United States. Moreover, I have culled many words from my own reading of literary, folkloristic, and journalistic sources.
Besides reflecting modern usage, I attempt wherever possible to give accurate etymologies for the words in the dictionary, an undertaking that will link Kurdish with the wider field of Iranian linguistics (Iranistics). At UC Berkeley, Professor Martin Schwartz has been of invaluable assistance in this endeavor. I should point out that modern usage has changed since I began this project fifteen years ago. While it is now stylish to pepper one's Kurmanji with Sorani words, this was not the case a decade ago. I have often been in a quandary as to how much of this vocabulary to include.
Unfortunately, putting together a Kurdish dictionary is not a matter of simply pulling the data from all the existing dictionaries into one big lexicon. Originally, my intention was to do just this, augmenting the results with my own field notes. I soon learned, however, that all too many of the existing Kurmanji dictionaries are full of inaccuracies and mistakes: by listing entries of questionable value, one would once more be giving new life to old mistakes. Moreover, the published dictionaries tend to be limited in scope. Most deal only with the vocabulary of one region—an advantage mainly for dialect geography. Only the newer ones have tackled modern journalistic vocabulary. Some dictionaries borrow liberally from earlier dictionaries and works, reviving old errors in the process.
Although Kurdish can be written in three different alphabets—between which there is a simple one-to-one correspondence—only one dictionary (Feryad Fazil Omar's Kurdisch- Deutsches Wörterbuch) uses both Latin and Arabic script, thereby making the work easily accessible to Kurds from Turkey as well as to those from Syria, Iraq, and Iran.
Three aspects of Kurdish phonology are unevenly treated in the dictionaries: emphatic consonants, gutturals, and aspirated consonants. Regrettably, the emphatics (akin to Arabic ş-d- t-z) are largely undocumented in the existing dictionaries. The older dictionaries in Arabic script hint at this feature by occasionally employing the Arabic letters b Ljo çp b. My informants from Iraqi Kurdistan generally have an emphatic where the old dictionaries use these Arabic emphatics. In her texts from Amadiya and Jebel Sinjar, Joyce Blau regularly indicates this feature by underscoring the consonant in question (s-t-z).
Although this issue has been the subject of detailed study in Arabic, the only work I know of that deals with it in Kurdish is the dissertation of Margaret Kahn (MK), author of The Children of the Jinn. Some work on the same feature in the neighboring Neo-Aramaic dialects has been done by the late Irene Garbell and Robert Hoberman. This seems to be an areal feature.
As for the gutturals, many Kurds refuse to accept the fact that these "Arabic sounds" exist in their language, and consequently neglect to include them in their writing system. The fact is that not only the Kurdish of this region, but also the Turkish and the Neo-Aramaic dialects spoken here, exhibit guttural sounds. What's more, the sounds represented by q and x are also found in Arabic, but are not rejected on the same basis. This 'entire argument is unscientific at best, and is really a political statement that has no place in a scholarly discussion of phonetics and orthography.
These guttural sounds are an integral part of the Kurdish language of today, and should be recognized as such, as they already have been by Soviet scholars, as well as by Margaret Kahn in her doctoral dissertation. Professor Otto Jastrow, a specialist in Neo-Aramaic and Arabic, believes that this feature was borrowed into Kurdish from Aramaic before the Islamic conquests brought Arabic to Kurdistan. In any case, those who write Kurdish in Latin script, with the notable exception of the Soviet-trained scholars, tend to ignore the gutturals for the purposes of writing. The Soviets write these sounds as the latter (50 borrowed from Bedirxan, the former two created by analogy. I have made an adjustment regarding e': when the sound is ['ayin] + e, as at the beginning of a word (in Arabic script written ap), I have written it as 'e, placing the apostrophe before the vowel. By analogy, one also finds `a (عا), `î (عي), 'o (عو), `û (عوو). I have reserved e' for cases where the vowel [e] is followed by the [`ayin], as in the word me`r, a dialectal variant of mar [snake]. Those who write in Arabic script generally have no problem writing in the appropriate places.
There is a great deal of regional variation regarding these sounds. The word for 'forehead' is `enî - enî - ħenî and even depending on where the speaker hails from. Moreover, it is a shibboleth of both Yezidi speech and the Sorani subdialect of the Arbil region to transpose [`J and [ħ], such that the name Ĥacî `Alî becomes `Acî Han. If these sounds did not exist in Kurdish, how could we explain this very Kurdish dialectal feature?
Finally, the aspirated/non-aspirated consonantal pairs (p'-p/t'-t/k'-k/ç'-ç) are regularly distinguished by the Soviet scholars and in a few works by modern linguists. The Soviet scholars, many of whom also know Armenian, have no doubt been influenced by the existence of this feature in Armenian as well. This distinction is generally ignored in modern Kurdish publications, with two notable exceptions: Musa Anter's Kurdish-Turkish dictionary—in which only the pair k' [kh]/k is distinguished—and Baran Rizgar's Kurdish-English/English-Kurdish dictionary. In the Arabic script, I am aware of only one publication that distinguishes these consonantal pairs. Nevertheless, for my informants from Iraqi Kurdistan—who are most comfortable using the Arabic script—the distinction is real, and has a phonemic importance. For example, they distinguish kitik = 'dried figs' (with non-aspirated k) from k'itik = 'cat' (with aspirated k).
It should be noted that the earliest collectors of Kurdish texts, among them Oskar Mann, Albert Socin, and M. Auguste Jaba, while failing to distinguish these various consonantal niceties, went overboard in trying to record the most infinitesimal gradation of vowel length. The same can be said for contemporary texts in Arabic, Neo-Aramaic, Turkish, and the like.
Another problem with the existing dictionaries (particularly Anter, Gewranî, Torî, and Îzolî [1st ed.]) is the plethora of misprints in them. Because of this extremely common phenomenon, it is sometimes unclear whether what appears to be a variant form is in fact a typo, or simply due to regional variation. It is, of course, beyond the scope of any dictionary to index typographical errors as if they were real words.
One effective solution to the problems outlined above—both phonetic inexactitude and the frequent occurrence of misprints—can be suggested: reliable informants. With the recent influx of refugees from Iraqi Kurdistan, there are more native speakers of Kurdish in the United States than ever before. For the dialects of Kurdish spoken in Turkey and Syria, the Kurdish immigrant population in Europe is so numerous that almost every conceivable subdialect is represented there. Not every native speaker is an ideal linguistic informant, but by befriending these people and gaining their trust, many of the mistakes of the past (both linguistic and otherwise) can be addressed.
The two earliest dictionaries are Ahmed-i Khani's Nûbara biçûkan (1094 A.H. = 1682-83 A.D.) and Garzoni's Grammatica e vocabolario della lingua kurda (Roma 1787). The former was a rhyming Arabic-Kurdish lexicon for use in Islamic ä, to teach basic Arabic words to Kurdish schoolboys. It is available in a reprint edition through the Philo Press in Amsterdam. The latter was written by an eighteenth-century Italian missionary, Maurizio Garzoni, to enable missionaries to converse with Kurmanji speakers.
My distinguished colleague Amir Hassanpour has a detailed discussion of Kurdish lexicography in his fine book Nationalism and Language in Kurdistan, 1918-1985 (1992). He deals largely with Sorani, the central dialect of Kurdish, and with monolingual dictionaries. In what follows, I discuss the Kurmanji dictionaries I referred to while creating this dictionary.
• JJ = Auguste Jaba & Ferdinand Justi. Dictionnaire Kurde-Francais (St.-136tersbourg: Eggers et Cie, 1879), xviii, 463 p.
This is the first important early Kurdish foreign language dictionary. The entries are in Arabic script with a rather unsystematic Latin transcription. Earlier vocabularies, such as those of Garzoni, Rhea, Lerch, and Prynı & Socha, are subsumed into this work.
• HH = Yusuf Ziyaeddin Pasa. al-Hadiyah al-Hamidiyah. (Beirut, 1975), 56, 240 p. = Mohammad Mokri. Recherches de Kıırdologie: Dictionnaire Kurde-Arabe de Dia' Ad-Din Pacha al-Khalidi : introduction et notes linguistiques, notice sur la phon6tique et la graphie arabo-persane du dialecte kurmandji, Textes et 6tude religieux, linguistiques et ethnographiques (Langues et civilisation iraniennes), no. 4 (Beyrouth & Paris, 1975), 56,240 p.
First published in 1892, this is a Kurdish-Arabic dictionary based on the dialect of Bitlis, Turkish Kurdistan. Ziya al-Din Pasha, a Palestinian Arab, was a high-ranking Ottoman official, and he composed the dictionary while he was kaymakam (governor) of Motki in the vilayet of Bitlis. It is in Arabic script, and although it predates the modern orthography, it employs a system that corresponds exactly to the modern orthographies. This book was reissued in Turkey in 1978 in Latin script, with Turkish translations rather than the original Arabic, by M. Emin Bozarslan.
• B = Ch. Kh. Bakaev. Kurdsko-Russkir Slovar' okolo 14000 slov s prilozheniem grammaticheskogo ocherka kurdskogo iazyka (Moscow : Gosudarstvennoe Izdatel'stvo Inostrannykh i Nalsional-nykh SlovareY, 1957), 618 p.
This Kurdish-Russian dictionary was the work of a trained linguist, a native speaker of the language. The entries are in the Cyrillic alphabet, distinguishing both aspirated/unaspirated consonant pairs (p/p'; UV; k/k'; c/c') and differentiating guttural e'/h/ from e/h/x. Moreover, the gender of nouns, as well as the ± transitivity and present stem of verbs, are provided.
Entries are often illustrated with sample sentences. It includes a survey of grammar, with tables for verb conjugations and noun inflections.
None of the three dictionaries mentioned so far include modern technical coinages, although Bakaev does feature some pan-Soviet vocabulary items.
• K = K. K. Kurdoev. Ferhenga Kurcif-RıIsl Kurdsko-Russkir Slovar- (Moscow : Gosudarstvennoe izd-vo inostrannykh i natsional'nykh slovare)., 1960), 890 p.
This large Kurdish-Russian dictionary purports to be the most comprehensive Kurmanji dictionary in existence. The dictionary entries are in the Latin script accompanied by a Cyrillic phonetic script in brackets (presumably for the convenience of Russian speakers), distinguishing aspirated/unaspirated consonant pairs in the bracketed phonetic script only, but differentiating guttural e'ihN from e/h/x throughout. The vague designation 10-K [iuzhno-kurdskii = Southern Kurdish] sometimes refers to the Behdinani dialects of Kurmanji, while at other times it refers to the Soraııi dialect: these are two distinct entities, and should be treated separately. Often words taken from Jaba & Justi's dictionary are given this designation. As with Bakaev, there is a grammatical section at the back that, among other things, briefly outlines the morphology of the Kurdish noun and verb. Kurdoev also wrote a good detailed grammar of Kurmanji Kurdish (K2).
• A = Musa Anter. Ferhenga Khurdî-Tirkî = Kürdçe-Türkçe Sözlük (Istanbul : Yeni Matbaa, 1967), 167 p.
This Kurdish-Turkish dictionary was compiled while the author was in prison in Istanbul. This had been the only dictionary available in Turkey until recently, even though it has long been banned. In the course of reading Kurdish texts I have occasionally come across words that were explained in this dictionary alone, such as gerxt, a silver coin in use during the Ottoman Empire. It also features much of the distinctive vocabulary of the Mardin region.
• JB3 = Joyce Blau. Kurdish-French-English Dictionary = Dictionnaire Kurde- Français- Anglais (Bruxelles : Centre pour lttude des Problemes du Monde Musulman Contemporain, 1965), xvii, 263 p.
This was an early attempt by Kaınuran Bedir Khan of the Sorbonne to compile a dictionary of literary Kurmanji, for which his student Joyce Blau has been given credit. The words which appear in it are largely taken from the Kurdish journals of the 1930s and 1940s, which endeavored to create a vocabulary to deal with modern issues.
• JB1 = Joyce Blau. Le Kurde de cAnıadiva et de Djabal Sindjar : Analyse linguistique, textes folkloriques, glossaires (Paris : C. Klincksieck, 1975), 252 p.
This work by the same person consists of a linguistic analysis, folkloristic texts with French translation, and accompanying glossaries of Southern Kurmanji material she collected in Amadiya and the Yezidi region of Jabal Sinjar, Iraqi Kurdistan, in 1967 and 1968. This book is an important contribution to the study of the Kurds and their language.
• IF[b] = D. izoli. Ferlıeng : Kurdf-Tirkl. Türkçe-Kürtçe [1st ed.] (Den Haag : Kometey Xwöndkarani Kurd le Ewrupa, [19871), 413 p.; [2. ed.] (Istanbul : Deng Yayınları, 1992), 913 P.
This is a fairly recent Kurdish-Turkish and Turkish-Kurdish dictionary, put together by a Kurd from the Dersim/Tunceli region in Turkey. What makes this dictionary unique are the words peculiar to the compiler's native region, some of which appear in print for the first time, e.g. hîlî= 'mirror (< Armenian hayeli), havl8k = 'broom' (< Armenian avel). Several of my informants in northern California are from this region, so I have independent confirmation of these latter items. The first edition was published in Europe, and was therefore not readily available in Kurdistan itself. The second edition, published in Istanbul, is a considerable improvement on the first. Many typos have been corrected, and the entries have been more carefully arranged. The editorial staff of the Kurdish newspapers Welat, Welate' Me, and Azadiya Welat have made broad use of this second edition.
Another important Soviet dictionary is:
• XF = M. U. Khamoian. Kurdsko-Russkiĭ Slovar': soderzhit okolo 8000 frazeologicheskikh stateĭ (Erevan : Izdatel'stvo AN Armianskoĭ SSR, 1979) 273 p.
This is a Kurdish-Russian phraseological dictionary, in Cyrillic script, preserving both the aspirated/unaspirated dichotomy and the gutturals e'/ħ/x. This work goes beyond what one can hope to find in standard foreign language dictionaries. It specializes in idioms and expressions, and is essential for the serious student of folk literature. There are frequent illustrative examples, mostly from orally generated texts.
Another important phraseological dictionary is:
• AId = Sadiq Baha'al-Din Amêdî. Îdyemêt Kurdî: al-muştalahât wa-al-kinâyât allughawiyah fi al-lughah al-Kurdĭyah (Baghdad: al-Sha`b, 1973), 160 p.
This dictionary of Kurdish idioms, written by an important Kurdish scholar from Behdinan in Iraqi Kurdistan, is in Kurmanji in Arabic script, with explanations in Kurmanji and in Arabic. This work is an invaluable tool in studying the Behdinani dialects of Kurmanji.
There are four dictionaries from a foreign language to Kurmanji that should be mentioned:
• F = I. O. Farizov. Ferhenga Urisî-Kurmancî = Russko-Kurdskiĭ Slovar' (Moscow : Gosudarstvennoe izd-vo inostrannykh i natsional'nykh slovareĭ , 1957), 781 p.
This is a Russian-Kurdish dictionary. It has recently been translated into Turkish as: I.O. Farîzov. Türkçe-Kürtçe Sözl ük = Ferhenga Tirkî-Kurdî, redaksiyon Timurê Xelîl Muradov, Rusça'dan çeviri ve uyarlama Mehmet Demir [2. baskıl(Ankara : Özge, 1994), 344 p.
• SC = S. Siabandov & A. Chachan. Xebernama Ermeni-K'urdî = ........... (Erevan : HayPetHrat, 1957), 352 p.
This is an Armenian-Kurdish dictionary. The Kurdish is in Cyrillic characters, preserving the aspirated and guttural distinctions.
• RZ = Reşo Zîlan. Svensk-Kurdiskt Lexikon (Nordkurdiska) = Ferhenga Swêdî-Kurdî (Kurmancî) (Stockholm : Statens Institut för Lromedel, 1989), 311 p.
A Swedish-Kurmanji dictionary in Latin script, intended to help Kurdish immigrants in Sweden to learn Swedish. There is also a Swedish-Sorani dictionary published by the same institute. Because the dictionary is intended for Kurmanji speaking Kurds from all parts of Kurdistan, the Kurdish definitions for any given Swedish word often list several different equivalents, which has the added benefit of supplying Kurdish synonyms. The dictionary includes an entire section with pictures, featuring the names of various items—in Swedish only.
• AF = Amîrxan. Ferhenga Arebt-Kurdi= rao,...11 (Vienna: Verlag Berger, 1997), 982 p.
This is an Arabic-Kurmanji dictionary. The author is presumably a Syrian Kurd.
Other recent appearances include:
• Kmc = Kurmancf: rojnameya tayberi ya Enstftuya Kurclf ya Parlse' Ii ser pirs6n zarave' kurmancf, hejmare'n 1-20 (Paris: Institut Kurde de Paris, 1999), 439 p.
Although not strictly speaking a dictionary, the Kurdish, Turkish, French, and English glossaries and the indexes of this compilation, comprising issues 1-20 of the newsletter of the Civîna Kurmarıcî (Kurmanji Language Workshop) of the Kurdish Institute of Paris, present a great many words and expressions not documented elsewhere, often accompanied by illustrations. This monumental work represents ten years of toiling by a group of linguistic experts who are a Kurdish near equivalent to the Alliance Francaise.
• AD = Amîrxan. Kurdisch Deutsch: Kurdl - Almanî (Ismanning, Germany: Max Hueber Verlag, 1992), 2 vol. [vol. 2: Deutsch Kurdish: Almanî- Kurdî]
This two-volume Kurdish-German and German-Kurdish dictionary is by the author of the Arabic-Kurmanji dictionary mentioned above.
• Şamîl Esgerov. Se' Ferheng = CA; Iiigat [=3 dictionaries]: 1) Kurdî-Azerbaycanî; 2) Azerbaycanî-Kurdî; 3) Ferhenga Misarö Ziman0 Kurdî [=Kurdish rhyming dictionary] (Bahl : Elnur-P, 1999), 640 p.
This is an Azeri [Azerbaijani Turkish[-Kurdish and Kurdish-Azeri dictionary. The Kurdish is that of the Serhedan region, i.e., the dialect of Kars, Ağrı, Soviet Armenia, Azerbaijan, and the hinterland of Urmia in extreme northwestern Iranian Kurdistan.
There are two as yet unpublished vocabularies that should be mentioned:
• MK2 = Margaret Kahn. Kurmanji-English, English-Kurmanji Lexicon (Ann Arbor : University of Michigan Press, 1974) Typescript.
This is the word list that Margaret Kahn compiled from her native informant who hails from Silvan (Ferqîn), near Diyarbakir, Kurdistan of Turkey. Considering how little linguistic work has been done on the Kurdish dialects of Turkey since the founding of the republic, this work is of paramount importance, even though it is based entirely on the speech of one informant.
• SK = B. Nikitine. §amdfrı6ni Kurdish. (ed. D. N. MacKenzie). Unpublished texts.
The glossary that accompanies Nikitine's texts are also from one informant, a native of Şemdinli, Hakkkî province, Kurdistan of Turkey. I have reason to believe that the informant was living in Iran when the texts were collected, as there are many Persian and even some suspiciously Sorani-looking items here. The (Southern) Kurmanji- English vocabulary, prepared by Professor D. N. MacKenzie, is in Latin phonetic transcription, with comparative notes for Akre and Amadiya in Iraqi Kurdistan.
Information on gender of nouns, present stems of verbs, and the like are limited—as is the vocabulary itself—to what occurs in the texts of Nikitine's informant; hence, for some nouns the gender is unclear.
I am very grateful to both Margaret Kahn and to D.N. MacKenzie for making these unpublished vocabularies available to me.
More recent dictionaries include:
• GF = Ali Seydo Ali Gewranî. Ferhenga Kurdî Nûjen : Kurdî - Erebî = al-Qāmūs al-Kurdî alhadïth : Kurdî - 'Arabi .................. (`Amman • Sharikat al Sharq al-Awsat, 1985), 670 p."
This dictionary by a Jordanian Kurd includes almost the entire vocabulary used in the important Kurdish journals Hawar and Ronahî and the newspaper Roja Nil, all of which appeared in the 1930s and 1940s. Consequently, a good deal of journalistic vocabulary is included.
• TF = Torî. Ferheng :Kurdî-Tirkî, Türkçe-Kürtçe (İstanbul : Koral, 1992), 496 p.
A Kurmanji-Turkish and Turkish-Kurmanji dictionary. Torî gives fairly detailed definitions in Turkish, which often illuminate meanings that are rather sparsely covered elsewhere. Being of recent vintage, this dictionary includes several of the most recent neologisms.
• OK = Feryad Fazil Omar. Kurdisch-Deutsches Wörterbuch = Ferhenga Kurdî-Elmanî (Berlin : Verlag fur Wissenschaft and Bildung, Kurdische Studien, 1992), 721 p.
This is the only Kurmanji dictionary to provide main entries in both Arabic and Latin script, thereby making it accessible to Kurds in Iraq and Iran as well as to those in Turkey. The gender of nouns is regularly provided, as is the ± transitivity and present stem of all verbs.
• FJ = Muhemed Cemîl Seyda. Ferhenga Jîn : Kurdî-Erebî, bi zaravê Kurmancî = ........ (Beyrut : Çapxan Emîral, 1987), 424 p.
This is a Kurmanji-Arabic dictionary, featuring the vocabulary of the Kurds of Lebanon, who are predominantly from the Omeri tribe of Mardin. The vocabulary of that region of Mardin in Kurdistan of Turkey is therefore reflected here.
Three Kurdish-English dictionaries, and one English-Kurdish dictionary, have recently appeared:
• Aziz Amindarov. Kurdish-English/English-Kurdish Dictionary (New York : Hippocrene
Books, 1994), 313 p.
• Çelebî, Ferdîdon & Danko Sipka. Kurmanji Kurdish-English Glossary (Springfield, VA. : Dunwoody Press, 2002), 408 p.
"This glossary, containing about 20,000 terms, is intended for native speakers of English. Its principal goal is to help them read Kurmanji texts." (p. vi)
• RF = Baran Rizgar. Kurdish-English English-Kurdish Dictionary = Ferheng Kurdî-Îngîlîzî Îngîlîzî-Kurdî (London : M.F. Onen, 1993), 400 p.
This is an easy-to-use English-Kurmanji dictionary.
• SS = Salah Saadalla. Saladin's English-Kurdish Dictionary = Qamılsa Selaliedfn ıngilfzf- Kurdl ([Baghdad : Dar al-Hurriyah], 1998), 1183 p. [1st ed.]; (Istanbul : Avesta ; Paris : Institut Kurde de Paris, 2000), 1477 p. [2nd ed.]
This English-Kurdish dictionary was first published in Baghdad with the Kurdish entries in Arabic script. It was then reissued by the Kurdish Institute of Paris in Latin script. One finds in it many obscure and superfluous English words, some of which are quite amusing (e.g., gressorial, invigorately, iodination, sacculation, thrasonical). Often the Sorani equivalent is given, rather than the expected Kurmanji word. This is not uncommon among Iraqi Kurmanji speakers, who seem to think that Sorani is more prestigious than their native Kurrnanji. The dictionary is largely limited to Iraqi Kurdish usage.
The term "written Kurmanji" must be clarified, for there are two different types that may be encountered. First, there is Modern Literary Kurmanji, the type of language one sees in journals and books written by and for literate Kurmanji-speaking Kurds: this includes such early twentieth- century journals and newspapers as Hawar, Roja Nû, Ronahî, the current journals 1-16v1, Ahidem, Ora, Nûbihar, Mean, Peyv, the magazine Berbang, and the newspapers Azadiya Welat and Rya T'eze, as well as literary works such as the poetry of Cegerxwîn and Osman Sebrî, and the fiction of Hesenê Metê, Helîm Yûsif, and Mehmed Uzun. This style includes many newly coined technical terms that may or may not have caught on among those few who have been fortunate enough to have achieved some smattering of literacy vis-à-vis Kurmanji. Such vocabulary, which is largely unintelligible to the masses of Kurrnanji speakers, is the basis of Mr. Rizgar's dictionary.
Second, there are collections of folklore that have been committed to writing. Kurdish has an extraordinarily rich repertoire of oral literature: there are folktales, legends, romances and epics, anecdotes, folk songs, ballads, poems, proverbs, and riddles, to name only the more salient ones. European scholars began collecting such materials in Kurdish in the middle of the nineteenth century, and in recent times the Soviet Kurdologists have been the most avid collectors and publishers of such materials. It is this latter category that accurately represents the Kurmanji language as it is spoken, and especially as it is used by active bearers of the tradition—although there is also a special vocabulary used in storytelling that is not part of everyday speech. Even though many of the storytellers are illiterate, their grasp of their mother tongue is exemplary in .many ways. Considering that at this point in time Kurmanji is primarily a spoken language, this second category must be a major focus of any comprehensive Kurmanji dictionary. Nevertheless, as long as the modern literary vocabulary is clearly distinguished in some way from this fundamental language, there is no reason why it cannot also be included. In this Kurmanji-English dictionary, I have attempted to solve this problem by marking neologisms with the abbreviation (neol).
Those who feel that it is the modern technical vocabulary that should be given the most prominence in a work such as this are, in my opinion, ahead of (or at least out of touch with) where the Kurdish people and their language are today. As mentioned above, the reality is that only a few thousand of the 18-20 million Kurds who speak Kurmanji as their mother tongue are literate in it. This is indeed a troubling situation: nonetheless, a scientifically sound work must reflect in realistic terms the state of the language as it exists today, distinguishing this clearly from where it "should" be, or where some of its speakers wish it already were. Hence, by flooding a dictionary with technical terminology that is unfamiliar to the bulk of native speakers of the language, the degree to which such a dictionary remains faithful to the reality it purports to represent is brought into question.
The Bedir Khan brothers, early twentieth-century Kurdish intellectuals to whom we owe the invention of the Latin orthography for Kurdish, were unable to brook the notion that Kurdish by its very nature exhibits multiformity and bristled at the thought that it exists in many dialects. For them, any suggestion that the Kurds are not a single, unified people was viewed as a threat. It is in this manner that linguistic inquiry runs the risk of becoming a charged political issue. In the time that I have spent studying Kurdish, I have familiarized myself with the various subdialects of both Kurmanji and Sorani, and although they offer very interesting and illuminating differences, I fail to see how these differences present a threat: even the Kurmanji dialects at the two furthest extremes of Northern Kurdistan (let us take as examples `Efrîn in northwestern Syria, and Kars in northeastern Turkey on the border with Soviet Armenia), readily possess a mutual intelligibility. In San Diego, one even hears Kurmanji speakers conversing with Sorani speakers—each speaking his own dialect and understanding the other. It is not possible to avoid encountering regional variation in the dictionary of a language as rich as Kurmanji, where the same word may assume different forms depending on the region (e.g., the word for bat [the animal, Chiroptera], which has such varied forms as: barç'imok, baçermok, balç'emk, balçermek, balçimk, balç'imk, berçem, [bāčémik] .... (JJ), perçmûk, pirçemek, and pîrçemek), where different regions may employ different words (e.g., to freeze, be cold: gefilîn, but gerım[t]în in Southern Kurmanji, and qerisîn in the Dersim/Tunceli region), or where the same word may have different meanings in different regions (e.g., gefilîn, which means 'to freeze' in most places, but 'to be tired' in the Dersim/Tunceli region). A factor that complicates matters even more is that in spite of the illiteracy of the majority of the Kurdish populace, there exist three different alphabets in which Kurdish can be written: Latin, Cyrillic, and Arabic.
It is the lexicographer's prerogative to create order out of `chaos': for example, in the case of the multiformity of a particular word such as bat, he must choose one form as primary and refer all the others to it. Moreover, he must choose one alphabet and show how the others relate to it. We are fortunate that there is a one-to-one correspondence between the three alphabets in use for Kurdish. A chart of the three alphabets in which Kurdish is written is a common feature in the dictionaries.
My goal with this dictionary is to supply as much information for each entry as possible, including both historical (diachronic) information by furnishing linguistically sound etymologies and synchronic information by providing sample sentences for each meaning of a given word, variant forms, and synonyms, as well as inflections for verbs and nouns. My source material consists of textual matter from the spheres of folklore, literature, and journalism, as well as extensive notes from my own fieldwork—all of this checked against the existing Kurdish dictionaries. In addition, bibliographic references for further study are provided whenever possible. With the information provided on regional variation, it should eventually be possible to map the geographic distribution of dialectal features. In short, the dictionary should be of use not only to Kurds and Kurdologists, but also to scholars in the fields of linguistics—including dialectology, studies of grammar, and historical Iranian and Indo-European linguistics—as well as for folklore, history, literature, and journalism.
Because current usage is so uneven, it follows that this dictionary reflects this nuance and is thus itself incomplete, and in places there are inconsistencies in orthography and punctuation. The inflected forms of nouns are included only when they have actually been attested, either in the dictionaries, or in written or oral sources. In future editions I hope the blanks will be filled in.
This project is an attempt to record the past respectfully, while looking with hope towards the future. Kurmanji is an endangered language, and its survival is ultimately up to the Kurds themselves. My motto among the Kurds is: Zimanekî wisa ku zarok pê, nepeyivin, zimanekî bê paşeroj e = A language which is not spoken by children has no future. Among the Kurds, there are many who,say that they are so numerous that the language will always be around. However, after the evacuation of the villages of Eastern Turkey [not to mention those of Northern Iraq], many Kurds have moved to large Turkish-speaking cities, where the pressure on thern to assimilate is enormous. In ten years, the number of Kurmanji speakers can fall drastically from several million to one million, and then to a few thousands, and then a few hundred, and then less than a hundred, and then? If they continue the recent trend of speaking to their children in more "prestigious" languages, be it Turkish or the languages of Europe, Kurdish will share the fate of many of the languages of the Native American Indians. For example, the last speaker of Clackamas Chinook died in the middle of the twentieth century. The last speaker of Ubykh, a Caucasian language with only two vowels (U and I) and approximately fifty-five consonants, is also dead. If the beautiful Kurdish language dies due to lack of interest on the part of its speakers, it will indeed be a pity.