Adyghe language

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West Circassian
Адыгaбзэ, aːdəɣabza
Native to Circassia (Adygea, Krasnodar), Russia, Turkey, Jordan, Syria, Iraq, Israel, Macedonia
Region North Caucasus
Ethnicity Circassians, Cherkesogai
Native speakers
unknown (490,000 cited 1986–2010)[1]
Cyrillic script
Latin script
Arabic script
Official status
Official language in
 Adygea (Russia)
Language codes
ISO 639-2 ady
ISO 639-3 ady
Glottolog adyg1241[2]
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters.

Adyghe (/ˈædɨɡ/ or /ˌɑːdɨˈɡ/;[3] Adyghe: Адыгэбзэ adyghabze), also known as West Circassian (КӀахыбзэ), is one of the two official languages of the Republic of Adygea in the Russian Federation, the other being Russian. It is spoken by various tribes of the Adyghe people: Abzekh,[4] Adamey, Bzhedug;[5] Hatuqwai, Temirgoy, Mamkhegh; Natekuay, Shapsug;[6] Zhaney, Yegerikuay, each with its own dialect. The language is referred to by its speakers as Adygebze or Adəgăbză, and alternatively spelled in English as Adygean, Adygeyan or Adygei. The literary language is based on the Temirgoy dialect.

There are apparently around 128,000 speakers of the language on the native territory in Russia, almost all of them native speakers. In the whole world, some 300,000 speak the language. The largest Adyghe-speaking community is in Turkey, spoken by the post Russian–Circassian War (circa 1763–1864) diaspora; in addition to that, the Adyghe language is spoken by the Cherkesogai in Krasnodar Krai.

Adyghe belongs to the family of Northwest Caucasian languages. Kabardian (also known as East Circassian) is a very close relative, treated by some as a dialect of Adyghe or of an overarching Circassian language. Ubykh, Abkhaz, and Abaza are somewhat more distantly related to Adyghe.

The language was standardized after the October Revolution in 1917. Since 1936, the Cyrillic script has been used to write Adyghe. Before that, an Arabic-based alphabet was used together with the Latin.


Adyghe exhibits a large number of consonants: between 50 and 60 consonants in the various Adyghe dialects. All dialects possess a contrast between plain and labialized glottal stops. A very unusual minimal contrast, and possibly unique to the Abdzakh dialect of Adyghe, is a three-way contrast between plain, labialized and palatalized glottal stops (although a palatalized glottal stop is also found in Hausa). The Black Sea dialect of Adyghe contains a very uncommon sound: a bidental fricative [h̪͆], which corresponds to the voiceless velar fricative [x] found in other varieties of Adyghe. Many Adyghe speakers (like most speakers of Kabardian) pronounce some of the ejective consonants as pharyngealized ejective consonants ([pˤʼ], [tˤʼ], [sˤʼ], [ɬˤʼ] [t͡sˤʼ]) or as pharyngealized consonants ([pˤ], [tˤ], [sˤ], [ɬˤ] [t͡sˤ]). The West Circassian dialects (e.g. Bzhedug, Shapsug, Temirgoy and Abadzekh) lost the consonant [xʷ] and it became [f]. In the East Circassian languages (e.g. Kabardian) it's still pronounced as [xʷ], for example the Adyghe word "тфы" (About this sound [tfə]  "five" is тхуы (About this sound [txʷə] ) in Kabardian. The phoneme written Л л can be pronounced [l] or [ɮ].

Labial Alveolar Post­alveolar Alveolo-
Retro­flex Velar Uvular Pharyngeal Glottal
plain lab. plain lab. lat. plain lab. plain lab. plain lab. pal. plain lab. plain lab.
Plosive voiceless p t k2 ()1 q ʔ ʔʷ
voiced b d (ɡ)3 ɡʷ (ɡʲ)1
ejective pʷʼ tʷʼ kʷʼ kʲʼ
Affricate voiceless t͡s t͡sʷ t͡ʃ (t͡ʃʷ)1
voiced d͡z d͡zʷ d͡ʒ
ejective t͡sʼ t͡ʃʼ
Fricative voiceless f s ɬ ʃ ɕ ʂ ʂʷ x χ χʷ ħ
voiced v2 z ɮ ʒ ʑ ʐ ʐʷ ɣ ʁ ʁʷ
ejective ()1 ɬʼ ʃʼ ʃʷʼ
Nasal m n
Approximant (l) j w
Trill r
  1. In the Shapsug dialect (Adyghe: Шапсыгъэбзэ) (e.g. the Kfar Kama dialect), there exist an alveolar ejective fricative [sʼ] and a labialized voiceless palato-alveolar affricate [t͡ʃʷ] that correspond to [t͡sʼ] and [t͡sʷ] in other dialects, for example the Shapsug words "шӀусӀэ" (ʃʷ'əs'a) "black" and "чуакъо" (t͡ʃʷaːqʷa) "shoes" are pronounced in other dialects as "шӀуцӀэ" (ʃʷ'ət͡s'a) and "цуакъо" (t͡sʷaːqʷa). In the Shapsug dialect there is a palatalized voiced velar plosive [ɡʲ] and a palatalized voiceless velar plosive [kʲ] that were merged with [d͡ʒ] and [t͡ʃ] in other Adyghe dialects, for example the Shapsug words "гьанэ" (ɡʲaːna) "shirt" and "кьэт" (kʲat) "chicken" are pronounced in other dialects as "джанэ" (d͡ʒaːna) and "чэт" (t͡ʃat).
  2. Consonants that exist only in borrowed words.
  3. In the Adyghe Temirgoy dialect, the consonant [ɣ] became [ɡ].

Despite the wealth of consonants, Adyghe has only three phonemic vowels in a classic vertical vowel system.

Front Central Back
Close-mid ə
Open-mid ɜ
Open a


Main article: Adyghe grammar

Adyghe, like all Northwest Caucasian languages, has a basic agent–object–verb typology, and is characterized by an ergative construction of the sentence.


Cyrillic Latin IPA Pronunciation Words
А а ā []
ачъэ (goat), апчъы
Б б b [b]
баджэ (wolf), бэ (a lot)
В в v [v]
Г г γ [ɣ]
гыны (powder), чъыгы (tree)
g ([ɡ])
Гу гу [ɡʷ]
гу (heart), гущыӏ (word)
Гъ гъ ġ / ǧ [ʁ]
гъатхэ (spring), гъэмаф (summer)
Гъу гъу ġ° / ǧ° [ʁʷ]
гъунэгъу (neighbor), гъунджэ (mirror)
Д д d [d]
дыджы (bitter), дахэ (pretty)
Дж дж ǯ̍ [d͡ʒ]
джан, лъэмыдж (bridge)
Дз дз ʒ [d͡z]
дзыо (bag), дзын (to throw)
Дзу дзу ʒ° [d͡zʷ]
хьандзу (rick), хьандзуачӏ
Е е e [e]~[aj] [ja]
ешэн (to sell him, to catch), еплъын (to look at)
(Ё ё) ë [jo]
Ж ж ž [ʒ]
жэ (mouth), жакӏэ (beard)
Жъ жъ [ʐ]
жъы (old), жъажъэ (slow)
Жъу жъу ẑ° [ʐʷ]~[ʒʷ]
жъун (to melt), жъуагъо (star)
Жь жь ž̍ [ʑ]
жьыбгъэ (wind), жьау (shadow)
З з z [z]
занкӏэ (straight), зандэ (steep)
И и i [i]~[əj] []
ихьан (to enter), икӏыпӏ
Й й j [j]
йод, бай (rich)
К к k [k]
кнопк, ручк
Ку ку []
кушъэ (cradle), ку (cart)
Къ къ q [q]
къалэ (city), къэкӏон (to come)
Къу къу []
къухьэ (ship), къушъхьэ (mountain)
Кӏ кӏ č̣̍ [] [tʃʼ]
кӏымаф (winter), кӏыхьэ (long), кӏэ (tail), шкӏэ (calf)
Кӏу кӏу ḳ° [kʷʼ]
кӏон (to walk), кӏуакӏэ (strong)
Л л l [l]
лы (meat), кӀалэ (young man)
ɮ ([ɮ])
кӏалэ (young man), мыл (ice)
Лъ лъ ł [ɬ]
лъэбэкъу (step), лъащэ (lame)
Лӏ лӏ [ɬʼ]
лӏы (man), лӏыгъэ (bravery)
М м m [m]
мэзы (forest), мэлы (ice)
Н н n [n]
нэ (eye), ны (mother)
О о o [o] [wa]
мощ, коны, о (you), осы (snow), ощхы (rain)
П п p [p]
пэ (nose), сапэ (dust)
Пӏ пӏ []
пӏэ (bed), пӏэшъхьагъ
Пӏу пӏу ṗ° [pʷʼ]
пӏун (to rise, to adopt), пӏур
Р р r [r]
рикӏэн (to walk on), риӏон (to tell him)
С с s [s]
сэ (i, me), сэшхо (saber)
Т т t [t]
тэтэжъ (grandfather), тэ (we)
Тӏ тӏ []
тӏы (ram), ятӏэ (dirt)
Тӏу тӏу ṭ° [tʷʼ]
тӏурыс, тӏурытӏу
У у w [u]~[əw] []
ушхун (straighten), убэн (tamp, to make smooth)
Ф ф f [f]
фыжьы (white), фэен (to want)
Х х x [x]
хы (sea, six), хасэ (council)
Хъ хъ χ [χ]
хъыен (to move), пхъэн (to sow)
Хъу хъу χ° [χʷ]
хъун (to happen), хъурай (circle)
Хь хь [ħ]
хьэ (dog), хьаку
Ц ц c [t͡s]
цагэ (rib), цы (hair on body)
Цу цу [t͡sʷ]
цуакъэ (shoe), цу (ox)
Цӏ цӏ [t͡sʼ]
цӏынэ (wet), цӏыфы (person)
Ч ч č̍ [t͡ʃ]
чэфы (cheerful), чэты (chicken)
Чӏ чӏ č̣ [t͡ʃʼ]
чӏыпӏэ (area), чӏыфэ
Чъ чъ č [t͡ɕ]
чъыгай (oak), чъыӏэ (cold)
Ш ш š [ʃ]
шы (brother), шыблэ (thunder)
Шъ шъ ŝ [ʂ]
пшъашъэ (young woman), шъабэ (soft)
Шъу шъу ŝ° [ʂʷ]~[ʃʷ]
шъугъуалэ (envious), шъукъакӏу (come - to plural)
Шӏ шӏ ṣ̂ [ʃʼ]
шӏын (to know), шӏэныгъ (life)
Шӏу шӏу ṣ̂° [ʃʷʼ]
шӏуцӏэ (black), шӏуфэс
Щ щ š̍ [ɕ]
щагу (yard), щатэ
(Ъ ъ)
Ы ы ə [ə]
ыкӏи, зы
(Ь ь)
Э э ă [a]
этаж, нэнэжъ (grandmother)
(Ю ю) ju [ju]
Юсыф, Юныс
Я я [jaː]
яй (theirs), ябгэ
ӏ ʾ [ʔ]
ӏэ (hand), кӏасэ (like)
ӏу ՚° [ʔʷ]
ӏукӏэн (to meet), ӏусын (to be near sitting), ӏудан (thread)

Adyghe dialect letters[edit]

Cyrillic Latin IPA Pronunciation Words Dialects
Гь гь ɡ’ ([ɡʲ])
гьанэ (shirt), гьэгун (to play) Shapsug dialect, Written as both Гь гь or Джь джь. Correspond to Дж дж.
Джь джь джьанэ (shirt), джьэгун (to play)
Кь кь k’ ([])
кьэт (chicken), кьэхьы (long), жакьэ (beard) Shapsug dialect, Correspond to Кӏ кӏ or Ч ч.
Ль ль l [l]
Альберт (Albert), льимон (lemon)
Сӏ сӏ ṣ̣ ([])
сӏэ (name), шӏусӏэ (black) Shapsug dialect, Correspond to Цӏ цӏ
Чу чу č̍° ([tʃʷ])
чуакъо (shoe), чу (ox) Shapsug dialect, Abzakh dialect. Correspond to Цу цу
Чъу чъу чъуакъо (shoe), чъу (ox)
ӏь ՚̍ ([h]) ӏьыгь (now), ӏьыдэдэм (right now), дэӏьэ (still)

Labialized consonants[edit]

Гу [ɡʷ], Гъу [ʁʷ], Дзу [d͡zʷ], Ку [kʷ], Къу [qʷ], КIу [kʷʼ], ПIу [pʷʼ], ТIу [tʷʼ], Хъу [χʷ], Цу [t͡sʷ], Шъу [ʃʷ/ʂʷ], ШIу [ʃʷʼ], Iу [ʔʷ].

In some dialects : Кхъу [q͡χʷ], Ху [xʷ], Чу [t͡ʃʷ].


  • The letter ы [ə] is not written when it's after a [w], [j] and a labialized consonant. For example : унэ /wəna/ "house" (уынэ), илъэс /jəɬas/ "year" (йылъэс), шIу /ʃʷʼə/ "well" (шIуы), бгъу /bʁʷə/ "nine" (бгъуы) and цумпэ /t͡sʷəmpa/ "strawberry" (цуымпэ).
  • In case the letter у is the first letter of the word or when is not related to any other consonant, it is pronounced as [wə] уы. For example : унэ /wəna/ "house" (уынэ), урыс /wərəs/ "Russian" (уырыс), куу /kʷəwə/ "deep" (кууы). When it's related to a consonant it becomes a vowel and pronounced as [əw]~[u], for example : кӏэту /t͡ʃʼaːtəw/ "cat" (кӏэтыу), дуор /dəwwar/ "that one/thing over there" (дыууэр), дуней /dəwnej/ "world" (дыунэй).
  • In case a labialized consonant is followed by a vowel э [a], instead of the letter у there is a о. For example : гъогу /ʁʷaɡʷ/ "road" (гъуэгу), машIо /maːʃʷʼa/ "fire" (машIуэ), шъо /ʂʷa/ "you (plural)" (шъуэ).
  • In case a labialized consonant is followed by a vowel а [aː] or и [i/əj], the labialized consonant letter is written fully. for example : цуакъэ /t͡sʷaːqa/ "shoes", гуащэ /ɡʷaɕa/ "princes", шъуи /ʂʷi/ "yours (plural).
  • In case the letter о is the first letter of the word or when is not related to any other consonant, it is pronounced as [wa] уэ. For example : о /wa/ "you" (уэ), орэд /warad/ "song" (уэрэд), онтэгъу /wantaʁʷ/ "heavy" (уэнтэгъу), зао /zaːwa/ "war" (зауэ), ео /jawa/ "hits" (еуэ).
  • In case the letter е is the first letter of the word or when is not related to any other consonant, it is pronounced as [ja] йэ. For example : еӏо /jaʔʷa/ "he says" (йэӏуэ), еплъы /japɬə/ "he sees" (йэплъы), мые /məja/ "apple" (мыйэ), бае /baːja/ "rich" (байэ), шъэжъые /ʂaʐəja/ "knife" (шъэжъыйэ). When it's related to a consonant it becomes a vowel and pronounced as [aj]~[e], for example : делэ /dajla/ "fool" (дэйлэ), къедж /qajd͡ʒ/ "read!" (къэйдж), непэ /najpa/ "today" (нэйпэ).
  • In case the letter и is the first letter of the word or when is not related to any other consonant, it is pronounced as [jə] йы. For example : илъэс /jəɬas/ "year" (йылъэс), иунэ /jəwəna/ "his house" (йыуын), иӏ /jəʔ/ "he have" (йыӏ). When it's related to a consonant it becomes a vowel and pronounced as [əj]~[i], for example : сиӏ /səjʔ/ "I have" (сыйӏ), уиунэ /wəjwəna/ "your house" (уыйуынэ).


The vowels are written ы [ə], э [a] and а [aː].

Other letters represent diphthongs: я represents [jaː], и [jə], о [aw] or [wa] or [o], у represent [u] or [w] and е represents [aj] or [ja] or [e].

Writing systems[edit]

Modern Adyghe uses a Cyrillic alphabet with the addition of the letter Ӏ (palochka). Previously Arabic (before 1927) and Latin (1927–38) alphabets had been used.

Adyghe outside Circassia[edit]

Adyghe is taught outside Circassia in a Jordanian School for the Jordanian Adyghes, Prince Hamza Ibn Al-Hussein Secondary School in Amman. This school, which was established by the Adyghe Jordanians with support from the late king Hussein of Jordan, is one of the first schools for the Adyghe communities outside Circassia. It has around 750 Jordanian Adyghe students, and one of its major goals is to preserve Adyghe among newer Adyghe generations, while also emphasizing the traditions of the Adyghes.[7]

Adyghe is spoken by Circassians in Iraq and by Circassians in Israel, where it is taught in schools in their villages. It is also spoken by many Circassians in Syria, although the majority of Syrian Circassians speak Kabardian.

UNESCO 2009 map of endangered languages[edit]

According to the UNESCO 2009 map entitled "UNESCO Map of the World's Languages in Danger", the status of the Adyghe language in 2009, along with all its dialects (Adyghe, Western Circassian tribes) and (Kabard-Cherkess, Eastern Circassian tribes), is classified as vulnerable.[8]

Sample text[edit]

Ублапӏэм ыдэжь Гущыӏэр щыӏагъ. Ар Тхьэм ыдэжь щыӏагъ, а Гущыӏэри Тхьэу арыгъэ. Ублапӏэм щегъэжьагъэу а Гущыӏэр Тхьэм ыдэжь щыӏагъ. Тхьэм а Гущыӏэм зэкӏэри къыригъэгъэхъугъ. Тхьэм къыгъэхъугъэ пстэуми ащыщэу а Гущыӏэм къыримыгъгъэхъугъэ зи щыӏэп. Мыкӏодыжьын щыӏэныгъэ а Гущыӏэм хэлъыгъ, а щыӏэныгъэри цӏыфхэм нэфынэ афэхъугъ. Нэфынэр шӏункӏыгъэм щэнэфы, шӏункӏыгъэри нэфынэм текӏуагъэп.

Translation: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehended it not.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Adyghe at Ethnologue (17th ed., 2013)
  2. ^ Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Adyghe". Glottolog 2.2. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. 
  3. ^ "Adyghe". Oxford English Dictionary (3rd ed.). Oxford University Press. September 2005. 
  4. ^ Abzakh dialect (French)
  5. ^ Bzhedug dialect (French)
  6. ^ Shapsoug dialect (French)
  7. ^ Circassians bid to save ancient language. Al Jazeera. 14 May 2010. Retrieved 29 December 2011. 
  8. ^ "UNESCO Map of World's language in Danger" (PDF). Retrieved 24 June 2009. 

External links[edit]