There are a number of Chechen dialects: Akkish, Chantish, Chebarloish, Malkhish, Nokhchmakhkakhoish, Orstkhoish, Sharoish, Shuotoish, Terloish, Itum-Qalish and Himoish. The Kisti
dialect of Georgia is not easily understood by northern Chechens without a few days' practice. One difference in pronunciation is that Kisti aspirated consonants remain aspirated when they are doubled (fortis) or after /s/, but they then lose their aspiration in other dialects.
Dialects of Chechen can be classified by their geographic position within the Chechen Republic. The dialects of the northern lowlands are often referred to as "Oharoy muott
" (literally "lowlander's language") and the dialect of the southern mountain tribes is known as "Laamaroy muott
" (lit. "mountainer's language"). Oharoy muott
forms the basis for much of the standard and literary Chechen language, which can largely be traced to the regional dialects of Urus-Martan and contemporary Grozny. Laamaroy dialects include Chebarloish, Sharoish, Itum-Qalish, Kisti, and Himoish. Until recently, however, Himoy was undocumented and was considered a branch of Sharoish, as many dialects are also used as the basis of intertribal (teip) communication within a larger Chechen "tukkhum
". Laamaroy dialects such as Sharoish, Himoish and Chebarloish are more conservative and retain many features from Proto–Chechen. For instance, many of these dialects lack a number of vowels found in the standard language which were a result of long-distance assimilation
between vowel sounds. Additionally, the Himoy dialect preserves word-final, post-tonic vowels as a schwa [ə], indicating Laamaroy and Ohwaroy dialects were already separate at the time that Oharoy dialects were undergoing assimilation.
Chechens in Jordan
have good relations with the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and are able to practice their own culture and language. Chechen language usage is strong among the Chechen community in Jordan. Jordanian Chechens are bilingual in both Chechen and Arabic, but do not speak Arabic among themselves, only speaking Chechen to other Chechens. Some Jordanians are literate in Chechen as well, having managed to read and write to people visiting Jordan from Chechnya.
Some phonological characteristics of Chechen include its wealth of consonants and sounds similar to Arabic
and the Salishan languages
of North America, as well as a large vowel system resembling those of Swedish
Nearly any consonant may be fortis
because of focus gemination, but only the ones above are found in roots
. The consonants of the t
cell and /l/ are denti-alveolar
; the others of that column are alveolar
. /x/ is a back velar
, but not quite uvular
. The lateral /l/ may be velarized
, unless it's followed by a front vowel. The trill /r/ is usually articulated with a single contact, and therefore sometimes described as a tap
[ɾ]. Except in the literary register
, and even then only for some speakers, the voiced affricates
/dz/, /dʒ/ have merged into the fricatives
/z/, /ʒ/. A voiceless labial fricative /f/ is found only in European loanwords
. /w/ appears both in diphthongs and as a consonant; as a consonant, it has an allophone [v] before front vowels.
The voiceless alveolar trill /r̥/ contrasts with the voiced version /r/, but only occurs in two roots, vworh "seven" and barh "eight".
Unlike most other languages of the Caucasus, Chechen has an extensive inventory of vowel sounds, about 44, putting its range higher than most languages of Europe (most vowels being the product of environmentally-conditioned allophonic variation, which varies by both dialect and method of analysis). Many of the vowels are due to umlaut
, which is highly productive in the standard dialect. None of the spelling systems used so far have distinguished the vowels with complete accuracy.
Some of the diphthongs
have significant allophony
: /ɥø/ = [ɥø], [ɥe], [we]; /yø/ = [yø], [ye]; /uo/ = [woː], [uə].
In closed syllables
, long vowels
become short in most dialects (not Kisti
), but are often still distinct from short vowels (shortened [i], [u], [ɔ] and [ɑ̤] vs. short [ɪ], [ʊ], [o], and [ə], for example), though which remain distinct depends on the dialect.
/æ/, /æː/ and /e/, /eː/ are in complementary distribution
(/æ/ occurs after pharyngealized
consonants, whereas /e/ does not and /æː/—identical with /æ/ for most speakers—occurs in closed syllables, while /eː/ does not) but speakers strongly feel that they are distinct sounds.
appears to be a feature of the consonants, though some analyses treat it as a feature of the vowels. However, Nichols
argues that this does not capture the situation in Chechen well, whereas it is more clearly a feature of the vowel in Ingush
: Chechen [tsʜaʔ] "one", Ingush [tsaʔˤ], which she analyzes as /tsˤaʔ/ and /tsaˤʔ/. Vowels have a delayed murmured
onset after pharyngealized voiced consonants and a noisy aspirated
onset after pharyngealized voiceless consonants. The high vowels /i/, /y/, /u/ are diphthongized, [əi], [əy], [əu], whereas the diphthongs
/je/, /wo/ undergo metathesis
, [ej], [ow].
Chechen permits syllable-initial clusters /st px tx/ and non-initially also allows /x r l/ plus any consonant, and any obstruent plus a uvular of the same manner of articulation
. The only cluster of three consonants permitted is /rst/.
Chechen also presents interesting challenges for lexicography
, as creating new words in the language relies on fixation of whole phrases rather than adding to the end of existing words or combining existing words. It can be difficult to decide which phrases belong in the dictionary, because the language's grammar does not permit the borrowing of new verbal morphemes
to express new concepts.
Instead, the verb dan
(to do) is combined with nominal phrases
to correspond with new concepts imported from other languages.
Chechen nouns are divided into six lexically arbitrary noun classes
Morphologically, noun classes may be indexed by changes in the prefix of the accompanying verb and, in many cases, the adjective too. The first two of these classes apply to human beings, although some grammarians count these as two and some as a single class; the other classes however are much more lexically arbitrary. Chechen noun classes are named according to the prefix that indexes them:
When a noun denotes a human being, it usually falls into v- or y-Classes (1 or 2). Most nouns referring to male entities fall into the v-class, whereas Class 2 contains words related to female entities. Thus lūlaxuo (a neighbour) is class 1, but takes v- if a male neighbour and y- if a female. In a few words, changing the prefixes before the nouns indicates grammatical gender; thus: vоsha (brother) → yisha (sister). Some nouns denoting human beings, however, are not in Classes 1 or 2: bēr (child) for example is in class 3.
Only a few of Chechen's adjectives index noun class agreement, termed classed adjectives
in the literature. Classed adjectives are listed with the -d class prefix in the romanizations below:
- деза/d-eza ‘heavy’
- довха/d-ouxa ‘hot’
- деха/d-iexa ‘long’
- дуькъа/d-yq’a ‘thick’
- дораха/d-oraxa ‘cheap’
- дерстана/d-erstana ‘fat’
- дуьткъа/d-ytq’a thin’
- доца/d-oca ‘short’
- дайн/d-ain ‘light’
- дуьзна/d-yzna ‘full’
- даьржана/d-aerzhana ‘spread’
- доккха/d-oqqa ‘large/big/old’
The locative has still a few further forms for specific positions.
Verbs do not inflect for person (except for the special d- prefix for the 1st and 2nd persons plural), only for number and tense, aspect, mood. A minority of verbs exhibit agreement prefixes, and these agree with the noun in the absolutive case (what in English translation would the subject, for intransitive verbs, or the object, with transitive verbs).
Example of verbal agreement in intransitive clause with a composite verb:
- Со цхьан сахьтехь вогІур ву (so tsHan saHteH voghur vu) = I (male) will come in one hour
- Со цхьан сахьтехь йогІур ю (so tsHan saHteH yoghur yu) = I (female) will come in one hour
Here, both the verb's future stem -oghur (will come) and the auxiliary -u (present tense of 'be') receive the prefix v- for masculine agreement and y- for feminine agreement.
In transitive clauses in compound continuous tenses formed with the auxiliary verb -u 'to be', both agent and object are in absolutive case. In this special case of a biabsolutive construction, the main verb in participial form agrees with the object, while the auxiliary agrees with the agent.
Cо бепиг деш ву (so bepig diesh vu) = I (male) am making bread.
Here, the participle d-iesh
agree with the object, whereas the auxiliary v-u
agrees with the agent.
Verbal tenses are formed by ablaut or suffixes, or both (there are five conjugations in total, below is one). Derived stems can be formed by suffixation as well (causative, etc.):
Chechen-Soviet newspaper Serlo(Light), written in the Chechen Latin script during the era of Korenizatsiya
Chechen language Arabic script alphabet from 1925 ABC book
Chechen Cyrillic on a plate in Grozny
Numerous inscriptions in the Georgian script
are found in mountainous Chechnya, but they are not necessarily in Chechen. Later, the Arabic script
was introduced for Chechen, along with Islam
. The Chechen Arabic alphabet was first reformed during the reign of Imam Shamil
, and then again in 1910, 1920 and 1922.
At the same time, the alphabet devised by Peter von Uslar
, consisting of Cyrillic, Latin, and Georgian letters, was used for academic purposes. In 1911 it too was reformed but never gained popularity among the Chechens themselves.
The Latin alphabet was introduced
in 1925. It was unified with Ingush in 1934, but abolished in 1938.
In 1938–1992, only the Cyrillic alphabet was used for Chechen.
- ^ In the Arabic character گ (equivalent to Cyrillic Кӏ or Latin Kh), the upper stroke is under the main stroke.
- ^ The Arabic character ڔٜ (equivalent to Cyrillic Ц or Latin C) is the Arabic letter rā’ with two dots below.
- ^ a b The glottal stop ⟨ъ⟩ is often omitted when writing.
In 1992, a new Latin Chechen alphabet was introduced, but after the defeat of the secessionist government, the Cyrillic alphabet was restored.
Most Chechen vocabulary is derived from the Nakh branch of the Northeast Caucasian language family, although there are significant minorities of words derived from Arabic (Islamic terms, like "Iman", "Ilma", "Do'a") and a smaller amount from Turkic (like "kuzga", "shish", belonging to the universal Caucasian stratum of borrowings) and most recently Russian (modern terms, like computer – "kamputar", television – "telvideni", televisor – "telvizar", metro – "metro" etc.).
Before the Russian conquest
, most writing in Chechnya consisted of Islamic texts and clan histories, written usually in Arabic but sometimes also in Chechen using Arabic script. The Chechen literary language was created after the October Revolution
, and the Latin script
began to be used instead of Arabic for Chechen writing in the mid-1920s. The Cyrillic script
was adopted in 1938.
The Chechen diaspora in Jordan
, and Syria
is fluent but generally not literate in Chechen except for individuals who have made efforts to learn the writing system, and as the Cyrillic alphabet is not generally known in these countries, most use Latin alphabet.
- ^ a b Chechen at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
- ^ Glottopedia article on Chechen language.
- ^ Constitution, Article 10.1
- ^ Moshe Maʻoz, Gabriel Sheffer (2002). Middle Eastern minorities and diasporas. Sussex Academic Press. p. 255. ISBN 1-902210-84-0. Retrieved May 12, 2011.
- ^ Johanna Nichols, Chechen, The Indigenous languages of the Caucasus (Caravan Books, Delmar NY, 1994) ISBN 0-88206-068-6.
- ^ "Indigenous Language of the Caucasus (Chechen)". Ingush.narod.ru. pp. 10–11. Archived from the original (GIF) on 2016-03-04. Retrieved 2016-01-21.
- ^ Awde, Nicholas and Galäv, Muhammad, Chechen; p. 11. ISBN 0-7818-0446-9
- ^ Awde and Galäv; Chechen; p. 11
- ^ Awde, Nicholas; Galaev, Muhammad (22 May 2014). Chechen-English English-Chechen Dictionary and Phrasebook. Routledge. ISBN 9781136802331 – via Google Books.
- ^ a b Dotton, Zura; Wagner, John Doyle. "A Grammar of Chechen" (PDF). Duke University, Slavic Centers. Retrieved 10 June 2020.
Pieter Muysken (6 February 2008). From Linguistic Areas to Areal Linguistics
. John Benjamins Publishing Company. pp. 29, 46, 47, 49, 52–54, 56, 58, 60, 61, 63, 70–74, 77, 93. ISBN 978-90-272-9136-3
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Last edited on 20 April 2021, at 12:55
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