Zaza: Kirmanjki, Kirdki, Dimli,Zazaki Zaza, also called Zazaki, Kirmanjki, Kirdki and Dimli,[6] is an Indo-European language spoken primarily in Eastern Turkey by the Zazas. The language is a part of the Zaza–Gorani language group of the northwestern group of the Iranian branch. The glossonym Zaza originated as a pejorative[7] and many Zazas call their language Dimlî.[8]

While Zaza is linguistically closer related to Gorani, Gilaki, Talysh, Tati, Mazandarani and the Semnani language,[9] Kurdish has had a profound impact on the language due to centuries of interaction, which have blurred the boundaries between the two languages.[10] This and the fact that a majority of Zaza-speakers identify themselves as ethnic Kurds,[11][12] have encouraged linguists to classify the language as a Kurdish dialect.[13][14][15][16]

According to Ethnologue (which cites [Paul 1998]),[17] the number of speakers is between 1.5 and 2.5 million (including all dialects). According to Nevins, the number of Zaza speakers is between 2 and 4 million

Disputed origin

While the origin of the Zaza is disputed, one theory claims that the word Dimlî derives from the ancient name Daylam and that Zazas are remnants of the Daylamites who migrated westwards from the 10th century on.[


There are three main Zaza dialects:

Its subdialects are:

Its subdialects are:

  • Sivereki, Kori, Hazzu, Motki, Dumbuli, Eastern/Central Zazaki, Dersimki.

Zaza shows many similarities with Kurmanji, which it does not share with Caspian languages:

  • Similar personal pronouns and use of these[23]

  • Enclitic use of the letter "u"[23]

  • Very similar ergative structure[24]

  • Masculine and feminine ezafe system[25]

  • Both languages have nominative and oblique cases that differs by masculine -î and feminine -ê

  • Both languages have forgotten possesive enclitics, while it exists in other languages as Persian, Sorani, Gorani, Hewrami or Shabaki

  • Both languages distinguish between aspirated and unaspirated voiceless stops

  • Similar vowel phonemes

Ludwig Paul divides Zaza into three main dialects. In addition, there are transitions and edge accents that have a special position and cannot be fully included in any dialect group.[26]

Literature and broadcast programs

The place of Zaza language in Iranian languages[27]

The first written statements in Zaza were compiled by the linguist Peter Lerch in 1850. Two other important documents are the religious writings of Ehmedê Xasî of 1899,[28] and of Osman Efendîyo Babij[29] (published in Damascus in 1933 by Celadet Bedir Khan[30]); both of these works were written in the Arabic script.

The diaspora has also generated a limited amount of Zaza language broadcasting. Moreover, after restrictions were removed on local languages in Turkey in 2003 during their move toward an eventual accession to the European Union, Turkish state-owned TRT Kurdî television launched several Zaza programs[31] and a radio program on certain days.

Despite being a major Iranic language, Zaza is not well-known to outsiders and has become increasingly vulnerable due to state repression and political unrest in the region. Due to language policies in effect for over 50 years, both the number of Zaza speakers and the degree to which they use the language have been in sharp decline. Diaspora and refugee communities now exist throughout Europe, especially Germany, and in the United States there are currently Zaza communities in New York and New Jersey.[32]

The institution of Higher Education approved the opening of Zaza Language and Literature Department in Munzur University in 2011 and began accepting students in 2012 for the department. In the following year, Bingöl University established the same department.[33]


As with a number of other Indo-Iranian languages like the Kurdish languages, Zaza features split ergativity in its morphology, demonstrating ergative marking in past and perfective contexts, and nominative-accusative alignment otherwise. Syntactically it is nominative-accusative.[34]

Grammatical gender

Among all Western Iranian languages only Zaza and Kurmanji distinguish between masculine and feminine grammatical gender. Each noun belongs to one of those two genders. In order to correctly decline any noun and any modifier or other type of word affecting that noun, one must identify whether the noun is feminine or masculine. Most nouns have inherent gender. However, some nominal roots have variable gender, i.e. they may function as either masculine or feminine nouns.[35] This distinguishes Zaza from many other Western Iranian languages that have lost this feature over time.

For example, the masculine preterite participle of the verb kerdene ("to make" or "to do") is kerde; the feminine preterite-participle is kerdiye. Both have the sense of the English "made" or "done". The grammatical gender of the preterite-participle would be determined by the grammatical gender of the noun representing the thing that was made or done.

The linguistic notion of grammatical gender is distinguished from the biological and social notion of gender, although they interact closely in many languages. Both grammatical and natural gender can have linguistic effects in a given language.