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Description

Abkhaz

Abkhaz has more than 100.000 speakers and is chiefly spoken in the area of the Abkhaz Autonomous Republic in western Georgia. Pockets of Abkhaz speaking communities exist in southwestern Georgia, Ukraine, Turkey, and Syria.

Abkhaz belongs to the Abkhaz-Abazin subgroup of the Northwest Caucasian language family.

Main dialects of Abkhaz are Abzhui and Bzyb. Some linguists consider Abaza a divergent dialect of Abkhaz.

Since 1928 Abkhaz was written in Latin script. In 1938 a Georgian based alphabet was adopted. In 1954 a Cyrillic based writing system was introduced, which is still in use today.

The sound system is characterised by a large consonantal inventory. The Bzyb dialect of Abkhaz altogether has about 67 consonant phonemes, the literary language has at least 58. The basic set-up of the system is the phonological opposition between voiced vs. voiceless aspirates vs. voiceless ejective obstruents. The widespread use of secondary articulatory features multiplies the number of consonant phonemes. There are only two vowel phonemes: an open /a/ and a closed central vowel /ə/. The Abkhaz orthography uses several non-phonemic vowel-letters in addition to these two phonemes.

Abkhaz has virtually no case system, only an 'adverbial case' is formally marked.

The Abkhaz 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 marked 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.

Abkhaz is an ergative language: intransitive subjects and direct objects are marked 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. Abkhaz has postpositions rather than prepositions.
Possession is marked by prefixed pronouns on the possessed noun. The prefix pronouns agree with the possessor in person.

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