A Lingua Franca for Kurdish Populations

31 Pages Posted: 14 May 2021

See all articles by Sacha Bourgeois-Gironde

Sacha Bourgeois-Gironde

École Normale Supérieure (ENS); Université Paris II

Victor Ginsburgh

Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB) - European Center for Advanced Research in Economics and Statistics (ECARES)

Hossein Hassani

Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC)

Shlomo Weber

Southern Methodist University (SMU) - Department of Economics; New Economic School

Date Written: April 1, 2021

Abstract

Kurdish languages and multiple dialects spread across several nation-states under various regimes varying from regional recognition (e. g. Iraq) to persistent attrition (e. g. Turkey). Kurdish linguistic faces a variety of challenges which can be attributed to different causes such as the historical background of the language, sociopolitical reasons, and forced compliance with national linguistic policies in some of the countries where Kurds live to name a few. In this paper we do not discuss the normative issue of linguistic rights entitlements of the speakers of different varieties of Kurdish. We consider their complex sociolinguistic situation from the point of view of communication efficiency in the face of the following dilemma: Either unification through the adoption of a lingua franca or standardized Kurdish, with the implication of disenfranchisement of some speakers, or the maintenance of multiple dialects, with the risk of fractionalization and its political and economic consequences. For reasons such as the multi-dialect feature of the language and its sociocultural attributes, the attempts to standardize Kurdish have not succeeded. To address this dilemma, we proceed to compute the lexical-linguistic distances between six dialects of Kurdish: three which are representative of Kurmanji and three of Sorani, i. e. the two main linguistic and regional varieties of Kurdish. Our selection of dialects, although incomplete, covers about 75% of the whole population of Kurdish speakers. Our study is the first one to propose an application of the Jaro-similarity index on a Swadesh-list of dialects of Kurdish. Our results reveal some significant distance within Sorani and Kurmanji dialects, and an expected more significant distance between Sorani and Kurmanji dialects. The latter distance is sufficiently important to favor a three-language policy rather than any other one: an international language, the national language (Turkish, Farsi or Arabic), and the local Kurdish variety. This policy maximizes efficiency, Kurdish identity as well as within and without group intercommunication. We compare it to similar linguistic policy attempts in India, Nigeria and Kazakhstan.

JEL Classification: D63, Z13

Suggested Citation

Bourgeois-Gironde, Sacha and Ginsburgh, Victor and Hassani, Hossein and Weber, Shlomo, A Lingua Franca for Kurdish Populations (April 1, 2021). CEPR Discussion Paper No. DP16086, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3846195

Sacha Bourgeois-Gironde (Contact Author)

École Normale Supérieure (ENS) ( email )

45 rue d’Ulm
Paris Cedex 05, F-75230
France

Université Paris II ( email )

12 place du Pantheon
Paris cedex 06, 75231
France

Victor Ginsburgh

Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB) - European Center for Advanced Research in Economics and Statistics (ECARES) ( email )

Ave. Franklin D Roosevelt, 50 - C.P. 114
Brussels, B-1050
Belgium

Hossein Hassani

Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) ( email )

Obere Donaustrasse 93
A-1020 Vienna
Austria

Shlomo Weber

Southern Methodist University (SMU) - Department of Economics ( email )

Dallas, TX 75275
United States
214-768-3577 (Phone)
214-768-1821 (Fax)

New Economic School ( email )

Moscow
Russia
+ 7-495-9569508 (Phone)

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