Nakho-Dagestanian Languages

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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Nakho-Dagestanian Languages


(or East Caucasian languages), a group of 26 Caucasian (Ibero-Caucasian) languages spoken by about 1.3 million people (1970 census), mainly in the Chechen-Ingush ASSR and the Dagestan ASSR, and also in the Azerbaijan SSR and the Georgian SSR. They include the Nakh (Veinakh), Avar-Andi-Tsez, Lak, Darghin, and Lezghian subgroups, with various degrees of relationship. Some scholars regard the Dagestan and Nakh languages as independent groups of the Caucasian (Ibero-Caucasian) languages. The written languages (including new written languages) are Chechen, Ingush, Avar, Lak, Darghin, Lezghian, and Tabasaran.

Phonetically, the Nakho-Dagestanian languages have an abundance of consonants and relatively few vowels. Obstruents and affricates have three-way or four-way oppositions (voiced, aspirated, unaspirated, or globalized). A two-consonant structure is predominant in simple nominal stems, and a single-consonant structure is typical for verbs. There is vowel alternation. Stress is dynamic and weak. The morphology is well developed, with synthetic forms predominating over analytical forms. The noun has categories of case, number and, less often, class. In addition to the basic cases (ergative, absolute, genitive, and dative), the extremely rich case paradigm includes a large number of locatives, which are grouped into series. Postpositions take the place of prepositions. The verb is distinguished by the categories of class, tense, mood, causality, and sometimes aspect. A class principle of conjugation (using prefixes), rather than a personal principle, is predominant. Voice is not well developed. Participles and adverbial participles are widely used. Syntax is characterized by ergative phrase typology; the transitive verb determines the ergative construction of a phrase, and the intransitive verb determines its absolute construction; verbs of feeling and perception determine its affective construction. Nominal members are governed grammatically by the predicate. The word order is subject + object + predicate. The attributive precedes the dependent member. Hypotaxis is relatively weakly developed. Nouns usually belong to semantic classes; this is reflected in the form of the words associated with the nouns. Derivational possibilities are limited. Russianisms and Eastern Muslim internationalisms constitute the principal strata of borrowings.


Klimov, G. A. Kavkazskie iazyki. Moscow, 1965.
Desheriev, Iu. D. “Nakhskie iazyki.” In the collection Iazyki narodo SSSR, vol. 4. Moscow, 1967.
Bokarev, E. A. “Dagestanskie iazyki.” In the collection Iazyki narodov SSSR, vol. 4.Moscow, 1967.


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