Northeast Caucasian Languages
The Northeast Caucasian or Nakho-Dagestanian language family comprises several subgroups: the Nakh subgroup, the Lezgian subgroup, the Lak-Dargwa subgroup, the Avaro-Andi-Dido subgroup, and Khinalugh, which is isolated within the language family. The extinct Albanian language might be an ancestor of present-day Udi in the Lezgian subgroup. Altogether there are 29 Northeast Caucasian languages spoken today.
The Northeast Caucasian languages are spoken by less than 3.000.000 people. The majority of the speakers live in southwestern Russia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, or in exiled communities throughout western and central Asia.
The earliest attested writtings of a Northeast Caucasian language are the Albanian inscriptions, that were produced from the 7th to the 9th century AD. These inscriptions use a special 'Albanian script'. Various present-day Northeast Caucasian languages in the Russian empire and later in the Soviet Union became written languages in the beginning of the 20th century. First an Arabic based alphabet was employed. In 1928 it was replaced by a latinised writing system. In the late thirties the Cyrillic script was adopted and is still in use today. Seven members of this language family have attained the status of written languages: Chechen, Ingush, Avar, Lak, Dargwa, Lezgi, and Tabassaran.
In general the Northeast Caucasian languages have a rich consonantal inventory and a relatively poor vocalism. In some groups, however, - especially in the Nakh and Avaro-Andi-Dido groups - the vowel system is more elaborate. Chechen has 33 vowel phonemes, Ingush 28, Hunzib 24, and Bezhta 18. On an average Northeast Caucasian languages have 10-15 vowel phonemes. Some languages have oppositions of long vs. short vowels, nasalised vs. non-nasalised vowels, pharyngealised vs. non-pharyngealised vowels, and labialised vs. non-labialised vowels.
The Northeast Caucasian Languages are characterised by a complex morphological system. The noun is inflected for the categories number, case and in most languages for noun class. The noun morphology is prevalently agglutinative with some fusional properties: Ablaut (i.e. the substitution of the stem vowel) is sometimes used to express plural or oblique case.
In the bulk of the Northeast Caucasian languages the verbs agree with the class of the noun. Only the Udi verb has personal agreement. The verb in Lezgi and in Agul has neither personal nor class agreement.
Word order in the Northeast Caucasian languages is relatively free. However, there exists a tendency for SOV.