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Bats language

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Bats language

batsba motjiti
Native to Georgia
Region Zemo-Alvani in Kakheti
Native speakers
3,400  (2000)[1]
far fewer than 3,000 active (2007)
Language codes
ISO 639-3 bbl
Glottolog bats1242[2]

Bats (also Batsi, Batsbi, Batsb, Batsaw, Tsova-Tush) is the language of the Bats people, a Caucasian minority group, and is part of the Nakh family of Caucasian languages. It had 2,500 to 3,000 speakers in 1975.

There is only one dialect. It exists only as a spoken language, as the Bats people use Chechen or Ingush, the other two members of the Nakh family.


Until the middle of the 19th century, the Tsovians lived in Kakhetia Plain, in the village of Zemo-Alvani, where they still live. Administratively they are part of the Akhmeta district of Georgia.


Bats belongs to the Nakh family of Northeast Caucasian languages.

Geographic distribution

Most speakers of Bats live in the village of Tbilisi and other bigger towns in Georgia.



Bats has a typical triangular five-vowel system with short–long contrast (except for u, which has no long form). Bats also has a number of diphthongs, ei, ui, oi, ai, ou, and au.[3] All vowels and diphthongs have nasalized allophones that are the result of phonetic and morphophonemic processes; this is represented by a supercript n, as in kʼnateⁿ boy-GEN.

Front Back
High i, u
Mid e [ɛ], o,
Low a,


Bats has a relatively typical consonant inventory for a Northeast Caucasian language. Unlike its close relatives, Chechen and Ingush, Bats has retained the lateral fricative /ɬ/.
Consonant phonemes of Bats[4]
Labial Dental Alveolar Palatal(ized) Velar Uvular Pharyngeal Glottal
Nasal m n
Plosive aspirated lenis t͜sʰ t͡ʃʰ ʔ
voiceless fortis
voiced b d d͜z d͡ʒ g
ejective lenis t͜sʼ t͡ʃʼ
fortis tːʼ qːʼ
Fricative voiceless lenis s ʃ x ħ h
lateral ɬ
voiced v z ʒ ɣ ʕ
Approximant lenis l j
Flap ɾ


The first grammar of Bats – Über die Thusch-Sprache – was compiled by the German orientalist Anton Schiefner (1817–1879) making it into the first grammar of any indigenous Caucasian languages based on sound scientific principles.[5]

Noun classes

Traditional analyses posit that Bats has eight noun classes, the highest number among the Northeast Caucasian languages — however, a more modern analysis demonstrates only five classes.[4] This analysis (not unlike analyses of Lak) yields the grouping shown below:

Label Sg. Pl. Description Members
M v b male humans mar "husband"
ʕuv "shepherd"
voħ "son"
F j d female humans nan "mother"
pstʼu "wife"
joħ "daughter"
D d d various bader "child"
kʼuit’ĭ "cat"
dokʼ "heart"
ditx "meat"
Bd b d animals carkʼ "tooth"
maiqĭ "bread"
qʼar "rain"
J j j various pħu "dog"
ča "bear"
matx "sun"
*Bd/J b j body parts (15 nouns) bak "fist"
bʕarkʼ "eye"
čʼqʼempʼŏ ‘throat’
*D/J d j body parts (4 nouns) batʼr "lip", larkʼ "ear"
tʼotʼ "hand", čʼamaǧ "cheek"
*B/B b b only 3 nouns borag "knit slipper"
čekam "boot"
kakam "autumn wool"

Under this analysis, the additional three classes are examples of inquorate gender, where the number of items displaying this behavior are insufficient to constitute an independent grouping. Furthermore, they can be explained as inflecting as one class in the singular, and another in the plural, e.g. the B/B group agrees as if it belonged to Bd class in the singular, but male human class in the plural.

Noun cases

Batsbi makes use of nine noun cases total, though in the majority of nouns the ergative and instrumental case have a common form.

Cases Singular Plural Singular Plural
Nominative nekʼ nekʼi cokʼal cokʼli
Genitive nekʼen nekʼan cokʼlen cokʼlan
Dative nekʼen nekʼin cokʼlen cokʼlin
nekʼev nekʼiv cokʼlev cokʼliv
Contacting nek’ex nekʼax cokʼlex cokʼlax
Allative nekʼegŏ nekʼigŏ cokʼlegŏ cokʼligŏ
Adverbial nekʼeǧ nekʼiǧ cokʼleǧ cokʼliǧ
Commitive nekʼcin,
nekʼicin cokʼlecin cokʼlicin
“knife” “fox”


Like most of its relatives, Batsbi's numerals are vigesimal, using 20 as a common base. This is mainly evident in the construction of higher decads, so that 40 šauztʼqʼ formed from 2 × 20 and 200 icʼatʼqʼ is 10 × 20.[4] When modifying nominals, the numeral precedes the noun it modifies.

Basic Numbers
1 cħa 11 cħajtʼː 1+10
2 ši 12 šiitʼː 2+10
3 qo 13 qoitʼː 3+10
4 Dʕivʔ 14 Dʕevajtʼː 4+10
5 pxi 15 pxiitʼː 5+10
6 jetx 16 jetxajtʼː 6+10
7 vorɬ 17 vorɬajtʼː 7+10
8 barɬ 18 barɬajtʼː 18+10
9 isː 19 tʼqʼexc’ 20-
10 itʼː 20 tʼqʼa
Higher Decads
21 tʼqʼacħa 20+1
22 tʼqʼaš 20+2
30 tʼqʼaitʼː 20+10
31 tʼqʼacħaitʼː (20+10)+1
32 tʼqʼašiitʼː (20+10)+2
40 šauztʼqʼ 2×20
50 šauztʼqʼaitʼː (2×20)+10
60 qouztʼqʼ 3×20
70 qouztʼqʼaitʼː (3×20)+10
80 Dʕe(v)uztʼqʼ 4×20
90 Dʕe(v)uztʼqʼaitʼː (4×20)+10
100 pxauztʼqʼ 5×20
120 jexcʼatʼqʼ from jetxcʼatʼqʼ
160 barɬcʼatʼqʼ 8×20
200 icʼatʼqʼ from itʼːcʼatʼqʼ
1000 atas from Georgian

In Bats, as in the its closest relatives Chechen and Ingush, the number Dʕivʔ "four" actually begins with a noun-class marker, represented by D (by default, or another capital for the other classes). This marker will agree in class with the class of the nominal which the number modifies, even if that nominal is not overtly expressed and only apparent through pragmatic or discursive context, as in Vʕivʔev "four (males)". This is seen in the word "four" itself as well as its derivatives.


Bats has explicit inflections for agentivity of a verb; it makes a distinction between as woʒe I fell down (i.e. through no fault of my own) and so woʒe I fell down (i.e. and it was my own fault).


  1. ^ Bats at Ethnologue (17th ed., 2013)
  2. ^ Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Bats". Glottolog 2.2. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. 
  3. ^ HG1994
  4. ^ a b c Holisky, Dee Ann and Gagua, Rusudan, 1994. "Tsova-Tush (Batsbi)", in The indigenous languages of the Caucasus Vol 4, Rieks Smeets, editor. Caravan Books, pp. 147-212
  5. ^ Kevin Tuite (2007). The rise and fall and revival of the Ibero-Caucasian hypothesis, pp. 7-8. Historiographia Linguistica, 35 #1.

External links

  • The Red Book of Peoples of the Russian Empire: The Bats
  • Languages of the World report
  • Bats basic lexicon at the Global Lexicostatistical Database
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