UCL Anthropology


British Academy mid-career Fellowship 2016-2017 

Project Page, Alex Pillen, Department of Anthropology, UCL

This research constructs a portrait of the Kurdish language on the basis of the values that underpin it. The notion of evidence is one of the underlying principles that structures Kurdish discourse and gives it an 'evidential texture'. This is related to a definition of accuracy, which comes into play when quoting other people or relating one's thoughts and inner dialogue. Further analysis led to a focus on self-designation in Kurdish, or 'autonymy'. This concerns the techniques the Kurdish language uses to reflect upon itself, or create mirror images of itself. These include echo pairs, twin words and direct quotations. The frequent use of the reflexive pronoun - 'my own', 'his own' - contains a distinct idea of how to create a space of one's own in language. Each analytical point in this study was envisaged as an element of the architecture of the Kurdish language. The enduring keynotes of the Kurdish language were addressed by means of a brief pilot study and analysis of archival records purchased in the 1850s by the National State Library of Russia in St. Petersburg. A collaboration with an architect led us to use parametric design for the visualisation of the Kurdish language seen through the lens of linguistic anthropology. The fight for the right to learn and speak Kurdish is understood here on the basis of this set of underlying values, as a resistance to the advance of second-hand realities depicted by other languages. Evidence, accuracy, autonymy and reflexivity appear in this study as foundations of an intangible monument, as well as the contemporary architecture of Kurdish.


Kurd 19, 'Poems of Feqi Teyran, addressed to a stream', lyrical poem, the author is talking to the stream and complains about the unfairness of fate that took away his lover, 97 lines, after the poem a quatrain (in Jaba's comment in French explained that it is about an invention of a mathematical focus by Nasir-as-din Tousi), Report PB p164, Eastern collection p169, the National State Library of Russia in St. Petersburg (since 1852).

Faqi Tayran (1590-1660):
Also Feqiyê Teyran, Mir Mihemed, one of the great classic Kurdish poets and writers, born in a village called Miks in the Hakkari region, went to Cizre (Botan) region to study under the well-known Kurdish poet, Malaye Jaziri.

Poem 1

Poem 2

Transliteration and recording by Selim Temo.