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Lezgian language

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лезги чӏал
lezgi č’al[1]
Pronunciation[lezɡi tʃʼal]
Native toNorth Caucasus
RegionDagestan and Azerbaijan
Native speakers
630,000 (2020)[2]
Northeast Caucasian
Official status
Official language in
Language codes
ISO 639-2lez
ISO 639-3lez
Lezgian is classified as Vulnerable by the UNESCO Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger
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.

Lezgian, also called Lezgi or Lezgin /ˈlɛzɡn/,[3][4] is a Northeast Caucasian language. It is spoken by the Lezgins, who live in southern Dagestan (Russia); northern Azerbaijan; and to a much lesser degree Turkmenistan; Uzbekistan; Kazakhstan; Turkey, and other countries. It is a much-written literary language[citation needed] and an official language of Dagestan. It is classified as "vulnerable" by UNESCO's Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger.[5]

Geographic distribution[edit]

Linguistic map of the Caucasus region: Lezgian is spoken in the coral area, numbered "10."

In 2002, Lezgian was spoken by about 397,000 people in Russia, mainly Southern Dagestan; in 1999 it was spoken by 178,400 people in mainly the Qusar, Quba, Qabala, Oghuz, Ismailli and Khachmaz provinces of northeastern Azerbaijan. Lezgian is also spoken in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, Germany and Uzbekistan by immigrants from Azerbaijan and Dagestan.

Some speakers are in the Balikesir, Yalova, İzmir, Bursa regions of Turkey especially in Kirne (Ortaca), a village in Balikesir Province which touches the western coast, being south-west of Istanbul.

The total number of speakers is about 800,000.[6]

Related languages[edit]

Nine languages survive in the Lezgic language family:

These have the same names as their ethnic groups.

Some dialects differ heavily from the standard form, including the Quba and Akhty dialects spoken in Azerbaijan.[6]



Vowels of Lezgian[7][8]
Front Central Back
unrounded rounded
Close i ⟨и⟩ y ⟨уь⟩ /ɨ/ ⟨ы⟩[a] u ⟨у⟩
Mid e ⟨е, э⟩ o ⟨o⟩[b]
Open æ ⟨я⟩ a ⟨а⟩
  1. ^ Dialectal
  2. ^ in Russian loanwords
  • /a/ has two main allophones: [ɑ] and [ʌ]; the former prevails in closed syllables (especially before uvulars and /r/), the latter in open syllables.[9]
  • /a/ is very often rounded and raised to /ɔ/ after labialized consonants, which may then lose their labialization. For example, кӏвач 'foot' /k’ʷat͡ʃʰ/ becomes [k’ʷɔt͡ʃʰ] or [k’ɔt͡ʃʰ].[9]
  • /e/ is more open [ɛ] in stressed syllables and /ɪ/ or [e] in pre-stress syllables. In the environment of labialized consonants /e/ is often pronounced as [ø]~[œ].[9]
  • if a vowel plus /n/ sequence is not followed by a vowel, the /n/ may be deleted and the vowel nasalized. Thus /zun/ 'I' can be pronounced [zũ].[10]
  • Chitoran and Babaliyeva show, at least for Babaliyeva in her native Yargun dialect, pre-tonic high vowels are syncopated.[11]


There are 54 consonants in Lezgian. Characters to the right are the letters of the Lezgian Cyrillic Alphabet. Aspiration is not normally indicated in the orthography, despite the fact that it is phonemic.

Consonants of Lezgian[12]
Labial Dental Post-
Palatal Velar Uvular Glottal
plain lab. plain lab. plain lab.
Nasal /m/ м /n/ н
Plosive voiced /b/ б /d/ д /g/ г // гв
voiceless /p/ п /t/ т // тв /k/ к // кв /q/ къ // къв /ʔ/ ъ
aspirated // п // т /tʷʰ/ тв // к /kʷʰ/ кв // хъ /qʷʰ/ хъв
ejective // пl // тl /tʷʼ/ тӏв // кl /kʷʼ/ кlв // кь /qʷʼ/ кьв
Affricate voiced /dz/ дз // дж
voiceless /t͡s/ ц /t͡sʷ/ цв /t͡ʃ/ ч
aspirated /t͡sʰ/ ц /t͡sʷʰ/ цв /t͡ʃʰ/ ч
ejective /t͡sʼ/ цl /t͡sʷʼ/ цlв /t͡ʃʼ/ чl
Fricative voiced /v/ в /z/ з // зв /ʒ/ ж /ʁ/ гъ /ʁʷ/ гъв
voiceless /f/ ф /s/ с // св /ʃ/ ш /x/ хь // хьв /χ/ х /χʷ/ хв /h/ гь
Approximant /l/ л /j/ й /w/ в
Trill /r/ р


Lezgian has been written in several different alphabets over the course of its history. These alphabets have been based on three scripts: Arabic (before 1928), Latin (1928–38), and Cyrillic (1938–present).

The Lezgian Cyrillic alphabet is as follows:[13]

А а Б б В в Г г Гъ гъ Гь гь Д д Е е
Ё ё Ж ж З з И и Й й К к Къ къ Кь кь
КI кl Л л М м Н н О о П п ПI пl Р р
С с Т т ТI тl У у Уь уь Ф ф Х х Хъ хъ
Хь хь Ц ц ЦI цl Ч ч ЧI чl Ш ш Ъ ъ Ы ы
Ь ь Э э Ю ю Я я

The Latin alphabet was as follows:

A a Ä ä B b C c Č č Ch ch Čh čh D d
E e F f G g Gh gh H h I i J j K k
Kh kh L l M m N n Ŋ ŋ O o Ö ö P p
Ph ph Q q Qh qh R r S s Š š T t Th th
U u Ü ü V v X x X́ x́ Y y Z z Ž ž


Lezgian is unusual for a Northeast Caucasian language in not having noun classes (also called "grammatical gender"). Standard Lezgian grammar features 18 grammatical cases,[14] produced by agglutinating suffixes, of which 12 are still used in spoken conversation.


The four grammatical cases are:[12]

  • Absolutive case (basic form of the word, no ending): marks the subject of an intransitive verb and the direct object of a transitive sentence. It is also used to mark a nominal predicate (who or what something turns into/becomes) and as a vocative.
  • Ergative case (various endings; the most common are: -ди, -a or -е; [-di, -a or e], which are added to the Absolutive): marks the subject of transitive verbs, and the subject of some compound intransitive verbs.
  • Genitive case (ending -н [-n]; added to the Ergative): marks possession. It is also used with the meaning 'of'. The genitive case precedes the noun that it modifies.
  • Dative case (ending -з [-z]; added to the Ergative): usually marks the indirect object of sentences, that is the recipient of an action. It is also used to mark the subject of some verbs (mainly about emotions) and to express a point of time and direction.
  • There are fourteen Locative cases:
    • Adessive case (ending -в [-v]; added to the Ergative): marks the object of some verbs to mean 'by', 'to', 'with'.
    • Adelative case (ending -вай [-vaj]; added to the Ergative): expresses movement from somewhere. It is also used with the verb 'to be able' and to express an accidental action.
    • Addirective case (ending -вди [-vdi]; added to the Ergative): used as an instrumental case, but also sometimes used with its original meaning, 'in the direction of', and more rarely 'near by'.
    • The Postessive case (ending -хъ [-qh]; added to the Ergative): means 'behind', 'at', 'toward', 'in exchange for', and 'with.' In a construction with the verb ава (ava), it expresses possession.
    • Postelative case (ending -хъай [-qhaj]; added to the Ergative): can either mean 'from' or the cause of fear or shame.
    • Postdirective case (ending -хъди [-qhdi]; added to the Ergative): rarely used case, meaning 'toward(s)'.
    • Subessive case (ending -к [-k]; added to the Ergative): means either 'below' or 'participates'.
    • Subelative case (ending -кай [-kaj]; added to the Ergative): means either 'from below', 'from', '(from) against', 'with' or 'out of' (partitive). It is also used to mark Y in the construction 'X becomes out-of-Y' and can express the topic of a sentence ('about') or the cause of emotions.
    • Subdirective case (ending -кди [-kdi]; added to the Ergative): expresses cause (never motion under), and can mean 'because' or 'of' (when in sentences such as 'the man died of a disease'.
    • Inessive case (endings -а or -е [-a or -e]; added to Absolutive): means 'at', 'in' or 'during/whilst'.
    • Inelative case (endings -ай or -ей [-aj or -ej]; added to Inessive): means 'out of' or 'in return for'.
    • Superessive case (ending -л [-l]; added to the Inessive): means 'on', and also to express the cause of some emotions.
    • Superelative case (ending -лай [-laj]; added to the Inessive): means 'off', 'after' or 'than' (comparison).
    • Superdirective case (ending -лди [-ldi]; added to the Inessive): means 'onto', 'until', 'in' (when followed by an adjective), as an instrumental case (e.g. language) or instructive with abstract nouns.


There are two types of declensions.

First declension[edit]

Case Singular Plural
Absolutive буба buba бубаяр bubajar
Ergative бубади bubadi бубайри bubajri
Genitive бубадин bubadin бубайрин bubajrin
Dative бубадиз bubadiz бубайриз bubajriz
Adessive бубадив bubadiv бубайрив bubajriv
Adelative бубадивай bubadivaj бубайривай bubajrivaj
Addirective бубадивди bubadivdi бубайривди bubajrivdi
Postessive бубадихъ bubadiqʰ бубайрихъ bubajriqʰ
Postelative бубадихъай bubadiqʰaj бубайрихъай bubajriqʰaj
Postdirective бубадихъди bubadiqʰdi буабайрихъди buabajriqʰdi
Subessive бубадик bubadikʰ бубайрик bubajrikʰ
Subelative бубадикай bubadikʰaj бубайрикай bubajrikʰaj
Subdirective бубадикди bubadikʰdi бубайрикди bubajrikʰdi
Inessive бубада bubada бубайра bubajra
Inelative бубадай bubadaj бубайрай bubajraj
Superessive бубадал bubadal бубайрал bubajral
Superelative бубадалай bubadalaj бубайралай bubajralaj
Superdirective бубадалди bubadaldi бубайралди bubajraldi



The numbers of Lezgian are:

уд ud zero
сад sad one
кьвед qʷ’ed two
пуд pud three
кьуд q’ud four
вад vad five
ругуд rugud six
ирид irid seven
муьжуьд muʒud eight
кlуьд k’yd nine
цlуд ts’ud ten
цlусад ts’usad eleven
цlикьвед ts’iqʷ’ed twelve
цlипуд ts’ipud thirteen
цlикьуд ts’iq’ud fourteen
цlувад ts’uvad fifteen
цlуругуд ts’urugud sixteen
цlерид ts’erid seventeen
цlемуьжуьд ts’emyʒud eighteen
цlекlуьд ts’ek’yd nineteen
къад qad twenty
къадцуд qadtsud thirty
яхцlур jaxts’ur forty
яхцlурцуд jaxtsurtsud fifty
пудкъад pudqad sixty
пудкъадцlуд pudqadtsud seventy
кьудкъад q’udqal eighty
къудкъадницlуд q'udq'adnitsud ninety
виш viʃ one hundred
агъзур aɣzur one thousand

Nouns following a number are always in the singular. Numbers precede the noun. "Сад" and "кьвед" lose their final "-д" before a noun.

Lezgian numerals work in a similar fashion to the French ones, and are based on the vigesimal system in which "20", not "10", is the base number. "Twenty" in Lezgian is "къад", and higher numbers are formed by adding the suffix -ни to the word (which becomes "къанни" - the same change occurs in пудкъад and кьудкъад) and putting the remaining number afterwards. This way 24 for instance is къанни кьуд ("20 and 4"), and 37 is къанни цӏерид ("20 and 17"). Numbers over 40 are formed similarly (яхцӏур becomes яхцӏурни). 60 and 80 are treated likewise. For numbers over 100 just put a number of hundreds, then (if need be) the word with a suffix, then the remaining number. 659 is thus ругуд вишни яхцӏурни цӏекӏуьд. The same procedure follows for 1000. 1989 is агьзурни кӏуьд вишни кьудкъанни кӏуьд in Lezgi.


  1. ^ "Lezgi Language, Alphabet and Pronunciation". omniglot.com. Retrieved 2021-01-08.
  2. ^ Lezgin at Ethnologue (25th ed., 2022) Closed access icon
  3. ^ Bauer, Laurie (2007). The Linguistics Student's Handbook. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.
  4. ^ Babak, Vladimir; Vaisman, Demian; Wasserman, Aryeh (23 November 2004). Political Organization in Central Asia and Azerbaijan: Sources and Documents. Routledge. ISBN 9781135776817.
  5. ^ UNESCO Interactive Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger Archived February 17, 2010, at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ a b "Enthnologue report for Lezgi". Ethnologue.com. 1999-02-19. Retrieved 2013-12-15.
  7. ^ Chitoran & Babaliyeva 2007, p. 2153.
  8. ^ Haspelmath 1993, pp. 28, 31.
  9. ^ a b c Haspelmath 1993, p. 32.
  10. ^ Haspelmath 1993, p. 35.
  11. ^ Chitoran & Babaliyeva 2007, pp. 2154, 2156.
  12. ^ a b Haspelmath (1993), p. 2
  13. ^ Талибов Б. Б., Гаджиев М. М. Лезгинско-русский словарь. Moscow, 1966.
  14. ^ Haspelmath (1993), p. 74


External links[edit]