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Tsakhur language

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цӀаӀхна миз, ts'əxna miz
Pronunciation/t͡sʼaˤχna miz/
Native toNorth Caucasus
Native speakers
22,300 (2010-2011)[1]
Latin in Azerbaijan, Cyrillic in Russia
Official status
Official language in
Language codes
ISO 639-3tkr
Tsakhur 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.

Tsakhur (Azerbaijani: Saxur dili; Russian: Цахурский язык, romanizedTsakhursky yazyk) is a Lezgic language spoken by the Tsakhurs in northern Azerbaijan and southwestern Dagestan (Russia). It is spoken by about 11,700 people in Azerbaijan and by about 10,600 people in Russia.[1] The word Tsakhur derives from the name of a Dagestani village where speakers of this language make up the majority.

Although Tsakhur is endangered in communities in closest contact with Azerbaijani, it is vigorous in other communities, gaining prominence in the region, seen in the growth of interest in learning Tsakhur in school and a growing body of Tsakhur-learning materials.[2] Tsakhur is classified as "definitely endangered" by UNESCO's Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger.[3]


Tsakhur belongs to the Lezgic group of the Northeast Caucasian language family. The Tsakhurs call their language C'a'χna miz.


The first written documentation of Tsakhur dates back to 1895 and is attributed to Roderich von Erckert. The first description of Tsakhur grammar was published by Adolf Dirr in 1913.[2]

In the 1930s, a literary form of Tsakhur was developed. Starting from 1934, the language was taught in primary schools in Azerbaijan and Dagestan. In 1938, the use of literary Tsakhur in Azerbaijan was discontinued but regained its status in 1989.[2]

The Tsakhur alphabet in Azerbaijan is based on the Latin script, whereas in Dagestan the language uses Cyrillic. In the past (as early as the 11th century) there have been attempts to write Tsakhur in the Arabic script.[4]

In 2008, Asif Rustamov directed the first and so far only feature film in Tsakhur called Facing Back to the Qibla.[5]

Geographic distribution[edit]

Tsakhur is spoken mostly in rural areas of Azerbaijan's Zaqatala and Qakh rayons, as well as mountainous parts of Dagestan's Rutul region. There are 15,900 Tsakhurs in Azerbaijan (1999 census) and 10,400 in Russia (2002 census). In 1989, 93% of them reported Tsakhur as their first language.[2]

Official status[edit]

In Azerbaijan and Russia, Tsakhur is taught as a subject in primary schools (grades 1 to 4) in Tsakhur-populated regions. Newspapers and radio broadcast in Tsakhur are also available. It is one of twelve official languages of the Dagestan region in Russia where it is spoken. However, the language does not have an official status in Azerbaijan.[2]

Related languages[edit]

Among the languages of the Lezgic group, Rutul appears to be the closest one to Tsakhur. Other than these two, there are eight more languages in the Lezgic group, namely: Lezgian, Tabasaran, Aghul, Budukh, Kryts, Udi, and Archi.


The two major dialects of the Tsakhur language are Tsakh and Gelmets.[2]


Similar to many Northeast Caucasian languages, Tsakhur is known for its complex phonology and a large number of vowel phonemes (including 7 simple, 5 pharyngealized and 3 umlauted vowels[clarification needed]). Its first in-depth phonological description was provided by Nikolai Trubetzkoy in 1931.


The consonant inventory, according to Shulze's study of the language, of Tsakhur is shown below. Forms are phonemic unless numbered, in which case they are suspected to be phonemes but currently with incomplete evidence for this.[6] The inventory shows some asymmetries, but exhibits series of palatalized, labialized, and pharyngealized phonemes.

Labial Dental Alveolar Palatal Velar Uvular Laryngeal
plain pal. lab. plain pal. lab. plain lab. plain pal. lab. plain lab. phar. plain lab. phar.
Nasal m n 1
Plosive /
voiceless p t 1 ts tsʲ1 tsʷ1 tʃʷ k 1 q
ejective tʲʼ1 tʷʼ1 tsʼ tsʲʼ1 tsʷʼ1 tʃʼ tʃʼʷ kʲʼ1 kʷʼ1 qʷʼ qˤʼ ʔ ʕʼ
geminate tsː tʃːʼ1 tʃːʷ1 kːʲ1 qːʷ1 qːˤ1
voiced b d dz dʒʷ1 g ɢ ɢʷ1 ɢˤ
Fricative voiceless f s 1 ʃ ʃʷ1 x χ χʷ χˤ h 1
geminate sːʲ1 ʃː ʃːʷ1 xːʲ1 xːʷ1 χː χːʷ1 χːˤ1
voiced β ~ w1 z 1 1 ɣ ʁ ʁʷ1 ʁˤ
Approximant/Trill l r j
1 [clarification needed]
  1. Suspected to be phonemes.


Plain vowels
Front Central Back
Close i ~ u
Mid e ~ ə o
Open a ~
Pharyngealized vowels
Front Central Back
Mid əˤ ~ oːˤ
Open ~ aːˤ


Tsakhur alphabet 1934-1938

The alphabet for the Tsakhur language based on the Latin alphabet was compiled by A. N. Genko in 1934. 8 textbooks have been published. However, after 4 years, teaching and publishing books in the Tsakhur language ceased. It was resumed only in 1989, but already in a new, Cyrillic alphabet. Since the 1990s, the Tsakhur script has been functioning in the Latin alphabet in Azerbaijan,[7] it was later reformed.

Tsakhur alphabet, used in Russia:
А а АӀ аӀ Б б В в Г г ГӀ гӀ Гъ гъ Гь гь Д д Дж дж
Е е Ё ё Ж ж З з И и Й й К к КӀ кӀ Къ къ Кь кь
Л л М м Н н О о ОӀ оӀ П п ПӀ пӀ Р р С с Т т
ТӀ тӀ У у УӀ уӀ Ф ф Х х Хъ хъ Хь хь Ц ц ЦӀ цӀ Ч ч
ЧӀ чӀ Ш ш Щ щ Ъ ъ Ы ы ЫӀ ыӀ Э э Ь ь Ю ю Я я
Tsakhur alphabet, used in Azerbaijan (2010s version):[8]
A a Ә ә B b C c Ç ç Ç' ç' D d E e F f G g G' g'
Gh gh Ğ ğ H h X x Xh xh I ı I' ı' İ i J j K k K' k'
Q q Q' q' L l M m N n O o Ö ö P p P' p' R r S s
Ş ş T t T' t' Ts ts Ts' ts' U u Ü ü V v Y y Z z '

Comparison Chart[edit]

Cyrillic Latin
А а A a /a/
АI аI Ә ә AI aI Ә ә /aˤ/
Б б B b B в /b/
В в V v /w/
Г г G g G g, Q q G g /g/
ГI гI Gh gh QI qI Ƣ̵ ƣ̵ /ɣ/
Гъ гъ Ğ ğ Qъ qъ Ƣ ƣ /ʁ/
Гь гь H h /h/
Д д D d /d/
Дж дж C c Ç ç /d͡ʒ/
Е е E e /e/
Ё ё -
Ж ж J j - /ʒ/
З з Z z /z/
И и İ i I i /i/
Й й Y y J j /j/
К к K k /k/
КI кI K' k' KI kI Ⱪ ⱪ /k'/
Къ къ G' g' Kъ kъ Q q /ɢ/
Кь кь Q' q' Kь kь Ꝗ ꝗ /q'/
Л л L l /l/
М м M m /m/
Н н N n /n/
О о O o /o/
ОI оI Ö ö OI oI Ө ө /oˤ/
Cyrillic Latin
П п P p /p/
ПI пI P' p' PI pI Ꞃ ꞃ /p'/
Р р R r /ɾ/
С с S s /s/
Т т T t /t/
ТI тI T' t' TI tI Ţ ţ /t'/
У у U u /u/
УI уI Ü ü UI uI Y y /uˤ/
Ф ф F f /f/
Х х X x /χ/
Хъ хъ Q q Xъ xъ Ӿ ӿ /q/
Хь хь Xh xh Xь xь Ҳ ҳ /x/
Ц ц Ts ts Ƶ ƶ S̷ s̷ /t͡s/
ЦI цI Ts' ts' ƵI ƶI Ⱬ ⱬ /t͡s'/
Ч ч Ç ç C c /t͡ʃ/
ЧI чI Ç' ç' ÇI çI Ⱬ̵ ⱬ̵ /t͡ʃ'/
Ш ш Ş ş /ʃ/
Щ щ -
Ъ ъ ' /ʔ/
Ы ы I ı Ь ь /ɨ/
ЫI ыI I' ı' II ıI Ш ш /ɨˤ/
Э э E e /e/
Ь ь -
Ю ю -
Я я -


Tsakhur has 18 grammatical cases and has retained suffixaufnahme. Verbs may have singular and plural forms, and 7 grammatical moods. The tense system is complex. In contrast to the related languages, Tsakhur sentences can be formed by affective construction.[4]

Noun case[edit]

Tsakhur exhibits a number of noun cases, including grammatical and local cases. The ergative and genitive cases show agreement with the head noun class, as shown below.[6]

Case Marker
Absolutive -∅
Ergative -e(ː)[a] / -(V)n[b]
Genitive -(V)na[c], -(V)n[d], -(V)ni[e]
Dative -(V)s
  1. ^ Human nouns
  2. ^ Nonhuman nouns
  3. ^ Head noun ABS, classes I-III
  4. ^ Head noun ABS, class IV
  5. ^ Head noun OBL
Example inflections
Case balkan 'horse' zer 'cow'
Sg. Pl. Sg. Pl.
Absolutive balkan balkanar zer zerbə
Ergative balkanan balkanāšše zeran zerbən
Genitive balkanana balkanāššina zerana zerbəna
Dative balkanus balkanāššis zerus zerbəs

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Tsakhur". Ethnologue. Archived from the original on 2019-07-29. Retrieved 2021-12-11.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Clifton, John M.; Tiessen, Calvin; Deckinga, Gabriela; Lucht, Laura (2005). The Sociolinguistic Situation of the Tsakhur in Azerbaijan (PDF). SIL International. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2012-03-14.
  3. ^ "UNESCO Interactive Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger". United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. Archived from the original on 2009-02-22. Retrieved 2010-03-25.
  4. ^ a b "Tsakhurskiy (Tsakhskiy) yazyk [Tsaxur (Sakhur, Tsaxur, Tsakhury, Caxur, Tsakur, Chakhur)] /TKR (ISO/FDIS 639-3); CAU (ISO 639-2)/" Цахурский (Цахский) язык [Tsaxur (Sakhur, Tsaxur, Tsakhury, Caxur, Tsakur, Chakhur)] /TKR (ISO/FDIS 639-3); CAU (ISO 639-2) [Tsakhur (Tsakh) language Tsaxur (Sakhur, Tsaxur, Tsakhury, Caxur, Tsakur, Chakhur)] /TKR (ISO/FDIS 639-3); CAU (ISO 639-2)/]. etheo.org (in Russian). Archived from the original on 2011-07-26. Retrieved 26 December 2006.
  5. ^ "Zavershilis syemki filma na tsakhurskom yazyke «Spinoy k Kible»" Завершились съемки фильма на цахурском языке «Спиной к Кибле» [Shooting of the Tsakhur language film "Facing Back to the Qiblah" finished]. Novosti-Azerbaydzhan Новости-Азербайджан (in Russian). 1 April 2009. Archived from the original on 2013-07-12.
  6. ^ a b Schulze, Wolfgang (1997). Tsakhur. München: LINCOM Europa. ISBN 3-89586-150-2.
  7. ^ Aibdulla Qarayev (1996). Aılifbey. Bakı: Maarif nәşriyyatı.
  8. ^ Ts'əxni mizelin şikılbişikvan luğat. Bakı: Üfüq-S. 2015. p. 52.
  9. ^ Kathleen D. Sackett (2017). Community-Driven, Goal-Centred Orthography Development: A Tsakhur Case Study. Cambridge University Press. pp. 88–108. {{cite book}}: |work= ignored (help)

External links[edit]