A Literature Across Frontiers post announces:

KurdîLit website is now online!

The English version of the website provides a mission statement:

KurdîLit is a website that aims to bring together and digitally archive basic information regarding actors (writers, translators, publishers, and periodic literary publications) operating in the field of Kurdish literature and publishing. The efforts to make this basic information accessible in three languages aim to establish more solid networks of communication between Kurdish literature producers in Turkey and actors operating in the international literary arena. KurdîLit was planned as a result of collaborations that emerged from conversations on the field of Kurdish literature among Diyarbakır Arts Center, Lîs Editions, and Literature Across Frontiers. This project undertakes to catalog current information and knowledge about Kurdish literature, which stands at a critical juncture of debates over cultural rights and freedom of expression in Turkey. In so doing, KurdîLit aims to improve the visibility of contemporary literature in the Kurmanjî and Kurmanjkî dialects of Kurdish, not only in Turkey but also in the wider region and the international arena; and it aims to foster relationships between contemporary Kurdish literature and European languages and literatures.

The Kurds have had a rough century or so, and I hope this initiative brings wider awareness of their culture and languages. Thanks, Trevor!


  1. For those LH readers who are interested in dipping their toe (or diving all the way) into the Kurdish languages, there are some good free resources for Kurmanji and Sorani. At the Harvard Iranian studies website, you can download PDF’s of two wonderful learning grammars, Sorani Kurdish: A Reference Grammar with Selected Readings and Kurmanji Kurdish: A Reference Grammar with Selected Readings by Wheeler M. Thackston, professor emeritus of Near Eastern languages at Harvard. Here is the link:


    For spoken Kurmanji, there is a remarkable series of 60 15-minute videos on YouTube for learning Kurmanji, Dersa Kurdî, using an immersive communicative method:


    Some of these video lessons, like number 16, are even quite amusing and fun if you have mastered the grammar being discussed in the lesson.

    If you work through Prof. Thackston’s Kurmanji grammar and then begin watching this video along with doing the readings in the grammar, together they will constitute a very good introduction to Kurmanji. In particular, the excerpts that Prof. Thackston offers from the works of the writer Qadrîcan from the city of Dêrik have a great deal of charm and literary merit.

    I don’t know, unfortunately, of any similarly accessible and excellent resources for learning the other Kurdish languages, such as Zazaki. (Zazaki is the language that the KurdîLit website calls Kurmanjkî—and indeed Kurmanji and Zazaki are not dialects of one language, but two completely different languages, as distinct as Portuguese and Spanish. I live in a household with one speaker of Kurmanji and one speaker of Zazaki, and I observe the mutual incomprehensibility of these languages every day.)

  2. Thanks very much for that! I have Thackston’s Introduction to Persian, which is an excellent book.

  3. Xerîb’s first link is dead: archived version, currently working site.

  4. Incidentally, I looked up P. Oktor Skjærvø, author of four of the linked texts, and learned:

    Born in Steinkjer, Norway, Skjærvø is a hyperpolyglot, familiar with historical and living languages including Old Norse, Norwegian, English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Russian, Latin, Larestani, Kumzari, Bashkardi, Pashto, Yidgha, Yaghnobi, Munji, Old Khotanese, Avestan, Old Persian, Pahlavi, Manichean Middle Persian, Parthian, Sogdian, Khotanese, New Persian, Ossetic, Kurdish, Tokharian, Vedic, and Classical Sanskrit.

    (Prods and Oktor are both weird-looking names.)

  5. I note that he doesn’t know Welsh, so what good is all his hyperpolyglottery?

  6. Hyperpolyfamiliarglot. Or does he speak Vedic, Tocharian, etc.?
    Khotanese and Old Khotanese?

  7. David Eddyshaw says

    I note that he doesn’t know Welsh

    A mere oligoglot.

  8. David Eddyshaw says

    I see that Thackston was Professor of the Practice of Persian.

  9. David Marjanović says

    Prods and Oktor are both weird-looking names.

    Yes, but I must say Wheeler M. Thackston reminds me of Blockhead J. Minolta, “who” once sent me some spam.

  10. I recall Oktor telling me that his name reflects a name of Thor in Gylfaginning:

    Þórr á hafra tvá er svá heita: Tanngnjóstr ok Tanngrisnir; ok reið þá er hann ekr, en hafrarnir draga reiðna. Því er hann kallaðr Ǫkuþórr.

    Thor has two he-goats, that are called Tooth-Gnasher and Tooth-Gritter, and a chariot wherein he drives, and the he-goats draw the chariot; therefore is he called Ǫkuþórr.

    From aka ‘to drive’, ekr ‘he drives’, etc. With Norwegian o as often corresponding to Old Norse ǫ, as in Nynorsk nos ‘nose’ corresponding to Old Norse nǫs (Modern Icelandic nös).

  11. J.W. Brewer says

    “Wheeler Thackston” is one of those perfectly-symmetric old-WASP names: by “perfectly-symmetric” I mean that “Thackston Wheeler” would be exactly as plausible a name ex ante.* Whereas “Minolta Blockhead” doesn’t seem so plausible.

    *The locus classicus in my mind is the fellow (born 1881) named either “Burnside Winslow” or “Winslow Burnside.” Although I’ve used him as an example of the phenomenon for decades, I remain unable to commit to memory which order of the names he actually possessed, so each time I want to use the example I need to google it.

  12. David Marjanović says

    those perfectly-symmetric old-WASP names

    Tucker Swanson McNear Carlson. And likewise his brother.

  13. David Eddyshaw says

    But surely Carlson is a Man of the People®?

    It is, however, almost as much a joy that there are Americans called Tucker as that there are Americans called Randy.

  14. David Eddyshaw says

    (I am disappointed to discover that “Tipper” Gore is merely a nickname, which doesn’t count.)

    Just discovered, extremely late in the day, that the altogether good and deserving Tucker Childs is no more:


    He appears to have been George Tucker Childs really. Another thing I didn’t know about him.

  15. David Marjanović says

    “Tipper” Gore is merely a nickname

    Wow, that is disappointing!

    There’s always Gates McFadden (not young enough to be named after Bill Gates).

  16. Cheryl Gates McFadden was born on March 2, 1949 in Akron, Ohio to Veronica Gates and William McFadden

  17. Stu Clayton says

    My grandmother on my mother’s side was Jewel McFatridge, wife of Rev. Forrest Vernon McFatridge.

  18. J.W. Brewer says

    “Carlson” is a suspiciously ETHNIC-sounding name, not in the least bit WASPy — although it is apparently one acquired by his father via adoption. (Scandivanian-Americans may have seemed comparatively respectable as immigrants go, what with being Protestant and all, but normal WASPs didn’t believe in any sort of weirdo Pan-Aryanism or Pan-Teutonism.)

    Indeed, wikipedia’s list of notable persons surnamed Carlson includes only one apparent denizen of the UK, namely the “model and actress,” Veronica Carlson, who appeared in various “Hammer Horror” films. And that turns out to be a stage name for the former Miss Veronica Glazier, perhaps to avoid scandal for her respectable parents.

  19. David Eddyshaw says

    My mother’s family all run to family-names-as-second-given-names. They would all sound pretty American if they actually went by those names. (I believe my late aunt’s name commemorated our most glorious relative, who was actually a Moderator of the Church of Scotland. It doesn’t come any eminenter than that.)

    “Carlson” is a suspiciously ETHNIC-sounding name

    The highly enjoyable French cop-show/soap-opera Engrenages features a sexy and highly unscrupulous young lawyer called Joséphine Karlsson. I presume that the script writers liked the vibe of the raffish surname.

  20. There is only one Karlsson (Карлсон).

  21. J.W. Brewer says

    Surely there’s more prestige in rarefied circles, if less worldly glory, in being Moderator of the Wee Frees, or being kin to the same? I am reviewing wikipedia’s list of the post-1900 moderators of that rigorous sect, and while the surnames seem to generally be normal-albeit-markedly-Scottish ones, a surprisingly high percentage of the total bear the given name(s) “Murdo” or “Murdoch.” Either that’s a significantly more common name in Scotland in general than I might have supposed, or it has some sort of specific factional valence, or it’s a peculiar coincidence. (None have to date borne the surname McMurdo, FWIW.)

  22. i have a Justus Emery in my goyish lineage, who i think fits in the related set of symmetric WASP names that are equally implausible in either order. i’m not sure whether the situation would improve if we accept the variation that gives his personal name as Justice.

  23. As J.W. Brewer said last year:

    The English name Emery/Emory is usually said, like the German name Emmerich, to ultimately descend from the good old Visigothic name Amal[a]ric, with French Amaury probably having something to do causally with why the English name lacks a final consonant. One would not particularly expect an American bearer of the name (as either given name or surname) to be a post-Anglicization German-American. Some of the more westerly parts of Maryland had lots of ethnic-Germans coming down from Pennsylvania among their founding colonial population, but Bishop Emory was from the Eastern Shore.

  24. David Eddyshaw says

    Either that’s a significantly more common name in Scotland in general than I might have supposed

    It’s pretty common; e.g.


    As for my own family, we are (of course) entirely free of base sectarianism and welcoming to all strands of fifteen-point Calvinism.

  25. “Any doctrine you want, as long as it’s black.”

  26. David Eddyshaw says

    We got both kinds, we got Country and Western!


    That ain’t no Hank Williams song!

  27. Murdos are defined as Scottish mountains over 3,000 feet (914.4 m) in height, above the general threshold to be called a “mountain” in the British Isles, and with a prominence over 30 metres (98 ft) …

    British Isles cartographer Alan Dawson, first compiled the list of Murdos in 1995 to provide an objective and quantitative alternative to the more qualitative Scottish Mountaineering Club (“SMC”) definition of a Munro.

    ‘Munro’ I’d heard of; ‘Murdo’ in that sense not.

    To New Zealanders, the most familiar would be Antarctica’s McMurdo Station etc

  28. PlasticPaddy says

    May I suggest
    Deco = a mountain (esp. in the North of England) people like to take a look at
    Anto = a smaller mountain located near a Deco

  29. J.W. Brewer says

    To be clear, I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone surnamed McMurdo and might be unaware of the surname but for its significance as an Antarctic toponym. One of my uncles spent some time at McMurdo Station during his career in the U.S. Navy. I was probably six or seven years old at the time and it may have prompted me to look more closely at the Antarctica map in the atlas than was typical for the age. There’s a McMurdo crater on Mars, but it’s apparently named most immediately for the Antarctic research station rather than for the Royal Navy officer whose name indirectly was bestowed on that station.

  30. The Church of Scotland has never been the Wee Frees; it is the thing the Wee Frees were Free of.

    The Wee Frees were the Free Church of Scotland, which is no longer Wee, comparatively speaking.

  31. David Eddyshaw says

    Indeed not: that was JWB’s point. However, I repudiate such illusory “freedom.” So sunja frijans izwis briggiþ*, as we used to say in the Good Old Days.

    * Broad Scots. ‘Course, we wiz Arians then. But we got better.

  32. John McMurdo is a central character in the Sherlock Holmes novel The Valley of Fear.

    Now that I think of it, it would make an excellent name for a murderer.

  33. That ain’t no Hank Williams song!
    Thanks for bringing back those memories. That was a cult movie in my youth and my friends and me were able to recite large parts of the dialogue by heart back then.

  34. Jen in Edinburgh says

    I thought that the Frees were just Free, and the Wee Frees were the Free Presbyterian Church, or possibly various other local spinoffs too elite to speak even to the Free Church.

    Murdoch in particular does conjure up an image of a solemn grey-faced elder. But I think it’s one of the names – like Archibald – which was much more common among the generation which has just died out.

    Is McFatridge just son of Patrick?

  35. PlasticPaddy says

    Not Patrick but Petrus acc. to Rev Woulfe…

  36. David Eddyshaw says

    I thought that the Frees were just Free, and the Wee Frees were the Free Presbyterian Church, or possibly various other local spinoffs too elite to speak even to the Free Church.

    It’s all very simple:


    (The diagram is, admittedly, somewhat simplified: it omits, for example, Oor Wulfie’s Arians.)

  37. That is an awe-inspiring diagram — I’m even more impressed with the Scots. Whisky *and* denominations!

  38. J.W. Brewer says

    Things are simpler in Wales, where the “Presbyterian Church” (Eglwys Bresbyteraidd) is simultaneously known as the “Calvinistic Methodist Church” (Eglwys Fethodistaidd Galfinaidd). Which is only confusing to the non-Welsh, as no doubt it is intended to be.

  39. Jen in Edinburgh says

    I was surprised when I went to Wales to walk past a chapel and find that it belonged to the Welsh Presbyterian Church – I’m all for people being Presbyterian, of course, but I thought that ‘chapel’ meant Methodist.

    I do think that splitting your church in 2000 shows dedication. In the 19th century it just seems to have been a popular pastime.

  40. David Eddyshaw says

    “Calvinistic Methodist” is the original name. “Presbyterian Church in Wales” was adopted in 1928, presumably to avoid confusion with those there Wesleyans and their errors.

    The “Calvinistic Methodists” originated in Wales, starting out like the Wesleyans as a movement within Anglicanism: the term “Methodist” was a catch-all abusive exonym* for groups within the church which displayed an unEnglish tendency to take things much too seriously, later reclaimed by the movements themselves. “Methodist” was thus originally a pretty vague term with no specific implications for doctrine or church governance. (Bear in mind that even the Church of England had Presbyterian church governance from 1646 to 1660.)

    The Welsh Methodists worked with the Wesley gang initially, but separated over Wesley’s uncompromising Arminianism.

    *Neidwyr (“Jumpers”) was another for the Welsh Revivalists at one time. Should have kept that one. I mean, it worked for the Quakers …

    I thought that ‘chapel’ meant Methodist

    No, just “Nonconformist.”

  41. I didn’t look up The Disruption. I like to keep the mystery.
    A good band name tho. Or a rapper. Or a wrestler.

  42. that was JWB’s point Aha I see yes. I can no longer remember what I thought his point was.

    Then there’s the Stanislavski Methodist Church, where the minister thinks he’s God.

  43. David Eddyshaw says

    There’s also the Rhythm Methodist Church, which looks set to Replace us all Demographically.

  44. Jen in Edinburgh says

    Oh, I see. I’m not used to being nonconfirmist!

    I have just discovered that the Church of England had a Great Ejection, which is so much better than a mere Disruption that I’m jealous.

  45. J.W. Brewer says

    The Great Ejection is in fact one of the pieces of evidence tending to contradict David E.’s assertion that the Church of England ever has a presbyterian polity and tending to instead support the rival theory that the “true” C of E was forcibly suppressed by the military dictatorship of the day for a decade-plus until returning from exile and/or emerging from the catacombs at the Restoration.

    In the U.S. our Methodists and our Presbyterians have traditionally distinguished themselves from each other to avoid confusing third parties although there are the Cumberland Presbyterians (largely localized in certain parts of the inland South) who split off from mainstream Presbyterians in the early 19th century precisely because they came to disbelieve in certain parts of the Westminster Standards and instead tended in a more Arminian direction. (Obviously they could have just waited 100-150 years for mainstream U.S. Presbyterians to come to disbelieve ditto, but they were in a hurry.) Originally they only objected to specific provisions and tried to explain their alternative views on the specific issues, but as the 19th century progressed they came to believe that “it was impossible to eliminate all the features of hyper-Calvinism from the Westminster Confession of Faith by simply expunging words, phrases, sentences, or even sections, and then attempting to fill the vacancies thus made by corrected statements or other declarations, for the objectionable doctrine, with its logical sequences, pervaded the whole system of theology formulated in that book.”

  46. David Eddyshaw says

    the “true” C of E was forcibly suppressed by the military dictatorship of the day

    I presume that your position is that the thousands of clergy expelled from the Church of England after 1662 had in fact been Trotskyite infiltrators all along?

    Evidently there were no Puritans in the Church of England prior to its total suppression by the military dictatorship in 1646.

    I suppose that if you hold that a church is automatically illegitimate without bishops in due apostolic succession, the conclusion follows without further ado, however: no further evidence is required. No bishops = legitimate church suppressed. Even if the change came from within the church in question itself.

  47. J.W. Brewer says

    I believe the Trotskyite term would have been “entryists”? The Puritan faction within the C of E prior to 1646 had largely conformed, however grudgingly, to that ecclesial body’s doctrine, discipline, and worship. Those ejected in 1662 were those who declined the opportunity to do the same going forward; some overt Puritans (by pre-1646 standards) opted to conform and were consequently not ejected. And obviously the line was fuzzy – the first post-Restoration Archbishop of York was the Most Rev’d Accepted Frewen, who had a brother with the given name Thankful, both suggesting parents of rather factional onomastic preferences.

    The more important “tell” accompanying the Ejectment was the position that pretty much no new clergy had been properly ordained during the Interregnum-etc. years, such that all younger clergy who wished to serve as such going forward had to submit their heads to the hands of a proper bishop for proper ordination.* Whatever you might wish to call the ecclesial body that was dominant above-ground in England and Wales during the interim, there is some difficulty in claiming it to have been the Church if it proved itself unable in practice to replicate itself by ordaining new clergy whose ordinations were recognized as valid by the Church.

    *I think such clergy as submitted to this process were allowed, if they wished, to express the opinion that it had been theologically unnecessary, that they had already been properly ordained in some relevant ontological sense, and that the requirement had been submitted to solely in the interests of compromise and social peace etc. At least if they did not express such opinions with undue stridency.

  48. David Eddyshaw says

    Still, this is all pretty peripheral to my actual point, which was that Church governance and theological doctrine do not always neatly align.

    Personally, I am rather fond of the Church of England, from my position as a somewhat bemused outsider. They (like the English) have a positive genius for having things both ways at once. This need not always be a bad thing …

  49. J.W. Brewer says

    The extent to which particular contested questions of church governance have Right Answers that are theologically mandated versus being adiaphora sorts of things to be resolved on pragmatic grounds in view of the particular circumstances of the time and place is of course itself a contested theological question, or sort of meta-question. Turtles all the way down, etc.

    The Interregnum and its effects on various English institutions presents a particular case of a broader question of how you deal with various sorts of cusps and violent breaks in ordinary historical continuity. To take an American example, was some de facto public official who was elected let’s say Governor of Arkansas under irregular auspices after Arkansas had already purported to secede and whose position was never regularized after the region was returned to the control of the constitutional federal government *really* Governor of Arkansas or not?* Depends on what you mean by the question, I suppose. And one can, on pragmatic grounds, accept rather than ignore the practical consequences of various administrative decisions he made while in de facto power while denying that his power was legitimate.

    *There’s apparently a conventional numbering of the Governors of Arkansas that would need to be re-worked if you excluded that guy (or else you’d just have an asterisk saying that #6 was directly succeeded by #8 due to the tumult of the times). That conventional numbering may have been fixed at a time when the Lost Cause faction of Confederate nostalgists was in control of convention-formation.

  50. David Eddyshaw says

    The current Emperor of Japan descends from an imperial line who were officially declared (in 1911) to be pretenders to the throne:


    It’s not only the English who show a national genius for having things both ways.

  51. Lars Mathiesen (he/him/his) says

    Hmm, WP being WP, that paragraph about the Northern line being widely considered illegitimate could probably use a bit of sourcing more than it has. That whole section makes my eyes hurt on the inside, as they reportedly say in Russian. Suddenly jumping from 1412 to 1911 smells like axe grinding, IMHO.

  52. David Eddyshaw says

    It’s actually a fairly familiar story: I don’t think it’s contentious as far as the facts go (though their interpretation may be another matter.)

    IIRC, the 1911 decree had to do with the Meiji ideology of direct Imperial rule: Go-Daigo


    of the Southern Court, was the last Emperor prior to the Meiji “Restoration” who had actually tried to rule directly. I think attempts were made to finesse the unfortunate fact that the current Imperial line actually descends from the Northern Court, presumably to the satisfaction of all relevant parties (like the Emperor.)

    There have been actual pretenders in modern times who declared that they were the real Emperor, based on all this, e.g.


    They seem to have been met with indifference rather than official hostility.

  53. David Eddyshaw says

    I should perhaps have made it clear that the official position prior to Meiji was that the Southern line was illegitimate. For reasons which are not hard to discern …

    So this was really about rehabilitating Go-Daigo retroactively, as a putative role model for the Meiji Emperor. (The reality, needless to say, was quite different. It was basically all nationalist mythmaking.)

  54. See: Antipope.

  55. Lars Mathiesen (he/him/his) says

    Well, there was a series of events in the several Royal houses of Denmark that led to the current house of Oldenburg being legitimized, though I think they got it signed off on by the lady whose descendants might have had a better claim under the rules in force when the lines separated. You might be able to find people who would find it reasonable to update WP with words to the effect that she couldn’t legally do that and that the current king is the wrong one, but it’s not like anybody would care. The constitution is clear on who can be on the throne. (Not to speak of the latest change to the latter where the current king’s unfortunate uncle got deleted. I’m sure they didn’t foresee constitutional monarchy back in the 780s, and anyway it’s not really clear to me when the rule for succession changed from that of “most armed followers”. That’s also a form of democracy, I guess).

  56. J.W. Brewer says

    I only skimmed it quickly, but this interesting-looking piece describes the political context of the Japanese imperial rescript of 1911 purporting to settle who was what back many centuries before, which was supposedly that (because of then-current nationalist whatnot) differences between different school textbooks in describing or conceptualizing the history of the remote prior period in question had led to public agitation and controversy that was enough of a headache for the government of the day that they decided there needed to be an official line to resolve the controversy and get all future textbooks on, as it were, the same page. https://escholarship.org/content/qt1pp2q62p/qt1pp2q62p.pdf

  57. David Eddyshaw says

    I would like to say that it is difficult to see how Japanese pre-war ultranationalists reconciled their Emperor-worship with the utterly different presentation of the emperors seen in real Japanese classical literature, but mere facts have never, of course, been of any significance whatsoever to such people. Modern parallels abound, alas.

  58. Trond Engen says

    Hat: Incidentally, I looked up P. Oktor Skjærvø, author of four of the linked texts, and learned:

    Born in Steinkjer, Norway, Skjærvø is a hyperpolyglot, […]

    I found him in the local history wiki Steinkjerleksikonet.

    (Prods and Oktor are both weird-looking names.)

    Very much so. I’ve tried to look into that before without luck. But of course:

    Xerib: I recall Oktor telling me that his name reflects a name of Thor in Gylfaginning:

    Þórr á hafra tvá er svá heita: Tanngnjóstr ok Tanngrisnir; ok reið þá er hann ekr, en hafrarnir draga reiðna. Því er hann kallaðr Ǫkuþórr.

    Thor has two he-goats, that are called Tooth-Gnasher and Tooth-Gritter, and a chariot wherein he drives, and the he-goats draw the chariot; therefore is he called Ǫkuþórr.

    From aka ‘to drive’, ekr ‘he drives’, etc. With Norwegian o as often corresponding to Old Norse ǫ, as in Nynorsk nos ‘nose’ corresponding to Old Norse nǫs (Modern Icelandic nös).

    That didn’t even strike me as an option. It would mean that the name is pronounced [²u:ktu:r], i.e. in the second tone and with two long vowels. The two o’s may also be pronounced with different quality, [²o:ktu:r], but probably not.

    The name certainly suggests that his parents were more than average interested in Old Norse. I was willing to wager a bet that his father was a teacher of Norwegian and history at Steinkjer landsgymnas (“Rural Gymnasium”), but if so, he was no longer there in 1947.

    The surname Skjærvø is straightforwardly toponymic and means “bare rock island”. He probably hails from these two islands at the coast west of Steinkjer. If so, he is probably also distantly related to my wife.

    The first name Prods still tells me nothing. SSB informs me that there are four persons or fewer in Norway of that name. Google finds two instances. Both have Prods as a middle name. One is an amateur footballer playing against a top-tier team 10 years ago. The other is a mystery novel protagonist whose author is a classically trained philologist (so the character’s middle name may well be a nod to Skjærvø).

  59. PlasticPaddy says
  60. Trond Engen says

    Oh, thanks! I remember having looked at that at one occasion without feeling any wiser with the zero attestations and all, but looking again now the geographic origin in “Osen, Sør-Trøndelag” certainly fits. Following a couple of links it ends up as Porsi “bog myrtle” used as a byname in Old Norse. All this suggests that the -d- is silent and the vowel short, i.e. the name is pronounced [pros].

  61. Thanks, I was wondering about the pronunciation.

  62. Trond Engen says

    Then I should probably give it all at once: [‘pros ²u:k.tu:r ²ʃær.vø:]

    (One may discuss my choice of symbols for the short vowels and the initial sibilant.)

    (This may all be rendered irrelevant if he grew up using a reading pronunciation for one or both names. That’s pretty common for resurrected names, but I somehow feel that the Skjærvø household would have been less likely to yield to that.)

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