Abkhaz language

Spoken in

  • Northwest Caucasian Languages Abkhazian - Abasinisch Abkhazian




The Abkhaz language (self- designation: аҧсуа бызшәа, [ аp ʰ swa bəzʃ ʷ a] ) is a Northwest Caucasian language spoken by the people of the Abkhazians in Abkhazia, Georgia, Turkey, Russia and some other countries with Abkhazian diaspora. The number of speakers is estimated at about 106000-117000 people.


The Abkhaz is the language of the people of Abkhazia. It was for centuries only a spoken language. Abkhazian legends and stories, such as the Narten, long time were usually only transmitted orally.

In late antiquity, Georgian and partly Greek and from the 9th century were exclusively Georgian as a written language in today's Abkhazia. It is unclear whether the Georgian was the language of the upper classes only and to what extent the simple people of this language served. With the Russian conquest of the Caucasus, the Georgian was eventually replaced as a written language in Abkhazia by the Russian.

The first fragments of the Abkhaz language were written in Arabic script in the 17th century by the Ottoman traveler Evliya Çelebi. In the Russian Empire began from the mid-19th century with the development of different alphabets and spellings for the Abkhaz. The first standardized Abkhaz alphabet was developed in 1862 by the German - Russian nobleman Peter of Uslar and consisted of 37 Cyrillic letters.

Abkhazian was thus at the end of the 19th century a written language.

With the beginning of the 20th century a separate, new Abkhaz literature, whose most important representatives Dmitry Gulia, Samson Tschanba and Bagrat Schin Cuba was counted. Several famous Abkhaz writers, including Fasil Iskander and Georgi Gulia, however, written in Russian. After the October Revolution of 1917, there was a brief flowering of the Abkhaz language. It formed its first Abkhaz press, 1919, the first abchasischsprachige newspaper was founded with the still existing Apsny.

In this short period of development followed during the period of Stalinism a period of oppression. The Abkhazian Soviet Republic was dissolved and connected to the Georgian SSR, the Abkhaz had to be forcibly written with the Georgian alphabet now, Abkhaz schools were closed and systematically executed Abkhaz activists. Georgian and Russian dominated public life. With the death of Stalin in 1954, the most restrictive measures against Abkhazians and the Abkhaz were lifted again, it also followed the return to the Cyrillic alphabet. When the Soviet Union broke up in 1991, many spoke Abkhaz Abkhazian no more.

Today Abkhazian (along with Russian) official language of the recognized only by a few States the Republic of Abkhazia. There the language is now systematically taught in schools. In public life, however, dominated in Abkhazia Russian, although the importance of Abkhaz growing. Also the Georgian Autonomous Republic of Abkhazia Abkhazian looks before as a regional official language.


Ethnologue gives the number of speakers of Abkhaz to just under 113,000. In 2011 lived in Abkhazia, but already more than 122,000 Abkhazians, but not all of which dominated the Abkhaz language.

In 1993, the number of speakers of Abkhaz in Georgia, including Abkhazia, was estimated at 101,000 people. In addition, Speaker of the Abkhaz find in the diaspora, especially in Russia, where approximately 11,000 Abkhazians live. The number of speakers of Abkhaz in Turkey is difficult to determine due to lack of documentation and the absence of a genuine census. It is estimated to be about 4,000, the ethnic Abkhaz population is delivered with up to 39,000. Some Abkhaz language islands and Diaspora communities can also be found in the adjarian area in Southwest Georgia. Smaller Abkhaz communities there is also in Ukraine and Syria.


Abkhazian dialect is referred to as a joint Abkhaz- language abasinischen often ( in the Russian republic of Karachay -Cherkessia spoken) along with the Abasinischen. In linguistics, Abkhazian and Abasinisch but mostly as two different languages ​​considered. Abkhazian divided into several dialects are spoken of which three in the field of Abkhazia: ( from west to east ) Bsyp, Abshuj and - as a smaller dialect - Samursakan (not to be confused with the Mingrelian dialect Samursakan - Zugdidi ). Other dialects are spoken today in Turkey - about Sad, Achtschipsa and Tsabal, as well Bsyp.

Linguistic characteristics

The Abkhaz language is characterized by an unusually large consonant inventory and an unusually small vowel inventory. She has two phonologically distinctive vowels: an open vowel a and a closed vowel ə. Depending on the word environment, these vowels are pronounced as e, i, o, or u. The Abshuj dialect has 58 consonants, the Bsyp dialect even 67

The Abkhaz is an agglutinative Ergativsprache. The personal pronoun genera are distinguished. While the morphology of the noun is relatively easy (there are only a few case ) that the verb is quite complex ( it is based mainly on prefixation ).


The first written records of Abkhaz are written in the Arabic alphabet in the 17th century and were recorded by Evliya Çelebi. The first standardized Abkhaz alphabet was developed in 1862 by Baron Peter von Uslar and consisted of 37 Cyrillic letters. From 1905 onwards a Cyrillic alphabet with 55 letters was used. Nikolai Marr developed a Latin alphabet with 75 letters, that was used from 1926 to 1928, until a new Latin alphabet was introduced. 1937 based on the Georgian font alphabet was introduced, but was met with the Abkhazian population to rejection. After the death of Joseph Stalin, the Abkhaz- Cyrillic alphabet is still used today was introduced in 1954, which had been designed by Dmitry Gulia and Konstantin Machavariani in 1892.

Today Abkhaz- Cyrillic alphabet contains many characters that only exist in the Abkhaz.

Text sample

Darbanzaalak auaɥy dshoup ​​Ihy daqwithny. AUAA zegj zinlei patulei eiqaroup. Urth irymoup ahshyɥi alamysi, dara daragj aesjei aesjei reiphsh eizyqazaroup.

Translation: All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.