or Zāzā; the indigenous name of an Iranian people living mainly in eastern Anatolia, in the Dersim region (present-day Tunceli) between Erzincan in the north and the Muratsu in the south, the far western part of historical Upper Armenia.


DIM(I)LĪ (or Zāzā), the indigenous name of an Iranian people living mainly in eastern Anatolia, in the Dersim region (present-day Tunceli) between Erzincan (see ARZENJĀN) in the north and the Muratsu (Morādsū, Arm. Aracani) in the south, the far western part of historical Upper Armenia (Barjr Haykʿ). They are also found in Bingöl, Muş, and the province of Bitlis, as well as around Diyarbekir (Dīārbakr), Siverek, and Sivas (for details, see Lerch, p. xxi; Haykuni, p. 84; Andranik, pp. 111-16; Hadank, pp. 8-9; Erevanian, pp. 1-20; Halajian, 1973, pp. 9-100; Gasparian, p. 195; Bruinessen, 1978, p. 30). About 300,000 Dimlīs live in western Europe, mainly in Germany. Some of them are political refugees. The total population of Dimlīs at present is unknown, but it can be estimated at 3-4 million.

The people call themselves Dimlī or Dīmla, apparently derived from Deylam (Andranik, p. 161 n. 1; Hadank, pp. 2, 11-12; Minorsky, 1932, p. 17; idem, 1965, p. 159 n. 21), as appears from Armenian delmik, dlmik, and the like (Yuzbashian, pp. 146-51), which must be derived from *dēlmīk “Deylamite.” The Deylamite origin of the Dimlīs is also indicated by the linguistic position of Dimlī (see below).

Among their neighbors the Dimlī are known mainly as Zāzā, literally “stutterer,” a pejorative perhaps owing to the relative abundance of sibilants and affricates in their language (Hadank, p. 1; MacKenzie, p. 164; cf. zāzˊā “dumb” in Arm. dialects of the Vaspurakan area).Armenians also call them Delmik, Dlmik, Dmlik (see below), Zaza (Alevi) Kʿrder, Čʿarkʿəčʿikʿ(Halajian, Dersimi azgagrakan nyutʿer [DAN], passim; Mkrtčʿian, pp. 54-55), and Dužik or Dužik Kʿrder, the last after the name of a mountain in Dersim (Spiegel, II, p. 65). The Armenian term Kʿrder, literally “Kurds,” in this context denotes social status or mode of life, rather than nationality. Even those Armenian authors who use the term Kʿrder explicitly distinguish the Dimlī from the ethnic Kurds (Halajian, DAN, p. 242; for similar use of the term in the Middle Ages, see Minorsky, 1943, p. 75). In Turkish the Dimlī are known as Dersimli and Qezelbāš (i.e., Shiʿite).

The appearance of the Dimlī in the areas they now inhabit seems to have been connected, as their name suggests, with waves of migration of Deylamites ii from the highlands of Gīlān during the 10th-12th centuries. Unlike the Kurds, the Dimlīs are mainly sedentary cultivators, though animal husbandry occupies a considerable place in their economic activities. They are especially renowned as horticulturists.

Dimlī society is tribal, a sociopolitical, territorial, and economic unit organized according to genuine or putative patrilineage and kinship, with a characteristic internal structure. It encompasses forty-five subtribes, each divided into smaller units. The most prominent are Ābāsān, Āḡāǰān, Ālān, Bāmāsūr(ān), Baḵtīār(lī), Dǖīk, Davrēš-Gulābān, Davrēš-Jamālān, Hay-darān(lī), Hasanān(lī), Korēšān, Mamikī, and Yūsufān. The names of some small subtribes consist of patronymics combined with the Turkish word uşak (servant), for example, Ā(r)slānušāḡī, Ābāsušāḡī, Farhādušāḡī, Šāmušāḡī, Tōpūzušāḡī, and Ḵōčušāḡī (Spiegel, I, p. 758; Andranik, pp. 156-57; Molyneux-Seel, p. 68; Dersimi, pp. 18-19, 24-28). The chiefs of the most important subtribes, called seyīds (sayyeds), are both religious and secular clan leaders and thus exercise considerable influence upon the tribesmen.


As the names Alevi (ʿAlawī) and Qezelbāš imply, most Dimlīs are Shiʿites, often considered extremist, though some are Sunnis. The religious beliefs of the majority, in common with those of most Shiʿite extremist groups, are characterized by great variety. They venerate ʿAlī b. Abī Ṭāleb as the most important incarnation of God, but they also profess an admixture of indigenous primitive and some Christian beliefs. Within this framework the cult practice of the Dimlī inhabitants of each individual region displays specific features, reflecting the absence of a centralized religious institution, like those in Christianity and Islam, that might standardize cult practice and dogma. God is known as Hū/ŭmāy, Hōmā, and Haq (Adontz, pp. 11-12; Tēr Minasian, p. 22; Asatrian, 1991, p. 10; idem and Gevorgian, p. 502).

The Dimlīs themselves call their religion by the Turkish term yōl-ušāḡī “followers of the [true] path” (Molyneux-Seel, p. 64), a designation with mystical overtones. The influence of folk Sufism on Dimlī religious beliefs is so thoroughly blended with indigenous elements as to permit no definite identification. It may be reflected, however, in the hierarchy of the priesthood, the structure of the community, and the cult of Xizir (Ḵāżer, Ḵeżr) Īlyās; in the last, however, elements of the Armenian Surb Sargis (Saint Sergius) are also recognizable. The feast of Ḵizir, considered an incarnation of ʿAlī/God, coincides with ʿAli-bayrami (the feast of ʿAlī), also known as Aḡa-bayrami (God’s feast) among the Qezelbāš of the Mākū region, as well as with the Armenian feast of Surb Sargis (Asatrian and Gevorgian, p. 503 n. 25; Müller, pp. 29-30; see also Abeghian, pp. 95-97). It is usually celebrated in February. Christian elements are assimilated to Shiʿite conceptions (as in the example of Xizir) or have been adopted directly from the Armenian population of Dersim, for example, the rites of communion, baptism, and worship at Christian shrines and churches (e.g., the Sūrb Kārāpēt monastery, Hālvōrī vānk in the Dǖīkbābā mountains, and Dēr Ōvā [Arm. Tēr Ohan, Saint John] monastery near Sēlpūs/zdāḡ). There are also perceptible remnants of “nature worship,” including worship of mountains (e.g., Mūnzūrdāḡ, Dǖīkbābā, Sēlpūs/z, Sēl), rocks, springs (e.g., Kānīyē Hazratē Xizirī“the spring of Ḵeżr” on the slopes of Dǖīkbābā and Kānīyē ānmāhūtyan “the spring of immortality” at the foot of Sēlpūs), trees (mainly oaks), and animals (snakes, rabbits, etc.). The cult of the snake, considered a holy creature, is most distinctive. It has been symbolized by a stick called čūē haqī (God’s stick), the top of which is carved in the form of a snake’s head. It is preserved in a green cloth bag suspended from a wooden pillar (ērkyan) in the sanctuary of the village of Kiştim near Dersim. The stick is believed to be a piece of the rod of Moses and the bag a copy of the one carried by St. John the Baptist (Halajian, DAN, pp. 475-80; Molyneux-Seel, p. 67). The čūē haqī is used in cult ceremonies on the feast of Xizir Īlyās, which is celebrated after a three-day fast, during which, according to some reports (Mkrtčʿian, p. 51), even cattle and other livestock are not fed. On this day thousands of pilgrims gather in the village to gaze upon the holy staff (ēvlīyā keštīmī “the saint of Kiştim”; for details, see Dersimi, pp. 97-98; Halajian, DAN, pp. 475-80; Haykuni, p. 133; Erevanian, p. 79; Müller, pp. 27-28; Asatrian and Gevorgian, p. 508).

One noteworthy trait of Dimlī religious rituals is the equal participation of women, which has often served as an excuse for accusing them of ritual promiscuity and calling them by derogatory names (e.g., čirāḡ-kušān, čirāḡ-sōndurān, mūm-sōndurān, ḵurōs-kušān “candle extinguishers”) suggesting participation in orgies (e.g., Fontanier, p. 168; Mkrtčʿian, p. 51).

The Dimlīs’ profound hatred of the Turks, in contrast to their mild and friendly attitude toward Armenians, may partly reflect the fact that they, like the Ahl-e Ḥaqq and Yazīdīs, rigorously deny that they are Muslims and stress their claim to follow a distinct religion (Bruinessen, 1991, p. 12; Molyneux-Seel, p. 64). Antagonism to the Turks has also acquired a clear nationalistic character, which is currently being expressed in the powerful upsurge of a Dimlī separatist movement in Turkey (Taławarian, p. 79; Asatrian, 1992a, pp. 104-05; idem, 1992b, pp. 8-9; idem, 1993, p. 7).

Beside special public places for performing their religious ceremonies (tekke), the Dimlīs, like the Yazīdīs, also worship in private houses, including those of their religious leaders (Taławarian, p. 64; Müller, p. 228; Asatrian, 1992a, p. 105). They are mostly monogamous, though, according to some authors, polygamy, limited to no more than four wives, is also exercised. Divorce is strictly forbidden. Dimlīs do not practice circumcision (Trowbridge, p. 348; Müller, p. 25; Asatrian, 1992a, p. 106; Mkrtčʿian, p. 55).

Four clans (Āḡāǰān, Bāmāsūrān, Kurēšān, and Davrēš-Jamālān) are the traditional custodians of Dimlī religious doctrine. Religious offices are hereditary. The highest, that of pīrī-pīrān (cf. Pers. pīr-e pīrān, elder of elders) may also be conferred by ordination within the hereditary line. Successively lower levels are pīr, seyīd, dede, muršīd, and rayvar (cf. Pers. rahbar). Such terms as “mulla” and ulem (Ar. and Pers. ʿālem) are never used in non-Sunni Dimlī religious affairs. The pīrī-pīrān is the theocratic head of the community. His wife (ana) enjoys almost equal rights in managing family affairs (Halajian, DAN, pp. 464-65). Dedes and seyīds, who never shave or have their hair cut, perform wedding and funeral rites (Haykuni, p. 86). Rayvars, the lowest class of clergy, have the social status of ordinary laymen (ṭālebs). They are not paid for their services, which include visiting members of the congregation, performing daily religious rites, and ensuring that the religious and ethical norms of the community are observed. They can punish the guilty but are not allowed to show clemency. Only the pīrī-pīrān, upon the application of the supreme council (jamāʿat), a mixed secular and clerical body, may forgive sins. The nonreligious affairs of the rayvars are attended to by their families or lay volunteers (Halajian, pp. 463 ff.).

A curious social aspect of the Dimlī community is the institution of moṣāḥeb (perhaps “holy brotherhood”). Similar institutions, called birē āxiratē and xūškā āxiratē (brotherhood and sisterhood of the next world), and šarṭ-e eqrār exist also among the Yazīdīs and Ahl-e Ḥaqq respectively (Asatrian, 1985; idem and Gevorgian, p. 507).


Dimlī (Zāzā) belongs to the Northwest Iranian language group (Windfuhr; see DIALECTOLOGY). It is known from several dialects, Sīvērēk, Kōsā, Čabāḵčūr, Kiḡī, Bujāq, Ōvāǰīḡ, and others, which, however, do not differ greatly.

Phonology . The Dimlī phonological system is the same in all dialects, with only slight variations. The vowel system consists of eight phonemes and two diphthongs (Cabolov), which are transcribed variously in the recorded texts (Chart 1).

The long vowel phonemes have no significant allophones, whereas the range of allophones of the short vowels and diphthongs is quite wide:/a/:[a, i, ē/ĕ]; /i/:[ī/ĭ, a, e]; /u/: [o, ü], etc.; /au/: [au, , ou, eu]; /ai/: [ai, ēi, ], etc.

The Dimlī consonant phonemes are shown in Chart 2.

The affricates c, j, and cʿ and the aspirated series pʿ, tʿ-, kʿ are found mainly in northern dialects (Erzincan, Dersim). Armenian influence is the most likely explanation of the existence of these phonemes, which are not otherwise found in modern West-Iranian languages (Vahman and Asatrian, p. 268). The /čá/ represents a mediopalatal surd affricate (= --, Arm. č, Kurmānjī čˊ), which is apparently common to all Dimlī dialects. Historically Dimili j correspons to Middle Iranian ǰ, while čá, c, and cʿ all continue Middle Iranian č; for instance, jau “barley” (< *MIr. *ǰau), c/cʿim “eye” (< *čehm < *čašm), and cʿilā “lamp, candle” (< *čirāḡ); cīcag “flower” < *čīčag, cf. Turk. çiçek, etc.).

The opposition between a rolled and a simple flap r is found also in Kurmānjī. The marginal phonemes /ʿ/ and // occur in some dialects under the influence of Kurmānjī Kurdish.

In certain dialects older š is commonly represented by s, for example, sit or šit “milk” (cf. Parth. šift), gōs or gōš “ear” (cf. Pers. gūš), hū/ŭsk “dry” (cf. Pers. ḵošk, Kurdish hišk), mask(a) “churning bag” (cf. OPers. maškā-, NPer. mašk); sim- “drink” (probably from MIr. *šām- from older *čyāma-, cf. NPers. ā-šām-, Khotanese tsām- “to digest”); and sōn- or šōn- “flow” (possibly from *xšaudna-). Conversely š also replaces original s, for example, šīr “garlic” (cf. NPers., Kurdish sīr). There is also worth mentioning the initial s- in sol(a), “salt,” which is probably also from š- (cf. Parth. šwryn “salt[y],” NPers. šūr); one, however, cannot exclude the possibility of its original character (cf. Mid. Pers. sōr, Baḵtīārī, sūr, Balūčī sōr, Brahui sōr; see Henning, 1947, p. 55). Of more uncertain interpretation is ša “black,” whose š may be from *sy (cf. Sogd. šʾw but Parth. syʾw, NPers sīāh), and ṟāšt or ṟāst “right” (cf. Parth. rʾšt but NPers. rāst, Kurdish ṟāst). A similar situation is seen in the language of those Armenians of Dersim who belong to the so-called Mirakʿian tribe, in which Armenian š has become s, for instance, sun “dog” < šun and us “late” < . In this dialect Armenian ǰ, č, čʿ have become j, c, cʿ (e.g., jur “water” < ǰur, cut “chicken” < čut, and cʿor “dry” < čʿor).

In the dialect of northern Dersim the voiceless and voiced stops k-, g- are sometimes palatalized in initial position, for instance, čē or , kaya “house, home” (cf. NPers. kada, Ṭālešī ka), čanā, čayna, čēnakʿ or kʿaynakʿ “girl, maiden” (cf. Av. kainiiā-, Mid. Pers. kanīg), and ǰī “excrement” (from MIr. *gūh, cf. Pers. goh, Kurdish ).

Morphology. Nouns and pronouns. Two grammatical genders are clearly distinguished in substantives, adjectives, pronouns, and verbal forms. The nominative singular masculine is unmarked; the feminine usually takes the ending short unstressed -i. The plural endings are -(ā)n, , and for both genders. There are two cases, direct and oblique, which are distinguished in the singular: masculine -ī/-Ø, feminine -ē/-i/-Ø, but not in the plural. The eżāfa is masculine singular -ē/ĕ/, -ō/, -dē/, -di/, -dō and feminine singular -(y)ā/ă, -dā/ă(y). The plural form for both genders is usually , as in nē pʿōstālē min “these my shoes.”

The two cases are distinguished in the personal pronouns, as well (Table 32). In addition, the third person pronouns have a possessive form derived from Old Iranian *haca “from” plus the oblique form of the pronoun.

To be compared with the possessive forms are Kurdish žē, Aftarī ǰūn, Tākistānī ǰā, ǰanā, Ṭālešī čay, čavōn, Semnāni masc. žo, fem. žin, and the like.

Verbs. The verbal system is based on two stems, present and past, which correspond to the older present stem and past (passive) participle. The present tense is formed from the present stem plus the formant -an-/ -(i)n- derived from the Old Iranian present participle in *ant(a)- (cf. Pers. -anda) for instance, barm-an- “weep, cry” (Parth. bram-). If the stem ends in r this is assimilated to the following n: kar- but kan-an- “do,” *yar- but yan-n- “come.” The present stem without -an- occurs in the subjunctive (aorist) and imperative, for instance, karō “may he be.” Some verbs take the preverb bi- in the subjunctive and imperative, for instance, bērī “come!” The imperfect is made from the present stem plus the suffix -ā/ănī or -inī without personal endings, for example, ti āgayrā-ynī “you were walking.”

The endings of the present tense (gender marked only in the singular) are shown in Chart 3.

The endings of the past tense are regular. Occasionally the feminine third-person singular of intransitive verbs takes the feminine ending -i (masc. ). The past tense of the transitive verbs takes the so-called “(split) ergative” construction, in which the (logical) direct object is in the direct case and the agent in the oblique case, for example, tʿō az ašt-ā(n) “you have left me,” literally, “by-you I left-am” (cf. Kurmānjī ta az kuštim “you have killed me”).

A secondary (regular) conjugation is formed by affixing -ā- to the present stem, past stem -āy-, for example, ṟāmā “he ran away.”

The passive of transitive verbs is expressed either by periphrastic constructions or by a secondary conjugation (as in Gūrānī and Mokrī Kurdish) formed with the passive morpheme -ya-: present stem in -(y)ēn-, past stem in -(i)yā-. This passive is conjugated as an intransitive verb and is used only when the agent is not expressed or is unknown.

Both the infinitive and the active (present!) participle are formed from the past stem. The infinitive ends in -ʿī/ĭš from Middle Iranian -išn (only exceptionally used with past stems) and the participle in -ōγ, -ōx, probably borrowed from the Armenian suffix for the noun of agent -oł/-oγ, as intervocalic k does not become x or γ in Dimlī (cf. Asatrian, 1987, p. 160). Examples or the infinitive: āmāyīš “to come” (cf. Mid. Pers. āmadišn), kardī/ĭš “to do,” ṟāmāyīš “to run away,” ṟōtiš “to sell,” wandī/ĭš “to read,” wātiš “to say.” Examples of the present participle: ṟāmāyōx “runner,” ṟōtōx “seller, vendor,” kardōγ “doer, maker,” wandōγ “reader.”

A characteristic feature of Dimlī is the use of postposition -rī, -rā to form the ablative, as in harzanī-ri “from Harzand” (cf. Kurdish where -rā expresses the instrumental).

Linguistic position of Dimlī. After their migration in the Middle Ages, for almost a millennium the Dimlīs had no direct contact with their closest linguistic relatives. Nevertheless, their language has preserved numerous isoglosses with the dialects of the southern Caspian region, and its place in the Caspian dialect group of Northwest Iranian is clear. The Caspian dialects comprise Ṭālešī, Harzan(d)ī, Gūrānī, Gīlakī, Māzandarānī, and some dialects in Tātī-speaking areas and in the area around Semnān. Historically the Caspian dialects belong to the “Northwest Iranian group of languages” and are related to Parthian (see Windfuhr). The isoglosses are of historical phonetic, morphological, and lexical order.

The typically North Iranian and Northwest Iranian phonetic features found in Dimlī include the developments of Indo-European * and (Indo-Iranian) *ts to *s, *ḱw to *sp, *ǵ(h) to *z, *dw- to b- and the preservation of *θr from Indo-European *tr. Examples of *s from Indo-European * and Indo-Iranian *ts include saṟa “year” (cf. Parth. srd, Pers. sāl), pas (cf. Av. pasu-), dis or dus “kind, form” (cf. Mid. Pers. dēs), māsī “fish” (cf. Skt. matsya-, Av. masiia-, Pers. māhī). Examples of *-sp- from Indo-European *ḱw include aspār “horseman” (OIr. *aspa-bāra-, cf. OPers. asa-bāra, Pers. savār, Kurdish siyār), āspiǰ/ža “louse” (cf. Av. *spiš-, Pers. šepeš). Examples of *z from Indo-European *ǵ(h) include zāmā “son-in-law” (cf. Ṭālešī zāmā, Kurdish zawā, Pers. dāmād), zān- “know” (cf. Av. zanā-, Pers. dān-), zaṟn “gold” (cf. Av. zaraniia-, Pers. zarr); az “I” (cf. Av. azəm), dēs and dēz “wall” (cf. Av. daēza-), barz “high” (cf. Av. bərəzaṇt-, Pers. boland). Examples of b- from Old Iranian *dw- include bar “door” (Parth. br, but Pers. dar), bīn “other, this” (cf. Parth. byd, but Mid. Pers. did, Pers. dīgar). Old Iranian *θr further became *hr, which in initial position acquired a supporting vowel in the modern languages, as in hī/ĭra/ē/i “three” (cf. Parth. hry, Av. θrāiiō, versus Pers. se < *çaiiah), but between vowels became r, for instance, mār(i) “mother” (cf. Av. māθrō, gen. of mātar-), āwrā/ă (cf. Av. apuθrā- < *ā-puθra-, but Kurdish āvis, Pers. ābestan < *āpuçā-).

Other typical early Northwest Iranian phonetic features include: Preservation in initial position of Old Iranian *č and *ǰ (as ǰ or j [dz]), which in other positions became ǰ and ž or z, respectively, for example, *č: či “what” (cf. Pers. če), čarx “wheel”; pōnj or pōnǰ “five” (cf. Pers. panj), ṟōǰ “day” (cf. Av. raocah-, Pers. rūz), vāǰ- “say” (cf. Parth. wāž-), (a)ǰēr “downward, below” (cf. Kurdish žēr, Pers. zīr); (a)ǰōr “upward, above” (cf. Kurdish žōr, Mid. Pers. azabar); lōǰina “flue, aperture” (cf. Mid. Pers. rōzan); ǰana or ǰiina “woman, wife” (cf. Av. jaini-, Kurdish žin, Pers. zan), daž/z “ache, pain” (from OIr. *daǰi-?).

Dimlī gōn(i) “blood” corresponds exactly to Parthian gwxn, the relation of which to Old Iranian *wahuni- (Gūrānī winī, wun, Pers. ḵūn = Kurdish, all from *xwaun-, a transformation of OIr. *wahuni-) is uncertain.

The phonetic isoglosses of Dimlī in modern times overlap to varying degree with those of the Caspian dialects, Kurdish, Persian, the Central dialects, and the like (see Henning, 1954, pp. 174-76; Windfuhr). The most characteristic are the following. Initial *x- became h- or was lost, as in Gūrānī, for example Old Iranian initial *x- became h- or was lost, as in har “donkey” (Av. xara-, Gūrānī, Lorī har, versus Kurdish kʿar, Pers. ḵar, etc.), yānī “spring, well” for *hānī (Mid. Pers. and Parth. xānīg, Gūrānī hāna, versus Kurdish kānī). Initial *xw- became w-, as in the Kandūlāyī dialect of Gūrānī, for example, wala “ash” (versus Kurdish xwalī “soil”), wā/ă(y) “sister” (versus Pers. ḵᵛāhar), war- “eat” (versus Pers. ḵordan). Initial *fr- became *hr-, which either received a supporting vowel, as in harā “wide, far” (versus Pers. farāḵ), or became ṟ-, as in ṟōtiš “sell” (also in the Central dialects, versus Pers. forūḵt).

Survey of typical phonetic developments.Dimlī has preserved the Middle Iranian maǰhūl vowels ō, ē (cf. gōs/š “ear,” bō(y) “smell,” gēs “hair,” etc.). The corresponding diphthongs are secondary, however; au is from older *-aw-, *-ap-, *-ab-, *-ag-, or *-af-, whereas ai is the result of phonetic combinatory changes.

The Old Iranian voiceless stops *p, *t, *k remained in initial position or became the apirates pʿ, tʿ, kʿ; *t and *k also remained after s and š, but became d and g after r. Examples of *p include pas “lamb, ram” (see above) and pʿīza “belly” (cf. Av. *pāzah- “chest,” Parth. pʾzʾh “in front”). Examples of *t include t’au “fever” (cf. Pers. tab), t’ars “fear” (Cf. Pers. tars), kʿārd(i) “knife” (cf. Pers. kārd), pʿōrd “bridge” (also pʿird influenced by Kurdish; cf. Kormānjī pʿir, Southern Kurdish pird; Pers. pol); ā/ăstik, ā/ăsta “bone” (cf. Av. ast-); ā/ăstāra “star” (cf. Pers. setāra). Examples of *k include kʿār “work” (cf. Pers. kār); čē, kaya “home"(see above); kū/ŭtik “dog” (cf. Sogd. ʾkwty /əkuti/, Oss. kuj, Kurdish kūčˊ/čik, etc.), hū/ŭs/šk “dry” (see above), varg “wolf” (cf. Av. vəhrka-, Pers. gorg); exceptionally k remained in hāk “egg” (Fārs dialects hāg, Ḵūrī xeik).

Between vowels *p became -u-/-w-, and *t became y or was lost. Examples of *p include āu “water” (cf. Pers. āb); āwrā/ă “pregnant” (see above); šau “night” (cf. Pers. šab); ārya, āyra “mill” (from OIr. *ār-θry-? cf. Kurdish āš, NPers. ās-yāb< *āç-); kawtiš “fall down” (cf. Mid. Pers. kaft). Examples of *t include čē, kaya “house” (from *kata-, see above) and wā(y) “wind” (cf. NPers. bād). Exceptionally we find d, as in ǰidā “separated, different” (cf. Kurdish ǰihē, Pers. jodā). Note the secondary -t- in the group sr > str in astiri, ī/ĭštrī “horn,” as in Kurdish strī, from Old Iranian *srū-.

The Old Iranian voiced stops *b and *d are preserved only in initial position, *g in initial position and in the group *rg. The group *rd became . Between vowels the voiced stops were mostly lost. On the palatalization of g to ǰ, see above. Examples of *b- include bō(y) “smell” (cf. Pers. ), biz/ža “goat” (cf. Pers. boz), b(i)raw(i) “eyelash” (< *bruwa-; cf. Pers. abrū), aspār “horseman” (OIr. *aspa-bāra-). Examples of *d include darg “long” (cf. Av. darəγa-, Pers. dīr), pāī “foot” (cf. Av. pāδ-, Pers. ), saṟa (see above), var(a) or val(a) “neck” (but NPers. galū, Baḵtīārī gyēl, Māzandarāni and Gīlakī gē/ĕl); zaṟa “heart” (cf. Av. zərəδaiia-, but Gūrānī zil, Pers. del), gara or gaṟa “complaint” (but Pers. gela, Kurdish gilī), kʿōl(i) “hornless (goat)” (from OIr. *kṛdu-?). It should be noted that Dimlī words with -i- before r/l, as in ādir “fire,” mil “neck,” vil “flower,” are likely to be loanwords from other Iranian dialects (cf. mol and vel in Fārs dialects). Examples of *g- include gōs/š “ear” (cf. Pers. gūš), gā(w) “cow” (cf. Pers. gāv), but ǰī or “excrement” (see above); darg “long” (see above); ṟau “swift” (cf. Av. *raγu-).

The Old Iranian spirants, *f, *θ, *x, developed variously. The *f was lost in the cluster *-ft- in s/šit “milk” (cf. Parth. šyft). On *fr, see above. The group *-θn- became -sn- in ārāsna, ārisna “elbow” (cf. Avestan araθni-, but OPers. arašni-, Pers. araš). Similarly *x was lost in the cluster *xš-, as in šau “night” (see above), but remained in words such as čarx (from Persian?). On initial *x- and *xw- , ee above.

On Old Iranian *s and *z, as well as the interchange of s- and š, see above. The Old Iranian groups *-st-, * -sn-, and *-sr- are preserved (on *sp, see above), as in ā/ăsnāwi “swimming” (versus Pers. šenā); hars(i) “tear” (cf. Av. asru-, Pers. ašk from *asruka-), askaft “cave” (from *skā/ăfta-, versus Pers. šekāft). Old Iranian *š remained in Dimlī, as opposed to Kurdish, where intervocalic š regularly became h. Example include goš or gōs “ear” (Kurdish guh), šaš “six” (= Pers.), pāšna “heel” (= Pers., but Kurdish pa(h)nī), pānušna, ṟōš/s(a)yā “light, illumination” (cf. Pers. rowšanāʾī, but Kurdish ṟō(h)nāyī), tayšan “thirsty” (cf. Pers. tešna, but Kurdish tʿī(h)n).

Old Iranian *y- became ǰ-, as in Persian, but *w became v (rather than b- or g-, as in Kurdish, Persian, etc.). Examples of *y include ǰau or jau “barley” (cf. Av. yauua-, Pers. ǰou, Kurdish ǰa, but Gūrānī yaw, yaya), ǰidā (see above). Examples of *w include vazd (cf. Av. vazdah-, but Kurdish baz), vayšān or vaysān “hungry” (but Kurdish birčī, Pers. gošna for gorosna), vāris “rain” (but Pers. bāreš), vā(y) (see above), vayva “bride” (cf. Kurdish būk, Judeo-Pers. bayōg), varg “wolf” (see above), vinī “lose, waste” (cf. Mid. Pers. wanī), vāz- “run” (cf. Pers. vazīdan “to blow” of the wind), vā/ăš/s “grass” (cf. Parth. wʾš, Av. vāstra-? “fodder”). Where b- occurs instead of v- it may be assumed to be a borrowing from Kurdish or Persian, for instance, bar “stone” (cf. Kurdish, Lorī bard) and gumān “doubt, surmise” and guna “sin” from New Persian via Kurdish.

Old Iranian *m was preserved in all positions in Dimlī but not in Kurdish, where it became v between vowels; examples include maḡwā/ă “fruit” (cf. Pers. mīva), dām(i) “trap” (Pers. dām, but Kurdish dāw), āmōr “counting” (cf. Pers. āmār), ām(i)nān “summer” (cf. Mid. Pers. hāmīn, but Kurdish hāvīn), (h)arma(y) “shoulder, forearm” (cf. Av. arəma-), mīr “dough” (cf. Pers./Ar. ḵamīr, but Kurdish havīr).

Morphological isoglosses. The most important morphological isoglosses which link Dimlī with the Caspian dialects are the pronominal possessive forms from *hača plus the pronoun and the formation of the present indicative from the old present participle in *-ant(a)-. The past stem of the secondary conjugation ends in from *-ād, as in Parthian. Exclusive to Dimlī are the infinitive ending -ī/ĭš from *-išn and the ablative use of postposition -rī/ā (Asatrian, 1990, p. 162; idem, 1992c, p. 26).

Lexical isoglosses. These isoglosses include Old Iranian *arma- “forearm” (Dimlī (h)arma(y), Ṭālešī ām, cf. Oss. ā/ărm, versus *bāzu- in Pers. bāzū, etc.); Middle Persian āyišm “moon” (Dimlī ā/ăš/smā/ă, āsmi, Tatī ušmā, Ṭālesī ovšim, Harzanī öšma); Dimlī baurān “dove” (Oss. bälon “domestic dove”; cf. Lithuanian balañdis “dove”); Old Iranian *bram- “weep, cry” (Parth. bram-, Dimlī barm-, Māzandarānī barm-, Harzanī beram “weeping,” Ṭālešī bāme, Tātī berām, Gīlakī barmā, Aftarī burme; cf. in the Central dialects Nāʾīnī biremba; versus Pers. gerya, etc.). Old Iranian *kanya- “woman, girl” (Dimlī kʿaynakʿ, čanā, Harzanī kīna, Ṭālešī kīna, Tatī kīna, Galīnqaya kina, čina, versus Pers. ḵāna; marginal lexeme in Pers. kanīz and Kurdish kinik); Old Iranian *kata- “home, house” (Dimlī kaya, čē, Ṭālešī ka, Gūrānī ka, Tatī , Galīnqaya kar, Harzanī kar, čār, Aftarī kiye; cf. in the Central dialects Ḵūnsārī kī(y)a, Nāʾīnī kiya; marginal lexeme in Pers. kade and Kurdish kadīkirin “to domesticate (animals)”); Old Iranian *ragu- “quick, swift” (Parth. raγ, Dimlī ṟau, Harzanī rav, Ṭālešī ra, Tatī rav, Semnānī rayk, cf. Oss. räw, rog “light,” versus Pers. zūd); Old Iranian *uz-ayara- “yesterday” (Av. uzaiiara- “afternoon,” Dimlī vīžēr(ī), vīžēr, Gūrānī uzera, Harzanī, Tātī zīr, Tākistānī, Ṭālešī azīra, Aftarī yezze, versus Pers. dī-rūz); Old Iranian *waxš- “burn” (Parth. wxšyndg “blazing,” Dimlī vaš or viš-, Harzanī vaš-, Ṭālešī vaš-, Tatī vaš-, versus *sauc- in Pers. sūḵtan, etc.); Old Iranian and common Northwest Middle Iranian *xšwipta- “milk” (Av. xšuuipta-, Parth. šift, Dimlī š/sit, Gūrānī šit, šifta, Ṭālešī šit, Harzanī, Aftarī šet, Tātī še(r)t, versus Pers., Kurdish šīr < *xšīra-); Old Iranian *upa-sar(a)daka- “spring(time)” (Mid. Pers. ābsālān, Dimlī ūsāṟ(ō), vazārī, Ṭālešī āvāsōr, Harzanī āvāsōr, classical Pers. ābsālān); Avestan vazdah- “fat” (Dimlī vazd “fat, oil”; cf. Kurdish baz); and Parthian wāš “fodder” (Dimlī vā/ăš/s, Ṭālešī, Māzandarānī vāš, Aftarī vāšt, Semnānī voš, versus Parthian gwyʾw, Pers., Kurdish giyāh, gīhā). Also to be noted is Dimlī ṟīz, ṟēs “rice” (*wrī/ĭzna-; cf. Sogd. ryz-, versus Pers., Kurdish, etc., berenǰ < *wrī/ĭnza-). Relatives of the negative particle Dimlī činyō/ā “no, not” are found in Harzanī čini(ya) and Āẕarī čī/ĭnī/ĭ.

Words found only in Dimlī include angāz, hangāž “plough handle” (< *han-gāza- < *gāza- “take, accept” found in Sogd. ptγʾz-, Khotanese pajāys-, etc.; it cannot be from Armenian; see Vahman and Asatrian, p. 272); āz “generation, offspring” (Man. Mid. Pers. āzn(ān), Arm. lw. < Parth. azn “people, generation,” azniw “noble”); āz(i) “branch” (Mid.Pers. azg, Arm. loanword from Parthian azg “race, kind, nation”); ask(i) “goat” (Avestan aza-, Mid. Pers. az(ag); different from Kurdish āsk “deer” from *āsuka-, cf. Mid. Pers. āhūg, Pers. āhū); gauš “weak, coward, greedy” and gaušakay “weakness, cowardice” (possibly related to Sogd. γβs- “to be fatigued”); haw(i) or hiw(i) “laughter,” hawāyīšʾ present stem hwī/ĭn- “to laugh” (cf. Oss. xūdln); kay “play, game” (Mid. Pers kadag “game, joke,” Sogd. kʾtʾk-, Arm. lw. < Parth. katak “joke”; cf. Jowšaqānī koy “game”); sīr-, in present stem sīn(a)n- “I love” (< OIr. *srīra-; cf. Av. srīra- “beautiful,” Sogd. šyr’kk “good,” Parth. šīr-gāmag “friend”; probably not from Arm. sēr, sir- “love”; see Asatrian, 1987, pp. 166-67); and vistiš and fīnāyīš (or finā-) “to throw,” fīnyāyīš “to be thrown” (Mid. Pers. wistan “to shoot,” present stem from *wid-na-) with ṟā-vistiš “to spread, lay, put” (Galīnqaya fest-, fesn- “to throw, spread”), cf. Lorī bistan “to put down, to cast a foal” (before time).

Dimlī words without clear Iranian etymologies include diǰn(i) or dižn(i) “rain” (< OIr. *danǰa-? cf. IE *dhengṷo-); for “rain” vāris, vārān and Turkish yāḡmūr are also used in Dimlī.

Of the numerous borrowings from Armenian (exceeding perhaps those from Kurdish or even Turkish) the following may be mentioned: aks/cʾīg “woman, girl,” āvilīk “broom,” bōč, pōč “tail,” būǰūr “small,” gābRheum L.,” hārs “bride,” hēsān “whetstone,” čirtʿān “waterpipe,” gōǰā/ăg(i) “button,” gōm(a) “cattle shed,” hāst “hard, rigid,” hāgōs(i) “furrow,” hīm “root, base,” hēǰ “cross” (Arm. xačʿ), hōllik “hut, shack,” hūrā/ăkʿ “hatchet, ax,” ǰāγ/x(i) “wire mesh,” kʿa/irōn “beam, girder,” kāl “thrashing floor,” kālān(i) “scabbard, sheath,” kʿalandī “scythe,” kiray “lime,” kirya, kirē “Sunday,” kiṟīk “neck,” kōra/ēk “a kind of lentil,” kʿušna/i “rye,” ōzōr “branch,” pāč “pod, grain,” pʿanǰār “vegetable,” pʿūrt “wool,” sāvār “pearl barley, spelt,” sēmiga “threshold,” sūnk/g “mushroom,” xēγ(ō), xīntʿ “mad, insane,” xōr “deep,” xōnj, xōz “pig,” zīl(ik) “sprout.”

Literature in Dimlī

The earliest surviving literary works in the Dimlī language are two poems with identical titles, Mawlūd (Genesis), dating from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The earlier, consisting of 756 eleven-syllable verses, is by Malā Ahmedē Ḵāsī, the other by ʿOṯmān Efendī, mufti of Siverek. There is also a minstrel tradition going back to the medieval period; a number of Dimlī bards have composed both in their mother tongue and in Turkish, for example, Daymī, Dāvūt Solārī, Pīr Solṭān, ʿAlī-Akbar Čīčak, Yāvūz Tōp, Arif Sāḡ, Sulaymān Yildiz, and Rahmī Sāltok (Zilfi, p. 6). Nevertheless, Dimlī has attained genuine literary status only in recent decades, owing to the activities of a number of writers, poets, and political leaders (e.g., Eulbekir Pamukçu, Ališan Karsan, Hesen Dewran, Zilfi, Malmisanic, K. Astare, Reme Bir, Hesen Uşen, Heyder, Usḵan), who now live abroad, mainly in western Europe. At present numerous newspapers, magazines, and bulletins are being published in Dimlī (e.g., Piya [formerly Ayre], Raştiye, Ware, Raya Zazaistani), and the number is increasing.



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(Garnik S. Asatrian)

Originally Published: December 15, 1995

Last Updated: November 28, 2011

This article is available in print.
Vol. VI, Fasc. 4, pp. 405-411