Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Abkhaz is a Norwest Caucasian language spoken in Georgia and Turkey. Abkhaz has about 100,000 speakers in Georgia, 80,000 from these in Abkhazian AR with up to 500,000 more living in northeastern Turkey.
Abkhaz is a Northwest Caucasian language, indicating it originated in the northwest Caucasus. Northwest Caucasian languages have been suggested as being related to the Northeast Caucasian languages and both are often merged under the blanket term "North Caucasian languages." Sometimes North Caucasian languages and South Caucasian languages are grouped into the Caucasian languages, but these have not been shown conclusively to be related and are widely considered to be a geographically based convention.
Abkhaz is often united with Abaza into one language, Abkhaz-Abaza , of which the literary dialects of Abkhaz and Abaza are simply the most divergent forms. Grammatically, the two are very similar; however, the differences in phonology are substantial, and are the main reason why many other linguists prefer to keep the two separate.
Abkhaz is generally viewed as having three major dialects, Abzhuy , Bzyp (the Caucasian dialects) and Sadz (in Turkey).
Like the other Northwest Caucasian languages, Abkhaz is very rich in consonants, with 58, but has only a few vowels (either two or three, depending upon the analysis). Below is the IPA phoneme chart for the standard dialect (Abzhuy); the Bzyp dialect has nine additional consonants.
- Dentals: t tʼ d n
- Labialized dentals: tʷ tʼʷ dʷ
- Alveolar sibilants: ts tsʼ dz s z
- Labialized alveolar sibilants: tsʷ tsʼʷ dzʷ
- Palatalized alveolar sibilants: tsʲ tsʼʲ dzʲ sʲ zʲ
- Postalveolar sibilants: tʃ tʃʼ dʒ ʃ ʒ
- Labialized postalveolar sibilants: tʃʷ dʒʷ
- Lateral: l
- Rhotic trill: r
- Palatals: kʲ kʼʲ gʲ j
- Velars: k kʼ g
- Uvulars: qʼ χ ʁ
- Palatized uvulars: qʼʲ χʲ ʁʲ
- Labialized uvulars: qʼʷ χʷ ʁʷ
- Pharyngeals: ħ ħʷ
- Labiopalatal semivowel: ɥ (< ʕʷ, a labialized voiced pharyngeal fricative)
- Vowels: ə a (with allophones [i] and [e] next to palatals, [o] and [u] next to labials)
Abkhaz has only two distinctive vowels: an open vowel /a/ and a close vowel /ı, ǝ/. Depending on the environment both of the vowels can be realized as [e,i,o,u].
Abkhaz is typologically classified as an agglutinative language. Like all other Northwest Caucasian languages, Abkhaz has an extremely complex verbal system coupled with a very simple noun system; Abkhaz distinguishes just two cases, the nominative and the adverbial.
Abkhaz has had its own adaptation of the Cyrillic alphabet, the Abkhaz alphabet, since 1862. The first alphabet was a 37 character Cyrillic alphabet invented by Baron Peter von Uslar. In 1909 a 55 letter Cyrillic alphabet was used. A 75-letter Latin script devised by a Georgian linguist Nikolai (Niko) Marr lasted from 1926 to 1928, when another Latin script was used. The Georgian script was imposed in 1937, but after the death of Stalin, an Abkhaz desire to remain separate from Georgians led to the development of the current Cyrillic alphabet in 1954 by Dimitri Gulya who was, ironically, an ethnic Georgian (Mingrealian ).
The earliest extant written records of the Abkhazian language are in the Arabic alphabet, recorded by the Turkish traveller Evliya Celebi in the 17th century. Abkhaz has only been used as a literary language for about 100 years. During the Stalinist Russian years Abkhaz was banned as a literary language.
Example of Abkhaz language: 
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