Abkhazo-Adyg Languages

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Abkhazo-Adyg Languages


the northwestern group of Caucasian (Ibero-Caucasian) languages.

The Abkhazo-Adyg group includes the Abkhaz and Abaza languages of the Abkhazian subgroup, Adyg and Kabardino-Circassian of the Adyg subgroup, and the Ubykh language, which occupies an intermediate position between the two subgroups. Only the Ubykh language is found outside the Caucasus (in western Turkey). All the Abkhazo-Adyg languages, with the exception of Ubykh, which lacks a literature, have recently become written languages. The total number of speakers of these languages is about 500,000. While there is a significant structural and typological unity in the Abkhazo-Adyg languages, considerable discrepancies can also be observed. Their phonetic structure is characterized by a richness of consonants (as many as 80 phonemes) and an extreme poverty of vowels (two to three phonemes), with ablaut functioning. There are a large number of single-syllable roots. Although the Abkhazo-Adyg languages are generally of the agglutinative type with heavy emphasis on prefixation, there is a marked tendency to polysynthesism. The complex verbal morphology contrasts with a very simple noun morphology. Verbs are divided into dynamic and static, transitive and intransitive, and exhibit such categories as finiteness, infiniteness, person, number, tense, mood, causative, version, and conjunctivity. The nouns exhibit the categories of number, possessiveness, and usually declension. The ergative construction of the sentence is characteristic of the syntax. The vocabulary of the Abkhazo-Adyg languages exhibits many Turkisms and Russianisms. Composition is common in the formation of words.


Rogava, G. B. K voprosu o strukture imennykh osnov i kategoriiakh grammaticheskikh klassov v adygskikh (cherkesskikh) iazykakh. Tbilisi, 1956.
Dumézil,G. Etudes comparatives sur les langues caucasiennes du Nord-Ouest. Paris, 1932.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.