This article deals with the grammar of the Kurdish language. Kurdish is an inflected language, it adds prefixes and suffixes to roots to express grammatical relations and to form words.
Among all Iranian languages, only Yagnobi and Kurdish are ergative, with respect to both case-marking and verb-agreement. There are general descriptions of ergativity in Kurdish, as well as in specific forms of Kurdish, such as Sorani  and Kurmanjî.
- A Kurdish noun in the absolute state, in other words without any ending of any kind, gives a generic sense of the noun.
- It is also the “lexical” form of the noun, i.e. the form in which a noun is given in a vocabulary list or dictionary.
- Nouns are declined in four cases: nominative, oblique, construct (or ezafe) and vocative.
- Nouns can be simple or compound.
- Any unmodified noun in Kurdish may be generic, i.e., it can refer to one or more than one items. Plural is not obligatory when more than one item are implied.
- There are 3 grammatical genders: feminine, masculine and neutral.
- Definiteness is not formally marked.
- Adjectives agree with the nouns they modify in number and case.
- Personal pronouns are marked for number and person (1st, 2nd, 3rd). They can be free-standing or take the form of clitics. Free-standing forms are used for emphasis.
|Sing. M.||Sing. F||Plur.|
Kurmanji Kurdish uses two types of personal pronouns.
The ez forms (NOM.) are used as subjects in the present and future tenses. They are also used as subjects in past tenses when the verb is an intransitive one. They are used as objects in past tenses when employed with a transitive verb.
The min forms (OBL.) are used with any preposition or postposition. They are also employed as objects in present and future tenses, but as subjects of the transitive verbs in past tenses.
Kurmanji has lost the suffixes for OBL pronouns, whereas Sorani has lost nominative normal pronouns.
Demonstrative pronouns when followed by postpositions (attached to the nouns) become demonstrative adjectives.
|Case||NOM. SING.||NOM. PLUR.||OBL. SING.||OBL. PLUR.|
|near||ev ... (e)||ev ... ane||vî ... î||vê ... ê||van ... an(-e)|
|far||ew ... (e)||ew ... ane||wî ... î||wê ... ê||wan ... an(-e)|
|too far||how ... e||how ... ane||how ... e||how ... e||how ... ane|
As demonstrative adjectives, Sorani Kurdish does not use OBL forms (though for demonstrative pronouns it does use OBL. plural forms); neither Kurmanji uses nominative plural forms.
Pre- and postpositions
The table shows some prepositions.
|Li/Le||da/de & ra/re & (e)we/ve||lê||at, of, from|
Kurdish verbs agree with their subjects in person and number. They have the following major characteristics:
- Verbs have two stems: present and past.
- Present stems can be simple or secondary.
- Simple tenses are formed by the addition of personal endings to the two stems.
- Secondary stems consist of a root + suffixes that indicate transitivity, intransitivity, and causativity.
- There are 3 tenses: present, past, and future.
- There are 2 voices: active and passive.
- There are 2 aspects: imperfective and perfective. Aspect is as important as tense.
- There are 4 moods: indicative, conditional, imperative, and potential.
- Past tense transitive sentences are formed as ergative constructions, i.e., transitive verbs in the past tense agree with the object rather than the subject of the sentence.
Present and future
Present and future tenses for the verb zanîn ( to know).
|Tenses||Intransitive & transitive|
|Future||-ê bizanim||-ê bizanî||-ê bizane||-ê bizanin|
Past tenses for intransitive verb of hatin (to come).
If a transitive verb accepts a nominative personal suffix, it agrees with the object of the sentence. Transitive verbs in Sorani when not used in sentences accept OBL. personal suffixes (in contrast to intransitive verbs which always accept NOM. personal suffixes).
The normal word order in Kurdish is Subject-Object-Verb (S-O-V). Modifiers follow the nouns they modify.
- Theodora Bynon. 1979. The Ergative Construction in Kurdish. Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies Vol. 42, No. 2, pp. 211-224.
- John Haiman. Ergativity in Sorani Kurdish. Essais de typologie et de linguistique générale : mélanges offerts à Denis Creissels. Ed. Franck Florici et al. Lyon: ENS Editions, 2010. 243-250
- Abstract on origins of ergativity
- W. M. Thackston (2006) Kurmanji Kurdish: A Reference Grammar with Selected Readings
- Sorani Kurdish— A Reference Grammar with Selected Readings W. M. Thackston