Abaza has more than 40.000 speakers and is mainly spoken in the Karachay-Cherkess Republic and in the Kasnodarsk Administrative Territory (Kray) in southern Russia. Several thousand speakers live in Turkey.
Abaza belongs to the Abkhaz-Abazin subgroup of the Northwest Caucasian language family.
Main dialects of Abaza are Tapanta and Ashkaraua. Some linguists regard Abzaza as a divergent dialect of Abkhaz.
Since 1923 Abaza was written in Latin script. In 1938 the central government ruled the adoption of the Cyrillic alphabet.
The sound system is characterised by a large consonant inventory. Abaza has altogether about 65 consonant phonemes. The system is set up by phonological oppositions between voiced vs. voiceless aspirate vs. voiceless ejective obstruents. The widespread use of secondary articulatory features multiplies the number of consonantal phonemes. There are only two vowel phonemes: an open /a/ and a closed central vowel /ə/. The Abaza orthography uses several non-phonemic vowel-letters in addition to these two phonemes.
Abaza has virtually no case system, only an 'adverbial case' is formally marked.
The Abaza verb is polysynthetic and has an intricate morphology. The verb is the absolute center of the sentence and mirrors the syntactic structure of the sentence by means of incorporation. The conjugation is characterised by a split into transitive ('agentive') and intransitive ('factitive') verbs. The grammatical categories person, number, tense, mood, version, potentiality, comitativity, sociativity, reciprocity, and inferenciality are expressed on the verb. Agreement is marked by cross-referencing pronominal affixes. The verb can agree with subject, direct object, and indirect object at the same time.
Abaza is an ergative language: intransitive subjects and direct objects are marked in the same way on the verb, transitive subjects are treated differently.
Word-order is predominantly SOV, the possessor precedes the possessed, the adjective usually follows the head noun, relative sentences precede the head, the language has postpositions rather than prepositions.