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Akhvakh language

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Title: Akhvakh language  
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Akhvakh language

Ашвaлъи мицIи
Region Southern Dagestan, Azerbaijan
Ethnicity Akhvakh
Native speakers
210 in Dagestan  (2010 census)[1]
Northeast Caucasian
Language codes
ISO 639-3 akv
Glottolog akhv1239[2]

The Akhvakh language (also spelled Axvax, Akhwakh) is a Northeast Caucasian language from the Avar–Andic branch. Ethnologue lists 6500 speakers,[3] but Magomedova and Abulaeva (2007) list 20,000 speakers of the language. Akhvakh has several dialects, though sources do not agree on the number. Ethnologue lists Kaxib, Northern Akhvakh and Southern Akhvakh (which can be further subdivided into the Tlyanub and Tsegob subdialects[4]). Creissels (2010) lists Northern Akhvakh and three dialects of Southern Akhvakh (Cegob, Tljanub, and Ratlub).

A few publications have been made in the Akhvakh language, but for the most part speakers of Akhvakh have adopted Avar as their literary language.




Consonant phonemes of Akhvakh[5]
Labial Dental Alveolar Palatal Velar Uvular Radical Glottal
central lateral
lenis fortis lenis fortis lenis fortis lenis fortis lenis fortis
Nasal m n
Plosive voiced b d ɡ
voiceless p t k ʔ
ejective kːʼ
Affricate voiced d͡ʒ
voiceless t͡s t͡sː t͡ʃ t͡ʃː t͡ɬ t͡ɬː q͡χ q͡χː
ejective t͡sʼ t͡sːʼ t͡ʃʼ t͡ʃːʼ t͡ɬʼ t͡ɬːʼ q͡χʼ q͡χːʼ
Fricative voiceless s ʃ ʃː ɬ ɬː ç x ħ/ʜ [1] h
voiced v z ʒ ɣ ʕ/ʢ [1]
Trill r
Approximant l j
  1. Note that the source uses the term "pharyngeal" in the older sense: indiscriminately for all radical consonants, as can be seen from the inclusion "pharyngeal plosives".


Agreement classes

Akhvakh has three agreement classes. In the singular, these are human masculine, human feminine, and non-human. In the plural, there are only two—human plural and non-human plural. Akhvakh verbs agree with the absolutive argument (subject of an intransitive or object of a transitive.)

Consider the following examples, which show the general principles. In the first example, the intransitive verb 'run' shows feminine agreement because its subject, 'girl', is feminine. In the second example, the transitive verb 'cook' shows neuter agreement because its object, 'meat', is neuter. (Creissels 2010:114)

Jaše q:'eɬ:-a j-et-e j-i:ni
girl home-lative fem-run-converb:fem fem-go:imperfective
'The girl ran home.'
Ak:'o-de riɬ:'i b-iž-e q:'-e:ni.
wife-ergative meat neut-eat-converb:neut eat-imperfective
'The wife cooked the meat and ate it.'

Note that in the second example, 'wife' is in the ergative case and appears to be the subject of both the verbs 'cook' and 'eat', but neither verb shows feminine agreement.


Akhvakh has an ergative-absolutive case-marking system. As the following examples (repeated from above) show, the transitive subject has the ergative case, while an intransitive subject has absolutive case. Absolutive case is not overtly marked by a suffix, but the noun phrase with absolutive case controls agreement on the verb:

Jaše q:'eɬ:-a j-et-e j-i:ni
girl home-lative fem-run-converb:fem fem-go:imperfective
'The girl ran home.'
Ak:'o-de riɬ:'i b-iž-e q:'-e:ni.
wife-ergative meat neut-eat-converb:neut eat-imperfective
'The wife cooked the meat and ate it.'

In addition to the ergative and absolutive cases, Akhvakh has eighteen other cases, for a total of twenty cases (Creissels 2010:108-9). The additional cases are

  • dative
  • genitive
  • comitative
  • purposive
  • fifteen spatial cases, arrayed in five series of three.


  1. ^ Akhvakh at Ethnologue (17th ed., 2013)
  2. ^ Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Akhvakh". Glottolog 2.2. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. 
  3. ^ Ethnologue entry for Akhvakh, which also mentions its divergent dialects
  4. ^ The peoples of the Red Book: Akhvakhs
  5. ^ Consonant Systems of the North-East Caucasian Languages on TITUS DIDACTICA


  • Creissels, Denis. 2009. Participles and finiteness: the case of Akhvakh. Linguistic Discovery, vol 7:1.
  • Creissels, Denis. 2010. Specialized converbs and adverbial subordination in Axaxdərə Akhvakh. In Clause linking and clause hierarchy: Syntax and pragmatics, ed. by Isabelle Bril. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. pp. 105–142.
  • Magomedova, Patimat and Abdulaeva, Indira. 2007. Axkaxsko-russkij slovar'. Maxačkala: Dagestanskij Naučnyj Centr Rossiskoj Akademii Nauk.

Further reading

  • Wixman, Ronald. The Peoples of the USSR: An Ethnographic Handbook. (Armonk, New York: M. E. Sharpe, Inc, 1984), p. 8
  • Olson, James S., An Ethnohistorical Dictionary of the Russian and Soviet Empires. (Westport: Greenwood Press, 1994), pp. 25–26
  • Магомедбекова З. М. Ахвахский язык: Грамматический анализ, тексты, словарь. Тб., 1967
  • Богуславская О. Ю. Ахвахский язык // Языки Российской федерации и соседних государств. Т. 1. М., 1997

External links

  • The dictionary definition of Akhvakh at Wiktionary
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