W. M. Thackston
PREFACE: Kurdish belongs to the Western Iranian group of the Indo-Iranian branch of the Indo-European family. The two principal branches of modern literary Kurdish are (1) Kurmanji, the language of the vast majority of Kurds in Turkey, Syria, Armenia, and Azerbaijan, the area designated by Kurdish nationalists as “North Kurdistan,” with an estimated fifteen to seventeen million speakers, and (2) Sorani, the language of most Kurds in Iraq (four to six million speakers) and Iran (five to six million speakers), the area designated as “South Kurdistan.” Although the two are closely related, Kurmanji and Sorani are not mutually intelligible and differ at the basic structural level as well as in vocabulary and idiom. Since Kurdish is fairly closely related to and has been massively influenced by Persian, the dominant literary and cultural language of the area for the last millennium, Kurdish is best approached with a basic knowledge of Persian.
While Kurmanji is still far from being a unified, normalized, or standardized language, Sorani has been the second official language of Iraq since the creation of that country after World War I and has many decades of literary activity behind it. In Iran, Kurdish has never been accorded official status, but in Iranian Kurdistan there has been noteworthy publication in Kurdish, particularly after the Iranian revolution. The area in which Sorani is spoken in Iran is more or less the region designated as Kurdistan. Outside of that area, south to Kermanshah and east as far as Bijar, the language is known as Gorani, or South Sorani, which is a Mischsprache that is basically Persian in structure but Kurdish in vocabulary.
The readings, chosen to give samples of a broad range of prose writing ranging from fairy tales to the internet, are provided with running glosses beneath the texts, and the glosses in the readings are also contained in the Kurdish–English vocabulary at the end of the book. Words considered to be absolutely basic vocabulary are not glossed in the notes, since it is assumed that these words either are known already or will be actively acquired by looking them up in the vocabulary in the back. Generally words are not glossed more than once in the notes because any word encountered a second time should be learned actively. Words are glossed after the first instance only if they are considered rare enough to warrant being ignored for acquisition. Because Sorani Kurdish dictionaries are not easily obtainable, I have made the vocabulary as large as possible. It contains around 4,000 words, which represent a basic working vocabulary for the language.
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