Neha Patil (Editor)

Central Kurdish

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Native to  Iraq, Iran
Official language in  Iraq
Writing system  Soriani alphabet
Central Kurdish
Native speakers  6 million in Iraq (2012) 3 million in Iran
Language family  Indo-European Indo-Iranian Iranian Western Northwestern Kurdish Central Kurdish
Dialects  Mukriyani Hewleri Ardalani Gerrusi Babani Wermawi Germiyani Jafi

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


The term Sorani, named after the former Soran Emirate, is used especially to refer to a written, standardized form of Central Kurdish written in the Sorani alphabet developed from the Persian alphabet in the 1920s by Sa'íd Sidqi Kaban and Taufiq Wahby.


In Sulaymaniyah (Silêmanî), the Ottoman Empire had created a secondary school, the Rushdiye, graduates from which could go to Istanbul to continue to study there. This allowed Central Kurdish, which was spoken in Silêmanî, to progressively replace Hawrami dialects as the literary vehicle for Kurdish.

Since the fall of the Arab Socialist Ba'ath Party – Iraq Region, there have been more opportunities to publish works in the Kurdish languages in Iraq than in any other country in recent times. As a result, Central Kurdish has become the dominant written form of Kurdish.


Central Kurdish is written with a modified Persian alphabet. This is in contrast to the other main Kurdish language, Northern Kurdish (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 Central Kurdish.


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

  • Around 3 million Kurds in Iranian Kurdistan. Located south of Lake Urmia that stretches roughly to the outside of Kermanshah.
  • Around 3 million Kurds in Iraqi Kurdistan, including the Soriani tribe. Most of the Kurds who use it are found in the vicinity of Hewlêr (Erbil), Sulaymaniyah (Silêmanî), Kirkuk and Diyala Governorate.
  • Subdialects

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

  • Mukriyani; The language spoken south of Lake Urmia with Mahabad as its center, including the cities of Piranshahr and the Kurdish speaking part of Naghadeh. 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
  • Hawlari, spoken in and around the city of Hawler (Erbil) in Iraqi Kurdistan and Oshnavieh. 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, Baneh, Bokan and Sardasht 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 Central Kurdish to be the official language of the Kurdistan Regional Government. This idea has been favoured by some Central Kurdish-speakers but has disappointed Northern Kurdish speakers.


    Sorani Kurdish has a rich consonant inventory and a fairly rich vowel inventory as well. This section makes use of the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA).


    The following table contains the vowels of Sorani Kurdish. Vowels in parentheses are not phonemic, but have been included in the table below because of their ubiquity in the language. Letters in the Sorani alphabet take various forms depending on where they occur in the word. Forms given below are letters in isolation.

    Some Vowel Alternations and Notes

    The vowel [æ] is sometimes pronounced as [ə] (the sound found in the first syllable of the English word "above"). This sound change takes place when [æ] directly precedes [w] or when it is followed by the sound [j] (like English "y") in the same syllable. If it, instead, precedes [j] in a context where [j] is a part of another syllable it is pronounced [ɛ] (as in English "bet").

    The vowels [o] and [e], both of which have slight off-glides in English, do not possess these off-glides in Sorani.


    Letters in the Sorani alphabet take various forms depending on where they occur in the word. Forms given below are letters in isolation.


    Nouns in Sorani Kurdish may appear in three general forms. The Absolute State, Indefinite State, and Definite State.

    Absolute State

    A noun in the absolute state occurs without any suffix, as it would occur in a vocabulary list or dictionary entry. Absolute state nouns receive a generic interpretation.

    Indefinite State

    Indefinite nouns receive an interpretation like English nouns preceded by a, an, some, or any.

    Several modifiers may only modify nouns in the indefinite state. This list of modifiers includes:

  • chand [ʧand] "a few"
  • hamu [hamu] "every"
  • chî [ʧi] "what"
  • har [haɾ] "each"
  • ...i zor [ɪ zoɾ] "many"
  • Nouns in the indefinite state take the following endings:

    Definite State

    Definite nouns receive an interpretation like English nouns preceded by the.

    Nouns in the definite state take the following endings:

    When a noun stem ending with [i] is combined with the definite state suffix the result is pronounced [eka] ( i + aka → eka)


    here are no pronouns to distinguish between masculine and feminine and no verb inflection to signal gender.

    Dictionaries and translations

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

    English and Soriani

  • 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 Soriani Kurdish Corpus, consisting of one million words.

    The standard word order in Soriani is SOV (subject–object–verb).


    Central Kurdish Wikipedia

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