къарачай-малкъар тил
таулу тил
Native toNorth Caucasus
RegionKabardino-Balkaria, Karachay–Cherkessia, Turkey
EthnicityKarachays, Balkars
Native speakers
310,000 in Russia (2010 census)[1]
  • Karachay
  • Balkar
Latin in diaspora
Official status
Official language in
Kabardino-Balkaria (Russia)
Karachay-Cherkessia (Russia)
Language codes
ISO 639-2krc
ISO 639-3krc
Turkic-speaking peoples of Karachay-Cherkess Republic and Kabardino-Balkar Republic.jpg
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Koran Karachay-Balkar-language version
Koran Karachay-Balkar-language version

Karachay-Balkar (Къарачай-Малкъар тил, Qaraçay-Malqar til), or Mountain Turkic[2][3] (Таулу тил, Tawlu til), is a Turkic language spoken by the Karachays and Balkars in Kabardino-Balkaria and Karachay–Cherkessia, European Russia, as well as by an immigrant population in Afyonkarahisar Province, Turkey. It is divided into two dialects: Karachay-Baksan-Chegem, which pronounces two phonemes as /tʃ/ and /dʒ/ and Malkar, which pronounces the corresponding phonemes as /ts/ and /z/. The modern Karachay-Balkar written language is based on the Karachay-Baksan-Chegem dialect. The language is closely related to Kumyk.[4]


Historically, the Arabic alphabet had been used by first writers until 1924. Handwritten manuscripts of the Balkar poet Kazim Mechiev and other examples of literature have preserved to this day. First printed books in Karachay-Balkar language were published In the beginning of 20th century.

After the October Revolution as part of a state campaign of Latinisation Karachay and Balkar educators developed a new alphabet based on Latin letters. In 1930s, the official Soviet policy was revised and the process of Cyrillization the languages of USSR peoples was started. In 1937–38 the new alphabet based on Cyrillic letters was officially adopted.


Modern Karachay-Balkar Cyrillic alphabet:

А а
Б б
В в
Г г
Гъ гъ
Д д
Дж дж
Е е
Ё ё
/ø, jo/
Ж ж**
З з
И и
Й й
К к
Къ къ
Л л
М м
Н н
Нг нг
О о
П п
Р р
С с
Т т
У у
/u, w/
Ф ф*
Х х
Ц ц
Ч ч
Ш ш
Щ щ
Ы ы
Э э
Ю ю
/y, ju/
Я я
* Not found in native vocabulary

In Kabardino-Balkaria, they write ж instead of дж, while in Karachay-Cherkessia, they write нъ instead of нг. In some publications, especially during the Soviet period, the letter у́ or ў is used for the sound IPA: [w].

Karachay-Balkar Latin alphabet:

A a B в C c Ç ç D d E e F f G g
Ƣ ƣ I i J j K k Q q L l M m N n
Ꞑ ꞑ O o Ө ө P p R r S s Ş ş T t
Ь ь U u V v Y y X x Z z Ƶ ƶ


Front Back
Close i y ɯ u
Mid e ø o
Open ɑ
Labial Alveolar Palatal Velar Uvular Glottal
Plosive p b t d k ɡ (q) (ɢ)
Fricative [f] s z ʃ x (ɣ) h
Affricate [ts] tʃ dʒ
Nasal m n ŋ
Liquid l r
Approximant w j

Parentheses indicate allophones.




Case Suffix
Accusative -НИ
Genitive -НИ
Dative -ГА
Locative -ДА
Ablative -дан

Possessive suffixes

Singular Plural
1st person -им -ибиз
2nd person -инг -игиз
3rd person -(s)I(n) -(s)I(n)

Language example

Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Karachay-Balkar:

In Cyrillic In Cyrillic (1961-1964) Transliteration Yañalif Translation
Бютеу адамла эркин болуб эмда сыйлары бла хакълары тенг болуб тууадыла. Алагъа акъыл бла намыс берилгенди эмда бир-бирлерине къарнашлыкъ халда къараргъа керекдиле. Бүтеу адамла эркин болуб эмда сыйлары бла хақлары тең болуб тууадыла. Алаға ақыл бла намыс берилгенди эмда бир-бирлерине қарнашлық халда қарарға керекдиле. Bütew adamla erkin bolub emda sıyları bla haqları teñ bolub tuwadıla. Alağa aqıl bla namıs berilgendi emda bir-birlerine qarnaşlıq halda qararğa kerekdile. Byteu adamla erkin ʙoluʙ emda sьjlarь ʙla xalqlarь teꞑ ʙoluʙ tuuadьla. Alaƣa aqьl ʙla namьs ʙerilgendi emda ʙir-ʙirlerine qarnaşlьq xalda qararƣa kerekdile. 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.


Numeral Karachay-Balkar Kumyk Nogay
0 ноль ноль ноль
1 бир бир бир
2 эки эки эки
3 юч уьч уьш
4 тёрт дёрт доьрт
5 беш беш бес
6 алты алты алты
7 джети етти йети
8 сегиз сегиз сегиз
9 тогъуз тогъуз тогыз
10 он он он
100 бир джюз бир юз бир юз


Loanwords from Ossetian, Kabardian, Arabic, and Persian are fairly numerous.[4]

In popular culture

Russian filmmaker Andrei Proshkin used Karachay-Balkar for The Horde, believing that it might be the closest language to the original Kipchak language which was spoken during the Golden Horde.[6]



  1. ^ Row 102 in Приложение 6: Население Российской Федерации по владению языками [Appendix 6: Population of the Russian Federation by languages used] (XLS) (in Russian). Федеральная служба государственной статистики (Federal State Statistics Service).
  2. ^ Rudolf Loewenthal (2011). The Turkic Languages and Literatures of Central Asia: A Bibliography. p. 83.
  3. ^ Языки мира: Тюркские языки (in Russian). Vol. 2. Институт языкознания (Российская академия наук). 1997. p. 526.
  4. ^ a b Campbell, George L.; King, Gareth (2013). Compendium of the World Languages. Routledge. ISBN 978-1-1362-5846-6. Retrieved 23 May 2014.
  5. ^ a b Seegmiller, Steve. Phonological and Orthographical Information in Dictionaries: The Case of Pröhle's Karachay Glossary and its Successors.
  6. ^ "Максим Суханов стал митрополитом" (in Russian). 14 September 2010.