Adyghe language

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West Circassian
Адыгaбзэ, aːdəɣabza
Native to Russia (incl. Circassia: Adygea, Krasnodar region), Turkey, Jordan, Syria, Iraq, Israel, Macedonia
Region North Caucasus
Ethnicity Circassians, Cherkesogai
Native speakers
unknown (490,000 cited 1986–2010)[1]
Official status
Official language in
Adygea (Russia)
Language codes
ISO 639-2 ady
ISO 639-3 ady
Glottolog adyg1241[2]
Distribution of the Adyghe language in Adygea, Russia (2002).
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: Адыгaбзэ, adyghabze IPA: [aːdəɣabza]), 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[clarification needed] around 128,000 speakers of Adyghe in Russia, almost all of them native speakers. In total, some 300,000 speak it worldwide. 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.


  • The Black Sea coast dialects
    • Shapsug dialect (Adyghe: Шапсыгъабзэ)
      • North Shapsugs, Great Shapsugs, Kuban Shapsugs dialect (Шапсыгъэ шху).
      • Temirgoy-Shapsugs, Pseuşko accent (Кӏэмгуе-шапсыгъ)
      • South Shapsugs, Small Shapsugs, Coastal Shapsugs Black Sea Shapsugs (Шапсыгъэ-цӏыкӏу) dialect.
      • Kfar Kama dialect (Кфар Камэм ишапсыгъэбзэ)
      • Hakuchi dialect (ХьакӀуцубзэ, Къaрaцхaибзэ)
    • Natukhai dialect (Adyghe: Нэтхъуадж)
  • The Kuban river dialects


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 Abzakh dialect of Adyghe, is a three-way contrast between plain ӏ, labialized ӏу and palatalized glottal stops ӏь (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 Abzakh) 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 тху (About this sound [txʷə]) in Kabardian, though [xʷ] exist in the Temirgoy dialect in the suffix -шхо /-ʃxʷa/ which means big or mighty, for example унэ /wəna/ "house" and тхьэ /tħa/ "God" to унэшхо /wənaʃxʷa/ "large house" and тхьэшхо /tħaʃxʷa/ "mighty God". The phoneme written Л л is pronounced as a voiced alveolar lateral fricative [ɮ] mostly by the Circassians of Adygea, but many Circassians in diaspora pronounce it as an alveolar lateral approximant [l].[citation needed]

Labial Alveolar Post-alveolar Alveolo-
Retroflex Velar Uvular Pharyngeal Glottal
plain lab. plain lab. lat. plain lab. plain lab. pal. plain lab. plain lab.
Nasal m n
Plosive voiceless p t k2 ()1 q ʔ ʔʷ
voiced b d (ɡ)4 ɡʷ (ɡʲ)1
ejective pʷʼ tʷʼ kʷʼ (kʲʼ)1
Affricate voiceless t͡s t͡sʷ t͡ʃ (t͡ɕʷ)5
voiced d͡z d͡zʷ d͡ʒ
ejective t͡sʼ t͡ʃʼ
Fricative voiceless f s ɬ ʃ ʃʷ ɕ ʂ x χ χʷ ħ
voiced v2 z ɮ ʒ ʒʷ ʑ ʐ ɣ ʁ ʁʷ
ejective ()1 ɬʼ ʃʼ ʃʷʼ
Approximant (l)3 j w
Trill r
  1. In the Shapsug dialect (Adyghe: Шапсыгъэбзэ) (e.g. the Kfar Kama dialect), there exist an alveolar ejective fricative [][7] that correspond to [t͡sʼ] in other dialects, for example the Shapsug words "шӏусӏэ" [ʃʷ'əs'a] "black" are pronounced in other dialects as "шӏуцӏэ" [ʃʷ'ət͡s'a]. In the Shapsug dialect there is a palatalized voiced velar plosive [ɡʲ], a palatalized voiceless velar plosive [] and a palatalized velar ejective [kʲʼ] that were merged with [d͡ʒ], [t͡ʃ] and [t͡ʃʼ] in most Adyghe dialects,[8][9][10] for example the Shapsug words "гьанэ" [ɡʲaːna] "shirt", "кьэт" [kʲat] "chicken" and "кӏьапсэ" [kʲʼaːpsa] "rope" are pronounced in other dialects as "джанэ" [d͡ʒaːna], "чэт" [t͡ʃat] and кӏапсэ [t͡ʃʼaːpsa].
  2. Consonants that exist only in borrowed words.
  3. In the Shapsug and Abzakh dialects the phoneme written Л л is pronounced as [l] instead of [ɮ].
  4. In the Adyghe Temirgoy dialect, the consonant [ɣ] became [ɡ].
  5. In many Adyghe dialects (such as Abzakh, Shapsug and Bzhedug) [t͡ɕʷ] чъу corresponds to standard Temirgoy [t͡sʷ] цу. For example the Temirgoy word цуакъэ [t͡sʷaːqa] is чъуакъэ [t͡ɕʷaːqa] in other Adyghe dialects.

In contrast to its large consonant inventory, Adyghe has only three phonemic vowels in a classic vertical vowel system.

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 (they count)
Б б b [b]
баджэ (wolf), бэ (a lot)
В в v [v]
Г г ɣ [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 ǯʹ [d͡ʒ]
джан (shirt), лъэмыдж (bridge)
Дз дз ʒ [d͡z]
дзыо (bag), дзын (to throw)
Дзу дзу ʒ° [d͡zʷ]
хьандзу (rick), хьандзуачӏ (lower rick)
Е е e [aj] [ja]
ешэн (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° [ʒʷ]
жъун (to melt), жъуагъо (star)
Жь жь žʹ [ʑ]
жьыбгъэ (wind), жьао (shadow)
З з z [z]
занкӏэ (straight), зандэ (steep)
И и 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 č̣ʹ [] [tʃʼ]
кӏымаф (winter), кӏыхьэ (long), кӏэ (tail), шкӏэ (calf)
Кӏу кӏу ḳ° [kʷʼ]
кӏон (to walk), кӏуакӏэ (strong)
Л л l [l]
лагъэ (painted), лы (meat)
ɮ ([ɮ])
Лъ лъ ł [ɬ]
лъэбэкъу (step), лъащэ (lame)
Лӏ лӏ [ɬʼ]
лӏы (man), лӏыгъэ (bravery)
М м m [m]
мазэ (moon), мэлы (sheep)
Н н n [n]
нэ (eye), ны (mother)
О о o [aw] [wa]
мощ (that), коны (bin), о (you), осы (snow), ощхы (rain)
П п p [p]
пэ (nose), сапэ (dust)
Пӏ пӏ []
пӏэ (bed), пӏэшъхьагъ (pillow)
Пӏу пӏу ṗ° [pʷʼ]
пӏун (to rise, to adopt), пӏур (pupil, apprentice)
Р р r [r]
рикӏэн (to pour into), риӏон (to tell him)
С с s [s]
сэ (i, me), сэшхо (sabre)
Т т t [t]
тэтэжъ (grandfather), тэ (we)
Тӏ тӏ []
тӏы (ram), ятӏэ (dirt)
Тӏу тӏу ṭ° [tʷʼ]
тӏурыс (old), тӏурытӏу (pair)
У у w [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)
Ху ху [] тхьэшхо (mighty God), унэшхо (large house)
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 (oven)
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 [t͡ʂʼ]
чӏыпӏэ (area), чӏыфэ (debt)
Чъ чъ č [t͡ʂ]
чъыгай (oak), чъыӏэ (cold)
Ш ш š [ʃ]
шы (brother), шыблэ (thunder)
Шъ шъ ŝ [ʂ]
шъэ (hundred), шъабэ (soft)
Шъу шъу ŝ° [ʃʷ]
шъугъуалэ (envious), шъукъакӏу (come – to plural)
Шӏ шӏ ṣ̂ [ʃʼ]
шӏын (to do), шӏэныгъ (knowledge)
Шӏу шӏу ṣ̂° [ʃʷʼ]
шӏуцӏэ (black), шӏуфэс (greetings)
Щ щ šʹ [ɕ]
щагу (yard), щатэ (sour cream)
(Ъ ъ)
Ы ы ə [ə]
ыкӏи (and also), зы (one)
(Ь ь)
Э э ă [a]
ӏэтаж (floor), нэнэжъ (grandmother)
(Ю ю) ju [ju]
Юсыф (Joseph), Юныс (Jonah)
Я я [jaː]
яй (theirs), ябгэ (evil)
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. Correspond to Дж дж.
Кь кь k ([])
кьэт (chicken), кьэтыу (cat), кьэфы (cheerful) Shapsug dialect, Correspond to Ч ч.
Кӏь кӏь ([kʲʼ])
кӏьэ (tail), кӏьакӏьэ (egg), кӏьапсэ (rope) Shapsug dialect, Correspond to Кӏ кӏ.
Ль ль l [l]
Сӏ сӏ ṣ̣ ([])
сӏэ (name), псӏы (lie) Shapsug dialect, Correspond to Цӏ цӏ
Чъу чъу č̍° ([t͡ɕʷ])
чъуакъо (shoe), чъу (ox) Shapsug dialect, Abzakh dialect. Correspond to Цу цу
ӏь ʾ’ ([ʔʲ])
ӏьалэ (boy), ӏьэс (sits under) Abzakh dialect

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], ШIу [ʃʷʼ], Iу [ʔʷ].

In some dialects : Кхъу [q͡χʷ], Ху [xʷ], Чъу [t͡ɕʷ].

Writing system rules[edit]

  • The letter ы [ə] is not written after a у [w], й [j] or a labialized consonant. For example : унэ [wəna] "house" instead of уынэ, илъэс [jəɬas] "year" instead of йылъэс, шӏу [ʃʷʼə] "well" instead of шӏуы, цумпэ [t͡sʷəmpa] "strawberry" instead of цуымпэ.
  • In case the letter у is the first letter of a word or when is not related to any other consonant, it is pronounced as [wə] уы. For example : унэ [wəna] "house" instead of уынэ, урыс [wərəs] "Russian" instead of уырыс, куу [kʷəwə] "deep" instead of кууы. When it's related to a consonant it becomes a vowel and pronounced as [əw]~[u] ыу. For example : чэту [t͡ʃaːtəw] "cat" instead of чэтыу, бзу [bzəw] "bird" instead of бзыу, дуней [dəwnej] "world" instead of дыуней.
  • 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" instead of гъуэгу, машӏо [maːʃʷʼa] "fire" instead of машӏуэ, шъо [ʃʷa] "you (plural)" instead of 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 [ʃʷəj] "yours (plural).
  • In case the letter о is the first letter of a word or when is not related to any other consonant, it is pronounced as [wa] уэ. For example : о [wa] "you" instead of уэ, орэд [warad] "song" instead of уэрэд, онтэгъу [wantaʁʷ] "heavy" instead of уэнтэгъу, зао [zaːwa] "war" instead of зауэ, ныо [nəwa] "old woman" instead of ныуэ.
  • In case the letter е is the first letter of a word or when is not related to any other consonant, it is pronounced as [ja] йэ. For example : еӏо [jaʔʷa] "he says" instead of йэӏо, еплъы [japɬə] "he sees" instead of йэплъы, мые [məja] "apple" instead of мыйэ, бае [baːja] "rich" instead of байэ, шъэжъые [ʂaʐəja] "knife" instead of шъэжъыйэ. When it's related to a consonant it becomes a vowel and pronounced as [aj]~[e] эй. For example : делэ [dajla] "fool" instead of дэйлэ, къедж [qajd͡ʒ] "read" instead of къэйдж, непэ [najpa] "today" instead of нэйпэ.
  • In case the letter и is the first letter of a word or when is not related to any other consonant, it is pronounced as [jə] йы. For example : илъэс [jəɬas] "year" instead of йылъэс, иунэ [jəwəna] "his house" instead of йыуын, шӏои [ʃʷʼajə] "dirty" instead of шӏойы, дэи [dajə] "bad" instead of дэйы. When it's related to a consonant it becomes a vowel and pronounced as [əj]~[i] ый. For example : сиӏ [səjʔ] "I have" instead of сыйӏ, уиунэ [wəjwəna] "your house" instead of уыйуынэ, къины [qəjnə] "hard" instead of къыйны.


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

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

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.[11]

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.[12]

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]


External links[edit]