Adyghe language

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

West Circassian
Native toAdygea
Krasnodar Krai
Native speakers
610,000 (2010–2020)[1]
Early forms
Official status
Official language in
Recognised minority
language in
Language codes
ISO 639-2ady
ISO 639-3ady
Adyghe in Adygea (2002).png
Distribution of the Adyghe language in Adygea, Russia (2002)[image reference needed]
Mother language in 1965 Turkey census - Circassian.png
Total percentage of the population speaking Adyghe or Kabardian language in Turkey (1965)[image reference needed]
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters. For an introductory guide on IPA symbols, see Help:IPA.
Yinal speaking Adyghe.

Adyghe (IPA: /ˈædɪɡ/ or /ˌɑːdɪˈɡ/;[2] Adyghe: Адыгабзэ, romanized: Adygabzə, [aːdɘɣaːbzɜ]), also known as West Circassian (Adyghe: кӏахыбзэ, romanized: khaxybzə), is a Northwest Caucasian language spoken by the western subgroups of Circassians.[3] It is spoken mainly in Russia, as well as in Turkey, Jordan, Syria and Israel, where Circassians settled after the Circassian genocide (c. 1864–1870). It is closely related to the Kabardian (East Circassian) language, though some reject the distinction between the two languages in favor of both being dialects of a unitary Circassian language.

The literary standard of Adyghe is based on its Temirgoy dialect. Adyghe and Russian are the two official languages of the Republic of Adygea in the Russian Federation.

In Russia, there are around 128,000 speakers of Adyghe, 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 diaspora from the Russian–Circassian War (c. 1763–1864). In addition, 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 West Circassian (Adyghe) dialects family tree

The Black Sea coast dialects[edit]

  • Shapsug dialect (Adyghe: Шапсыгъабзэ)
    • North Shapsugs, Great Shapsugs, Kuban Shapsugs (Шапсыгъэ шху) dialect
    • Temirgoy-Shapsugs, Pseuşko accent (Кӏэмгуе-шапсыгъ)
    • South Shapsugs, Small Shapsugs, Coastal Shapsugs, Black Sea Shapsugs (Шапсыгъэ-цӏыкӏу) dialect
    • Hakuchi dialect (Хьакӏуцубзэ, Къарацхаибзэ)
  • Natukhai dialect (Adyghe: Нэтӏхъуаджэбзэ)
  • Zhaney dialect

The Kuban River dialects[edit]


Adyghe exhibits a large number of consonants: between 50 and 60 consonants are used across 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, labialized and palatalized glottal stops (although a palatalized glottal stop is also found in Hausa and a labialized one in Tlingit). 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.

Labial Alveolar Post-alveolar Alveolo-
Retroflex Velar Uvular Pharyngeal Glottal
plain lab. plain sib. lab. plain lab. plain lab. plain lab. plain lab.
Nasal m n


voiceless p t t͡s t͡sʷ t͡ʃ t͡ʂ k1 q ʔ ʔʷ
voiced b d d͡z d͡zʷ d͡ʒ ɡ1 ɡʷ
ejective pʷʼ t͡sʼ tʷʼ t͡ʃʼ t͡ʂʼ kʷʼ
Fricative voiceless f ɬ s ʃ ʃʷ ɕ ʂ x χ χʷ ħ
voiced v1 ɮ z ʒ ʒʷ ʑ ʐ ɣ ʁ ʁʷ
ejective ɬʼ ʃʼ ʃʷʼ
Approximant w j w
Trill r
  1. These consonants exist only in borrowed words.
  2. Note: Adyghe has many consonants that appear across its dialects, and thus has a complex system of consonant allophony. More information on those can be found at Adyghe phonology.

In contrast to its large inventory of consonants, Adyghe has only three phonemic vowels in a vertical vowel system.[4]

Close-mid ə
Open-mid ɐ


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


The official alphabet for Adyghe is the Cyrillic script, which has been used since 1936. Before that, the Arabic script was used. In recent years, a new Latin script has been devised[by whom?] that seeks to include phonemes from all the Adyghe and Kabardian dialects, as well as other North Caucasian languages.[citation needed]

Cyrillic Transliteration[5] IPA Pronunciation Examples
А а Ā ā [] ачъэ (goat), апчъы (they count)
Б б B b [b] баджэ (fox), бэ (a lot)
В в V v [v]
Г г Ɣ ɣ [ɣ] гыны (powder), чъыгы (tree)
Гу гу G˚ g˚ [ɡʷ] гу (heart), гущыӏ (word)
Гъ гъ Ġ ġ [ʁ] гъатхэ (spring), гъэмаф (summer)
Гъу гъу Ġ˚ ġ˚ [ʁʷ] гъунэгъу (neighbour), гъунджэ (mirror)
Д д D d [d] дыджы (bitter), дахэ (pretty)
Дж дж Ǯʼ ǯʼ [d͡ʒ] джан (shirt), лъэмыдж (bridge)
Дз дз Ʒ ʒ [d͡z] дзыо (bag), дзын (to throw)
Дзу дзу Ʒ˚ ʒ˚ [d͡zʷ] хьандзу (rick), хьандзуачӏ (lower rick)
Е е E e [ɜj] [] ешэн (to catch), еплъын (to look at)
(Ё ё)[a] (Jo jo) [jo] ёлк (Christmas tree)
Ж ж Ž ž [ʒ] жэ (mouth), жакӏэ (beard)
Жъ жъ Ẑ ẑ [ʐ] жъы (old), жъажъэ (slow)
Жъу жъу Ẑ˚ ẑ˚ [ʒʷ] жъун (to melt), жъуагъо (star)
Жь жь Žʼ žʼ [ʑ] жьыбгъэ (wind), жьао (shadow)
З з Z z [z] занкӏэ (straight), зандэ (steep)
И и I i [ɘj] [] ихьан (to enter), икӏыпӏ (exit)
Й й J j [j] йод (iodine), бай (rich)
К к[a] K k [k] кнопк (button), команд (team, command)
Ку ку K˚ k˚ [] кушъэ (cradle), ку (cart)
Къ къ Q q [q] къалэ (city), къэкӏон (to come)
Къу къу Q˚ q˚ [] къухьэ (ship), къушъхьэ (mountain)
Кӏ кӏ Č̣ʼ č̣ʼ [] [tʃʼ] кӏымаф (winter), кӏыхьэ (long), кӏэ (tail), шкӏэ (calf)
Кӏу кӏу Ḳ˚ ḳ˚ [kʷʼ] кӏон (to walk), кӏуакӏэ (strong)
Л л L l [l] лагъэ (painted), лы (meat)
Лъ лъ Ł ł [ɬ] лъэбэкъу (step), лъащэ (lame)
Лӏ лӏ Ḷ ḷ [ɬʼ] лӏы (man), лӏыгъэ (bravery)
М м M m [m] мазэ (moon), мэлы (sheep)
Н н N n [n] нэ (eye), ны (mother)
О о O o [ɜw] [] мощ (that), коны (bin), о (you), осы (snow), ощхы (rain)
П п P p [p] пэ (nose), сапэ (dust)
Пӏ пӏ Ṗ ṗ [] пӏэ (bed), пӏэшъхьагъ (pillow)
Пӏу пӏу Ṗ˚ ṗ˚ [pʷʼ] пӏун (to rise; to adopt), пӏур (pupil; apprentice)
Р р R r [r] рикӏэн (to pour), риӏон (TRANS. to tell)
С с S s [s] сэ (I, me), сэшхо (sabre)
Т т T t [t] тэтэжъ (grandfather), тэ (we, us)
Тӏ тӏ Ṭ ṭ [] тӏы (ram), ятӏэ (dirt)
Тӏу тӏу Ṭ˚ ṭ˚ [tʷʼ] тӏурыс (old), тӏурытӏу (pair)
У у U u / W w [ɘw] [] ушхун (to straighten), убэн (to tamp; to smoothen)
Ф ф F f [f] фыжьы (white), фэен (to want)
Х х X x [x] хы (sea; six), хасэ (council)
Хъ хъ Χ χ [χ] хъыен (to move), пхъэн (to sow)
Хъу хъу Χ˚ χ˚ [χʷ] хъун (to happen), хъурай (circle)
Хь хь Ḥ ḥ [ħ] хьэ (dog), хьаку (oven)
Ц ц C c [t͡s] цагэ (rib), цы (body hair)
Цу цу C˚ c˚ [t͡sʷ] цуакъэ (shoe), цу (ox)
Цӏ цӏ C̣ c̣ [t͡sʼ] цӏынэ (wet), цӏыфы (person)
Ч ч Čʼ čʼ [t͡ʃ] чэфы (cheerful), чэты (chicken)
Чъ чъ Č č [t͡ʂ] чъыгай (oak), чъыӏэ (cold)
Чӏ чӏ Č̣ č̣ [t͡ʂʼ] чӏыпӏэ (area), чӏыфэ (debt)
Ш ш Š š [ʃ] шы (brother), шыблэ (thunder)
Шъ шъ Ŝ ŝ [ʂ] шъэ (hundred), шъабэ (soft)
Шъу шъу Ŝ˚ ŝ˚ [ʃʷ] шъугъуалэ (envious), шъукъакӏу (PL. to come)
Шӏ шӏ Ṣ̂ ṣ̂ [ʃʼ] шӏын (to do), шӏэныгъ (knowledge)
Шӏу шӏу Ṣ̂˚ ṣ̂˚ [ʃʷʼ] шӏуцӏэ (black), шӏуфэс (greetings)
Щ щ Šʼ šʼ [ɕ] щагу (yard), щатэ (sour cream)
(Ъ ъ) - -
Ы ы Ə ə [ɘ] ыкӏи (and also), зы (one)
(Ь ь) - -
Э э Ă ă [ɜ] ӏэтаж (floor), нэнэжъ (grandmother)
Ю ю Ju ju [ju] Юсыф (Joseph), Юныс (Jonah)
Я я Ja ja [jaː] яй (theirs), ябгэ (evil)
Ӏ ӏ ʾ [ʔ] ӏэ (hand), кӏасэ (like)
Ӏу ӏу ʾ˚ [ʔʷ] ӏукӏэн (to meet), ӏусын (to be near sitting), ӏудан (thread)
  • There are thirteen labialised consonants; however, in some dialects, there are three additional ones: Кхъу [q͡χʷ], Ху [xʷ] and Чъу [t͡ɕʷ].‎

‎ ‎ Adyghe language script history chart.png

Orthography rules[edit]

  • The letter ⟨ы⟩ [ə] is not written after a ⟨у⟩ [w], ⟨й⟩ [j] or a labialised consonant. For example: унэ [wənɐ] "house" instead of уынэ.
  • In case the letter ⟨у⟩ is the first letter of a word or when it is not related to any other consonant, it is pronounced as [wə] ⟨уы⟩. For example: унэ instead of уынэ. When it is related to a consonant, it becomes a vowel and pronounced as [əw~u] ⟨ыу⟩. For example: чэту [t͡ʃɐtəw] "cat" instead of чэтыу.
  • In case a labialised consonant is followed by a vowel ⟨э⟩ [ɐ], instead of the letter ⟨у⟩ there is a ⟨о⟩. For example: гъогу [ʁʷɐɡʷ] "road" instead of гъуэгу.
  • In case a labialised consonant is followed by a vowel ⟨а⟩ [aː] or ⟨и⟩ [əj~i], the labialised consonant letter is written fully. For example: цуакъэ [t͡sʷaːqɐ] "shoes".
  • In case the letter ⟨о⟩ is the first letter of a word or when it is not related to any other consonant, it is pronounced as [wɐ] ⟨уэ⟩. For example, о [wɐ] "you" instead of уэ.
  • In case the letter ⟨е⟩ is the first letter of a word or when it is not related to any other consonant, it is pronounced as [jɐ] ⟨йэ⟩. For example: еӏо [jɐʔʷɐ] "he says" instead of йэӏо. When it's related to a consonant, it becomes a vowel and pronounced as [ɐj~e] ⟨эй⟩. For example: делэ [dɐjlɐ] "fool" instead of дэйлэ.
  • 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 [jəɬɐs] "year" instead of йылъэс. 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.


The vowels are written ⟨ы⟩ [ə], ⟨э⟩ [ɐ] and ⟨а⟩ [aː]. Other letters represent diphthongs: ⟨я⟩ represents [jaː], ⟨и⟩ [jə] or [əj], ⟨о⟩ [wɐ] or [ɐw], ⟨у⟩ represent [wə] or [əw], and ⟨е⟩ represents [jɐ] or [ɐj].

Other writing systems[edit]

The language of Adyghe is officially written in the Cyrillic script but is also unofficially written in the Latin script, in a version of the Arabic script before 1927, and then a version of the Latin alphabet implemented by the Soviet Union until 1938.

Examples of literary Adyghe[edit]

Native vocabulary[edit]

Cyrillic Transliteration IPA[tone?] Translation
сэ [sɐ] I
пшъашъэ pŝāŝă [p͡ʂaːʂɐ] girl
тӏыс ṭəs [tʼəs] to sit
тэдж tăǯʼ [tɐd͡ʒ] to stand
Тэу ущыт? Tăw ušʼət? [tɐw‿wəʃət] How are you?
Сышӏу. Səṣ̂˚. [səʃʷʼ] I'm fine.
шы šə [ʃə] horse
щы šʼə [ɕə] three
жъуагъо ẑ˚āġo [ʐʷaːʁʷɐ] star
тыгъэ təġă [təʁɐ] sun
мазэ māză [maːzɐ] moon
цуакъэ c˚āqă [t͡sʷaːqɐ] shoe
шъукъеблагъ ŝ˚qeblāġ [ʂʷəqɐjblaːʁ] welcome
лъэхъуамбэ łăχ˚āmbă [ɬɐχʷaːmbɐ] toe
хьамлыу ḥāmləw [ħaːmləw] worm
кӏэнкӏэ č̣ʼănč̣ʼă [kʼɐŋkʼɐ] egg
хьампӏырашъу ḥāmṗəraŝ˚ [ħaːmpʼəraːʂʷ] butterfly
мэшӏоку măṣ̌ok˚ [mɐʃʼʷɐkʷ] train
пхъэтӏэкӏу pχăṭăḳ˚ [p͡χɐtʼɐkʼʷ] chair
тхьалъыкӏо tḥāłəč̣ʼo [t͡ħaːɬəkʼʷɐ] prophet
къамзэгу qāmzăg˚ [qaːmzɐɡʷ] ant
псычэт psəčʼăt [p͡sət͡ʃɐt] duck


Cyrillic Latin Pronunciation Translation Origin
республикэ respublikă [rʲespublʲikɐ] republic Russian республика, from Latin rēs pūblica (public concern)
компутер komputer [komputʲer] computer Russian компьютер, from Latin com putāre (to settle together)
математикэ mātematikă [maːtʲemaːtʲikɐ] математика Russian математика, from Ancient Greek "μάθημα" máthēma (study, knowledge)
спорт sport [sport] sports Russian спорт, from English sport
быракъ bərāq [bəraːq] flag Turkic batrak (spear, stick)
къартӏоф qārṭof [qaːrtʼʷɐf] potato Russian картофель, from German Kartoffel (potato)
томат tomāt [tomaːt] tomato Russian томат, from Spanish tomate, from Nahuan tomatl
орэндж orănǯʼ [wɐrɐnd͡ʒ] orange Persian نارنگ nârang or نارنج nâranj
нэмаз nămāz [nɐmaːz] salah (Islamic praying) Persian نماز namâz
къалэ qālă [qaːlɐ] city Akkadian kalakku (fort)
дунай dunāj [dəwnaːj] earth Arabic دنيا dunyā (world)

Adyghe outside Circassia[edit]

Adyghe is taught outside Circassia in Prince Hamza Ibn Al-Hussein Secondary School, a school for Jordanian Adyghes in Jordan's capital city of Amman. This school, established by the Jordanian Adyghes 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 aims to preserve the Adyghe language and traditions among future generations.[6]

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.


There are many books written in or translated into Adyghe. An Adyghe translation of the Quran by Ishak Mashbash is available. The New Testament and many books of the Old Testament have been published in Adyghe by the Institute for Bible Translation in Moscow.

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.[7]

Sample text[edit]

John 1:1 in Adyghe Transliteration English translation

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.

Ublāṗăm ədăžʼ G˚šʼəʾăr šʼəʾāġ. Ār Tḥăm ədăžʼ šʼəʾāġ, ā G˚šʼəʾări Tḥăw ārəġă. Ublāṗăm šʼeġăžʼāġăw ā G˚šʼəʾăr Tḥăm ədăžʼ šʼəʾāġ. Tḥăm ā G˚šʼəʾăm zăč̣ʼări qəriġăġăχ˚ġ. Tḥăm qəġăχ˚ġă pstăwmi āšʼəšʼăw ā G˚šʼəʾăm qəriməġġăχ˚ġă zi šʼəʾăp. Məč̣ʼodəžʼən šʼəʾănəġă ā G˚šʼəʾăm xăłəġ, ā šʼəʾănəġări c̣əfxăm năfənă āfăχ˚ġ. Năfənăr ṣ̂˚nč̣ʼəġăm šʼănăfə, ṣ̂˚nč̣ʼəġări năfənăm teḳ˚āġăp.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god. This one was in the beginning With God. All things came into existence through him, and apart from him not even one thing came into existence. What has come into existence by means of him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light is shining in the darkness, but the darkness has not overpowered it.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Only in Russian loanwords.


  1. ^ Adyghe at Ethnologue (25th ed., 2022) closed access
  2. ^ "Adyghe". Oxford English Dictionary (Online ed.). Oxford University Press. (Subscription or participating institution membership required.)
  3. ^ Aydın, Şamil Emre (2015), Çerkes Diyalektleri ISBN 9786056569111
  4. ^ Applebaum, Ayla; Gordon, Matthew (2013). "A Comparative Phonetic Study of the Circassian Languages". Berkeley Linguistics Society. University of California, Santa Barbara.
  6. ^ Circassians bid to save ancient language. Al Jazeera. 14 May 2010. Retrieved 29 December 2011.
  7. ^ "UNESCO Map of World's language in Danger" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 3 March 2017. Retrieved 24 June 2009.

External links[edit]