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цезйас мец (cezyas mec)
Pronunciation[t͡sɛzˈjas mɛt͡s]
Native toNorth Caucasus
RegionSouthern Dagestan
Native speakers
13,000 (2010 census)[1]
Northeast Caucasian
Language codes
ISO 639-3ddo
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.

Tsez, also known as Dido (Tsez: цезйас мец (cezyas mec) or цез мец (cez mec)), is a Northeast Caucasian language with about 15,000 speakers (15,354 in 2002) spoken by the Tsez, a Muslim people in the mountainous Tsunta District of southwestern Dagestan in Russia. The name is said to derive from the Tsez word for "eagle", but this is most likely a folk etymology. The name Dido is derived from the Georgian word დიდი (didi), meaning "big".

Tsez lacks a literary tradition and is poorly represented in written form. Avar and Russian are used as literary languages locally, even in schools. However, attempts have been made to develop a stable orthography for the Tsez language as well as its relatives, mainly for the purpose of recording traditional folklore; thus, a Cyrillic script based on that of Avar is often used. Fluency in Avar is usually higher among men than women, and the younger people tend to be more fluent in Russian than in Tsez, which is probably due to the lack of education in and about the language. Tsez is not taught in school and instead Avar is taught for the first five years and Russian afterwards.

The vocabulary shows many traces of influences of Avar, Georgian, Arabic, and Russian, mainly through loanwords and, in the case of Russian, even in grammar and style. There are also loanwords of Turkic origin. These factors may eventually lead to the decline of use of the Tsez language, as it is more and more replaced by Avar and Russian, partly due to loss of traditional culture among the people and the adoption of Western clothing, technology and architecture.[3]

Tsez grammar was first analyzed by the Georgian linguist Davit Imnaishvili in 1963. Currently,[clarification needed When?] a collection of Tsez folklore texts (written in the Mokok dialect) is in production.[clarification needed By whom?]


Tsez can be divided into the following dialects, with their Tsez names given in parentheses:

The examples in this article are based on the Tsebari subdialect of Asakh. The Sagada dialect is notable for its divergence from the others.

Hinukh and Khwarshi were also once regarded as dialects of the Tsez language but are now commonly viewed as distinct languages of the same family.


Each phoneme is listed with its IPA [brackets], Latin, and Cyrillic transcriptions.


Bilabial Dental Lateral Alveolar Palatal Velar Uvular Pharyngeal Glottal
Stops Voiceless [p] p п


[t] t т


[k] k к

([kʷ] [kˤ])

Voiced [b] b б


[d] d д


[ɡ] g г

([gʷ] [gˤ])

Ejective [pʼ] pʼ пӀ


[tʼ] tʼ тӀ


[kʼ] kʼ кӀ

([kʷʼ] [kˤʼ])

[qʼ] qʼ къ

([qʷʼ] [qˤʼ])

Affricates Voiceless [t͡s] c ц


[t͡ɬ] ƛ лӀ


[t͡ʃ] č ч


[q͡χ] q хъ

([q͡χʷ] [q͡χˤ])

Ejective [t͡sʼ] cʼ цӀ


[t͡ɬʼ] ƛʼ кь


[t͡ʃʼ] čʼ чӀ


Fricatives Voiceless [s] s с


[ɬ] ł лъ


[ʃ] š ш


[χ] x х

([χʷ] [χˤ])

[ħ] ħ хӀ


[h] h гь

([hʷ] [hˤ])

Voiced [z] z з


[ʒ] ž ж


[ʁ] ɣ гъ

([ʁʷ] [ʁˤ])

[ʕ] ʕ гӀ
Nasals [m] m м


[n] n н
Liquids [r] r р [l] l л
Semivowels [w] w в [j] y й


Front Central Back
High [i] i и [u] u у
Mid [e̞] e е/э [o̞] o о
Low [a] a а

([aː] ā а̄)


The syllable structure is generally CV(C). There are no vowel clusters. It is an agglutinative language with a complex morphology. Suffixes are either C, V, CV, VC or C+CV (where the first consonant belongs to the preceding syllable), depending on the structure of the stem. An example is the superessive suffix -ƛʼ(o), which attached to the word besuro (fish) forms besuro-ƛʼ (on the fish) and together with is (bull) forms is-ƛʼo in order to maintain the syllable restriction.



Nouns are inflected for number and case, and have noun classes assigned to them.


Nouns can either be singular or plural. The plural is formed by adding -bi to the stem in the absolutive case: besuro (fish [sg.]) → besuro-bi (fish [pl.]). For all other cases, the suffix is -za; thus, "of the fish [pl.]" becomes besuro-za-s.


There are eight syntactical and a much larger number of locative cases, which distinguish three categories: location, orientation, and direction. Thus, counting the locative and non-locative cases together overall, there are 39 cases.

Tsez is an ergative–absolutive language, which means that it makes no distinction between the subject of an intransitive sentence and the object of a transitive one. Both are in the unmarked absolutive case; the agent of the transitive sentence is in the ergative case.

According to Ramazan Rajabov, the oblique stem of 42% of the nouns is different from the absolutive stem. Some nouns change their internal structure (such as a vowel), but others add one of about 20 so-called "thematic suffixes" to their end, to which the other case suffixes are attached. For example, the word for "language" or "tongue" is mec, but its oblique stem is mecre-, hence its plural is mecrebi, the ergative mecrā and so on. Rajabov says that the choice of the correct thematic suffix is sometimes difficult even for native speakers. It is likely that their origin lies in an application of two different plural forms, in a similar way as in English the word "children" actually has two archaic plural endings: -(e)r and -en. In Tsez it is sometimes even possible to use both the archaic and the regular and more productive -bi plural for a word.[4]

Syntactic case suffixes
  singular plural
Absolutive -∅ -bi
Ergative -z-ā
Genitive 1 -(e)s -za-s
Genitive 2 -(e)z -za-z
Dative -(e)r -za-r
Instrumental -(e)d -za-d
Equative 1 -ce -za-ce
Equative 2 -qʼāy -za-qʼāy

Of the two genitive cases, the first is used as attribute to an absolutive head noun and the second to an oblique one. That means, that the Genitive 1 is used for phrases like žekʼu-s is (the man's bull), and the Genitive 2 is used for žekʼu-z is-er (for the man's bull).

The Equative 1 is used to make comparisons, like besuro-ce (like a fish) and can also be attached to other cases.

Rajabov suggests 3 more syntactical cases, namely possessive 1 (-łay), possessive 2 (-xu) and abessive (-tay). However, their status is debatable, as they seem to show both inflectional as well as derivational tendencies.[4]

Locative case suffixes
  Essive Lative Ablative Allative1 meaning
= in (a hollow object)
= in (a mass), among
Super— -ƛʼ(o)
-ƛʼ-āɣor, -ƛʼ-ār
= on (horizontal)
= under
Ad— -x(o)
-x-āɣor, -x-ā-r
= at
Apud— -de
-d-āɣor, -d-ā-r
= near
Poss— -q(o)
-q-āɣor, -q-ā-r
= on (vertical)
meaning = at (position) = to (destination) = from (origin) = towards (direction)  
  1. The allative case is also called 'versative'. In the distal paradigm, it is used in the sense of "behind" or "beyond" and is then called 'posterior'.

Of the forms, the upper one shows the non-distal (i.e. close), the lower one the distal (i.e. far) form of the suffix. In the non-distal there are sometimes two equal forms[clarification needed] for the allative case. The epenthetic vowel o in parentheses is used after noun stems ending in a consonant; thus, "next to the bull" is is-xo, while "next to the fish" is besuro-x.

Noun classes

Tsez distinguishes four noun classes in the singular and two in the plural. They are prefixes that are attached to verbs, adjectives, adverbs, several postpositions like -oƛƛʼo ("between") or -iłe ("like") and the emphatic particle -uy to show agreement with the noun. Agreement is only possible on vowel-initial words or words that begin with a pharyngealized vowel, but there are also a few words beginning with a vowel that do not take these prefixes.

Class Singular Plural Attribution
I ∅- b- for male people only
II y- r- for female people and inanimate objects (e.g. "book")
III b- for animals and inanimate objects (e.g. "sun")
IV r- for inanimate objects only (e.g. "water")

As inanimate objects cover the classes II, III and IV, it's not transparent into which class an inanimate object belongs. However, there are certain tendencies based on the semantic field of the nouns. Nouns that are able to move (like sun, moon, star, lightning, car, train) usually belong to class III, while products that traditionally have to do with the work of women (like clothes or berries and also milk) often belong to class II. Clothes made from leather are—as the word for leather itself—usually assigned to class III, due to their relation to animals.

Class IV originally included abstract words, collective and mass nouns, such as water, salt, sky or wind. Materials also often seem to trigger noun classes: "chair" and "wood" are both class IV nouns. Also shape seems to have an influence (flat things are associated with class II, round things with class III and long things with class IV). In the same manner, proper names are assigned the classes of the nouns they denote. Thus, Patʼi ("Fatima") is assigned class II, because it's a female name, and Asaq (a Tsez village) belongs to class III, because "village" (ʕaƛʼ) is also in this group. Likewise, new loan words are assigned the noun class of a semantically similar existing Tsez word.

Experiments have shown that Tsez speakers do not assign any noun classes to new words for objects or places with which they are unfamiliar.[5]

Certain derivational endings also require a specific noun class, see the section about derivation below.

Verbs and adverbs always agree with the absolutive argument of the phrase, regardless of the clause's transitivity.
If more than one absolutive argument is linked by the conjunction -n(o) ("and") and one of them is of the first noun class, then class I plural triggers the agreement for the clause; otherwise, it is class II/III/IV plural. Compare:







kid-no uži-n b-ay-si

girl[II]:ABS-and boy[I]:ABS-and IPL-come-PSTWIT

"A girl and a boy arrived."








kid-no meši-n r-ay-si

girl[II]:ABS-and calf[III]:ABS-and IIPL-come-PSTWIT

"A girl and a calf arrived."


Personal pronouns

Personal pronouns exist in Tsez only for the first and second person; for the third person the demonstratives že (singular) and žedi (plural) are used. As the singular personal pronouns have the same form in absolutive and ergative, a sentence like Di mi okʼsi is ambiguous, because it can both mean "I hit you" and "You hit me", due to the rather free word order. However, they have a different form for the oblique cases and an irregular form in the genitive 1 case, the same as the plural pronouns. The singular pronouns also have the same forms for all four noun classes, while the plurals make this distinction, as shown in the chart below.

    class I class II-IV
1st person singular abs. & erg. di
oblique dā-
genitive 1 dey
2nd person singular abs. & erg mi
oblique debe-1
genitive 1 debi
1st person plural absolutive eli ela
oblique elu- ela-
special gen. 13 eli
special gen. 23 eliz
2nd person plural absolutive meži meža
oblique mežu- meža-
special gen. 13 meži
special gen. 23 mežiz
  1. This form is used before a syllable-final consonant, such as the suffix -r.
  2. This form is used before a syllable-initial consonant, such as the suffix -de.
  3. The special forms of the two genitives is used when the possessor is a close group, typically a family, thus eli eniy is used for "our mother" instead of elus eniy. The plural demonstrative žedi ("they") also shows this feature, being žedi in the close group genitive 1 and žediz in the close group genitive 2. For ordinary possessors these forms would be žedus and žeduz, respectively.

Demonstrative pronouns

Demonstrative pronouns are suffixes that are attached to the corresponding noun. They inflect for noun classes, number and case and make a two-way distinction into proximal (close, English: "this/these") and distal (far, English: "that/those"), the latter of which are also used as third person pronouns.

The oblique forms are used attributively and also as a base to which other (oblique) case suffixes can be attached.

  Singular Plural
  Class I Class II-IV Class I Class II-IV
Proximal Absolutive -da -du -ziri
Oblique -si -ła-, -ł1 -zi -za
Distal Absolutive že žedi
Oblique nesi neło, neł1 žedu žeda
  1. The forms are used optionally after vowels at the end of words.

Interrogative pronouns

Interrogative pronouns make a distinction between human ("who?") and non-human ("what?") only in the oblique forms, but not in the absolutive. The non-human interrogative pronouns require the class IV affix when triggering agreement.

Interrogative pronouns that are replacing an adjunct (as, for instance, "when?" or "why?") usually occur at the beginning of the sentence, while those replacing arguments ("who?", "what?", etc.) often stay in the position of the replaced word. However, they can be fronted as well for the purpose of discourse-specific linking. Thus, a fronted šebi might be translated as "Which...?" instead of "What...?".

  Human Non-human
Absolutive šebi
Oblique łā łina
Ergative łu łinā

Other interrogative pronouns include:


Tsez has a rich verbal morphology with many categories. Despite the great variety in conjugation, the only truly irregular verb is "to be" with some forms being yoł (present), ānu (present negative), zow- (past), etc. There are 4 morphological groups, according to the final phoneme of the stem: The first group ends in a consonant, the second in i, the third in -u and the fourth group contains the verbs with the variable ending -d (before a vowel) / -y (elsewhere).


There are five tense forms in the indicative mood, shown in the following table with examples for verbs with vocalic and consonantal stem endings. The past forms make an evidentiality distinction.

Form Suffix With -iš- ("to eat") With -esu- ("to find")
past unwitnessed -n(o) -iš-no "ate" -esu-n "found"
past witnessed -s(i) -iš-si "ate" -esu-s "found"
present -x(o) -iš-xo "eat" -esu-x "find"
future definite -an -iš-an "will eat" -esʷ-an "will find"
future indefinite shift of the vowel in
the stem before the last
consonant to ā
-āš "will eat" -āsu "will find"


The basic negation suffix in the indicative is -čʼV with V being a vowel that can be different, depending on the tense/aspect/mood of the verb; it is inserted after the verb stem. With the example verb -ikʼi- ("to go"), the following forms are possible:

Form Negation Suffix With -ikʼi- ("to go")
past unwitnessed negative -čʼey- -ikʼi-čʼey "didn't go"
past witnessed negative -čʼu- -ikʼi-čʼu-s or -ikʼi-čʼu "didn't go"
present negative -ānu- (present negative of "to be") -ikʼi-x-ānu "doesn't go"
future definite negative -čʼi- -ikʼ-ā-čʼi-n "won't go"
future indefinite negative -čʼi- -ākʼi-čʼi "won't go" (vowel shift!)

Non-finite forms

Participles behave like adjectives and only vary according to the class agreement, which gets attached to them as prefixes. There are several different kinds of participles in the Tsez language:

Form Suffix With -iš- ("to eat")
past participle -ru (stem vowel → ā)1 -āš-ru "having eaten"
past negative participle -čʼi-ru (stem vowel → ā)1 -āš-čʼi-ru "not having eaten"
resultative participle -ā-si -iš-ā-si "in the state of having eaten"
resultative negative participle -ani -iš-ani "in the state of not having eaten"
present participle -xo-si -iš-xo-si "eating"
present negative participle -x-ānu-si -iš-x-ānu-si "not eating"
  1. The stem vowel here is the vowel before the last consonant. Note that stems, different from roots, include causatives; thus -ikʼi- ("to go") becomes -ākʼi-, but its causative form -ikʼir- ("to let go") becomes -ikʼār-! Sometimes also unarticulated epenthetic vowels can be lengthened to ā, as in: tʼetʼr- ("to learn"), which becomes tʼetʼār-.

Converbs, like gerunds and verbal adverbs, are very numerous in Tsez. The following list gives only an incomplete account. The table illustrates the relationship between the temporal converb (C) and the main verb (V):

Relationship between C and V Suffix With -ikʼi- ("to go")
C and V are simultaneous manner of action -x -ikʼi-x
punctual -ƛʼ -ikʼi-ƛʼ
simple simultaneous -ƛʼorey / -zey -ikʼi-ƛʼorey / -ikʼi-zey "while he goes/went"
C precedes V manner of action -n -ikʼi-n
simple anterior -nosi -ikʼi-nosi "after he goes/went"
immediate anterior -run (stem vowel → ā)1 -ākʼi-run "immediately after he goes/went"
C follows V simple posterior -zaƛʼor -ikʼi-zaƛʼor "before he goes/went"
terminative -a-ce -ikʼ-a-ce "until he goes/went"

Potential and causative

The potential mood receives the suffix -(e)ł, while the causative mood suffix is -(e)r. Again, the epenthetic vowel is dropped when the stem ends in a vowel or if another suffix starting with a vowel is attached. Together with the definite future suffixes -an, for instance, the epenthetic vowel has to be dropped: iš-er ("let him eat"), but iš-r-an ("will let him eat").


Tsez has a rich set of particles, most of them occurring as clitics. The particle -tow shows general emphasis while -kin shows general emphasis and focusing. A contrastively topicalized constituent is marked by the particle -gon. Being clitics, they can be attached to any part of speech. There is also a quotation particle that is used in direct reported speech and appears as the suffix -ƛin that always appears at the end of the quoted phrase or sentence. Example: Di žekʼu yołƛin eƛix kʼetʼā ("'I am a man', says the cat"). There are also other free particles like hudu ("yes, so") or āy ("no").

Word formation


Noun-forming suffixes

The following list is a selection of suffixes used to form nouns from other parts of speech as well as other nouns.

Adjective-forming suffixes

The following suffixes can be used to derive adjectives from other words:

Verb-forming suffixes

Some verb-forming suffixes, like the causative and potential derivatives, have already been mentioned in the section about the verbal morphology. Other examples include:

Compounding and reduplication

In Tsez it is also possible to create new words from combining existing ones; usually nouns and verbs are derived, but there also exist compound adjectives and adverbs. Only the last component of the compound inflects, as it is the head of the phrase. However, it does not necessarily govern the noun class assignment for compound nouns—if one of the two components belongs to class I, then the whole compound is of this class, otherwise it is automatically assigned to noun class II. Sometimes, the last component is truncated (see fifth example). Suffixation may also occur (see first example). The following list is not exhaustive:

Another common way to derive new words is reduplication, which can derive nouns, as well as adjectives and verbs. In reduplicating nouns, the initial syllable can often undergo a change, as in xisi-basi "changes" or bix-mix (herbs). It is used to intensify adjectives (e.g. r-očʼi-r-očʼiy "very cold") and verbs (e.g. -okʼ-okʼ- "to stab repeatedly") but is also used for onomatopoeia (e.g. ħi-ħi "neigh").

Another highly productive way of forming verbs is the combination of a word (often a loan from Arabic or Avar) and the Tsez verbs -oq- ("to stay, to become") or -od- ("to do"), although some combinations can also be formed with other verbs. Note that only the second word is inflected, while the first one remains uninflected. Some examples are:


Noun phrase

Noun phrases (NP) per definition have a nominal head, which can be a noun, a pronoun or a substantivized expression such as a participle with the nominalizer -łi, verbal nouns (masdars) or substantivized restrictive adjectives (as in English: "the older one")—the latter one bears the suffix -ni directly after the adjective stem. They all inflect for case.

As Tsez is a head-last language, all modifiers precede the head noun and agree with it in class. The neutral order of modifiers is usually:

  1. relative clause
  2. unemphatic possessive pronoun
  3. emphatic possessive pronoun
  4. restrictive adjective
  5. demonstrative
  6. numeral / quantifier
  7. non-restrictive adjective

Note that the order of element number 4, 5 and 6 may vary:















sideni ʕaƛ-ā b-iči-xosi nesi-s b-aqʼˤu žuka-tʼa-ni ʕagarłi

another village-IN:ESS IPL-be-PRSPRT he-GEN1 IPL-many bad-DISTR-RESTR relative

"his many unpleasant relatives who live in the next village"

Modifiers can also include oblique noun phrases, which then take one of the two genitive suffixes depending on the case of the head noun: -si for absolutive, -zo for oblique head nouns. Compare:

ħon-ƛʼo-si ʕadala ("the fool on the hill", absolutive)


ħon-ƛʼo-zo ʕadala-r ("to the fool on the hill", dative/lative)

Verb phrase

Verb phrases (VP) are phrases whose head is a verb or a copula. Verbs can have different transitivities that directly affect the case distribution for their nominal arguments.


Copulas are used in the Tsez language to combine the subject with a noun phrase or with predicative adjectives and can in these cases be translated with the English copula "to be". The subject as well as the predicative noun stands in the absolutive case and is thus unmarked. If an environmental condition is described in form of an adjective, the adjective requires class IV agreement. Compare the following examples:









ʕAli-s obiy aħo yoł

Ali-GEN1 father shepherd be:PRS

"Ali's father is a shepherd."








ciq-qo r-očʼiy zow-si

forest-POSS:ESS IV-cold be-PSTWIT

"It was cold in the forest."

Intransitive verbs

The only argument of intransitive verbs stands in the unmarked absolutive case. The verb agrees with the noun in class.

An example phrase would be: is b-exu-s ("the bull died").

Monotransitive verbs

Monotransitive verbs are verbs that take two arguments. As Tsez is an absolutive–ergative language, the subject, or—to be more precise—the agent, requires the ergative case, while the direct object (or patient) requires the absolutive case. The direct object of a transitive verb is thus marked in the same way as the subject of an intransitive verb. Again, the verb agrees in class with the absolutive (i.e. the direct object).







žekʼ-ā gulu b-okʼ-si

man-ERG horse:ABS III-hit-PSTWIT

"The man hit the horse."

Both arguments, the agent as well as the patient, can be omitted if they are clear from the context.

Ditransitive verbs

Ditransitive verbs are verbs that require 3 arguments: a subject (or agent), a direct object (or patient, sometimes also called theme) and an indirect object (or recipient). In English "to give" and "to lend" are typical ditransitive verbs. In Tsez the agent takes the ergative and the patient takes the absolutive case. The recipient's case depends on the semantic nature of the transfer of possession or information: if it's a permanent transfer (e.g. "to give (as a present)"), the recipient takes the dative/lative case (ending in -(e)r), if it's a non-permanent transfer (e.g. "to lend") or if it's incomplete, the recipient takes any of the locative cases. Two examples illustrate the difference:

Permanent transfer:









ʕAl-ā kidbe-r surat teƛ-si

Ali-ERG girl-DAT picture:ABS give-PSTWIT

"Ali gave the girl a picture (for good, e.g. as a gift)."

Temporary transfer:









ʕAl-ā kidbe-qo-r surat teƛ-si

Ali-ERG girl-POSS-DAT picture:ABS give-PSTWIT

"Ali lent the girl a picture."

Affective clauses

Affective clauses have either verbs of perception or psychological verbs as predicate. Those verbs are for example: "be bored/bother", "become known", "find", "forget", "hate", "hear", "know", "love/like", "miss", "see", etc. The experiencer (which would be the subject in the corresponding English sentence) is usually in the dative case, while the stimulus (the object in the English sentence) takes the absolutive case.







ʕAli-r Patʼi y-eti-x

Ali-DAT Fatima:ABS II-love-PRS

"Ali loves Fatima."

Potential clauses

Potential clauses are the equivalent to English clauses involving the words "can" or "be able to". In Tsez this is expressed by the verbal suffix ; the subject of the clause then takes the possessive case (-q(o)) instead of the ergative, while the object of the verb is in the absolutive.







kʼetʼu-q ɣˤay ħaƛu-ł-xo

cat-POSS:ESS milk:ABS drink-POT-PRS

"The cat can drink milk."


Causative constructions ("to make/let someone do something") are formed by the causative suffix -r. It increases the valency of any verb by 1. If a ditransitive verb is formed from a transitive one, the causee (i.e. the argument that is subject and object at the same time) appears in the possessive case (-q(o)); see the example below (the e before the causative suffix is an epenthetic vowel):









aħ-ā čanaqan-qo zey žekʼ-er-si

shepherd-ERG hunter-POSS:ESS bear:ABS hit-CAUS-PSTWIT

"The shepherd made the hunter hit the bear."

Word order

Tsez is a head-final language, which means that – apart from postpositions – modifiers like relative clauses, adjectives, genitives and numerals always precede the main clauses. The neutral order in clauses with more than one modifier is:


The order can be changed to emphasize single noun phrases.

Although in general, the underlying word order is SOV (subject–object–verb), the predicate tends to be in the middle of the sentence rather than at the end of it. This word order seems to become increasingly common in daily speech. For narrative use, a VSO word order is sometimes used as well.

Interrogative sentences

The interrogative suffix (-yā after vowels) is used to mark yes/no-questions. It is added to the word focused by the question:







kʼetʼu ɣˤutk-ā yoł-ā?

cat:ABS house-IN:ESS be:PRS-INT

"Is the cat in the house?"







kʼetʼu- ɣˤutk-ā yoł?

cat:ABS-INT house-IN:ESS be:PRS

"Is it the cat that is in the house?"







kʼetʼu ɣˤutk-ā- yoł?

cat:ABS house-IN:ESS-INT be:PRS

"Is it the house that the cat is in?"


The negative particle ānu follows the negated constituent; if the entire sentence is to be negated, verb suffixes are used (see above in the section about the verb morphology).

For the imperative, prohibitive and optative form, see the same section on verb morphology above.


Coordination of clauses (as in English with the conjunction "and") is rare in the Tsez language. Noun phrases are coordinated by adding the suffix -n (after vowels) or -no (after consonants) to all items of the enumeration, thus "the hen and the rooster" is onuču-n mamalay-no. In conditional sentences the conjunction "then" may be expressed by the word yołi:



















tatanu ɣudi r-oq-si yołi eli ker-āɣor esanad-a b-ikʼ-a zow-si

warm day:ABS IV-become-PSTWIT COND 1PL:ABS river-IN:ALL bathe-INF IPL-go-INF be-PSTWIT

"If the day had become warm, (then) we would have gone to bathe in the river."


Relative clauses

Any argument or adjunct of a sentence can be made the head of a relative clause, even indirect objects and adverbials. The predicate of such a clause is always a participle and the relative construction precedes the head noun. Constituents can also be taken from embedded clauses. However, it is not possible to raise the possessor in a possessive phrase to the head position of a relative construction.

The following examples show how different arguments (examples 2, 3 and 4) and an adverbial adjunct (example 5) are relativized from the underlying sentence in example 1:

Example 1 (standard):









už-ā kidb-er gagali teƛ-si/teƛ-xo

boy-ERG girl-DAT flower:ABS give-PSTWIT/give-PRS

"The boy gave/gives a flower to the girl."

Example 2 (relativized agent):









kidb-er gagali tāƛ-ru/teƛ-xosi uži

girl-DAT flower:ABS give-PSTPRT/give-PRSPRT boy:ABS

"the boy who gave/gives a flower to the girl"

Example 3 (relativized patient):









už-ā kidb-er tāƛ-ru/teƛ-xosi gagali

boy-ERG girl-DAT give-PSTPRT/give-PRSPRT flower:ABS

"the flower that the boy gave/gives to the girl"

Example 4 (relativized recipient):









už-ā gagali tāƛ-ru/teƛ-xosi kid

boy-ERG flower:ABS give-PSTPRT/give-PRSPRT girl:ABS

"the girl to whom the boy gave/gives the flowers"

Example 5 (relativized adjunct):











už-ā kidb-er gagali tāƛ-ru/teƛ-xosi ɣudi

boy-ERG girl-DAT flower:ABS give-PSTPRT/give-PRSPRT day:ABS

"the day on which the boy gave/gives the flowers to the girl"

Adverbial clauses

There are several different kinds of adverbial clauses.

Temporal adverbial clauses describe a chronological sequence of two actions, as in English "Before it started to rain, we were home." or "We talked, while we were going.". In Tsez this relation is marked by verbal suffixes that turn one verb into a converb. See the table for converb suffixes in the "Non-finite forms" part of the verb morphology section.

Local adverbial clauses use locative converbs, which are also formed by adding a suffix to the verb. This suffix is -z-ā- and the vowel before the last consonant of the verb itself is lengthened to ā. This converb forms the head of the local phrase and can thus receive a locative suffix that is normally used on nouns.

Causal adverbial clauses, which in English are usually expressed using "because", "as", "when", "since" or "that", receive the converb suffix -xoy, -za-ƛʼ or -za-q.

There are more kinds of adverbial clauses, see the part "Non-finite forms" in the verb morphology section for more example suffixes.

Infinitival clauses

Modal verbs, phrasal verbs, verbs of motion and psychological verbs can all be accompanied by an infinitive verb. Verbal nouns or "masdars" (formed by the suffix -(a)ni) can be used instead of infinitive verbs; they express purpose more strongly. Those verbal nouns also occur with psychological verbs like "be afraid of" and then usually take the possessive case (ending -q).

Completement clauses

When a clause is used in place of a noun, as in "The father knew [that the boy wanted bread].", the optional nominalizing suffix -łi can be attached to the predicate of the embedded clause. The clause belongs to noun class IV, then:











obi-r [uži-r magalu b-āti-ru-łi] r-iy-si

father-DAT [boy-DAT bread:ABS III-want-PSTPRT-NMLZ] IV-know-PSTWIT

"The father knew [that the boy wanted bread]."

Reported speech

If a speech act verb like "say", "ask", "shout" introduces reported speech, the reported utterance is followed by the clitical quotation particle ƛin, which is suffixed to verbs and stands alone in all other cases. It is remarkable that the point of view and the tense of the original utterance is maintained, hence the only difference between direct and indirect speech is the particle ƛin. See this example:

















ʕAl-ā dā-q quno ocʼcʼino qʼˤano ƛeb yoł-ƛin eƛi-s

Ali-ERG 1SG-POSS:ESS twenty ten two year:ABS be:PRS-QUOT say-PSTWIT

"Ali said that he was 32 years old."


Numerals come in two different forms: in the absolutive case and as an oblique stem (always ending in -a) to which other case endings are attached when the numerals are used nonattributively. The oblique form is also used when it refers to a non-absolutive noun, as in sida ˤaƛār ("to one/a village"). When counting objects, the counted objects always stay in the singular form.

  Absolutive Oblique
1 sis sida
2 qʼˤano qʼˤuna
3 łˤono łˤora
4 uyno uyra
5 łeno łera
6 iłno iłłira
7 ʕoƛno ʕoƛƛora
8 biƛno biƛƛira
9 očʼčʼino očʼčʼira
10 ocʼcʼino ocʼcʼira
11 ocʼcʼino sis / siyocʼi ocʼcʼira sida
12 ocʼcʼino qʼˤano / qʼˤayocʼi ocʼcʼira qʼˤuna
13 ocʼcʼino łˤono / łˤoyocʼi ocʼcʼira łˤora
14 ocʼcʼino uyno / uwocʼi ocʼcʼira uyra
15 ocʼcʼino łeno / łewocʼi ocʼcʼira łera
16 ocʼcʼino iłno / iłocʼi ocʼcʼira iłłira
17 ocʼcʼino ʕoƛno / ʕoƛocʼi ocʼcʼira ʕoƛƛora
18 ocʼcʼino biƛno / biƛocʼi ocʼcʼira biƛƛira
19 ocʼcʼino očʼčʼino / ečʼocʼi ocʼcʼira očʼčʼira
20 quno qura
100 bišon bišonra
1,000 ʕazar ʕazarra

Cardinal numbers (as in English "one, two, three") precede the nouns, which then do not stand in their plural forms but in the singular instead; e.g.: uyno is ("four oxen").
Ordinal numbers (as in English "first, second, third") are constructed by combining the cardinal numbers with the word āƛiru. Hence, qʼˤano āƛiru ɣudi means "the second day".
Adverbial numbers (as in English "once, twice, thrice") are constructed by replacing the suffix -no by -x, thus "twice" becomes the adverb qʼˤa-x in Tsez. Expressions like "(for) the second time" are formed using the adverbial number suffix -x and ordinal forming marker āƛiru, thus resulting in the form qʼˤax āƛiru.

Sample of the Tsez language

This is a Tsez tale written in the Asakh dialect using a Latin-based orthography.


  1. ^ Tsez at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015) (subscription required)
  2. ^ Glottopedia article on Tsez language.
  3. ^ The Didos from The Red Book of the Peoples of the Russian Empire, retrieved August 12, 2006
  4. ^ a b Tsez morphonology Archived 2006-11-01 at the Wayback Machine by Ramazan Rajabov, retrieved June 22, 2006[full citation needed]
  5. ^ The class category in Tsez: underlying principles Archived 2007-09-26 at the Wayback Machine by Ramazan Rajabov, retrieved June 23, 2006
  6. ^ "K'et'us hunar: The cat's feat". The Tsez Annotated Corpus Project.