Friday, November 7, 2008

Introduction to Latini and Pronunciation

Sorani Kurdish is written most commonly with a modified Arabic script which is more similar to the script used for Farsi than the script used for the Arabic language.

This can make the language tricky to learn for westerners, especially if oral communication is your primary goal.

Luckily, the Kurdish government in Iraq has made an effort to introduce a Latin script called Latini.

This script is used on government-run news shows, but is uncommonly used by anyone else. In fact, when most people use a Latin script, they just use the English alphabet. However, there is no standard usage and spelling varies from person to person.

The benefits of using Latini are:

It's easier than learning Kurdish script initially
Each letter represents only one sound, which makes learning proper pronunciation easier
Each letter correspond to one letter in the Kurdish script, allowing for a quick transition when one is ready to tackle script

The only real drawback is:

Average Kurds DO NOT use it

Below you'll find the Latini alphabet as it applies to Sorani. I have tried to keep the explanations simple, but a few of the letters will require more explanation.

The letters are shown in red either do not exist in the English alphabet or are very different from what might be expected.

Latini Letter PronunciationListen
aalways "ah" as the o in Bob

bjust like the b in english

cin Latini this represents the the j in judge. Always j, never c

çthis special character is for the ch sound like in chair
dlike the d in dog

ealways "uh" as the u in bub

ȇlong a like the a in baby

flike the f in fire

glike the g in gravy

hlike the h in heavy

This is an h sound made well back in the throat.

ishort i sound like the i in big

ȋlong e sound like the y in baby

jthis is not like the j in judge it's like the s in fusion (or the zh in zhane for anyone who remembers them)

kthis is like the k in kite

llike the l in lamp

llThis is like the ll sound in well versus the l in like.

mm in man

nn in man

ofull o like the os in oboe

pp in panic

qThis is a swallowed k. Make the k sound with the back of your tongue. It's the last sound in the word Iraq

rnot the American r!

rrrolled or trilled r as in Spanish

ss like sassy

şsh like shabby

tt like tea



vv is for victory

ww as in water

xThis is like the ch in Bach. We don't have it in English, but you'll recognize the sound.

This is the letter that we replace with gh in Baghdad.

yy as in you


'z in zebra

Two last notes:

  • q, and ' are all sounds borrowed from Arabic and only found in Arab loan words

  • there is no letter for the i (eye) sound like the i in, well, like. But it's a relatively common sound in Sorani. It's made with a vowel combo of either eȋ or aȋ.

So that's all of the sounds. I made a special note of the Arabic sounds because, once you recognize the sounds, you'll easily be able to pick out the Arabic loan words. These are the words which are being replaced with Kurdish words. If your language helper teaches you one of these words, it's a good idea to ask for the Kurdish word - just so you'll know it.

A great way to practice the sounds is to write with Latini, but in your language.

ȇ grȇt wȇ tu praktis saunds iz tu raȋt Latȋnȋ, bet in yur on languac.

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