The Kurdish languages (Kurdî or کوردی) are several Western Iranian languages spoken by the Kurds in western Asia. The Kurdish languages are divided into four dialect groups, known as Kurmanji or Northern Kurdish, Central Kurdish, Southern Kurdish, Laki, and sometimes also Zazaki. Recent (as of 2009) estimates admit anywhere between 20 and 30 million native speakers of Kurdish in total. Origin The Kurdish languages belong to the Iranian branch of the Indo-European family. They are generally classified as Northwestern Iranian languages, or by some scholars as intermediate between Northwestern and Southwestern Iranian. Martin van Bruinessen notes that "Kurdish has a strong south-western Iranian element", whereas "Zaza and Gurani do belong to the north-west Iranian group"]Ludwig Paul concludes that Kurdish seems to be a Northwestern Iranian language in origin, but acknowledges that it shares many traits with Southwestern Iranian languages like Persian, apparently due to longstanding and intense historical contacts. Wind fuhr identified Kurdish dialects as Parthian, albeit with a Median substratum. History Among the earliest Kurdish religious texts is the Yazidi Black Book, the sacred book of Yazidi faith. It is considered to have been authored sometime in the 13th century AD by Hassan bin Adi (b. 1195 AD), the great-grandnephew of Sheikh Adi ibn Musafir (d. 1162), the founder of the faith. It contains the Yazidi account of the creation of the world, the origin of man, the story of Adam and Eve and the major prohibitions of the faith. From the 15th to 17th centuries, classical Kurdish poets and writers developed a literary language. The most notable classical Kurdish poets from this period were Ali Hariri, Ahmad Khani, Malaye Jaziri and Faqi Tayran. Current status Today, Kurdish is an official language in Iraq. In Syria, on the other hand, publishing material in Kurdish is forbidden, but it's not enforced anymore due to the civil war there. Before August 2002, the Turkish government placed severe restrictions on the use of Kurdish, prohibiting the language in education and broadcast media. The Kurdish alphabet is not recognized in Turkey, and the use of Kurdish names containing the letters X, W, and Q, which do not exist in the Turkish alphabet, is not allowed. In 2012 Kurdish-language lessons became an elective subject in public schools; previously, Kurdish education had only been possible in private institutions.