Bamberg Lexical Database for Contemporary Iranian Languages (BLDCIL)

Background and aims

The sub-classification of Iranian languages has proven to be a particularly recalcitrant problem in historical linguistics (see Korn 2016 for recent proposals, DOI: 10.1515/if-2016-0021). This project aims to complement and extend existing scholarship by applying a phylogenetic  approach, based on lexical comparison, to the problem; see e.g. Heggarty et al. (2010) for the background to this kind of approach (

The project’s point of  departure is the question of the sub-grouping of Zazaki, a West Iranian language spoken in Central Anatolia (in today’s Turkey), but historically not closely related to its current geographical neighbours (Northern Kurdish); see Gippert (2007/2008 for a summary or relevant scholarship,

The aims of the project are thus two-fold: (i) to apply a novel methodology to an old problem in the sub-classification of  Iranian languages; (ii) to serve as a proof-of-concept for the efficacy (or otherwise) of phylogenetic models in resolving classic problems of philology. The first phase, beginning in November 2016, involves the compilation of standardized lexical data sets, together with sound files, from a representative set of Iranian languages, focussing initially on the West Iranian languages.


The project is closely linked with two existing initiatives: 

The CoBL (Cognacy in Basic Lexicon) database at the Max-Planck-Institute in Jena (Paul Heggarty and Cormac Anderson,  see

The Atlas of the Languages of Iran project (Editor Erik Anonby,

The Jena/Bamberg Iranian List (JBIL) of meanings

The JBIL-list is a list of meanings, which includes the 200 items used in the CoBL project, and 80 items used in the Atlas of the Languages of Iran, plus a number of other items deemed of interest for Iranian languages. The items themselves, plus explanations and instructions for investigators, are available as downloads  below:


  • The JBIL-list, with explanations and example sentences, and instructions for investigators in English (pdf(194.2 KB, 12 Seiten))
  • The Data Entry Form in English, into which the actual forms for each language may be entered. (doc(103.1 KB, 26 Seiten))



Data sets have been compiled, or are in the process of compilation, for the following languages:


Behdinî Kurdish



Jafi Kurdish





Sample Data

Sample data sets will be made available shortly here



The LDBCIL project is coordinated by Geoffrey Haig (Bamberg) and Erik Anonby (Carleton/Bamberg). Data collection and handling is undertaken with the assistance of (in alphabetical order): Shirin Adibifar (Bamberg), Raheleh Izadifar (Hamedan), Mina Salehi (Bamberg), Mortaza Taheri-Ardali (Shahr-e Kord University).



The project gratefully acknowledges the financial and technical support of the Max-Planck Institute for the Science of Human History (CoBL-Database), the University of Bamberg for departmental funding, and the Dept. of Linguistics at the University of Hamedan as a cooperation partner in the Islamic Republic of Iran.