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Mapping Iranian Languages: Kurdish as a Case Study

May 20, 2022 @ 11:00 am - 12:00 pm EDT

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Professor Erik Anonby and Professor Jaffer Sheyholislami


Erik Anonby is Professor in Linguistics and French at Carleton University. His research focuses on documentation and mapping of Iran’s languages, with publications including Phonology of Southern Luri (2003), Adaptive Multilinguals: Language on Larak Island (2011), Bakhtiari Studies: Phonology, Text, Lexicon (2014), and Bakhtiari Studies II: Orthography (2018). Currently, he works with an international research team as editor of the Atlas of the Languages of Iran (ALI). Jaffer Sheyholislami is Professor in Applied Linguistics and Discourse Studies at Carleton University. A world-renowned expert in the sociolinguistics of Iranian languages, with a focus on Kurdish, he has served as special issue guest editor for the International Journal of the Sociology of Language and is lead editor of the forthcoming Oxford Handbook of Kurdish Linguistics.



Kurdish is one of the major divisions of the Iranian language family. As for many of its sister languages, a growing body of linguistic research on Kurdish has emerged over the past century and a profusion of maps is now available. Although there has been increasing interest in investigating political, geographic, and ethnographic maps of Kurds and Kurdistan in recent years (O’Shea 2004, Kaya 2021), studies on Kurdish language maps are lacking. Our paper opens with a discussion of the nature and purpose of maps, and reviews various representations of Kurdish that can be understood as language maps – or have been used for this purpose: prose descriptons, conceptual maps, and political and ethnic maps, along with more traditional examples of language maps. Through analysis and comparison of key maps, we endeavour to work toward a coherent understanding of the linguistic geography of Kurdish. At the same time, we highlight points of disagreement among the maps and attempt to account for reasons behind these differences. Our presentation concludes that, despite the contributions of existing maps, there is still a need for a benchmark map of Kurdish which overcomes their recurrent limitations.