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Archi language

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
аршаттен чӏат
Native toRussia
RegionArchib, Dagestan
Native speakers
1,712 (2020 census)[1]
Cyrillic script (developed in 2006 based on the Avar alphabet)
Language codes
ISO 639-3aqc
Map of where Archi is spoken (red area)
Archi is classified as Definitely Endangered by the UNESCO Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger (2010)
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.

Archi /ɑːˈ/[3] is a Northeast Caucasian language spoken by the Archis in the village of Archib, southern Dagestan, Russia, and the six surrounding smaller villages.

It is unusual for its many phonemes and for its contrast between several voiceless velar lateral fricatives, /𝼄, 𝼄ʷ, 𝼄ː, 𝼄ːʷ/, voiceless and ejective velar lateral affricates, /k͡𝼄, k͡𝼄ʷ, k͡𝼄ʼ, k͡𝼄ʷʼ/, and a voiced velar lateral fricative, /ʟ̝/. It is an ergative–absolutive language with four noun classes[4] and has a remarkable morphological system with irregularities on all levels.[5] Mathematically, there are 1,502,839 possible forms that can be derived from a single verb root.[6]


The classification of the Archi language has not been definitively established. Peter von Uslar felt it should be considered a variant of Avar,[citation needed] but Roderich von Erckert saw it as closer to Lak.[citation needed] The language has also been considered as a separate entity that could be placed somewhere between Avar and Lak.[by whom?][citation needed] The Italian linguist Alfredo Trombetti placed Archi within an Avar–Ando–Dido group,[citation needed] but today the most widely recognized opinion follows that of the Soviet scholar Bokarev, who regards Archi as one of the Lezgian–Samur group of the Dagestan languages.[citation needed] Schulze places it in the Lezgian branch with all other Lezgian languages belonging to the Samur group.[2]


Archi has, like its Northeast Caucasian relatives, a very complicated phonological system, with Archi being an extreme example. It has 26 vowel phonemes and, depending on analysis, between 74 and 82 consonant phonemes.


Archi has a symmetric six-vowel system (/i e ə a o u/).[4]

Vowel phonemes of Archi
Front Central Back
Close i u
Mid e ə o
Open a

All vowels except for /ə/ can occur in five varieties: short, pharyngealized, high tone, long (with high tone), and pharyngealized with high tone (e.g. /a/, /aˤ/, /á/, /áː/, and /áˤ/). Of all these, only /ə/ and /íˤ/ do not occur word-initially.[7] Examples of non-initial /íˤ/ are /díˤt͡ʃa/ ('to be fat')[8] and /iˤntíˤmmaj/ ('brain').[9]


Of all living languages, Archi has the world's largest phonemic non-click consonant inventory, with only the recently extinct Ubykh of the Northwest Caucasian languages having a few more. The table below shows all consonants that can be found in the Archi Language Tutorial[4] and the Archi Dictionary.[7]

Consonant phonemes of Archi
Labial Dental (Post)-
(Pre-)velar Uvular Epiglottal Glottal
pl. lab. pl. lab. pl. lab. pl. lab. phar. phar.+lab.
Nasal m n
Plosive voiced b d 2 ɡ ɡʷ
voiceless p t k q qˤʷ ʡ ʔ1
fortis 1 1 1 kːʷ2 qːʼ1 qːˤʼ
ejective kʷʼ qʷʼ qˤʼ qˤʷʼ
Affricate voiceless lenis t͡s t͡sʷ2 t͡ʃ t͡ʃʷ k͡𝼄 k͡𝼄ʷ
fortis t͡sː3
ejective lenis t͡sʼ t͡sʷʼ t͡ʃʼ t͡ʃʷʼ k͡𝼄ʼ k͡𝼄ʷʼ
fortis t͡sːʼ1 t͡ʃːʼ2
Fricative voiceless lenis s 2 ʃ ʃʷ 𝼄 𝼄ʷ χ χʷ χˤ χˤʷ ʜ h
fortis sːʷ2 ʃː ʃːʷ 𝼄ː 𝼄ːʷ χː χːʷ χːˤ χːˤʷ
voiced z ʒ ʒʷ ʟ̝1 ʁ ʁʷ2 ʁˤ ʁˤʷ
Trill r
Approximant l j w
  1. These have no word-initial dictionary entries (even though /pː/, /tː/, and /kː/ are relatively common).
  2. These appear in the Tutorial but have no dictionary entries.
  3. This does not appear in the Tutorial but does have a word-internal dictionary entry (in /mot͡sːór/, 'alpine pasture used in summer').[10]

Some of these sounds are very rare. For example, /ʁˤʷ/ has only one dictionary entry word-internally (in /íʁˤʷdut/, 'heavy')[11] and two entries word-initially. Likewise, /ʟ̝/ has only two dictionary entries: /náʟ̝dut/ ('blue; unripe')[12] and /k͡𝼄ʼéʟ̝dut/ ('crooked, curved').[13]

The fortis consonants are not simply two instances of the same consonant, though they do appear largely complementary, with the double instances /mm/, /ll/, and /nn/ being the most common and /zz/ less so. That said, /pp/ can still be found in /𝼄íppu/ ('three').[14] This is also noted by Kodzasov (1977),[15] who describes the fortis consonants as follows:

"Strong phonemes are characterized by the intensiveness (tension) of the articulation. The intensity of the pronunciation leads to a natural lengthening of the duration of the sound, and that is why strong [consonants] differ from weak ones by greater length. [However,] the adjoining of two single weak sounds does not produce a strong one […] Thus, the gemination of a sound does not by itself create its tension."

The voiceless velar lateral fricative /𝼄/, the voiced velar lateral fricative /ʟ̝/, and the corresponding voiceless and ejective affricates /k͡𝼄/, /k͡𝼄ʼ/ are extremely unusual speech sounds among the languages of the world, because velar fricatives are usually central rather than lateral. The velar laterals are further forward than velars in most languages and could better be called prevelar, like the Tutorial does.[4]


Until recently Archi did not have a written form, except in studies by specialists who used the Latin script. In 2006, the Surrey Morphology Group developed a Cyrillic alphabet for Archi based on the Avar alphabet, which is used in the Archi–Russian–English Dictionary alongside an IPA transcription.[6]

Practical orthography of Archi by SMG[16]
Base letter Derived letters and their pronunciation in IPA
IPA IPA IPA +ӏв / long IPA
а А а /a/ Аӏ аӏ /aˤ/
А́ а́ /á/ А́ӏ а́ӏ /áˤ/ А́а а́а /áː/
б Б б /b/
в В в /w/ various others, see below
г Г г /ɡ/ Гв гв /ɡʷ/ Гӏ гӏ /ʡ/
Гъ гъ /ʁ/ Гъв гъв /ʁʷ/ Гъӏ гъӏ /ʁˤ/ Гъӏв гъӏв /ʁˤʷ/
Гь гь /h/
д Д д /d/ Дв дв /dʷ/
е Е е /e/ Еӏ еӏ /eˤ/
Е́ е́ /é/ Е́ӏ е́ӏ /éˤ/ Е́е е́е /éː/
ж Ж ж /ʒ/ Жв жв /ʒʷ/
з З з /z/ Зв зв /zʷ/
и И и /i/ Иӏ иӏ /iˤ/
И́ и́ /í/ и́ӏ /íˤ/ И́и и́и /íː/
й Й й /j/
к К к /k/ Кв кв /kʷ/ Кӏ кӏ /kʼ/ Кӏв кӏв /kʷʼ/
кк /kː/ ккв /kːʷ/
Къ къ /qʼ/ Къв къв /qʷʼ/ Къӏ къӏ /qˤʼ/ Къӏв къӏв /qˤʷʼ/
ккъ /qːʼ/ Ккъӏ ккъӏ /qːˤʼ/
Кь кь /k͡𝼄ʼ/, /ʟ̝/ Кьв кьв /k͡𝼄ʷʼ/
л Л л /l/ Лӏв лӏв /k͡𝼄ʷ/ Лӏ лӏ /k͡𝼄/
Лъ лъ /𝼄/ Лъв лъв /𝼄ʷ/
Ллъ ллъ /𝼄ː/ Ллъв ллъв /𝼄ːʷ/
м М м /m/
н Н н /n/
о О о /o/ Оӏ оӏ /oˤ/
О́ о́ /ó/ О́ӏ о́ӏ /óˤ/ О́о о́о /óː/
п П п /p/ Пӏ пӏ /pʼ/
пп /pː/
р Р р /r/
с С с /s/ Св св /sʷ/
Сс сс /sː/ Ссв ссв /sːʷ/
т Т т /t/ Тв тв /tʷ/ Тӏ тӏ /tʼ/
тт /tː/
у У у /u/ Уӏ уӏ /uˤ/
У́ у́ /ú/ У́ӏ у́ӏ /úˤ/ У́у у́у /úː/
х Х х /χ/ Хв хв /χʷ/ Хӏ хӏ /ʜ/ Ххв ххв /χːʷ/
Хх хх /χː/
Хъ хъ /q/ Хъв хъв /qʷ/ Хъӏ хъӏ /qˤ/ Хъӏв хъӏв /qˤʷ/
Хьӏ хьӏ /χˤ/ Хьӏв хьӏв /χˤʷ/
Ххьӏ ххьӏ /χːˤ/ Ххьӏв ххьӏв /χːˤʷ/
ц Ц ц /t͡s/ Цв цв /t͡sʷ/ Цӏ цӏ /t͡sʼ/ Цӏв цӏв /t͡sʷʼ/
Цц цц /t͡sː/ Ццӏ ццӏ /t͡sːʼ/
ч Ч ч /t͡ʃ/ Чв чв /t͡ʃʷ/ Чӏ чӏ /t͡ʃʼ/ Чӏв чӏв /t͡ʃʷʼ/
Ччӏ ччӏ /t͡ʃːʼ/
ш Ш ш /ʃ/ Шв шв /ʃʷ/
щ Щ щ /ʃː/ Щв щв /ʃːʷ/
ы ы /ə/
ъ ъ /ʔ/ various others, see above



Archi nouns inflect for number (singular or plural) and for one of 10 regular cases and 5 locative cases that can all take one of 6 directional suffixes.[4] There are four noun classes, which are only evident from verbal agreement.[4]


Case Marker Sg. 'ram' Pl. 'rams'
Absolutive -∅ baˁkʼ baˁkʼ-ur
Ergative -∅ beˁkʼ-iri baˁkʼ-ur-čaj
Genitive -n beˁkʼ-iri-n baˁkʼ-ur-če-n
Dative -s, -sː beˁkʼ-iri-s baˁkʼ-ur-če-s
Comitative -𝼄ːu beˁkʼ-iri-𝼄ːu baˁkʼ-ur-če-𝼄ːu
Similative -qˁdi beˁkʼ-iri-qˁdi baˁkʼ-ur-če-qˁdi
Causal -šːi beˁkʼ-iri-šːi baˁkʼ-ur-če-šːi
Comparative -χur beˁkʼ-iri-χur baˁkʼ-ur-če-χur
Partitive -qˁiš beˁkʼ-iri-qˁiš baˁkʼ-ur-če-qˁiš
Substitutive -k͡𝼄ʼəna beˁkʼ-iri-k͡𝼄ʼəna baˁkʼ-ur-če-k͡𝼄ʼəna

Depending on the specifics of the analysis, the ergative and the absolutive cases are not always marked by a specific suffix. Rather, they are marked by the use of the basic (for the absolutive) and oblique (for the ergative) stems in the absence of other markers. There is also a locative-case series in which 6 directional-case suffixes are combined with 5 spatial cases to produce a total of 30 case-localization combinations. However, they do not constitute 30 distinct case forms because they are easily derivable from a pair of morphemes.

Spatial case Marker Directional case Marker
Inessive ("in") -aj / -a Essive ("As") -∅
Intrative ("between") - qˁ(a-) Elative ("Out of")
Superessive ("above") -tːi- / -t Lative ("To"/"Into") -k
Subessive ("below") -k͡𝼄ʼ(a-) Allative ("Onto") -ši
Pertingent ("against") -ra- Terminative (Specifies a limit) -kena
Translative (Indicates change) -χutː

Noun classes[edit]

The four noun classes of Archi are only evident from verbal inflection. This table summarizes the noun classes and their associated verbal morphology:

Class Description Singular Plural
Prefix Infix Prefix
I Male human w- ⟨w⟩ b-
II Female human d- ⟨r⟩
III All insects, some animates,
some inanimates
b- ⟨b⟩ ∅-
IV Abstracts, some animates,
some inanimates

Example phrases[edit]

The following phrases were phonetically transcribed from Archi:[17]

Archi transcription English
x́it barḳur The ladle breaks.
x́it ax̄u The spoon (literally: little ladle) became dirty.
k̂ut̄ali berx̄ur The bag stays.
k̂ut̄ali eku The little bag fell.
č̣ut abḳu The jug broke.
č̣ut aḳu The little jug broke.
ḳunḳum barx̄ur The kettle becomes dirty.
ḳunḳum oq̄́u The little kettle sank (literally: drowned).
motol orq̄́ur The young goat drowns.
uri arč̣ur The young horse hides itself.
biš ač̣u The young cow hid itself.
ḳêrt erkur The young donkey falls.
dogi ebku The donkey fell.
q̇on abč̣u The goat hid itself.
nôiš ebx̄u The horse stayed.


The inclusions of "little" and "young" in the phrases translate a diminutive, which in Archi language commonly refers either to a smaller or younger version of the subject. The non-diminutive nouns in the above examples belong to noun class III, while their diminutives belong to noun class IV. This difference in noun class is reflected on the verb in all of these examples, by the contrast between class III agreement in b from class IV in ∅ (with no b). The -b- in the past tense appears in front of the -x̄u / -č̣u / -ku inflection, while in the present tense the b- is the first letter of the verb. For the nouns referring to inanimate objects, the class shift is the only sign of the diminutive: the noun itself does not change in form. E.g. x́it means both "ladle" (III) and "spoon" (IV), k̂ut̄ali both "bag" (III) and "little bag" (IV). Nouns pertaining to younger animals have different words, e.g. dogi "donkey" (III) but ḳêrt "young donkey" (IV), nôiš "horse" (III) but uri "young horse" (IV).


  2. ^ a b Schulze's classification schemata of the Caucasian languages[permanent dead link]
  3. ^ Laurie Bauer, 2007, The Linguistics Student’s Handbook, Edinburgh
  4. ^ a b c d e f The Archi language tutorial, presenting an overview of the grammar of Archi Archived 2011-09-04 at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ "Archi language home page of the Surrey Morphology Group". Archived from the original on 1 March 2015. Retrieved 14 March 2015.
  6. ^ a b Kibrik, A. E. (2001). "Archi (Caucasian—Daghestanian)", The Handbook of Morphology, Blackwell, pg. 468
  7. ^ a b "Archi Dictionary". Retrieved 2 June 2024.
  8. ^ "Archi - 1083 - диIча". Retrieved 14 March 2015.
  9. ^ "Archi - 1420 - иIнтиIммай". Retrieved 14 March 2015.
  10. ^ "Archi - 2101 - моццор". Retrieved 14 March 2015.
  11. ^ "Archi - 1387 - игъIвдут". Retrieved 14 March 2015.
  12. ^ "Archi - 2213 - наIкьдут". Retrieved 14 March 2015.
  13. ^ "Archi - 1838 - кьекьдут". Retrieved 14 March 2015.
  14. ^ "Archi - 3833 - лъибтIу". Retrieved 14 March 2015.
  15. ^ translated in Ladefoged & Maddieson (1996:97–98)
  16. ^ "Dictionary of Archi - Surrey Morphology Group". www.smg.surrey.ac.uk. Retrieved 2024-02-13.
  17. ^ Lubotsky, Alexander (2010). Van Sanskriet tot Spijkerschrift: Breinbrekers uit alle talen [From Sanskrit to Cuneiform: Brain teasers from all languages] (in Dutch). Amsterdam University Press. pp. 17, 68–69. ISBN 978-9089641793. Retrieved 30 April 2016.


  • Bond, Oliver; Corbett, Greville G.; Chumakina, Marina; Brown, Dunstan, eds. (2016). Archi: Complexities of agreement in cross-theoretical perspective. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Chumakina, Marina; Dunstan Brown; Greville G. Corbett; Harely Quilliam (2007). A dictionary of Archi: Archi-Russian-English (Online ed.). University of Surrey. doi:10.15126/SMG.16/2.
  • Kodzasov, Sandro (1977). "Fonetika Archinskogo Jazyka, part 2". In Kibrik, A. E.; Samedov, I. P.; Olovjannikova, D. S.; Kodzasov, S. V. (eds.). Opyt Strukturnogo Opisanija Archinskogo Jazyka. Vol. 1. Moscow: Izdatel’stvo Moskovskogo Universiteta.
  • Ladefoged, Peter; Maddieson, Ian (1996). The Sounds of the World's Languages. Oxford: Blackwell. ISBN 0-631-19815-6.

Further reading[edit]

  • Chumakina, Marina (2014). "Семантическое согласование в арчинском языке [Semantic agreement in Archi]". In Plungyan, V. A. (ed.). Язык. Константы. Переменные. Памяти Александра Евгеньевича Кибрика [Language. Constants. Variables. In memoriam of A.E. Kibrik] (in Russian). St Petersburg: Aleteya. pp. 454–470.
  • Chumakina, Marina (2015). "Archi". In Müller, Peter O.; Ohnheiser, Ingeborg; Olsen, Susan; Rainer, Franz (eds.). Word formation: An international handbook of the languages of Europe. Handbooks of Linguistics and Communication Science. Vol. HSK40. Berlin: de Gruyter Mouton.
  • Dirr, A. M. (1908). "Arčinskij jazyk". Sbornik materialov dlja opisanija mestnostej i plemen Kavkaza (in Russian). Tbilisi.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  • Kaxadze, O. I. (1979). The Archi language and its relation to other Daghestan languages (in Georgian). Tbilisi: Mecniereba.
  • Kibrik, Aleksandr E. (1972). "O formal'nom vydelenii soglasovatel'nyx klassov v arčinskom jazyke". Voprosy jazykoznanija (in Russian). 1: 124–131.
  • Kibrik, Aleksandr E. (1977). Opyt strukturnogo opisanija arčinskogo jazyka (in Russian). Vol. 2: Taksonomičeskaja grammatika. Moscow: Izdatel'stvo moskovskogo universiteta.
  • Kibrik, Aleksandr E. (1977). Opyt strukturnogo opisanija arčinskogo jazyka (in Russian). Vol. 3: Dinamičeskaja grammatika. Moscow: Izdatel'stvo moskovskogo universiteta.
  • Kibrik, Aleksandr E. (1993). "Archi". In R. Smeets (ed.). Indigenous languages of the Caucasus. Vol. 3. New York: Caravan Books. pp. 297–365.
  • Kibrik, Aleksandr E. (1998). "Archi". In Spencer, Andrew; Zwicky, Arnold M. (eds.). The Handbook of Morphology. Blackwell Publishers. pp. 455–476.
  • Kibrik, Aleksandr E.; Kodzasov, S. V.; Olovjannikova, I. P. & Samedov, D. S. (1977). Arčinskij jazyk. Teksiy i slovari (in Russian). Moscow: Izdatel'stvo moskovskogo universiteta.
  • Kibrik, Aleksandr E.; Kodzasov, S. V.; Olovjannikova, I. P.; Samedov, D. S. (1977). Opyt strukturnogo opisanija arčinskogo jazyka (in Russian). Vol. 1: Leksika. Fonetika. Moscow: Izdatel'stvo moskovskogo universiteta.
  • Mikailov, K. Š. (1967). Arčinskij jazyk (in Russian). Maxachkala.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  • Xajdakov, S. M. (1967). "Arčinskij jazyk". Jazyki narodov SSSR (in Russian). Vol. 4. Moscow: Nauka.

External links[edit]