Northwest Caucasian Languages0



Circassian. Western Part AbkhaziaAdyghe-Abkhaz Languages in mid 19th c.
Modern linguistic mapping of Western Caucasus tribal composition 1774-1780

The Northwest Caucasian languages comprise five languages: Abkhaz, Abaza, Adyghe, Kabardian, and the extinct language Ubykh. Within the language family Abkhaz and Abaza form the Abkhaz-Abazin subgroup, Adyghe and Kabardian constitute the Circassian subgroup. Ubykh is in various aspects specific and stands apart from these two subgroups.

The Northwest Caucasian Languages are spoken by more than 1.000.000 people. The vast majority of the speakers live in south-western Russia, Georgia, and Turkey.

After the October revolution the Northwest Caucasian languages in the Soviet Union became written languages. First a Latin alphabet was used. In the late 30's of the 20th century Abaza, Adyghe, and Kabardian adopted the Cyrillic script.The Abkhaz language however was written with Georgian Mkhedruli at that time. About 20 years later - in the 50's - Abkhaz, too began to employ a Cyrillic based writing system.

Ubykh has never been a written language.

Kabardian and Adyghe have a very long oral literary tradition, an example of which are the well known 'Nart' sagas.

All Northwest Caucasian languages share a special 'hunter language', that preserves an archaic word stock and ancient religious ideas of the Northwest Caucasian tribes. This language was commonly in use until quite recently and might be still in use in some remote areas.

The sound system is characterised by a rich consonatism. The basic set-up of the system is the phonological opposition between voiced vs. voiceless aspirate vs. voiceless ejective obstruents. The widespread use of secondary articulatory features multiplies the number of consonant phonemes. Ubykh - the language with the most abundant consonantism - has more than 80 consonant phonemes. Abkhaz and Abaza have around 60 or more, Adyghe and Kabardian have 50 or less consonant phonemes. In contrast, the vowel inventory is very poor. All Northwest Caucasian languages distinguish only two vowel phonemes: an open and a closed vowel. By means of allophonic variation there are yet numerous phonetic realisations of these two phonemes, a fact that is reflected by the alphabets.

Some scholars even tried to prove that the Circassian languages don't have phonemic vowels. More recent analyses, however, have shown that there are at least two vowel phonemes.

The Circassian languages and Ubykh have two cases: The ergative case is used with the subject of transitive ('agentive') verbs. The absolutive case is used with subjects of intransitive ('factitive') verbs and with objects of transitive ('agentive') verbs.

Abkhaz and Abaza have virtually no case system, only an 'adverbial case' is formally marked.

The Northeast Caucasian verb is polysynthetic and has an intricate morphology. The verb is the absolute centre of the sentence and mirrors the syntactic structure of the sentence by means of incorporation. The conjugation is characterised by a split into transitive ('agentive') and intransitive ('factitive') verbs. The grammatical categories person, number, tense, mood, version, potentiality, comitativity, sociativity, reciprocity, and inferenciality are expressed on the verb. Agreement is marked by crossreferencing pronominal affixes. The verb can agree with subject, direct object, and indirect object at the same time.

The Northeast Caucasian languages are ergative languages. Intransitive subjects and direct objects are marked in the same way. Transitive subjects, however, are treated differently. The Circassian languages and Ubykh pattern ergatively both in case marking and in the order of the agreement affixes on the verb.
Abkhaz and Abaza - due to the lack of morphological cases - exhibit the ergative pattern only by means of agreement affixes.

Word-order is predominantly SOV, the possessor precedes the possessed, the adjective usually follows the head noun, relative sentences precede the head and the language has postpositions rather than prepositions.
Possession is marked by prefixed pronouns on the possessed noun. The prefix pronouns agree with the possessor in person.

Source: LLOW Languages Of The World
Information on Languages, Language Learning, and Linguistics

Abkhaz

Abkhaz has more than 100.000 speakers and is chiefly spoken in the area of the Abkhaz Autonomous Republic in western Georgia. Pockets of Abkhaz speaking communities exist in southwestern Georgia, Ukraine, Turkey, and Syria.

Abkhaz belongs to the Abkhaz-Abazin subgroup of the Northwest Caucasian language family.

Main dialects of Abkhaz are Abzhui and Bzyb. Some linguists consider Abaza a divergent dialect of Abkhaz.

Since 1928 Abkhaz was written in Latin script. In 1938 a Georgian based alphabet was adopted. In 1954 a Cyrillic based writing system was introduced, which is still in use today.

The sound system is characterised by a large consonantal inventory. The Bzyb dialect of Abkhaz altogether has about 67 consonant phonemes, the literary language has at least 58. The basic set-up of the system is the phonological opposition between voiced vs. voiceless aspirates vs. voiceless ejective obstruents. The widespread use of secondary articulatory features multiplies the number of consonant phonemes. There are only two vowel phonemes: an open /a/ and a closed central vowel /ə/. The Abkhaz orthography uses several non-phonemic vowel-letters in addition to these two phonemes.

Abkhaz has virtually no case system, only an 'adverbial case' is formally marked.

The Abkhaz verb is polysynthetic and has an intricate morphology. The verb is the absolute center of the sentence and mirrors the syntactic structure of the sentence by means of incorporation. The conjugation is characterised by a split into transitive ('agentive') and intransitive ('factitive') verbs. The grammatical categories person, number, tense, mood, version, potentiality, comitativity, sociativity, reciprocity, and inferenciality are marked on the verb. Agreement is marked by cross-referencing pronominal affixes. The verb can agree with subject, direct object, and indirect object at the same time.

Abkhaz is an ergative language: intransitive subjects and direct objects are marked the same way on the verb, transitive subjects are treated differently.

Word-order is predominantly SOV, the possessor precedes the possessed, the adjective usually follows the head noun, relative sentences precede the head. Abkhaz has postpositions rather than prepositions.
Possession is marked by prefixed pronouns on the possessed noun. The prefix pronouns agree with the possessor in person.


Abaza


Abaza has more than 40.000 speakers and is mainly spoken in the Karachay-Cherkess Republic and in the Kasnodarsk Administrative Territory (Kray) in southern Russia. Several thousand speakers live in Turkey.

Abaza belongs to the Abkhaz-Abazin subgroup of the Northwest Caucasian language family.

Main dialects of Abaza are Tapanta and Ashkaraua. Some linguists regard Abzaza as a divergent dialect of Abkhaz.

Since 1923 Abaza was written in Latin script. In 1938 the central government ruled the adoption of the Cyrillic alphabet.

The sound system is characterised by a large consonant inventory. Abaza has altogether about 65 consonant phonemes. The system is set up by phonological oppositions between voiced vs. voiceless aspirate vs. voiceless ejective obstruents. The widespread use of secondary articulatory features multiplies the number of consonantal phonemes. There are only two vowel phonemes: an open /a/ and a closed central vowel /ə/. The Abaza orthography uses several non-phonemic vowel-letters in addition to these two phonemes.

Abaza has virtually no case system, only an 'adverbial case' is formally marked.

The Abaza verb is polysynthetic and has an intricate morphology. The verb is the absolute center of the sentence and mirrors the syntactic structure of the sentence by means of incorporation. The conjugation is characterised by a split into transitive ('agentive') and intransitive ('factitive') verbs. The grammatical categories person, number, tense, mood, version, potentiality, comitativity, sociativity, reciprocity, and inferenciality are expressed on the verb. Agreement is marked by cross-referencing pronominal affixes. The verb can agree with subject, direct object, and indirect object at the same time.

Abaza is an ergative language: intransitive subjects and direct objects are marked in the same way on the verb, transitive subjects are treated differently.

Word-order is predominantly SOV, the possessor precedes the possessed, the adjective usually follows the head noun, relative sentences precede the head, the language has postpositions rather than prepositions.
Possession is marked by prefixed pronouns on the possessed noun. The prefix pronouns agree with the possessor in person.

Adyghe


Adyghe is spoken by approximately 300.000 people. 125.000 live in southern Russia, chiefly in the Adygea Republic. Significant numbers of Adyghe speakers reside in Turkey, Jordan, Iraq, Syria, and Israel.

Adyghe together with Kabardian is a member of the Circassian subgroup of the Northwest Caucasian language family.

Adyghe is also called Lower Circassian or Western Circassian.

Main dialects are Temirgoj (or Chemgui), Bezhedukh, Abadzex, Shapsug.

The written standard of Adyghe was created after the October revolution in 1923. First it was written with Latin script. Since 1936 a Cyrillic based alphabet is in use. The literary language is derived from the Temirgoj dialect.

Adyghe and Kabardian have a very long oral literary tradition. The so called 'Nart' sagas are well known.

The Adyghe sound system is characterised by a great number of consonant distinctions (but fewer than in Abkhaz-Abazin and Ubykh!) and a small number of vowel distinctions: Adyghe has about 50 consonant phonemes and two vowel phonemes, that are distinguished by the opposition 'open-closed'. This opposition however is restricted in position. Some scholars tried to prove that Kabardian and Adyghe don't have phonemic vowels at all. But more recent analyses have shown that there are at least two vowel phonemes.

Lexical accent is dynamic and free.

Adyghe has two cases: The ergative case is marked by -n, while the absolutive case is unmarked. The ergative case is used with the subject of transitive ('agentive') verbs. The absolutive case is used with subjects of intransitive ('factitive') verbs and with objects of transitive ('agentive') verbs.

The Adyghe verb is polysynthetic and has an intricate morphology. The verb is the absolute center of the sentence and mirrors the syntactic structure of the sentence by means of incorporation. The conjugation is characterised by a split into transitive ('agentive') and intransitive ('factitive') verbs. The grammatical categories person, number, tense, mood, version, potentiality, comitativity, sociativity, reciprocity, and inferenciality are expressed on the verb. Agreement is marked by cross-referencing pronominal affixes. The verb can agree with subject, direct object, and indirect object at the same time.

Adyghe is an ergative language: intransitive subjects and direct objects are marked in the same way on the participants of the verb and on the verb, transitive subjects are treated differently.

Word-order is predominantly SOV, the possessor precedes the possessed, the adjective usually follows the head noun, relative sentences precede the head, the language has postpositions rather than prepositions.
Possession is marked by prefixed pronouns on the possessed noun. The prefix pronouns agree with the possessor in person. Adyghe distinguishes between organic possession (body parts, relatives etc.) and non-organic possession.

Kabardian

Kabardian is spoken by less than 650.000 people. Less than 450.000 speakers live in southern Russia, more precisely in the Kabardian-Balkar Republic and the Karachay-Circassian Republic and in the Stavropol region. Some speakers dwell in the Krasnodar region and the Republic of Adygea. About 200.000 speakers live in Turkey.

Kabardian together with Adyghe is a member of the Circassian group in the Northwest Caucasian language family. The language is sometimes referred to as East Circassian or Upper Circassian.

Dialects of Kabardian are Greater Kabardian, Beslenei, Kuban, Kuban, Mozdok, and the so called Cherkes dialect, which comprises the dialects spoken along the Kuban and Zelendzhuk rivers.

The written standard of Kabardian was created after the October revolution in 1923. First it was written with Latin script. Since 1936 a Cyrillic based alphabet is in use. The literary language is derived from the Greater Kabardian dialect.

Kabardian and Adyghe have a very long oral literary tradition, an example of which are the well known 'Nart' sagas.

The Kabardian sound system is characterised by a large number of consonant distinctions (but fewer than in Abkhaz-Abazin and Ubykh!) and a small number of vowel distinctions: Literary Kabardian has about 45 consonant phonemes and two vowel phonemes, which are distinguished by the opposition 'open-closed'. This opposition, however, is restricted in position. Some scholars tried to prove that Kabardian and Adyghe don't have phonemic vowels at all. More recent analyses, however, have shown that there are least two vowel phonemes.

Lexical accent is dynamic and free.

Kabardian has two cases: The ergative case is marked by -n, while the absolutive case is unmarked. The ergative case is used with the subject of transitive ('agentive') verbs. The absolutive case is used with subjects of intransitive ('factitive') verbs and with objects of transitive ('agentive') verbs.

The Kabardian verb is polysynthetic and has an intricate morphology. The verb is the absolute center of the sentence and mirrors the syntactic structure of the sentence by means of incorporation. The conjugation is characterised by a split into transitive ('agentive') and intransitive ('factitive') verbs. The grammatical categories person, number, tense, mood, version, potentiality, comitativity, sociativity, reciprocity, and inferenciality are expressed on the verb. Agreement is marked by cross-referencing pronominal affixes. The verb can agree with subject, direct object, and indirect object at the same time.

Kabardian is an ergative language: intransitive subjects and direct objects are marked in the same way on the participants of the verb and on the verb, transitive subjects are treated differently.

Word-order is predominantly SOV, the possessor precedes the possessed, the adjective usually follows the head noun, relative sentences precede the head and the language has postpositions rather than prepositions.
Possession is marked by prefixed pronouns on the possessed noun. The prefix pronouns agree with the possessor in person. The Beslenei dialect of Kabardian distinguishes between organic (body parts, relatives etc.) possession and non-organic possession.

Ubykh


Extinct. The last Ubykh speaker, Tevfik Esenç, died in Istanbul at the age of 88 in 1992.

Ubykh is member of the Northwest Caucasian language family.

Until 1864 the Ubykh people lived along the eastern shore of the Black Sea in the area of Sochi (Russia, Krasnodarskiy Kray, northwest of Abkhazia). The entire Ubykh population left its homeland when Russia conquered the Muslim northern Caucasus in the 1860s. Most of the people migrated to Turkey.

The sound system is characterised by a large consonant inventory. Ubykh has more than 80 consonant phonemes. The basic set-up of the system is the phonological opposition between voiced vs. voiceless aspirate vs. voiceless ejective obstruents. The widespread use of secondary articulatory features multiplies the number of consonant phonemes. There are only two vowel phonemes: an open /a/ and a closed central vowel /ə/.

Ubykh has two formally marked cases: The ergative case is marked by -m and the absolutive case by -r. The ergative case is used with the subject of transitive ('agentive') verbs. The absolutive case is used with subjects of intransitive ('factitive') verbs and with objects of transitive ('agentive') verbs.

The Ubykh verb is polysynthetic and has an intricate morphology. The verb is the absolute center of the sentence and mirrors the syntactic structure of the sentence by means of incorporation. The conjugation is characterised by a split into transitive ('agentive') and intransitive ('factitive') verbs. The grammatical categories person, number, tense, mood, version, potentiality, comitativity, sociativity, reciprocity, and inferenciality are expressed on the verb. Agreement is marked by cross-referencing pronominal affixes. The verb can agree with subject, direct object, and indirect object at the same time.

Ubykh is an ergative language: intransitive subjects and direct objects are marked in the same way on the participants of the verb and on the verb, transitive subjects are treated differently.

Word-order is predominantly SOV, the possessor precedes the possessed, the adjective usually follows the head noun, relative sentences precede the head and the language has postpositions rather than prepositions.

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