This article needs additional citations for verification. Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed.Find sources: "Abaza language" – news · newspapers · books · scholar · JSTOR (October 2022) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)
абаза бызшва
Native toNorth Caucasus
Native speakers
49,800 (2010–2014)[1]
Cyrillic, Latin
Official status
Official language in
Language codes
ISO 639-3abq
Lang Status 60-DE.svg
Abaza is classified as Definitely Endangered by the UNESCO Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters. For an introductory guide on IPA symbols, see Help:IPA.

Abaza (абаза бызшва, abaza byzshwa; Adyghe: абазэбзэ) is a Northwest Caucasian language spoken by Abazins in Russia. The language has gone through several different orthographies based primarily on Latin, Russian, Roman, and Cyrillic letters. Its consonant-to-vowel ratio is remarkably high; making it quite similar to many other languages from the same parent chain. The language evolved in popularity[clarification needed] in the mid to late 1800s, but has become an endangered language.[2]

Abaza is spoken by approximately 35,000 people in Russia, where it is written in a Cyrillic alphabet, as well as another 10,000 in Turkey, where the Latin script is used. It consists of two dialects, the Ashkherewa dialect and the T'ap'anta dialect, which is the literary standard. The language also consists of five sub dialects known as Psyzh-Krasnovostok, Abazakt, Apsua, Kubin-Elburgan and Kuvin.[3]

Abaza, like its relatives in the family of Northwest Caucasian languages, is a highly agglutinative language. For example, the verb in the English sentence "He couldn't make them give it back to her" contains four arguments (a term used in valency grammar): he, them, it, to her. Abaza marks arguments morphologically, and incorporates all four arguments as pronominal prefixes on the verb.[4]

It has a large consonantal inventory (63 phonemes) coupled with a minimal vowel inventory (two vowels). It is very closely related to Abkhaz,[5] but it preserves a few phonemes which Abkhaz lacks, such as a voiced pharyngeal fricative. Work on Abaza has been carried out by W. S. Allen, Brian O'Herin, and John Colarusso.


Different forms of cultural assimilation contributed to its fall in use in areas of Russia, and over time its overall endangerment. The language can be broken into 5 different dialects and has several unique grammatical approaches to languages. The Abaza language was at its peak usage in the mid to late 19th century.

Abaza speakers along the Greater and Lesser Laba, Urup, and Greater and Lesser Zelenchuk rivers are from a wave of migrants in the 17th to 18th centuries who represent the Abaza speakers of today. The end of the Great Caucasian War in 1864 provided Russia with power and control of the local regions and contributed to the decrease in the popularity of pre-existing local languages prior to the war.

The Abaza language was not a written language until the Latin alphabet was adopted in 1932–1933 to write it. The Cyrillic script was later utilized to write the language in 1938. A small amount of books, pamphlets, and a newspaper were published in the Abaza language afterwards.[6]

Geographic distribution

The Abaza language is spoken in Russia and Turkey. Although it is endangered, it is still spoken in several regions in Russia. These include Kara-Pago, Kubina, Psyzh, El'burgan, Inzhich-Chukun, Koi-dan, Abaza-Khabl', Malo-Abazinka, Tapanta, Krasnovostochni, Novokuvinski, Starokuvinski, Abazakt and Ap-sua.[7]


Consonant phonemes of Abaza[8][9]
Labial Alveolar Postalveolar Velar Uvular Pharyngeal Glottal
plain sib. plain pal. lab. plain pal. lab. plain pal. lab. plain lab.
Nasal m n
voiceless p t t͡s t̠͡ʃ t̠͡ʃʷ k q ʔ
ejective t͡sʼ t̠͡ʃʼ tɕʼ t̠͡ʃʷʼ kʲʼ kʷʼ qʲʼ qʷʼ
voiced b d d͡z d̠͡ʒ d̠͡ʒʷ ɡ ɡʲ ɡʷ
Fricative voiceless f ɬ s ʃ ɕ ʃʷ x ħ ħʷ
ejective ɬʼ
voiced v ɮ z ʒ ʑ ʒʷ ɣ ɣʲ ɣʷ ʕ ʕʷ
Approximant l j w
Trill r

The vowels [o, a, u] may have a /j/ in front of it. The vowels [e] and [i] are allophones of /a/ and /ə/ (respectively) before palatalized consonants, while the vowels [o] and [u] are allophones of /a/ and /ə/ (respectively) before labialized consonants. The vowels [e], [o], [i], and [u] can also occur as variants of the sequences /aj/, /aw/, /əj/ and /əw/.

Front Central Back
Close (i) (u)
Mid (e) ə (o)
Open a


Since 1938, Abaza has been written with the version of the Cyrillic alphabet shown below.[10][11]

А а
Б б
В в
Г г
Гв гв
Гъ гъ
Гъв гъв
Гъь гъь
Гь гь
Гӏ гӏ
Гӏв гӏв
Д д
Дж дж
Джв джв
Джь джь
Дз дз
Е е
Ё ё
Ж ж
Жв жв
Жь жь
З з
И и
Й й
К к
Кв кв
Къ къ
Къв къв
Къь къь
Кь кь
Кӏ кӏ
Кӏв кӏв
Кӏь кӏь
Л л
Ль ль
Лӏ лӏ
М м
Н н
О о
П п
Пӏ пӏ
Р р
С с
Т т
Тл тл
Тш тш
Тӏ тӏ
У у
/w/, [u]
Ф ф
Фӏ фӏ
Х х
Хв хв
Хъ хъ
Хъв хъв
Хь хь
Хӏ хӏ
Хӏв хӏв
Ц ц
Цӏ цӏ
Ч ч
Чв чв
Чӏ чӏ
Чӏв чӏв
Ш ш
Шв шв
Шӏ шӏ
Щ щ
Ъ ъ
Ы ы
Э э
Ю ю
Я я

The digraphs Лӏ and Фӏ are dialectal, and are therefore absent from the literary language and the official alphabet.[12]


This section is empty. You can help by adding to it. (June 2020)

Notable speakers

Sultan Laguchev, a singer-songwriter famous in Russia, writes and performs songs in the Abaza language, including "Абыгъь гӏважьква" and "БаъапI бара." He has written an additional song in Russian entitled "Мы абазины" ('We are Abazins') about Abazinia.


  1. ^ Abaza at Ethnologue (19th ed., 2016) closed access
  2. ^ Allen, W. S. (1956). "The Structure and System in the Abaza Verbal Complex". Transactions of the Philological Society. 55: 127–176. doi:10.1111/j.1467-968X.1956.tb00566.x.
  3. ^ "The Red Book of the Peoples of the Russian Empire". Retrieved 2017-02-10.
  4. ^ Dixon, R.M.W. (2000). "A Typology of Causatives: Form, Syntax, and Meaning". In Dixon, R.M.W. & Aikhenvald, Alexendra Y. Changing Valency: Case Studies in Transitivity. Cambridge University Press. p 57
  5. ^ Hoiberg, Dale H., ed. (2010). "Abkhaz". Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. I: A-ak Bayes (15th ed.). Chicago, Illinois: Encyclopædia Britannica Inc. pp. 33. ISBN 978-1-59339-837-8.
  6. ^ Akiner, Shirin (1986). Islamic Peoples Of The Soviet Union. Routledge. pp. 238–239. ISBN 978-1-136-14274-1.
  7. ^ "Abaza in Russia".
  8. ^ Starostin, Sergei A.; Nikolayev, Sergei L. (1994). A North Caucasian Etymological Dictionary: Preface, pp. 194-196
  9. ^ Consonant Systems of the North-West Caucasian Languages (TITUS DIDACTICA)
  10. ^ Abaza (Place Names Database, Institute of the Estonian Language)
  11. ^ Abaza alphabet, pronunciation and language (Omniglot)
  12. ^ Сердюченко, Г. П. (1938). Абазинский алфавит и орфография на русской графической основе (in Russian). Ежово-Черкесск: Чернациздательство.

Further reading