The Abkhaz Language: An Isolated Wonder

Channel: Brillemeister   |   2013/02/25
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The Abkhaz Language: An Isolated Wonder
The Abkhaz Language: An Isolated Wonder
::2013/02/25::
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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
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Abkhaz
Аҧсуа бызшәа; аҧсшәа
Native to Abkhazia and Abkhaz diaspora
Native speakers
110,000  (1993)[1]
Dialects
Abzhywa
Sadz
Cyrillic (Abkhaz alphabet)
Official status
Official language in
Republic of Abkhazia;[a] Autonomous Republic of Abkhazia, Georgia
Language codes
ISO 639-1 ab
ISO 639-2 abk
ISO 639-3 abk
Glottolog abkh1244[2]

Abkhaz /æpˈhɑːz/[3] (sometimes spelled Abxaz; Аҧсуа бызшәа) is a Northwest Caucasian language spoken mostly by the Abkhaz people. It is the official language of Abkhazia[a] where around 100,000 people speak it.[1] 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. The Russian census of 2010 reported 6,786 speakers of Abkhaz in Russia.[4]

Classification[edit]

Abkhaz is a Northwest Caucasian language, and is therefore related to Adyghe. It is especially close to Abaza, and these are sometimes considered dialects of the same language, Abazgi, 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[edit]

Abkhaz is spoken primarily in Abkhazia. Abkhaz is also spoken by members of the large Abkhaz Muhajir diaspora, mainly located in Turkey with smaller groups living in Syria, Iraq and Jordan; Georgia's autonomous republic of Adjara; throughout the former USSR (e.g. Armenia and the Ukraine) and through more recent emigration 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.

Dialects[edit]

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.

Phonology[edit]

Abkhaz has a very large number of consonants (58 in the literary dialect), with three-way voiced/voiceless/ejective and palatalized/labialized/plain distinctions. By contrast, the language has only two phonemically distinct vowels—which, however, have several allophones depending on the palatal and/or labial quality of adjacent consonants.

Phonemes in green are found in the Bzyp and Sadz dialects of Abkhaz, but not in Abzhywa; phonemes in blue are unique to the Bzyp dialect.

Labial Alveolar Post-
alveolar
Alveolo-
palatal
Retro-
flex
Velar Uvular Pharyngeal
plain labial. plain labial. plain labial. palatal. plain labial. palatal. plain labial. phar. lab. + phar. plain labial.
Nasal m n
Stop voiceless p t k
voiced b d ɡʲ ɡ ɡʷ
ejective tʷʼ kʲʼ kʷʼ qʲʼ qʷʼ
Affricate voiceless t͡s t͡ʃ t͡ɕ t͡ɕʷ ʈ͡ʂ
voiced d͡z d͡ʒ d͡ʑ d͡ʑʷ ɖ͡ʐ
ejective t͡sʼ t͡ʃʼ t͡ɕʼ t͡ɕʷʼ ʈ͡ʂʼ
Fricative voiceless f s ʃ ʃʷ ɕ ɕʷ ʂ χʲ χ χʷ χˤ χˤʷ ħ ħʷ
voiced v z ʒ ʒʷ ʑ ʑʷ ʐ ʁʲ ʁ ʁʷ
Approximant l j ɥ w
Trill r

Typology[edit]

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[edit]

Abkhaz has had its own adaptation of the Cyrillic script 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 that lasted from 1926 to 1928. 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.

А а
[a]
Б б
[b]
В в
[v]
Г г
[ɡ]
Гь гь
[ɡʲ]
Гә гә
[ɡʷ]
Ҕ ҕ
[ʁ/ɣ]
Ҕь ҕь
[ʁʲ/ɣʲ]
Ҕә ҕә
[ʁʷ/ɣʷ]
Д д
[d]
Дә дә
[dʷ]
Е е
[ɛ]
Ж ж
[ʐ]
Жь жь
[ʒ]
Жә жә
[ʒʷ]
З з
[z]
Ӡ ӡ
[d͡z]
Ӡә ӡә
[d͡ʑʷ]
И и
[j/jɨ/ɨj/i]
К к
[kʼ]
Кь кь
[kʼʲ]
Кә кә
[kʼʷ]
Қ қ
[kʰ]
Қь қь
[kʲʰ]
Қә қә
[kʷʰ]
Ҟ ҟ
[qʼ]
Ҟь ҟь
[qʼʲ]
Ҟә ҟә
[qʼʷ]
Л л
[l]
М м
[m]
Н н
[n]
О о
[ɔ]
П п
[pʼ]
Ҧ ҧ
[pʰ]
Р р
[r]
С с
[s]
Т т
[tʼ]
Тә тә
[tʼʷ]
Ҭ ҭ
[tʰ]
Ҭә ҭә
[tʷʰ]
У у
[w/wɨ/ɨw/u]
Ф ф
[f]
Х х
[x/χ]
Хь хь
[xʲ/χʲ]
Хә хә
[xʷ/χʷ]
Ҳ ҳ
[ħ]
Ҳә ҳә
[ħʷ]
Ц ц
[t͡s]
Цә цә
[t͡ɕʷʰ]
Ҵ ҵ
[t͡sʼ]
Ҵә ҵә
[t͡ɕʼʷ]
Ч ч
[t͡ʃʰ]
Ҷ ҷ
[t͡ʃʼ]
Ҽ ҽ
[t͡ʂʰ]
Ҿ ҿ
[t͡ʂʼ]
Ш ш
[ʂʃ]
Шь шь
[ʃ]
Шә шә
[ʃʷ]
Ы ы
[ɨ]
Ҩ ҩ
[ɥ/ɥˤ]
Џ џ
[d͡ʐ]
Џь џь
[d͡ʒ]
Ь ь
[ʲ]
Ә ә
[ʷ]

History[edit]

The earliest extant written records of the Abkhaz language are in the Arabic script, recorded by the Turkish traveller Evliya Çelebi in the 17th century. Abkhaz has only been used as a literary language for about 100 years.

Status[edit]

Both Georgian and 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" that mandates Abkhaz as the language of official communication. According to the law, all meetings held by the president, parliament, and 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. The law is an attempt to amend a situation where up to a third of the ethnic Abkhaz population are no longer capable of speaking their ethnic language, and even more are unable to read or write it; instead, Russian is the language most commonly used in public life at present.[5]

Sample text[edit]

Дарбанзаалак ауаҩы дшоуп ихы дақәиҭны. Ауаа зегь зинлеи патулеи еиҟароуп. Урҭ ирымоуп ахшыҩи аламыси, дара дарагь аешьеи аешьеи реиҧш еизыҟазароуп.[6]

Transliteration

Darbanzaalak auaɥy dshoup ihy daqwithny. Auaa zegj zinlei patulei eiqaroup. Urth irymoup ahshyɥi alamysi, dara daragj aesjei aesjei reiphsh eizyqazaroup.

Translation

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.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b Abkhazia's status is disputed. It considers itself to be an independent state, but this is recognised by only a few other countries. The Georgian government and most of the world's other states consider Abkhazia de jure a part of Georgia's territory. In Georgia's official subdivision it is an autonomous republic, whose government sits in exile in Tbilisi.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Abkhaz at Ethnologue (17th ed., 2013)
  2. ^ Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Abkhaz". Glottolog 2.2. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. 
  3. ^ Laurie Bauer, 2007, The Linguistics Student’s Handbook, Edinburgh
  4. ^ Row 7 in "Приложение 6: Население Российской Федерации по владению языками" [Appendix 6: Population of the Russian Federation by languages used] (XLS) (in Russian). 
  5. ^ Anahid Gogorian (December 20, 2007), Abkhaz Worried by Language Law. Institute for War and Peace Reporting Caucasus Reporting Service No. 424.
  6. ^ http://unicode.org/udhr/d/udhr_abk.pdf

Bibliography[edit]

  • 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 (2010) 'Abkhaz: A Comprehensive Self Tutor' Muenchen, Lincom Europa ISBN 978-3-89586-670-8
  • 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[edit]

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