Tevfik Esenç

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Tevfik Esenç
Died7 October 1992 (aged 87–88)
ResidenceHacı Osman, Balıkesir, Turkey

Tevfik Esenç (1904 – 7 October 1992) was a Circassian exile in Turkey and the last known fully competent speaker of the Ubykh language.


Esenç was raised by his Ubykh-speaking grandparents for a time in the village of Hacı Osman in Turkey, and he served a term as the muhtar (mayor) of that village, before receiving a post in the civil service of Istanbul. There, he was able to do a great deal of work with the French linguist Georges Dumézil and his associate Georges Charachidzé to help record his language.[1] Not all the writings of Charachidzé (1930-2010) have been published. Others who met Esenç and produced work on Ubykh are: the Norwegian Hans Vogt (1911–92) (see his ‘Dictionnaire de la Langue Oubykh’, 1963, Universitetsvorlaget); the British George Hewitt, who in 1974 visited Hacı Osman Köyü and made recordings with Esenç in Istanbul (the recordings are available on the Net; his account of his meetings in 1974 has been published — ‘Encounterng Ubykh(s)’, in Arxeologija i ètnografija pontijsko-kavkazskogo regiona 5, 195-204, 2016: Krasnodar; see also his ‘The labialised sibilants of Ubykh (North West Caucasian)’, in Revue des Etudes Géorgiennes et Caucasiennes, 2, 1986, 21-30); the Abkhazian Viacheslav Chirikba, who has written on Ubykh settlements and Ubykh surnames; the Turkish A. Sumru Özsoy.

Having an excellent memory and understanding quickly the goals of Dumézil and the other linguists who came to visit him, he was the primary source of not only the Ubykh language, but also of the mythology, culture and customs of the Ubykh people. He spoke not only Ubykh, but also the Hakuchi dialect of Adyghe, allowing some comparative work to be done between these two members of the Northwest Caucasian family. He was also a fluent speaker of Turkish. He was a purist, and his idiolect of Ubykh was considered by Dumézil as the closest thing to a standard "literary" Ubykh language that existed.[1] He is perhaps single-handedly responsible for the world's current knowledge of Ubykh being much more extensive and detailed than it would otherwise be.

Esenç died in 1992 at the age of 88. The inscription that he wanted on his gravestone read as follows:[1]

This is the grave of Tevfik Esenç. He was the last person able to speak the language they called Ubykh.

— Gravestone, inscription

In 1994, A. Sumru Özsoy organized an international conference, namely Conference on Northwest Caucasian Linguistics, at Boğaziçi University in memory of Dumézil and Esenç.[2]


  1. ^ a b c Tevfik Esenç's page in Circassian World
  2. ^ E. F. K. Koerner (1 January 1998). First Person Singular III: Autobiographies by North American Scholars in the Language Sciences. John Benjamins Publishing. p. 33. ISBN 978-90-272-4576-2.

External links[edit]