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Central Kurdish

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Central Kurdish

Central Kurdish
سۆرانی، کوردیی ناوەندی
Native to Iraq, Iran
Native speakers
3.5 million in Iraq (2009)[1]
unknown number in Iran[2]
Perso-Arabic (Sorani alphabet)
Official status
Official language in
Language codes
ISO 639-3 ckb
Glottolog cent1972[4]
Linguasphere 58-AAA-cae
Geographic distribution of Kurdish and other Iranian languages spoken by Kurds

Central Kurdish (کوردیی ناوەندی; kurdîy nawendî) also called Sorani (سۆرانی; Soranî) is a group of Kurdish dialects spoken in Iraq, mainly in Iraqi Kurdistan, as well as the Kurdistan Province of western Iran. Sorani Kurdish is one of the two official languages of Iraq, along with Arabic, and is in political documents simply referred to as "Kurdish".[5][6]

The term Sorani (سۆرانی; Soranî), after the name of the former principality of Soran, is used especially to refer to a written, standardized form of Central Kurdish written in an adapted form of the Kurdo-Arabic alphabet, developed in the 1920s by Sa'íd Sidqi Kaban and Taufiq Wahby.[7] According to David Neil MacKenzie, the present Kurdish written standard is based on the Sulaymaniyah dialect, influenced phonologically by the Pîjdar and Mukriyanî dialects.


  • History 1
  • Alphabet 2
  • Demographics 3
  • Dialects 4
  • As an official language 5
  • Grammatical features 6
  • Dictionaries and translations 7
  • See also 8
  • Notes 9
  • References 10
  • External links 11


In Sulaymaniyah, the Ottoman Empire had created a secondary school (Rushdiye), the graduates from which could go to Istanbul to continue to study there. This allowed Sorani, which was spoken in Silémaní, to progressively replace Hewrami (Gorani) as the literary vehicle.

Since the fall of the Ba'athist regime in Iraq, there have been more opportunities to publish works in the Kurdish language in Iraq than in any other country in recent times.[8] As a result, Sorani Kurdish has become the dominant written form of Kurdish.[9]


Sorani Kurdish is written with a modified Perso-Arabic script; This is in contrast to the other main Kurdish dialect, Kurmanji which is spoken mainly in Turkey and is usually written in the Latin alphabet.

However, during the past decade, official TV in Iraqi Kurdistan has mainly used the Latin script for Sorani.


The exact number of Sorani speakers is difficult to determine, but it is generally thought that Sorani is spoken by about 6 to 7 million people in Iraq and Iran.[10][11] It is the most widespread speech of Kurds in Iran and Iraq. In particular, it is spoken by:


Following includes the traditional internal variants of Sorani. However, nowadays, due to widespread media and communications, most of them are regarded as dialects of standard Sorani:

  • Mukriyani; The language spoken south of Lake Urmia with Mahabad as its center, including the cities of Piranshahr, Bokan, Sardasht, Oshnavieh and the Kurdish speaking parts of Naghadeh and Miandoab. This region is traditionally known as Mukriyan.
  • Ardalani, spoken in the cities of Sanandaj, Marivan, Kamyaran, Divandarreh and Dehgolan in Kordestan province and the Kurdish speaking parts of Tekab and Shahindej in West Azerbaijan province. This region is known as Ardalan.
  • Garmiani, in and around Kirkuk
  • Hawleri, spoken in and around the city of Hawler (Arbil) in Iraqi Kurdistan. Its main distinction is changing the consonant /l/ into /r/ in many words.
  • Babani, spoken in and around the city of Sulaymaniya in Iraq and the cities of Saghez and Baneh in Iran.
  • Jafi, spoken in the towns of Javanroud, Ravansar and some villages around Sarpole Zahab and Paveh.

As an official language

A recent proposal was made for Sorani to be the official language of the Kurdistan Regional Government. This idea has been favoured by some Sorani-speaking Kurds but it has disappointed Kurmanjis.[12]

Grammatical features

There are no pronouns to distinguish between masculine and feminine and no verb inflection to signal gender.[13]

Dictionaries and translations

There are a substantial number of Sorani dictionaries available, amongst which there are many that seek to be bilingual.

English and Sorani

  • English–Kurdish Dictionary by Dr. Selma Abdullah and Dr. Khurhseed Alam
  • Raman English-Kurdish Dictionary by Destey Ferheng

As a main program, Iranian Kurdish-speaker scholar, Hamid Hassani, is supposed to compile a Sorani Kurdish Corpus, consisting of one million words.

The standard word order in Sorani is SOV (subject–object–verb).[14]

See also


  1. ^ Central Kurdish at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Ethnologue reports an undated figure of 3¼ million for Iran. However, that figure covers both Central and Southern Kurdish. Kurdi at Ethnologue (10th ed., 1984). Note: Data may come from the 9th edition (1978).
  3. ^ "Full Text of Iraqi Constitution". Washington Post. 12 October 2005. Retrieved 12 June 2013. 
  4. ^ Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Central Kurdish".  
  5. ^ Allison, Christine. The Yezidi oral tradition in Iraqi Kurdistan. 2001. "However, it was the southern dialect of Kurdish, Sorani, the majority language of the Iraqi Kurds, which received sanction as an official language of Iraq."
  6. ^ Kurdish language issue and a divisive approach.
  7. ^ Joyce Blau, Methode de Kurde: Sorani, Editions L'Harmattan (2000), p. 20
  8. ^ "Iraqi Kurds". Retrieved 2012-07-15. 
  9. ^ "Language background of major refugee groups to the UK - Refugee Council". Retrieved 2012-07-15. 
  10. ^ "Kurdistan Democratic Party-Iraq". Retrieved 2012-07-15. 
  11. ^ SIL Ethnologue (2013) under "Central Kurdish" gives a 2009 estimate of 3.5 million speakers in Iraq and an undated estimate of 3.25 speakers in Iran.
  12. ^ "Kurdish language issue and a divisive approach | Kurdish Academy of Language". Retrieved 2012-07-15. 
  13. ^ Kurdish Sorani language developmental features
  14. ^ Soranî Kurdish, A Reference Grammar with Selected Readings, by W. M. Thackston


  • Hassanpour, Dr. A. (1992). Nationalism and Language in Kurdistan 1918–1985. USA: Mellen Research University Press. 
  • Nebez, Jemal (1976). Toward a Unified Kurdish Language. NUKSE. 
  • Izady, Mehrdad (1992). The Kurds: A Concise Handbook. Washington, D.C.: Taylor & Francis. 

External links

  • The New Testament in Soranî
  • The Kurdish Academy of Language (unofficial)
  • Working with Sorani Speaking Patients NHS (UK) Guide
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