A reader writes: “I thought that this fellow, Jeremy Fowler, deserves a little publicity. He and his little team have shepherded the Wîkîferheng into something great, far superior to the Wiktionaries of other languages with more speakers and the force of unitary nation-states behind them—a remarkable achievement for a language that has been oppressed and even outlawed for so long.” This brief article by Nasir Elî says:

Fowler has learned Kurdish for 10 years, but over the past eight months he has studied on a daily basis. He now lives and works in Duhok at Form Foundation and has begun to write an online Kurmanji dictionary for people who want to learn the most-spoken Kurdish dialect. Fowler’s family has even enrolled their daughter at a local Kurdish school.

“It is an honor to have a student coming from Britain and study Kurdish while most of our people want to learn English,” the principal of Zagros School, Zirak Mohammed, told Rudaw.

And here’s a longer piece about the dictionary in which Fowler seems to be going under the nom de plume Ibrahim Kocher:

Wikiferheng, a web-based free content dictionary, does not only include definitions for words in Kurdish but also includes idioms and proverbs commonly used in Kurdish as well as their meanings. “For example, I often say, ‘I am busier than the groom’s mother.’ This is a beautiful idiom, a colorful expression. If you search for that idiom on Wikiferheng, it will define the phrase,” Ibrahim tells Kurdistan 24. “The search will also provide the English variation of the idiom, such as, ‘I’m fighting fit,’ or, ‘I’m fit as a fiddle.’”

Ibrahim has made significant progress in creating an extensive database of definitions as well as idioms and proverbs in the past four years since his project began. He has also provided two platforms for the online dictionary: one through the web, and another through an app.

Congratulations to all involved!


  1. Trond Engen says

    It bothers me that there are no comments on this post. I’ll start by asking if there’s a systematic correspondence between the Latin and Arabic orthographies of Kurmanji.

  2. Trond Engen says

    And I’ll continue by providing Xweşiya Zimanê Kurdî (the Beauty of the Kurdish Language). As linguistics go, it’s a superficial treatment meant to increase pride and interest in the language from its own speakers, but it’s also a Kurdish speaker speaking Kurdish about Kurdish, and subtexts are available,

  3. What scared me off was this: “Fowler has learned Kurdish for 10 years, but over the past eight months he has studied on a daily basis.” It must be an insanely difficult language for an outsider to learn.

  4. I’ll start by asking if there’s a systematic correspondence between the Latin and Arabic orthographies of Kurmanji.

    I can’t type well because of an injury and I am working mostly with voice recognition, so I will just link to the Wikipedia has an article comparing the various systems:


    I hope LH readers can find it helpful.

    It must be an insanely difficult language for an outsider to learn.

    I don’t think Kurmanji is particularly difficult for learners who speak European languages as a mother tongue. Personally, from this perspective, I think it is a hell of a lot easier than Turkish.

    If you have learned Persian, much will seem very familiar, and learners of Persian will already know that Persian is an easy language to learn in many respects—in Kurmanji, there are just two tense stems, an easily-formed causative stem formed in way very similar to Persian, the ezâfe construction for building noun phrases, relative clauses follow the noun they modify, subordinate clauses are made in a way very similar to Persian… I usually tell people that Kurmanji beside Persian is like German beside English… Kurmanji has a fuller case system and still has grammatical gender in all nouns.

    The main phonological difficulties are laryngeal features: voiceless unaspirated (slightly pharyngealized), voiceless aspirated, and voiced stops (and the palato-alveolar affricate) are distinguished. Unfortunately, current usage of the Latin orthography that was adopted in the 1930’s does not distinguish these: pêlav [pʰelɑv] ‘wave’ and pêlav [pˁelɑv] ‘shoes,’ kal [kʰɑl] ‘unripe’ and kal [kˁɑl] ‘old man,’ tîn [tʰin] ‘thirst’ and tîn [tˁin] ‘heat,’ çal [tʃʰɑl] ‘speckled’ and çal [tʃˁɑl] ‘pit, well’. I just quickly lifted these examples from the excellent learning grammar by Wheeler M. Thackston, available at the Harvard Iranian Studies site:


    There is a certain amount of variation in the lexical incidence of these sounds, however, and I have found that failure to make the distinction will not be an absolute barrier to comprehension, because of the variation that already exists on the ground in the Kurdish linguistic area. Most of all, Kurmanji speakers will be so overjoyed to hear a non-Kurd making an effort to speak their language that they will make every allowance and give every encouragement to all who try. The ‘ayn sound [ʕ] is frequent and found not only in Arabic borrowings but also in the forms of echt Kurdish words in many regional varieties. This sound is not usually represented in current usage of the standard academic orthography, because it was considered foreign by the writers who established the orthography. The laryngeal [ħ] is frequent in Arabic loanwords, but in many echt Iranian words in many regional varieties, you can hear [ħ] where the etymology would lead you to expect a simple [h]. Although [ħ] and [h] contrast, the distinction between pharyngeal [ħ] and glottal [h] is also not usually shown in the standard Latin orthography—both are written h.

    The Kurdish languages also differ from Persian in that the past tenses show split ergativity. If you have learned Hindi it will feel very familiar:


    Because the Kurmanji-speaking area is divided among 4 different countries, efforts to create new technical vocabulary from native elements have not always been successful, and there are awkward formations and inconsistencies that I often hear my Kurdish scholar colleagues complain about. There is also a great deal of lexical variation across the region, and one of the great things about the Wîkîferheng is that the editors acknowledge this variation, enter a huge range of variants, and cross-reference them all back to a main entry that represents a good faith effort to present an emerging consensus and a standard academic Kurmanji. The Wîkîferheng is also thus a very practical tool for the learner, who will inevitably encounter such variation if they deal with real texts—Kurdish literature from the 15th century onward, popular songs, SMS messages from Kurdish friends, etc.

  5. Trond Engen says

    Thanks. And sorry about your hand. My stupid comments were just meant to summon you, so don’t do more than you feel comfortable with.

  6. @Xerîb: Thank you! The shortest way to Kurdish, it seems to me, leads to and through Persian.

  7. What Iranian languages sound like:


  8. Again, Talysh and Ossetian sound very Russian.
    Almost all of them sound like they have distinctly open [a] and sometimes [æ].

  9. The first page of the first issue of the Ossetian newspaper Rastdzinâd. Sjögren‘s Cyrillic alphabet. 1923″ (Wikipeidia).

    I lijke this dz

  10. Yes, the whole masthead is beautiful.

  11. Their Ossetian does sound so to my ear. In Talysh I ratther hear vaguely un-Russian areal phonology.

  12. Ossetian is at the very end of the 25-minute video, if anyone is curious (though why someone would want to skip the Pamir languages is beyond me).

  13. Yes, I did not have time for the whole video, but I still listened to most of their Pamir examples.

    zəvůk/zəvūk in their Ishkashimi and Sanglechi were surprising (because of Russian associations).

    Their Wakhan accent sounded a bit Turkic and English:)))

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