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the language of the Ossetians, who constitue the basic population of the Severnaia Osetiia ASSR and Iuzhnaia Osetiia Autonomous Oblast. It is also spoken in the Kabarda-Balkar ASSR, Stavropol’ Krai, and a number of regions of the Georgian SSR. Ossetic is spoken by 432,000 persons (1970 census).
Ossetic belongs to the Indo-European language family; it has preserved many features inherited from the language of the Alani and Scythians. There are two primary dialects: Iron, the basis of the literary language, and Digor. The inhabitants of the mountain auls of Uallagkom speak a mixed dialect.
The phonology of Ossetic is characterized by seven vowels (strong and weak) and 28 consonants (including globalized consonants and the uvular q). Its grammatical structure is agglutinative (declensions) and inflectional (conjugations). Nouns have the categories of definiteness and number; there are nine cases. There are four classes of numerals: cardinals, ordinals, distributives, and fractions. Ossetic has been strongly influenced by other Caucasian languages.
The first written record in Ossetic, the Zelenchukskaia inscription (written in Greek letters), dates from 941. A writing system based on the Cyrillic alphabet was created by A. Shegren in 1844. From 1923 to 1938 the Ossetic writing system was based on the Latin alphabet. A Georgian-based script was used in Iuzhnaia Osetiia from 1938 to 1954. A writing system based on the Russian alphabet was adopted in Severnaia Osetiia in 1938 and in Iuzhnaia Osetiia in 1954.
REFERENCESShegren, A. Osetinskaia grammatika, parts 1–2. St. Petersburg, 1844.
Miller, V. F. Iazyk osetin. Moscow-Leningrad, 1962. (Translated from German.)
Akhvlediani, G. S. Sbornik izbrannykh rabot po osetinskomu iazyku, book 1. Tbilisi, 1960.
Grammatika osetinskogo iazyka, vols. 1–2. Ordzhonikidze, 1963–69.
Abaev, V. I. Osetinskii iazyk i fol’klor, vol. 1. Moscow-Leningrad, 1949.
Abaev, V. I. Istoriko-etimologicheskii slovar’ osetinskogo iazyka, vols. 1–2. Moscow-Leningrad, 1958–73.
Abaev, V. I. Russko-osetinskii slovar’. Moscow, 1970.
M. I. ISAEV