Kurmanji (Kurmancî), or Northern Kurdish (also written Kirmanji, Kurmangi or Kermanji), is the most populous of the Kurdish languages. While Kurdish is generally categorized as one of the Northwestern Iranian languages along with Baluchi, it also shares many traits with Southwestern Iranian languages like Persian, apparently due to longstanding and intense historical contacts, and some authorities have gone so far as to classify Kurmanji as a Southwestern or "southern" Iranian language.
The Kurmanji language, which uses the Latin script, is the most common dialect of the Kurdish language, spoken by 80% of all Kurds. However, the earliest textual record of the Kurdish language dates to the 16th century.
Iran and Iraq also have a significant number of Kurmanji speakers:
In northern Iraq, Kurmanji is spoken in the cities of Mosul, Duhok, Zakho, Akre, Amedia, Sheikhan, Shangal, and Zummar.
In Iraq, Kurmanji is sometimes known as Bahdini, simply because Kurmanji speaking Kurds live in the Bahdinan region, which consists of the abovementioned cities and towns.
In Iran, Kurmanji is spoken in the northern parts of the country, in the cities of Urmia, Maku, Khoy, and Salmas, as well as exile[clarification needed] by Kurds in Khorasan province of Iran.
In Iran, Kurmanji is sometimes called "Shikaki" after the major Kurmanji tribe Shikak, which is the tribe of Kurdish leader Ismail Aghaye Shikak, who is also known as legendary Simko among the Kurds.
Kurmanji was the official language of the autonomous Red Kurdistan (Russian Красный Курдистан) that was established in Lachin, Kalbajar and Qubadli and surrounding cities in Azerbaijan, and existed between 1923 to 1929.
The main theory about the etymology of Kurmanji is that the term Kurmanji, according to Prince Celadet Bedirxan, the great Kurdish intellectual who prepared the Latin Kurdish alphabet, comes from Kurd+man+cî which means, those Kurds who remained in their places (not moved like others). In earlier publications of this century, the term Kurmanji was sometimes spelled with a "d" like "Kurdmanji" but the standard spelling of the term is Kurmanji in English and Kurmancî in Kurdish.