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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.


Shegren, 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.


References in periodicals archive ?
The only remaining possibility, then, is that early Ossetic formed plurals by directly suffixing coll.
That this change had taken place already by early medieval times is confirmed by the name of the [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] 'Alans' < *aryan- (Bielmeier 1989a: 241), which survives in the Ossetic etynonym allon, attested in the epic of the Narts (Abaev 1949: 245-46, 1958: 47-48, 545-46).
In both dialects of contemporary Ossetic, the alternation of a (o before nasals) with oe has become morphologized: it is now associated with plurals, various derivatives, and certain compounds of nouns in *CaCC, *CoNC.
If we now compare the relative chronology arrived at here for Ossetic with that given in section 2 for Sogdian, we find that the two languages correspond to a large extent.
The present study is hardly the first to posit a close relationship between Ossetic and Sogdian.
In addition to the Ossetic-Sogdian correspondences presented by Bailey, there is evidence that an early form of Northeast Iranian closely akin to Ossetic was spoken at the eastern edge of this realm.
This explains why Ossetic has more features in common with Sogdian than with Saka: the latter lies at the opposite end of the steppe from Ukraine and southern Russia, whereas the Sogdian-speaking regions of Central Asia remained in closer contact with the ancestors of the Ossetes through migration and trade.
i offered here presupposes that the early Ossetic accent shift described above, and other related changes affecting unstressed vowels (e.
Thanks to David Testen for introducing me to the study of Ossetic, to him and Nicholas Sims-Williams for their many helpful and enlightening comments on earlier drafts, and to Thomas McFadden and Justin Mott for looking over footnotes 33 and 45, respectively.
Note that Iron Ossetic belongs to those languages in which coda consonants, including geminates, do not count for syllable weight, and long (i.
long diphthongs *ai, *au, for which there are no clear examples in Ossetic.
still possessed palato-alveolar *c, *z, *z' for modern c, z, z', as in early nineteenth-century South Ossetic dialects (preserved today after n and in geminates; Abaev 1949: 496-97, Thordarson 1989a: 463, 1989b; cf.