Abkhaz language

Abkhaz language

nativename= unicode|Аҧсуа
states=Abkhazia/Georgia, Turkey
fam1=North Caucasian
fam2=Northwest Caucasian
script=Abkhaz alphabet

Abkhaz is a Northwest Caucasian language spoken mainly in Abkhazia [Abkhazia is "de facto" an independent republic but "de jure" an autonomous republic of Georgia.] and Turkey by the Abkhaz people. It is the official language of the Republic of Abkhazia, where around 100,000 people speak it, and the second official language of Georgia within the territory of Abkhazia. Furthermore, it is spoken by thousands of members of the Abkhazian diaspora in Turkey, Georgia's autonomous republic of Adjara, Syria, Jordan and several Western countries.


Abkhaz is a Northwest Caucasian language, indicating it originated in the northwest Caucasus. Northwest Caucasian languages have been suggested as being related to the Northeast Caucasian languages and both are often merged under the blanket term "North Caucasian languages"; several linguists, notably Sergei Starostin, posit a phylogenetic link between these two families. Some consider the proposed North Caucasian family to be a member of the Dene-Caucasian macrofamily; however, the Dene-Caucasian hypothesis is itself unproven and highly controversial, and attempts to categorize Abkhaz as a Dene-Caucasian language are thus premature. Also, sometimes the North Caucasian families are grouped with the South Caucasian languages into a pan-Caucasian or Ibero-Caucasian macrofamily, but these have not been shown conclusively to be related and are widely considered to be a geographically based convention.

Abkhaz is often united with Abaza into one language, Abkhaz-Abaza, of which the literary dialects of Abkhaz and Abaza are simply two ends of a dialect continuum. Grammatically, the two are very similar; however, the differences in phonology are substantial, and are the main reason why many other linguists prefer to keep the two separate. Most linguists (see for instance Chirikba 2003) believe that Ubykh is the closest relative of the Abkhaz-Abaza dialect continuum.

Geographical distribution

Abkhaz is spoken primarily in Abkhazia. Abkhaz is also spoken by members of the large Abkhaz Muhajir diaspora, which is mainly located in Turkey with smaller groups living in Syria, Georgia's autonomous republic of Adjara and Jordan, and through more recent remigration in Western countries such as Germany, the Netherlands and the United States. However, the exact number of Abkhaz-speakers in these countries remains unknown due to a lack of official records.


Abkhaz is generally viewed as having three major dialects:
* Abzhywa, spoken in the Caucasus, and named after the historical area of Abzhywa (Абжьыуа), sometimes referred to as Abzhui, the Russified form of the name ("Abzhuiski dialekt", derived from the Russian form of the name for the area, Абжуа).
* Bzyb or Bzyp, spoken in the Caucasus and in Turkey, and named after the Bzyb (Abkhaz бзыҧ) area.
* Sadz, nowadays spoken only in Turkey, formerly also spoken between the rivers Bzyp and Khosta.The literary Abkhaz language is based on the Abzhywa dialect.


"See Abkhaz phonology for an overview of the phonemic inventory of Abkhaz."


Abkhaz is typologically classified as an agglutinative language. Like all other Northwest Caucasian languages, Abkhaz has an extremely complex (polysynthetic) verbal system coupled with a very simple noun system; Abkhaz distinguishes just two cases, the nominative and the adverbial.

Writing system

Abkhaz has had its own adaptation of the Cyrillic alphabet since 1862. The first alphabet was a 37-character Cyrillic alphabet invented by Baron Peter von Uslar. In 1909 a 55 letter Cyrillic alphabet was used. A 75-letter Latin script devised by a Russian/Georgian linguist Nikolai Marr lasted from 1926 to 1928, when another Latin script was used. The Georgian script was imposed in 1938, but after the death of Stalin, an Abkhaz desire to remain separate from Georgians led to the reintroduction of the current Cyrillic alphabet in 1954 designed in 1892 by Dimitri Gulya together with Konstantin Machavariani and modified in 1909 by Aleksey Chochua.


The earliest extant written records of the Abkhaz language are in the Arabic alphabet, recorded by the Turkish traveller Evliya Celebi in the 17th century. Abkhaz has only been used as a literary language for about 100 years. During Stalin's reign Abkhaz was banned as a literary language.


Both Georgian and de facto Abkhaz law enshrines an official status of the Abkhaz language in Abkhazia.

The 1992 law of Georgia, reiterated in the 1995 Constitution, grants Abkhaz the status of second official language on the territory of Abkhazia, along with Georgian.

In November 2007, the de facto authorities of Abkhazia adopted a new law "on the state language of the Republic of Abkhazia" which enforces Abkhaz as the language of official communication. According to the law, all meetings held by the president, parliament or government must be conducted in Abkhaz (instead of Russian which is currently a de facto administrative language) from 2010 and all state officials will be obliged to use Abkhaz as their language of every-day business from 2015. Some, however, have considered the implementation of this law unrealistic and concerns have been made that it will drive people away from Abkhazia and hurt the independent press due to a significant share of non-Abkhaz speakers among ethnic minorities as well as Abkhaz themselves, and a shortage of teachers of Abkhaz. [Anahid Gogorian (December 20 2007), [http://iwpr.net/?p=crs&s=f&o=341580&apc_state=henpcrs Abkhaz Worried by Language Law.] Institute for War and Peace Reporting Caucasus Reporting Service No. 424.]

ample text

Дарбанзаалак ауаюы дшоуп ихы дақъиҭны. Ауаа зегь зинлеи патулеи еийароуп. Урҭ ирымоуп ахшыюи аламыси, дара дарагь аешьеи реиҩш еизыйазароуп. [Omniglot.com, [http://www.omniglot.com/writing/abkhaz.htm Abkhaz language] ]


"All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood."


* Chirikba, V. A. (1996) 'A Dictionary of Common Abkhaz'. Leiden.
* Chirikba, V. A. (2003) 'Abkhaz'. – Languages of the World/Materials 119. Muenchen: Lincom Europa.
* Hewitt, B. George (1979) 'Abkhaz: A descriptive Grammar'. Amsterdam: North Holland.
* Hewitt, B. George (1989) Abkhaz. In John Greppin (ed.), "The Indigenous Languages of the Caucasus" Vol. 2. Caravan Books, New York. 39-88.
* Vaux, Bert and Zihni Psiypa (1997) The Cwyzhy Dialect of Abkhaz. Harvard Working Papers in Linguistics 6, Susumu Kuno, Bert Vaux, and Steve Peter, eds. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Linguistics Department.


External links

* [http://www.omniglot.com/writing/abkhaz.htm Abkhaz alphabet and pronunciation (Omniglot)]
* [http://www.amsi.ge/istoria/div/gvanc.html აფხაზური სამწიგნობრო ენის ქართულ გრაფიკაზე გადაყვანის ისტორიიდან]
* [http://www.amsi.ge/istoria/div/gvanc_rus.html Из истории перехода абхазского книжного языка на грузинскую графику]
* [http://languageserver.uni-graz.at/ls/lang?id=3043 Abkhaz entry in LanguageServer (University of Graz)]
* [http://www.rosettaproject.org/archive/north-caucasian/asia/abk/view?searchterm=Abkhaz Abkhaz entry in The Rosetta Project]
* [http://www.language-museum.com/a/abkhaz.php Abkhaz at Language Museum]

Example of Abkhaz language: [http://www.kapba.de/A-Abtsara.html]

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