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Kurdish Development of Old Iranian "hv-"

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zimanzan's picture
Joined: 16 Sep 2008

One of the most crucial issues in case of Iranian languages is doubtlessly the development of Old Iranian "hv-". Maybe the base of McKenzie's claim to consider Kurds as "Southeastern Iranian people by origin", was inspired by the apparent resemblance between Kirmanjí Kurdish and Middle Persian developments: "xw-". On the other hand this development, "xw-", is the main divergence between Kirmanjí and the other Kurdish speech, namely Pehlewaní, which represents "w-".

Regarding to the large extent of the basic and exclusive similarities between Kirmanjí and Pehlewaní, this evident divergence was really questionable. The Kirmanjí development is the same as Persian one, whilst the Pehlewaní development reminds Parthian "wx-". Hence some may argue neither of them are true Proto-Kurdish developments! If so, then what should be the genuine Kurdish development for Old Iranian "hv-"?

The first thing that drew my attraction was Northern Zaza word for "self": xwi, xo, xú, ho. These are obviously contrary to the Zaza mainstream, which is well represented in Hewramí "wé". Someone may initially speculate "ho" as a direct form of ancient "hve". But what for Zaza should show such a development while its mainstream is something else? Then it could be just a later form of "xo" which itself is an exceptional Kirmanjí loan! But my hesitation to access to mind strengthened when I got Goraní varieties such as "yo" ( "h" in those Goraní dialects, if someone would probably be going to consider it as a Soraní loan with a later entire change of "x" > "h". Therefore I believed that we have certainly an original "ho" for ancient "hve". From that time on I just recollect all similar examples as well as I tried to observe the Kurdish words more meticulously.

So these were the familiar examples: Zaza "hewn" ~ Zaza verbal form "witen", and subdialectal Hewramí "hún" ~ common Hewramí "winí". They were pretty interesting. But what that really thrilled me were the examples that I recalled from subdialectal Southern Kirmanjí:

Southern Kirm. : Common Kirm. : Origin.

heftin : xeftin : hvefne

hwerdin : xwerdin : hverte

hwar : xwar : hvare*

These examples further received the back-up from Goraní "húr" ~ "sun" (

hek (North.) : sister; contrary to "xweh", "xweyshk", "xweng"; re-constructible as ancient "heveh-eke" > also Central Iranian "fak", Semnaní "xwak", Sangsari "xak" ~ "sister".

ho (Cent. and North. in "hogir"): abstinent; contrary to the expression "xwe girtin" ~ "self refrain"; comparable with official Persian "xodgír" ~ "abstinent".

Also Northern Kirmanjí "huwín"/"hín"/"hin" (mainly with auxiliary verb "kirin") ~ "to teach", "to give lesson" should be most likely the present stem for an earlier form "hwendin" ~ "to read", just like common Kirmanjí "wane" ~ "lesson" which is derived from the present stem of the Goraní verb "wandin" / "wan-" ~ "to read".

According to the above, the genuine Kurdish development for Old Iranian "hv-" is "h(w)-" which later under the influence of Persian and the inherent tendency to change "h" to "x", becomes "xw-" in Kirmanjí Kurdish; while Pehlewaní receives a huge Parthian influence thus we find ancient "hv" mostly as "w-" and occasionally as "h(w)-". But as I depicted above surprisingly we can still figure this original development, hv- > h(w), which is no longer splitting Kurdish speeches into two groups, but induces them to converge in a common spot and reveals another aspect of the Proto-Kurdish language.

By the way, it also tells on a larger field. That's to say, to individuate "hw-" as the original Kurdish development for ancient "hv-" just matches with the bulk of the other Northwestern Iranian languages. In Talyshi we have two major developments for ancient "hv-": Northern "h-" and Southern "x-". And interestingly we know that Southern Talyshi speakers are largely influences by Gilaki in terms of changing "h" > "x" as well as inability to pronounce "jh". So we got these examples within Talyshi territory:

Northern : Southern : Comment

ahíste : axiste : slow; Persian "ahésté"

hor : xor : cloud; Kurdish "hewr" < ancient "ewre"

hété : xété : to sleep; ancient "hevfne"

hérdé : xérdé : to eat; ancient "hevrte"

So obviously Northern Talyshi shows the genuine Talyshi development for ancient "hv-": "h-".

Therefore sporadic varieties from Semnani, Sangsari, and Mazandarani could tell on the same thing too: "hahér" ~ "xaxir" ~ "sister"; "Hoda" ~ "Xoda" ~ "God".

So I may draw this in connection with Northwestern Iranian languages:

Kirmanjí Kurdish: "xw"/"hw"

Pehlewaní Kurdish: "w"/"hw"

Talyshi: "h"/"x"

Mazandarani: "x"/"h"

Semnani: "x"/"h"

Gilaki: "x"

Central Iranian: "f"

Baluchi: "w"

They mostly agree with "x(w)" but contain "h(w)" at the same time. Therefore the prevailing Northwestern for ancient "hv-" is evidently "h(w)-" which, regarding to the inherent tendencies to h > x as well as Middle Persian influence, change it to "x(w)". So we can doubtlessly consider Pehlewaní and Baluchi "w" as an expectable Parthian influence, but Central Iranian "f" remains obscure. That's to say, yet we cannot confirm whether "hw-" is the genuine Mede development or "f".

Also Scythian Khotanese almost represents the same characteristic by retaining the Old Iranian "hv-" as either "h-" or "hv-".

I have figured these examples in Kurdish (both Kirmanjí and Pehlewaní groups) so far:

Kur. : Common Kur. : Mid.Pers. / Parth. : Ancient

ho : xwe; wé : xwed/wxed : hve (self)

hwar : xwar; war : xwar/wxar : hvare* (down; abject)

hún : winí; gún; xún : xún/gúxen : vohune (blood)

hwerd : xwerd; werd : xwerd/wxerd : hverte (eat)

hewn : xewn : xwemn/wxemn : hvefne (dream)

heft : xeft; wet : xoft/wxeft* : hvefne (sleep)

hek : xweh; wa(lé) : xwaher/wxar : hveh-eke (sister)

húr : wer; xwer : xwer/wxer : hvere (sun)

huwín : xwín; wan : xwan/wxan : hvane (read)

The Middle Persian and Parthian influences are obviously discernable.

Hence I speculate that due to the non-Kurdish origin of either of "xw-" and "w-", all Kirmanji and Pehlewaní (Zaza-Goraní) words that represent the genuine Kurdish development for anicnet "hv-", namely "h(w)-", must be regarded as the preferable option.

Blessed Are The Meek

Hesen's picture
Joined: 21 Aug 2008
Maybe Zazaki /w/ is only an

Maybe Zazaki /w/ is only an accident. Zazaki tends to lose the /h/-louds, some examples:

Archaic Zazaki: hamnan < hamín (summer)
Modern Zazaki: amnan

Archaic Zazaki: hembaz (friend)
Modern Zazaki: embaz

Archaic Zazaki: -herz- (to throw, in relation with Kirmanjí "hel", Avesta: herez-)
Modern Zazaki: -erz-

I also think, that "xo" is a Kirmanjí influence. But in "hewn" we can see a relict of an archaic structure. I think, in Proto-Zazaki it was using "hw" like in Proto-Kirmanjí, then the /h/-loud went later.

And if you pronounce "hwerd", you can hear, that it sounds almost like "werd". According to Xosere from Wikipedia there are in Bingol dialect still exist dialects, they use "hw" in some cases.

We can see "hw" as a common Kurdish loud, as a bridge between Kirmanjí and Pehlewaní. And in my opinion, in a future Standard Kurdish we should take "hw", this "x" is only Southwestern influence.