Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Northeast Caucasian languages
The Northeast Caucasian languages, also called East Caucasian, Caspian, or Dagestan, are a family of languages spoken mostly in Dagestan, Northern Azerbaijan and Georgia. This family is known for the complex phonology (up to 60 consonants or up to 30 vowels in some languages), stop consonants, noun classes, ergative sentence structure, and large number of noun cases, including several locative cases.
The Dagestan languages can be divided into three main groups, roughly West to East: Avar-Andi-Dido, Lak-Dargwa, and Lezgian. All figures below are approximate.
The Avar-Andi-Dido group
This group is spoken in the western part of Dagestan.
- Avar — 500,000 speakers, mostly in the Northwest Dagestan highlands.
- Andi languages , mostly in Western Dagestan:
- Botlikh — 3,000 speakers.
- Godoberi or Ghodoberi — 2,500 speakers.
- Karata — 5,000 speakers.
- Akhvakh — 5,000 speakers.
- Bagval or Bagvalal — 4,000 speakers.
- Tindi — 5,000 speakers.
- Chamalal — 4,000 speakers.
- Dido languages , mostly in Southwest Dagestan:
- Dido — 7,000 speakers.
- Khvarshi — 1,000 speakers.
- Hinukh or Ginukh — 200 speakers.
- Bezhta or Bezhti — 2,500 speakers.
- Hunzib or Gunzib — 600 speakers.
None of the Andi or Dido languages are written; Avar is used as the literary language.
These languages are spoken in the Central Dagestan highlands.
- Lak or Lakk — 90,000 speakers
- Dargwa or Dargin — 320,000 speakers
Both Lak and Dargwa are written languages.
These languages are spoken in the Southeast Dagestan highlands and in Northern Azerbaijan.
- Aghul or Agul — 14,000 speakers.
- Archi — 1,000 speakers.
- Budukh — 2,000 speakers.
- Khinalugh or Khinalug — 1,500 speakers.
- Kryts or Kryz — 6,000 speakers.
- Lezgi — 200,000 speakers.
- Rutul — 15,000 speakers.
- Tabassaran — 77,000 speakers.
- Tsakhur — 5,000 speakers.
- Udi — 4,000 speakers.
Among this group, only Lezgi and Tabassaran are written.
Some linguists have proposed to join this family with the Northwest Caucasian languages into a hypothetical Common North Caucasian family. This theory is not yet widely accepted; the words that are claimed to be cognates may be actually loan words.
Some scholars see affinities between the Northeast Caucasian languages and the Hurro-Urartian languages, an extinct language family of the Ancient Near East which comprises only two languages, Hurrian and Urartian, and place them together in the Alarodian family.
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