This article situates the Kurdish language within the diasporic context of the United States, and explores the roles that the language plays for the community. This is investigated through a mixed method encompassing literature and media reviews, interviews with community members and leaders, and a survey conducted among the Kurds in Southern California. The findings show that both first and second generation Kurds see their language not only as a symbol of their cultural identity and survival but a means of building and maintaining relations with each other, with other Kurds in the US, with relatives in the homeland, and also with their heritage. Nevertheless, members of the second generation think that language constitutes one of the most challenging cultural heritage elements to keep for many linguistic, socio-economic, cultural, and political reasons. The article concludes that there are no easy ways of maintaining minority languages like Kurdish much less transmitting them to future generations. The prospect for a promising future seems highly unlikely as long as heritage languages in the US are perceived as personal choices only, and the state does not assume responsibility for their maintenance let alone their transmission to future generations of newer immigrants.

Additional Metadata
Keywords diaspora, heritage languages, identity, Kurdish language, Kurds
Persistent URL
Journal International Journal of the Sociology of Language
Sheyholislami, J, & Sharifi, A. (Amir). (2016). "It is the hardest to keep": Kurdish as a heritage language in the United States. International Journal of the Sociology of Language, 2016(237), 75–98. doi:10.1515/ijsl-2015-0036