The new Iraqi constitution, as presented in the NY Times, says that “The Arabic language and Kurdish language are the two official languages of Iraq.” As Bill Poser’s Language Log post, where I learned about the language clause, says, “This is great news for Kurdish and the Kurds, whose language has never before had official status.” My immediate reaction was to wonder whether this will mean the establishment of a standard language, presumably based on Sorani, and whether this might eventually create some coherence in what is now a confusing cluster of dialects. Anyway, it’s a promising development, although, as Bill says, “it remains to be seen whether the Constitution will actually be implemented.”


  1. Hopefully this means that Kurdish can be used in governmental proceedings in all parts of Iraq. It would be wonderful indeed if a Kurd wishing to address the national parliament could do so in Kurdish.

  2. Let’s remember that using a ‘regional language’ to address the national parliament… is not at all a right commonly recognised all over Europe.
    I can even remember some time ago some MEP complaining ‘he was not able to use his mother tongue’ due to some lack of translation services in the European Parliament. Some other MEP, this one from Catalunya, had to explain him the real meaning of ‘not being able to use your mother tongue’ in the European institutions. (And let’s not speak about the Parliament in Madrid!)

  3. But Kurdish is not (unlike Turkmen and “Syriac”) a regional language, it’s one of the two national languages. I don’t think the Kurds would have signed off on the constitution if they couldn’t address Parliament in Kurdish.

  4. The actual problem is how those provisions in the constitution are going to be implemented… Kurdish is actually a ‘regional’ language (following European standards) ’cause it is only spoken in a ‘region’ of Iraq (Kurdistan) and not throughout the whole country.
    (BTW: I don’t think the Catalans would have signed off on the constitution if they couldn’t address Parliament in Catalan.
    And they can not.)

  5. Why would European arangements mean anything in Iraq anyway? The situation is much more like that in Canada, with two languages rather than a dozen or so. People address Parliament in either French or English or sometimes both. I htink the same thing is true in Ireland.

  6. Gene Fellner says

    Can anyone tell me anything about the Kurdish language? Family, for instance?

  7. Gene, Kurdish is in the Indo-Iranian family, related to Persian. Check out the reasonably informative article at Wikipedia: Kurdish language.
    Wow, lots of dialects.

  8. Wow, lots of dialects.
    Yeah, that’s what happens when you have a population widely dispersed in mountain valleys (and given to feuding), with no unifying state (thus no official version of the language). Some of the “dialects” aren’t even mutually intelligible.

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