Adyghe language

Adyghe (/ˈædɪɡ/ or /ˌɑːdɪˈɡ/;[2] (Adyghe: Адыгабзэ, romanized: Adıgabzə, [aːdəɣaːbza])), also known as West Circassian (Adyghe: кӀахыбзэ), is a Northwest Caucasian language spoken by various tribes of the western subgroup of Circassians, the Adyghe people: Abzekh,[3] Bzhedug,[4] Hatuqwai, Temirgoy, Mamkhegh, Natekuay, Shapsug,[5] Zhaney and Yegeruqwai, each with its own dialect.[6] It is closely related to the Kabardian (East Circassian) language. Circassian nationalists reject the distinction between the two languages and refer to them both as "Circassian".

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Yinal speaking Adyghe.

The language is referred to by its speakers, just like Kabardian, as Adıgabzə or Adyghabze, and alternatively transliterated in English as Adygean, Adygeyan or Adygei. The literary language is based on the Temirgoy dialect. It is one of two official languages of the Republic of Adygea in the Russian Federation, the other being Russian.

There are around 128,000 speakers of Adyghe in Russia, almost all of them native speakers. In total, some 300,000 speak it worldwide. The largest Adyghe-speaking community is in Turkey, spoken by the post Russian–Circassian War (circa 1763–1864) diaspora; in addition to that, the Adyghe language is spoken by the Cherkesogai in Krasnodar Krai.

Adyghe belongs to the family of Northwest Caucasian languages. Kabardian (also known as East Circassian) is a very close relative, treated by some as a dialect of Adyghe or of an overarching Circassian language. Ubykh, Abkhaz and Abaza are somewhat more distantly related to Adyghe.

The language was standardised after the October Revolution in 1917. Since 1936, the Cyrillic script has been used to write Adyghe. Before that, an Arabic-based alphabet was used together with the Latin. In recent years, a new Latin script has been devised[which?] that seeks to include phonemes from all the Adyghe and Kabardian dialects, as well as other North Caucasian languages.

The West Circassian (Adyghe) dialects family tree
  • The Black Sea coast dialects:
    • Shapsug dialect (Adyghe: Шапсыгъабзэ)
      • North Shapsugs, Great Shapsugs, Kuban Shapsugs (Шапсыгъэ шху) dialect
        • Kfar Kama dialect (Кфар Камэм ишапсыгъэбзэ)
      • Temirgoy-Shapsugs, Pseuşko accent (Кӏэмгуе-шапсыгъ)
      • South Shapsugs, Small Shapsugs, Coastal Shapsugs, Black Sea Shapsugs (Шапсыгъэ-цӏыкӏу) dialect
      • Hakuchi dialect (ХьакӀуцубзэ, Къарацхаибзэ)
    • Natukhai dialect (Adyghe: Нэтӏхъуаджэбзэ)
    • Zhaney dialect
  • The Kuban River dialects:
    • Bzhedug dialect (Adyghe: Бжъэдыгъубзэ): spoken by Circassians in the Republic of Adygea and the Biga district of the city of Çanakkale in Turkey
    • Temirgoy (Adyghe: КӀэмыгуябзэ, КӀэмгуибзэ): literary standard of Adyghe. Also spoken by Circassians in the Republic of Adygea
    • Abzakh dialect (Adyghe: Aбдзэхабзэ): spoken by Circassians in the village of Rehaniya in Israel and Circassians in Syria from the Golan Heights
    • Mamkhegh dialect
    • Yegeruqay dialect
    • Hatuqwai dialect
    • Mequash dialect

Adyghe exhibits a large number of consonants: between 50 and 60 consonants in the various Adyghe dialects. All dialects possess a contrast between plain and labialized glottal stops. A very unusual minimal contrast, and possibly unique to the Abzakh dialect of Adyghe, is a three-way contrast between plain, labialized and palatalized glottal stops (although a palatalized glottal stop is also found in Hausa and a labialized one is found in Tlingit). The Black Sea dialect of Adyghe contains a very uncommon sound: a bidental fricative [h̪͆], which corresponds to the voiceless velar fricative [x] found in other varieties of Adyghe.

  1. Consonants that exist only in borrowed words.
  2. Note: Adyghe has many consonants that appear in dialects, and has a complex system of consonant allophony. More information on those can be found at Adyghe phonology.

In contrast to its large consonant inventory, Adyghe has only three phonemic vowels in a vertical vowel system.

Adyghe, like all Northwest Caucasian languages, has a basic agent–object–verb typology, and is characterised by an ergative construction of the sentence.

The official alphabet for Adyghe is based on Cyrillic. The other one is one of the transliterations based on the current Cyrillic alphabet used in diaspora.[7][better source needed]



Labialised consonants

Гу [ɡʷ], Гъу [ʁʷ], Дзу [d͡zʷ], Ку [kʷ], Къу [qʷ], КIу [kʷʼ], ПIу [pʷʼ], ТIу [tʷʼ], Хъу [χʷ], Цу [t͡sʷ], Шъу [ʃʷ], ШIу [ʃʷʼ], Iу [ʔʷ].

In some dialects : Кхъу [q͡χʷ], Ху [xʷ], Чъу [t͡ɕʷ].

Writing system rules

  • The letter ⟨ы⟩ [ə] is not written after a ⟨у⟩ [w], ⟨й⟩ [j] or a labialised consonant. For example, : унэ [wəna] "house" instead of уынэ, илъэс [jəɬas] "year" instead of йылъэс, шӏу [ʃʷʼə] "well" instead of шӏуы, цумпэ [t͡sʷəmpa] "strawberry" instead of цуымпэ.
  • In case the letter ⟨у⟩ is the first letter of a word or when is not related to any other consonant, it is pronounced as [wə] ⟨уы⟩. For example, : унэ [wəna] "house" instead of уынэ, урыс [wərəs] "Russian" instead of уырыс, куу [kʷəwə] "deep" instead of кууы. When it's related to a consonant it becomes a vowel and pronounced as [əw]~[u] ⟨ыу⟩. For example, : чэту [t͡ʃaːtəw] "cat" instead of чэтыу, бзу [bzəw] "bird" instead of бзыу, дуней [dəwnej] "world" instead of дыуней.
  • In case a labialised consonant is followed by a vowel ⟨э⟩ [a], instead of the letter ⟨у⟩ there is a ⟨о⟩. For example, : гъогу [ʁʷaɡʷ] "road" instead of гъуэгу, машӏо [maːʃʷʼa] "fire" instead of машӏуэ, шъо [ʃʷa] "you (plural)" instead of шъуэ.
  • In case a labialised consonant is followed by a vowel ⟨а⟩ [aː] or ⟨и⟩ [i/əj], the labialised consonant letter is written fully. for example : цуакъэ [t͡sʷaːqa] "shoes", гуащэ [ɡʷaɕa] "princes", шъуи [ʃʷəj] "yours (plural).
  • In case the letter ⟨о⟩ is the first letter of a word or when is not related to any other consonant, it is pronounced as [wa] ⟨уэ⟩. For example, о [wa] "you" instead of уэ, орэд [warad] "song" instead of уэрэд, онтэгъу [wantaʁʷ] "heavy" instead of уэнтэгъу, зао [zaːwa] "war" instead of зауэ, ныо [nəwa] "old woman" instead of ныуэ.
  • In case the letter ⟨е⟩ is the first letter of a word or when is not related to any other consonant, it is pronounced as [ja] ⟨йэ⟩. For example, : еӏо [jaʔʷa] "he says" instead of йэӏо, еплъы [japɬə] "he sees" instead of йэплъы, мые [məja] "apple" instead of мыйэ, бае [baːja] "rich" instead of байэ, шъэжъые [ʂaʐəja] "knife" instead of шъэжъыйэ. When it's related to a consonant it becomes a vowel and pronounced as [aj]~[e] ⟨эй⟩. For example, : делэ [dajla] "fool" instead of дэйлэ, къедж [qajd͡ʒ] "read" instead of къэйдж, непэ [najpa] "today" instead of нэйпэ.
  • In case the letter ⟨и⟩ is the first letter of a word or when is not related to any other consonant, it is pronounced as [jə] ⟨йы⟩. For example, : илъэс [jəɬas] "year" instead of йылъэс, иунэ [jəwəna] "his house" instead of йыуын, шӏои [ʃʷʼajə] "dirty" instead of шӏойы, дэи [dajə] "bad" instead of дэйы. When it's related to a consonant it becomes a vowel and pronounced as [əj]~[i] ⟨ый⟩. For example, : сиӏ [səjʔ] "I have" instead of сыйӏ, уиунэ [wəjwəna] "your house" instead of уыйуынэ, къины [qəjnə] "hard" instead of къыйны.


The vowels are written ⟨ы⟩ [ə], ⟨э⟩ [a] and ⟨а⟩ [aː].

Other letters represent diphthongs: ⟨я⟩ represents [jaː], ⟨и⟩ [jə] or [əj], ⟨о⟩ [wa] or [o], ⟨у⟩ represent [u] or [w] or [wə] and ⟨е⟩ represents [aj] or [ja].

Modern Adyghe uses a Cyrillic alphabet with the addition of the letter ⟨Ӏ⟩ (palochka). Previously, Arabic (before 1927) and Latin (1927–38) alphabets had been used.

  • Adyghe Arabic alphabet used before 1927

  • Adyghe Latin alphabet used from 1927–38

  • Adyghe Latin alphabet used from 1927–38

  • Adyghe Latin and Adyghe Cyrillic alphabets compared

  • Adyghe Latin alphabet letters

  • Adyghe Arabic alphabet letters

Words of Adyghe origin

Words taken from other languages

Adyghe is taught outside Circassia in a Jordanian school for the Jordanian Adyghes, Prince Hamza Ibn Al-Hussein Secondary School in the capital Amman. This school, which was established by the Adyghe Jordanians with support from the late king Hussein of Jordan, is one of the first schools for the Adyghe communities outside Circassia. It has around 750 Jordanian Adyghe students, and one of its major goals is to preserve Adyghe among newer Adyghe generations, while also emphasising the traditions of the Adyghes.[8]

Adyghe is spoken by Circassians in Iraq and by Circassians in Israel, where it is taught in schools in their villages. It is also spoken by many Circassians in Syria, although the majority of Syrian Circassians speak Kabardian.

The New Testament and many books of the Old Testament have been published in Adyghe in Cyrillic script by the Institute for Bible Translation in Moscow.

According to the UNESCO 2009 map entitled "UNESCO Map of the World's Languages in Danger", the status of the Adyghe language in 2009, along with all its dialects (Adyghe, Western Circassian tribes) and (Kabard-Cherkess, Eastern Circassian tribes), is classified as vulnerable.[9]

Ублапӏэм ыдэжь Гущыӏэр щыӏагъ. Ар Тхьэм ыдэжь щыӏагъ, а Гущыӏэри Тхьэу арыгъэ. Ублапӏэм щегъэжьагъэу а Гущыӏэр Тхьэм ыдэжь щыӏагъ. Тхьэм а Гущыӏэм зэкӏэри къыригъэгъэхъугъ. Тхьэм къыгъэхъугъэ пстэуми ащыщэу а Гущыӏэм къыримыгъгъэхъугъэ зи щыӏэп. Мыкӏодыжьын щыӏэныгъэ а Гущыӏэм хэлъыгъ, а щыӏэныгъэри цӏыфхэм нэфынэ афэхъугъ. Нэфынэр шӏункӏыгъэм щэнэфы, шӏункӏыгъэри нэфынэм текӏуагъэп.
Wıblap’em ıdez̨ Gus̨ıꜧer s̨ıꜧaǵ. Ar Them ıdez̨ s̨ıꜧaǵ, a Gus̨ıꜧeri Thew arıǵe. Wılap’em s̨yaǵez̨aǵew a Gus̨ıꜧer Them ıdez̨ s̨ıꜧaǵ. Them a Gus̨ıꜧer zeç’eri qıriǵeǵex́uǵ. Them qıǵex́uǵe pstewmi as̨ıs̨ew a Gus̨ıꜧem qırimıǵǵex́uǵe zi s̨ıꜧep. Mıku’edız̨ın s̨ıꜧenıǵe a Gus̨ıꜧem xełıǵ, a s̨ıꜧenıǵeri c’ıfxem nefıne afex́uǵ. Nefıner şu’nç’ıǵem s̨enefı, şu’nç’ıǵeri nefınem tyeku’aǵep.

Translation: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god. This one was in the beginning With God. All things came into existence through him, and apart from him not even one thing came into existence. What has come into existence by means of him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light is shining in the darkness, but the darkness has not overpowered it.


The following texts are excerpts from the official translations of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Adyghe and Kabardian, along with the original declaration in English.

  • Adyge mak', the main Adyghe-language newspaper

  1. ^ "Adyghe". Ethnologue. Retrieved 2018-08-03.
  2. ^ "Adyghe". Oxford English Dictionary (Online ed.). Oxford University Press. (Subscription or participating institution membership required.)
  3. ^ Abzakh dialect (in French)
  4. ^ Bzhedug dialect (in French)
  5. ^ Shapsoug dialect Archived 2010-12-28 at the Wayback Machine (in French)
  6. ^ Aydın, Şamil Emre (2015), Çerkes DiyalektleriISBN 9786056569111
  7. ^ "Адыгабзэ". Retrieved 5 April 2020.
  8. ^ Circassians bid to save ancient language. Al Jazeera. 14 May 2010. Retrieved 29 December 2011.
  9. ^ "UNESCO Map of World's language in Danger" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 3 March 2017. Retrieved 24 June 2009.
  10. ^ [1]
  11. ^ [2]
  12. ^ [3]

  • Grammar of the Circassian Language. Useful site to learn the Adyghe grammar.
  • Louis Loewe (1854). A dictionary of the Circassian language, English-Circassian-Turkish. George Bell.
  • Adyghe alphabet, Omniglot.
  • "Adyghe transliteration schemes" (PDF)..
  • Adyghe sample, Language Museum.
  • Learning Adyghe resource.
  • Learn Circassian, International Centre for Circassian Studies (ICCS).
  • Rferl North Caucasus Radio.
  • Adyghe transliteration tool.
  • Ancient Adyghe Abkhaz–Abaza Ubykh alphabet.
  • How to count in Adyghe language.
  • Adyghe language dictionary.
  • Recordings of Adyghe language