Abaza language

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абаза бызшва, abaza byzšwa
Native to Russia, Turkey
Region Karachay-Cherkessia
Ethnicity Abazins
Native speakers
48,000 (1995–2010)[1]
Official status
Official language in
Karachay-Cherkessia (Russia)
Language codes
ISO 639-3 abq
Glottolog abaz1241[2]
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters.

The Abaza language (абаза бызшва, abaza byzšwa; Adyghe: абазэбзэ) is a language of the Caucasus mountains in the Russian Karachay–Cherkess Republic spoken by the Abazins. It consists of two dialects, the Ashkherewa dialect and the T'ap'anta dialect, which is the literary standard. The language also consists of five sub dialects known as Psyzh-Krasnovostok, Abazakt, Apsua, Kubin-Elburgan and Kuvin.[3]

Abaza is spoken by approximately 35,000 people in Russia, where it is written in a Cyrillic alphabet, as well as another 10,000 in Turkey, where the Latin script is used.

Abaza, like its relatives in the family of Northwest Caucasian languages, is a highly agglutinative language. For example, the verb in the English sentence "He couldn't make them give it back to her" contains four arguments (a term used in valency grammar): he, them, give it back, to her. Abaza marks arguments morphologically, and incorporates all four arguments as pronominal prefixes on the verb.[4] The Abaza language contains two dialects in accordance to the Tapanta and Shkaraua familial districts. The subdialects include Abazakt, Apsua, Kubin-Elburgan, Kuvin and Psyzh-Krasnovostok.[5]

It has a large consonantal inventory (63 phonemes) coupled with a minimal vowel inventory (two vowels). It is very closely related to Abkhaz,[6] but it preserves a few phonemes which Abkhaz lacks, such as a voiced pharyngeal fricative. Work on Abaza has been carried out by W. S. Allen, Brian O'Herin, and John Colarusso.


Consonant phonemes of Abaza[7][8]
Labial Alveolar Postalveolar Velar Uvular Pharyngeal Glottal
central lateral plain pal. lab. plain pal. lab. plain pal. lab. plain lab.
Nasal m n
Plosive voiceless p t k q ʔ
voiced b d ɡ ɡʲ ɡʷ
ejective kʲʼ kʷʼ qʲʼ qʷʼ
Affricate voiceless t͡s t͡ʃ t͡ɕ t͡ʃʷ
voiced d͡z d͡ʒ d͡ʑ d͡ʒʷ
ejective t͡sʼ t͡ʃʼ t͡ɕʼ t͡ʃʷʼ
Fricative voiceless f s ɬ ʃ ɕ ʃʷ χ χʲ χʷ ħ ħʷ
voiced v z ɮ ʒ ʑ ʒʷ ʁ ʁʲ ʁʷ ʕ ʕʷ
ejective ɬʼ
Approximant l j w
Trill r

The vowels /o, a, u/ may have a /j/ in front of it.

Front Central Back
Close i u
Mid e ə o
Open a


Since 1938, Abaza has been written with the version of the Cyrillic alphabet shown below.[9][10]

А а
Б б
В в
Г г
Гв гв
Гъ гъ
Гъв гъв
Гъь гъь
Гь гь
ГӀв гӀв
Д д
Дж дж
Джв джв
Джь джь
Дз дз
Е е
Ё ё
Ж ж
Жв жв
Жь жь
З з
И и
Й й
К к
Кв кв
Къ къ
Къв къв
Къь къь
Кь кь
КӀв кӀв
КӀь кӀь
Л л
Ль ль
М м
Н н
О о
П п
Р р
С с
Т т
Тл тл
Тш тш
У у
/w/, [u]
Ф ф
Х х
Хв хв
Хъ хъ
Хъв хъв
Хь хь
ХӀв хӀв
Ц ц
Ч ч
Чв чв
ЧӀв чӀв
Ш ш
Шв шв
Щ щ
Ъ ъ
Ы ы
Э э
Ю ю
Я я


  1. ^ Abaza at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Abaza". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History. 
  3. ^ "The Red Book of the Peoples of the Russian Empire". www.eki.ee. Retrieved 2017-02-10. 
  4. ^ Dixon, R.M.W. (2000). "A Typology of Causatives: Form, Syntax, and Meaning". In Dixon, R.M.W. & Aikhenvald, Alexendra Y. Changing Valency: Case Studies in Transitivity. Cambridge University Press. p 57
  5. ^ "Did you know Abaza is vulnerable?". Endangered Languages. Retrieved 2017-02-08. 
  6. ^ Hoiberg, Dale H., ed. (2010). "Abkhaz". Encyclopedia Britannica. I: A-ak Bayes (15th ed.). Chicago, IL: Encyclopedia Britannica Inc. p. 33. ISBN 978-1-59339-837-8. 
  7. ^ Starostin, Sergei A.; Nikolayev, Sergei L. (1994). A North Caucasian Etymological Dictionary: Preface, pp. 194-196
  8. ^ Consonant Systems of the North-West Caucasian Languages (TITUS DIDACTICA)
  9. ^ Abaza (Place Names Database, Institute of the Estonian Language)
  10. ^ Abaza alphabet, pronunciation and language (Omniglot)
  • Генко А. Н. Абазинский язык. Грамматический очерк наречия Тапанта. Москва-Лениград: АН СССР, 1955. (Russian)
  • Ломтатидзе К. В. Тапантский диалект абхазского языка (с текстами). Тбилиси: Издательство Академии Наук Грузинской ССР, 1944. (Russian)
  • Ломтатидзе К. В. Ашхарский диалект и его место среди других абхазско-абазинских диалектов. С текстами. Тбилиси: Издательство Академии Наук Грузинской ССР, 1954. (Russian)
  • Мальбахова-Табулова Н. Т. Грамматика абазинского языка. Фонетика и морфология. Черкесск, 1976. (Russian)
  • Чирикба В. А. Абазинский язык. В: Языки Российской Федерации и Соседних Государств. Энциклопедия. В трех томах. Т. 1. A-И. Москва: Наука, 1998, с. 1-8. (Russian)
  • Allen, W.S. Structure and system in the Abaza verbal complex. In: Transactions of the Philological Society (Hertford), Oxford, 1956, p. 127-176.
  • Bouda K. Das Abasinische, eine unbekannte abchasische Mundart. In: ZDMG, BD. 94, H. 2 (Neue Folge, Bd. 19), Berlin-Leipzig, 1940, S. 234—250. (German)
  • O’Herin, B. Case and agreement in Abaza. Summer Institute of Linguistics, September 2002.

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