The first book written on the Kurdish language was published in Italy in 1787

5/8/2022 7:45:20 PM
 A photo of 'Grammatica e vocabolario della lingua Kurda.'
Surprisingly this historical trove is unknown to most Kurds.

The first known recorded publication of the Kurdish language dates back to 1898 when Miqdad Midhad Baderkhan published the first Kurdish language newspaper in Egypt.

Kurdish is a family of languages composed of various dialects and regional accents. The earliest scientific European studies on the Kurdish language and civilization date back to the 18th century. Missionaries, Italian Catholics, and later English protestants studied Kurdistan, its people and its language, especially during the decline of the Ottoman empire that left power vacuums across the Middle East, where the majority of the Kurds live.

Maurizio Garzoni (1734-1804), was a pioneer Kurdologist. He was a member of the Order of Black Friars, who reached the region of Mosul in 1762. At the time, Mosul Velayet—Veleyeti Mosul in Turkish—was an administrative ottoman region that comprises what is roughly today the Kurdistan region.

In 1764 Garzoni settled in ʿAmādiya, the capital of the principality of Bahdinān, to the northeast of Mosul. He collected materials for his 'Grammatica e vocabolario della lingua Kurda,' literally, 'Grammar and Vocabulary of Kurdish Language', published in Rome in 1787. 

The text was the first of its kind. It remained an essential source of the Kurdish language until the end of the 19th century.

The book contains a detailed guide to learning the Kurdish language. The book is made of  289 pages. The book is a guide to learn the Kurdish language. It opens with explaining the Kurdish alphabet, numbers, grammar, and vocabulary. The book's last chapters include a list of essential vocabulary with Italian translations on the opposite side of the page.

In the preface, the author states, 'the Kurdish language is strange to European ears.' A few pages later, he adds, 'This is not a perfect guide to learn the language, but it will be useful for missionaries that visit the region [Kurdistan].' Kurdish was not used in official documents, and state institutions by both the Ottoman and Persian empires but only spoken by ordinary Kurds and it borrowed many words from Arabic and Persian.

Kurds have had some autonomy under the sovereignty of the empires that ruled the Middle East. Autonomy was a grave factor that helped the Kurdish language to survive. Garzoni continues, 'I split Kurdistan between the end of Persia and the Ottoman empire.' Kurdistan was not a word used by the Kurds until the late 19th century when the decline of the ottoman empire led to the rise of Kurdish nationalism.

Kurds were divided among many tribes and subcultures that spoke different dialects and accents, preventing their unity even today.

The book is a historical treasure. Researchers and historians could find many interesting subjects about in the book and compare Kurdish language's development throughout the centuries.

Today, the Kurdish language is studied at some educational institutions in the Kurdistan region. However, university colleges have adopted English, rather than Kurdish, as the medium of teaching and research, as most private primary and high schools in the region have. That includes all university colleges except Arabic and Kurdish language schools alongside other colleges such as Law and Theology taught in Arabic.

Iraq is the only country whose constitution recognizes the Kurdish language. Kurdish is found on Iraqi banknotes and official state documents. There are tens of papers and TV stations that write and broadcast in Kurdish.


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