North West Caucasian, by George Hewitt

Lingua 115 (2005) 91–145

: Abaza; Abkhaz; Adyghe; Antipassive; Circassian; Consonant inventory; Definiteness; Stress; Ubykh; Hattic; Inalienable possession; Kabardian; Labio-dentalisation; Language contact; Language endangerment; Locational preverbs; Orientational preverbs; Pan-North Caucasian hypothesis; Pharyngalisation; Polysynthetic verval complex; Relative-raising; Roman alphabet; Vowel systems; Vigesimal

1. Introduction

1.1. The small N[orth] W[est] C[aucasian] family takes its name from the geographical region, viz. NW (Trans) Caucasia, in which the speakers of the relevant languages lived compactly until 1864. The family consists of three branches: Abkh[az]-Aba[za], Circ[assian], Ub[ykh]. The Abkhazian homeland is roughly the triangle formed by the Black Sea, the main Caucasus range and the lower reaches of the R. Ingur, which forms the traditional border with the Kartvelian speaking areas of Mingrelia and Svaneti(a)—in the 14th century a migration occurred across the Klukhor Pass giving rise to the population of T’ap’[anta] Abaza speakers along the Greater and Lesser Laba, Urup, and Greater and Lesser Zelenchuk rivers, a further wave of migrants in the 17th to 18th centuries producing there today’s Ashkhar(ywa) Abaza speakers; the hinterland around Sochi was home to the Ubykhs; to their north along the coast and in the NW Caucasian foothills lived the various Circassian tribes, who constitute(d) the largest of the three groups. When the Great Caucasian War came to an end in 1864 with the sadly inevitable surrender of the NW Caucasian alliance at Krasnaja Poljana, Russia finally gained control of the whole Caucasus, and, rather than be resettled away from their mountain-strongholds, all the Ubykhs together with the majority Abkhaz-Abaza and Circassian populations preferred exile in Ottoman lands. Their descendants can be found (predominantly in Turkey) from the southern Balkans to Israel, Jordan, Syria, and Iraq.

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