World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Kabardian language

Article Id: WHEBN0000538360
Reproduction Date:

Title: Kabardian language  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Proto-Circassian language, Circassian language, Northwest Caucasian languages, Adyghe language, Circassians
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Kabardian language

Kabardino-Cherkess, East Circassian
Адыгэбзэ (Къэбэрдейбзэ)
Native to Circassia (in parts of Kabardino-Balkaria and Karachay-Cherkessia), Turkey, Jordan, Syria, Iraq
Region North Caucasus
Ethnicity Circassians
Native speakers
ca. 1.6 million  (2005–2010)[1]
Cyrillic script
Latin script
Arabic script
Official status
Official language in
 Kabardino-Balkaria (Russia)
 Karachay-Cherkessia (Russia)
Language codes
ISO 639-2 kbd
ISO 639-3 kbd
Glottolog kaba1278[2]

Kabardian (;[3] Kabardian: адыгэбзэ adəgăbză or къэбэрдеибзэ    ), also known as Kabardino-Cherkess (къэбэрдей-черкесыбзэ)[4] or East Circassian, is a Northwest Caucasian language, closely related to the Adyghe language. It is spoken mainly in parts of the North Caucasus republics of Kabardino-Balkaria and Karachay-Cherkessia (Eastern Circassia), and in Turkey, Jordan and Syria (the extensive post-war diaspora). It has 47 or 48 consonant phonemes of which 22 or 23 are fricatives, depending upon whether one counts [h] as phonemic, but this is contrasted with just three phonemic vowels. It is one of very few languages to possess a clear phonemic distinction between ejective affricates and ejective fricatives.

The Kabardian language has two major dialects, Kabardian and Besleney. Some linguists argue that Kabardian is only a dialect of an overarching Besleney, which is usually considered a dialect of Kabardian, but which also shares a large number of features with certain dialects of Adyghe.

Kabardian is written in a form of Cyrillic, and this serves as the literary language for Circassians in both Kabardino-Balkaria (where it is usually called the "Kabardian language") and Karachay-Cherkessia (where it is called the "Cherkess language").

Like all Northwest Caucasian languages, has an extremely complex verbal system. Kabardian is ergative.

Since 2004, the Turkish state broadcasting corporation TRT has maintained a half-an-hour programme a week in the Terek dialect of Kabardian.


  • Kabardian
    • West Kabardian
    • Central Kabardian
      • Baksan (basis for the literary language)
      • Malka
    • Eastern Kabardian
      • Terek
      • Mozdok
    • North Kabardian
      • Mulka
      • Zabardiqa (1925 until 1991 Soviet Zaparika)
  • Beslenei (Baslaney)


Many speakers of Kabardian, like many of Adyghe, pronounce some of the ejective consonants as pharyngealized ejectives ([pˤʼ], [tˤʼ], [sˤʼ], [ɬˤʼ] [t͡sˤʼ]) or as pharyngealized pulmonic consonants ([pˤ], [tˤ], [sˤ], [ɬˤ] [t͡sˤ]). The phoneme written Л л can be pronounced [l] or [ɮ].[5] In the Kabardian dialect, there are labiodental fricatives [v], [f], which correspond to [ʒʷ~ʐʷ] and [ʃʷ~ʂʷ] in Adyghe; for example, the Kabardian word зэвы /zavə/ "narrow" and фыз /fəz/ "wife" pronounced зэжъу /zaʒʷə/ and шъуз /ʃʷəz/ in standard Adyghe. Unlike the Adyghe, Kabardian lost many of the consonants that existed in the Proto-Circassian language, for example the consonants /ʃʷʼ/ /ʒʷ/ /ʃʷ/ /ʐ/ /ʂ/ /t͡sʷ/ /d͡zʷ/ became /fʼ/ /v/ /f/ /ʑ/ /ɕ/ /f/ /v/. Kabardian has an labialized voiceless velar fricative [xʷ] which correspond to Adyghe [f], for example the Adyghe word "тфы" (    "five" is тху (About this sound   ) in Kabardian. In the Beslenei dialect (one of the East Circassian languages), there exist an alveolar lateral ejective affricate [t͡ɬʼ] and a palatalized voiced velar stop [gʲ] which corresponds to [ɬʼ] and [d͡ʒ] in literary Kabardian.[6] The Turkish Kabardians have a palatalized voiced velar stop [gʲ] and a voiceless palatal fricative [ç] which corresponds to [d͡ʒ] and [x] in literary Kabardian.[5][7]


Labial Alveolar Post-
Velar Uvular Pharyngeal Glottal
Central Lateral plain pal. lab. plain lab. plain lab.
Plosive voiceless p t k () q ʔ ʔʷ
voiced b d (ɡ) ɡʷ
ejective kʲʼ kʷʼ qʷʼ
Affricate voiceless t͡s t͡ʃ q͡χ q͡χʷ
voiced d͡z d͡ʒ
ejective t͡sʼ t͡ʃʼ
Fricative voiceless f s ɬ ʃ ɕ x χ χʷ ħ
voiced v z ɮ ʒ ʑ ɣ ʁ ʁʷ
ejective ɬʼ ɕʼ
Nasal m n
Approximant l j w
Trill r

The glottalization of the ejective plosives (but not fricatives) can be quite weak, and has been reported to often be creaky voice, that is, to have laryngealized voicing. Something similar seems to have happened historically in the Veinakh languages.


Kabardian consists of a vertical vowel system. Although a large number of surface vowels appear, they can be analyzed as consisting of at most the following three phonemic vowels: /ə/, /a/ and /aː/.[8][9][10]

The following allophones of the short vowels /ǝ/, /a/ appear:[11][12]

Feature Description Not preceding labialized cons. Preceding labialized cons.
/ǝ/ /a/ /ǝ/ /a/
[+high, -back] After laterals, palatalized palatovelars and /j/ [i] [e] [y] [ø]
[-round, +back] After plain velars, pharyngeals, /h/, /ʔ/ [ɨ] [ɑ] [ʉ] [ɒ]
[+round, +back] After labialized palatovelars, uvulars and laryngeals [u] [o] [u] [o]
[-high, -back] After other consonants [ǝ] [æ] ? ?

According to Kuipers,[13]

These symbols must be understood as each covering a wide range of sub-variants. For example, i stands for a sound close to cardinal [i] in 'ji' "eight", for a sound close to English [ɪ] in "kit" in the word x'i "sea", etc. In fact, the short vowels, which are found only after consonants, have different variants after practically every series defined as to point of articulation and presence or absence of labialization or palatalization, and the number of variants is multiplied by the influence of the consonant (or zero) that follows.

Most of the long vowels appear as automatic variants of a sequence of short vowel and glide, when it occurs in a single syllable:[8][10]

  • [uː] = /ǝw/
  • [oː] = /aw/
  • [iː] = /ǝj/
  • [eː] = /aj/

This leaves only the vowel [aː]. Kuipers claims that this can be analyzed as underlying /ha/ when word-initial, and underlying /ah/ elsewhere, based on the following facts:[14]

  • /h/ occurs only in the plural suffix [ha], which does not occur word-initially.
  • [aː] is the only word-initial vowel; analyzing it as /ha/ makes the language underlyingly universally consonant-initial.
  • Certain complications involving stress and morphophonemic alternations are dramatically simplified by these assumptions.

Halle finds Kuipers' analysis "exemplary".[15] Gordon and Applebaum note this analysis, but also note that some authors disagree, and as a result prefer to maintain a phoneme /aː/.[8]

In a later section of his monograph, Kuipers also attempts to analyze the two vowels phonemes /ǝ/ and /a/ out of existence. Halle, however,[9] shows that this analysis is flawed, as it requires the introduction of multiple new phonemes to carry the information formerly encoded by the two vowel phonemes.

The vowel /o/ appears in some loan words; it is often pronounced /aw/.

The diphthong /aw/ is pronounced /oː/ in some dialects. /jə/ may be realised as /iː/, /wə/ as /uː/ and /aj/ as /eː/. This monothongisation does not occur in all dialects.

The vowels /a, aː/ can have the semi-vowel /j/ in front of it.


А а
Э э
Б б
В в
Г г
Гу гу
Гъ гъ
Гъу гъу
Д д
Дж дж
Дз дз
Е е
[ja] [aj/e]
Ё ё
Ж ж
Жь жь
З з
И и
[jə] [i/əj]
Й й
К к
Ку ку
Къ къ
Къу къу
Кхъ кхъ
Кхъу кхъу
Кӏ кӏ
Кӏу кӏу
Л л
Лъ лъ
Лӏ лӏ
М м
Н н
О о
П п
Пӏ пӏ
Р р
С с
Т т
Тӏ тӏ
У у
Ф ф
Фӏ фӏ
Х х
Ху ху
Хъ хъ
Хъу хъу
Хь хь
Ц ц
Цӏ цӏ
Ч ч
Чӏ чӏ
Ш ш
Щ щ
Щӏ Щӏ
Ъ ъ
Ы ы
Ь ь
Ю ю
Я я
Ӏ ӏ
Ӏy ӏу



The noun system of Kabardian is quite simple compared to other Caucasian languages.


There are two numbers: singular and plural. The plural is formed by adding -хэ (-xa) to the noun. The plural ending is optional (i.e. only used when the speaker wishes to emphasise the fact that the noun is plural).

Many common nouns are singular or plural (i.e. they have one form which is singular or plural). Examples of these include сабый (sābəy) child/children and цӀыху (ts’әxʷ) person/people. The plural form of the verb is always used when a noun is plural, even if the noun does not take a plural ending.

Names can be 'pluralised' by placing the postposition сымэ (səma) after the name (e.g. Тымэс сымэ) Thomas and others. This is called the associative plural.

Like in English, there are uncountable nouns. In Kabardian, they take the singular form of the verb. шэ (ça), milk, is an example of an uncountable noun.


There are four cases: ergative, absolutive, instrumental and adverbial. They are formed:

Case Ending Example
Absolutive -r дзэр dzar
Ergative -m дзэм dzam
Instrumental -kӀэ -cç’a дзэkӀэ dzacça
Adverbial -уэ -wa дзэуэ dzawa

The absolutive case marks the subject of an intransitive verb and the object of a transitive verb (see ergative languages).


The ergative case is used to mark everything which the other cases do not mark, such as the subject of a transitive verb, the form of the noun which is used with prepositions/postpositions etc.[16]


This case is used to describe a verb or how a verb was done:

Жыгхэр сатыруы хэсаф. (ʝəγxar sātərwə xasāʃ.)

tree-pl.-ABS row-ADV to plant-pret.-affirmative

'They planted the trees in rows.'


The verbal system of Kabardian is very complex. The verb usually goes at the end of the sentence.


The infinitive ends in -н (-n).


Changes in the verb take the role of prepositions.

Here is the positional conjugation of some verbs, showing how the root changes indicate position:
stands sits lies
Body position/Pose щыт (ɕət) щыс (ɕəs) щылъ (ɕəɬ)
On тет (tajt) тес (tajs) телъ (tajɬ)
Under щIэт (ɕ’at) щIэс (ɕ’as) щIэлъ (ɕ’aɬ)
Among хэт (xat) хэс (xas) хэлъ (xaɬ)
Within some area дэт (dat) дэс (das) дэлъ (daɬ)
Behind Iут (ʔʷət) Iyc (ʔʷəs) Iулъ (ʔʷəɬ)
Inside ит (jət) иc (jəs) илъ (jəɬ)
Hanging on пыт (pət) пыc (pəs) пылъ (pəɬ)
On body гуэт (ɡʷat) гуэc (ɡʷas) гуэлъ (ɡʷaɬ)
Corner къуэт (qʷat) къуэc (qʷas) къуэлъ (qʷaɬ)
Side бгъодэт (bʁʷadat) бгъодэc (bʁʷadas) бгъодэлъ (bʁʷadaɬ)


щыт - [someone or something] stands (as a pose);

Iут - [someone or something] stands (behind);

чIэт - [someone or something] stands (under)

тет - [someone or something] stands (above)

дэт - [someone or something] stands (between), etc.


  1. ^ Kabardian at Ethnologue (17th ed., 2013)
  2. ^ Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Kabardian". Glottolog 2.2. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. 
  3. ^ Laurie Bauer, 2007, The Linguistics Student’s Handbook, Edinburgh
  4. ^ Например, в названии книги: Дзасэжь Хь. Э. Иджырей къэбэрдей-черкесыбзэ. Черкесск, 1964. p. 230. (Kabardian)
  5. ^ a b Phonetic Structures of Turkish Kabardian (page 3 and 4)
  6. ^ UCLA Phonetics Lab Archive - Recording Details for Kabardian Baslanei dialect. In the first word list called kbd_word-list_1970_01.html the word "dress" is pronounced as /ɡʲaːna/ compare to Standard Kabardian /d͡ʒaːna/. The words "man" and "quarter" are pronounced as /t͡ɬʼə/ and /t͡ɬʼaːna/ compare to Standard Kabardian /ɬʼə/ and /ɬʼaːna/
  7. ^ A phonetic comparison of Kabardian spoken in the caucasus and Diaspora
  8. ^ a b c 36(2), 159-186.Journal of the International Phonetic AssociationGordon, Matthew and Applebaum, Ayla. "Phonetic structures of Turkish Kabardian", 2006,
  9. ^ a b Halle, Morris. "Is Kabardian a Vowel-Less Language?" Foundations of Language, Vol. 6, No. 1 (Feb., 1970), pp. 95-103.
  10. ^ a b , Nos. 8–9. 'S Gravenhage: Mouton and Co.Janua Linguarum: Series MinorKuipers, Aert. "Phoneme and Morpheme in Kabardian", 1960,
  11. ^ Kuipers, pp. 22–23.
  12. ^ Halle, pp. 96–98.
  13. ^ Kuipers, p. 23.
  14. ^ Kuipers, pp. 32–39.
  15. ^ Halle, p. 98.
  16. ^ Ergative case in the Circassian languages by Mukhadin Kumakhov, Karina Vamling and Zara Kumakhova


  • 36(2), 159-186.Journal of the International Phonetic AssociationGordon, Matthew and Applebaum, Ayla. "Phonetic structures of Turkish Kabardian", 2006,
  • Halle, Morris. "Is Kabardian a Vowel-Less Language?" Foundations of Language, Vol. 6, No. 1 (Feb., 1970), pp. 95–103.
  • , Nos. 8–9. 'S Gravenhage: Mouton and Co.Janua Linguarum: Series MinorKuipers, Aert. "Phoneme and Morpheme in Kabardian", 1960,

External links

Louis Loewe (1854). A dictionary of the Circassian language. George Bell. Retrieved 25 August 2012. , Circassian, English, Turkish

  • A guide to North Caucasian languages
  • Kabardian (къэбэрдеибзэ) alphabet
  • Circassian language online lessons
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.