Adyghe Language
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Adyghe Language
West Circassian
Native toAdygea
Krasnodar Krai
Native speakers
575,900 (2015)[1]
Early forms
Official status
Official language in
Recognised minority
language in
Language codes
Adyghe in Adygea (2002).png
Distribution of the Adyghe language in Adygea, Russia (2002)
Mother language in 1965 Turkey census - Circassian.png
Total percentage of the population speaking Adyghe or Kabardian language in Turkey (1965)
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters. For an introductory guide on IPA symbols, see Help:IPA.
Yinal speaking Adyghe.

Adyghe ( or ;[2] (Adyghe: , romanized: Ad?gabz?, [a:da:bza])), also known as West Circassian (Adyghe: ), is a Northwest Caucasian language spoken by various tribes of the western subgroup of Circassians, the Adyghe people: Abzekh,[3] Bzhedug,[4] Hatuqwai, Temirgoy, Mamkhegh, Natekuay, Shapsug,[5] Zhaney and Yegeruqwai, each with its own dialect.[6] It is closely related to the Kabardian (East Circassian) language. Circassian nationalists reject the distinction between the two languages and refer to them both as "Circassian".

The language is referred to by its speakers, just like Kabardian, as Ad?gabz? or Adyghabze, and alternatively transliterated in English as Adygean, Adygeyan or Adygei. The literary language is based on the Temirgoy dialect. It is one of two official languages of the Republic of Adygea in the Russian Federation, the other being Russian.

There are around 128,000 speakers of Adyghe in Russia, almost all of them native speakers. In total, some 300,000 speak it worldwide. The largest Adyghe-speaking community is in Turkey, spoken by the post Russian-Circassian War (circa 1763-1864) diaspora; in addition to that, the Adyghe language is spoken by the Cherkesogai in Krasnodar Krai.

Adyghe belongs to the family of Northwest Caucasian languages. Kabardian (also known as East Circassian) is a very close relative, treated by some as a dialect of Adyghe or of an overarching Circassian language. Ubykh, Abkhaz and Abaza are somewhat more distantly related to Adyghe.

The language was standardised after the October Revolution in 1917. Since 1936, the Cyrillic script has been used to write Adyghe. Before that, an Arabic-based alphabet was used together with the Latin. In recent years, a new Latin script has been devised[which?] that seeks to include phonemes from all the Adyghe and Kabardian dialects, as well as other North Caucasian languages.


The West Circassian (Adyghe) dialects family tree


Adyghe exhibits a large number of consonants: between 50 and 60 consonants in the various Adyghe dialects. All dialects possess a contrast between plain and labialized glottal stops. A very unusual minimal contrast, and possibly unique to the Abzakh dialect of Adyghe, is a three-way contrast between plain, labialized and palatalized glottal stops (although a palatalized glottal stop is also found in Hausa and a labialized one is found in Tlingit). The Black Sea dialect of Adyghe contains a very uncommon sound: a bidental fricative [h], which corresponds to the voiceless velar fricative [x] found in other varieties of Adyghe.

Labial Alveolar Post-alveolar Alveolo-
Retroflex Velar Uvular Pharyngeal Glottal
plain lab. plain lab. lat. plain lab. plain lab. plain lab. plain lab.
Nasal m n
Plosive voiceless p t k1 k? q q? ?
voiced b d ?1
ejective p' p?' t' t?' k' k?'
Affricate voiceless t?s t?s? t t
voiced d?z d?z? d
ejective t?s' t' t'
Fricative voiceless f s ? ? ? ? x ? ?
voiced v1 z ? ? ? ? ? ?
ejective ?' ?' '
Approximant j w
Trill r
  1. Consonants that exist only in borrowed words.
  2. Note: Adyghe has many consonants that appear in dialects, and has a complex system of consonant allophony. More information on those can be found at Adyghe phonology.

In contrast to its large consonant inventory, Adyghe has only three phonemic vowels in a vertical vowel system.


Adyghe, like all Northwest Caucasian languages, has a basic agent-object-verb typology, and is characterised by an ergative construction of the sentence.


The official alphabet for Adyghe is based on Cyrillic. The other one is one of the transliterations based on the current Cyrillic alphabet used in diaspora.[7][better source needed]


? ?
? ?
? ?
? ?

? ?

? ?
? ?
? ?

? ?
? ?
? ?
? ?

? ?

? ?
? ?
? ?
? ?

? ?
? ?
? ?

? ?
? ?
? ?

? ?

? ?
?I ?I

? ?


? ?
? ?
? ?
? ?
? ?
? ?
? ?


A a
B b
V v
G g
Gu gu
? ?
?u ?u
D d
C c/Dj dj
Dz dz
Dzu dzu
É é
Yo yo
? ?
? ?
?u ?u
J j
Z z
Y? yi/? i
K k
Ku ku
Q q
Qu qu
K' k'
K'u k'u
L l
Tl tl
L' l'
M m
N n
O o
P p
P' p'
P'u p'u
R r
S s
T t
T' t'
T'u t'u
W w/U u
F f
X x
Xh xh
Xhu xhu
H h
Ts ts
Çü çü
Ts' ts'
Ç ç
Ç' ç'
Çh çh
? ?

u u

u u
? ?
I ?
? ?
Yu yu
Ya ya


Cyrillic Latin IPA Pronunciation Words
? ? ?
? (goat), (they count)
? ? b
(fox), (a lot)
? ? v
? ? ?
? (powder), (tree)
(heart), (word)
? / ?
(spring), (summer)
?° / ?°
(neighbor), ? (mirror)
? ? d
(bitter), ? (pretty)
? (shirt), ? (bridge)
? (bag), ? (to throw)
? (rick), ? (lower rick)
? ? e
? (to catch), (to look at)
(? ?) ë
(Christmas tree)
? ? ?
(mouth), (beard)
(old), (slow)
? (to melt), ? (star)
? (wind), ? (shadow)
? ? z
(straight), (steep)
? ? i
(to enter), (exit)
? ? j
(iodine), (rich)
? ? k
(button), (team, command)
(cradle), (cart)
(city), ? (to come)
(ship), (mountain)
(winter), (long), (tail), ? (calf)
? (to walk), ? (strong)
? ? l
(painted), (meat)
(step), (lame)
(man), (bravery)
? ? m
? (moon), ? (sheep)
? ? n
(eye), (mother)
? ? o
(that), ? (bin), ? (you), (snow), ? (rain)
? ? p
(nose), ? (dust)
(bed), ? (pillow)
? (to rise, to adopt), ? (pupil, apprentice)
? ? r
(to pour into), (to tell him)
? ? s
(i, me), (sabre)
? ? t
(grandfather), (we)
(ram), ? (dirt)
(old), (pair)
? ? w
(straighten), ? (tamp, to make smooth)
? ? f
(white), ? (to want)
? ? x
(sea, six), ? (council)
(to move), (to sow)
? (to happen), (circle)
(dog), (oven)
? ? c
? (rib), (hair on body)
(shoe), (ox)
(wet), (person)
? ?
? (cheerful), ? (chicken)
(area), (debt)
(oak), (cold)
? ? ?
(brother), (thunder)
(hundred), (soft)
(envious), (come - to plural)
? (to do), ? (knowledge)
(black), (greetings)
? ?
? (yard), ? (sour cream)
(? ?) " ?
? ? ?
? (and also), (one)
(? ?) ' ?
? ? ?
(floor), (grandmother)
(? ?) ju
? (Joseph), ? (Jonah)
? ? j?
(theirs), ? (evil)
? ?
(hand), (like)
(to meet), (to be near sitting), (thread)

Labialised consonants

[], [], [d?z?], [k?], [q?], ?I? [k?'], ?I? [p?'], ?I? [t?'], [], [t?s?], [], ?I? ['], I? [].

In some dialects  [q], [x?], [t].

Writing system rules

  • The letter ⟨?⟩ [?] is not written after a ⟨?⟩ [w], ⟨?⟩ [j] or a labialised consonant. For example, : [w?na] "house" instead of ?, [jas] "year" instead of , ['?] "well" instead of ?, [t?smpa] "strawberry" instead of .
  • In case the letter ⟨?⟩ is the first letter of a word or when is not related to any other consonant, it is pronounced as [w?] ⟨⟩. For example, : [w?na] "house" instead of ?, ? [w?r?s] "Russian" instead of , [kw?] "deep" instead of ?. When it's related to a consonant it becomes a vowel and pronounced as [?w]~[u] ⟨⟩. For example,  [ta:t?w] "cat" instead of , [bz?w] "bird" instead of ?, [d?wnej] "world" instead of .
  • In case a labialised consonant is followed by a vowel ⟨?⟩ [a], instead of the letter ⟨?⟩ there is a ⟨?⟩. For example, ? [a] "road" instead of , [ma:'a] "fire" instead of , [a] "you (plural)" instead of ?.
  • In case a labialised consonant is followed by a vowel ⟨?⟩ [a:] or ⟨?⟩ [i/?j], the labialised consonant letter is written fully. for example : [t?s?a:qa] "shoes", [a?a] "princes", ? [j] "yours (plural).
  • In case the letter ⟨?⟩ is the first letter of a word or when is not related to any other consonant, it is pronounced as [wa] ⟨⟩. For example, ? [wa] "you" instead of , ? [warad] "song" instead of , ? [wanta] "heavy" instead of , [za:wa] "war" instead of ?, [n?wa] "old woman" instead of ?.
  • In case the letter ⟨?⟩ is the first letter of a word or when is not related to any other consonant, it is pronounced as [ja] ⟨⟩. For example, : [jaa] "he says" instead of ?, [jap] "he sees" instead of , [m?ja] "apple" instead of ?, [ba:ja] "rich" instead of ?, ? [?aja] "knife" instead of . When it's related to a consonant it becomes a vowel and pronounced as [aj]~[e] ⟨⟩. For example,  [dajla] "fool" instead of , [qajd] "read" instead of , ? [najpa] "today" instead of .
  • In case the letter ⟨?⟩ is the first letter of a word or when is not related to any other consonant, it is pronounced as [j?] ⟨⟩. For example, ? [jas] "year" instead of , ? [j?w?na] "his house" instead of , ? ['aj?] "dirty" instead of , [daj?] "bad" instead of ?. When it's related to a consonant it becomes a vowel and pronounced as [?j]~[i] ⟨⟩. For example, : [s?j?] "I have" instead of ?, [w?jw?na] "your house" instead of ?, [q?jn?] "hard" instead of .


The vowels are written ⟨?⟩ [?], ⟨?⟩ [a] and ⟨?⟩ [a:].

Other letters represent diphthongs: ⟨?⟩ represents [ja:], ⟨?⟩ [j?] or [?j], ⟨?⟩ [wa] or [o], ⟨?⟩ represent [u] or [w] or [w?] and ⟨?⟩ represents [aj] or [ja].

Writing systems

Modern Adyghe uses a Cyrillic alphabet with the addition of the letter ⟨?⟩ (palochka). Previously, Arabic (before 1927) and Latin (1927-38) alphabets had been used.

Examples of literary Adyghe

Words of Adyghe origin

Adyghe Romanisation English
S? Me
? Girl
?I T'?s Sit
? T?dj Stand
T?w wut? How are you?
I? S'u I am fine
? ?üa?o Star
T Sun
? Maz? Moon
Çüaq? Shoe
üqébla? Welcome
? Tl?xhuamb? Toe
? Haml?w Worm
?II? K'?nk'? Egg
I Hamp'?raü Butterfly
I M'ouk Train
II? Pxh?t'?uk' Chair
I? Thâk'o Prophet
Qamz?ug Ant
Ps?ç?t Duck

Words taken from other languages

Adyghe Romanisation English Origin
? Réspublik? Republic Latin (Res + publicus = Public concern)
Kwomputér Computer Latin (Com + putare = Settle together)
? Mâtématik? Maths Ancient Greek (Máth?ma = Study)
Spwort Sport French (Desport = Entertainment)
B?raq Flag Turkic (Batrak = Spear, stick)
I Qart'of Potato German (Kartoffel = Potato)
Tomat Tomato Nahuan (Tomatl = Tomato)
Wor?ndj Orange Persian (Narang = Orange)
N?maz Salah (Islamic praying) Persian (Nam?z = Salah)
Qal? City Akkadian (Kalakku = Fort)
Dunay Earth Arabic (Duny = Earth)

Adyghe outside Circassia

Adyghe is taught outside Circassia in a Jordanian school for the Jordanian Adyghes, Prince Hamza Ibn Al-Hussein Secondary School in the capital Amman. This school, which was established by the Adyghe Jordanians with support from the late king Hussein of Jordan, is one of the first schools for the Adyghe communities outside Circassia. It has around 750 Jordanian Adyghe students, and one of its major goals is to preserve Adyghe among newer Adyghe generations, while also emphasising the traditions of the Adyghes.[8]

Adyghe is spoken by Circassians in Iraq and by Circassians in Israel, where it is taught in schools in their villages. It is also spoken by many Circassians in Syria, although the majority of Syrian Circassians speak Kabardian.


The New Testament and many books of the Old Testament have been published in Adyghe in Cyrillic script by the Institute for Bible Translation in Moscow.

UNESCO 2009 map of endangered languages

According to the UNESCO 2009 map entitled "UNESCO Map of the World's Languages in Danger", the status of the Adyghe language in 2009, along with all its dialects (Adyghe, Western Circassian tribes) and (Kabard-Cherkess, Eastern Circassian tribes), is classified as vulnerable.[9]

Sample text

? . , ? . ? ? . ? ? ? ?. ? ? ? . ? ? ?, ? ? . ? , ? ?.
W?blap'em ?dez? Guser sa?. Ar Them ?dez? sa?, a Guseri Thew are. W?lap'em s?ya?ez?a?ew a Guser Them ?dez? sa?. Them a Guser zeç'eri q?ri?e?ex?u?. Them qex?u?e pstewmi ass?ew a Gusem q?rimex?u?e zi sep. M?ku'ed?zn sene a Gusem xe, a seneri c'?fxem nef?ne afex?u?. Nef?ner ?u'nç'em s?enef?, ?u'nç'eri nef?nem tyeku'a?ep.

Translation: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god. This one was in the beginning With God. All things came into existence through him, and apart from him not even one thing came into existence. What has come into existence by means of him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light is shining in the darkness, but the darkness has not overpowered it.


The following texts are excerpts from the official translations of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Adyghe and Kabardian, along with the original declaration in English.

English[10] Adyghe[11] Kabardian[12]
Universal Declaration of Human Rights ?l ?
C'?f Fe?ua?exem Afe?ehe Dúneyapstew Jepsa?
?l ?
C'?xu Xuefas?exem Tyewxua Dúnyaýpsew Jepsa?e
Article 1 1-? ?
1-nere p?çu
1-ne p?çue
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood. ?I ? ?, ? I? ? ?. ? II ?I?, ? .
C'?f pstewri ?hefitew, yatenere yafe?ua?exemreç'e zefedew qalf?. Aq?lre zexe?'?ç' ?uazere ya?e, z?r z?m zeque? zexa?'e azfagu de?ew zef?st?nxe faye.
?I , ? ?I? ? ?I? . ? II ?I, ? ? ?.
C'?xu psweri s?hexuitu, ya s?'?h?mre ya xuefas?exemreç'e zexuedew qa?xur. Aq?lre zexes?'?ç' ?uazere ya?es?i, z?r z?m zeque? zexas?'e yaqu de?u zexust?n xuyeýxes?.

See also


  1. ^ "Adyghe". Ethnologue. Retrieved .
  2. ^ "Adyghe". Oxford English Dictionary (Online ed.). Oxford University Press. (Subscription or participating institution membership required.)
  3. ^ Abzakh dialect (in French)
  4. ^ Bzhedug dialect (in French)
  5. ^ Shapsoug dialect Archived 2010-12-28 at the Wayback Machine (in French)
  6. ^ Ayd?n, ?amil Emre (2015), Çerkes Diyalektleri ISBN 9786056569111
  7. ^ "". Retrieved 2020.
  8. ^ Circassians bid to save ancient language. Al Jazeera. 14 May 2010. Retrieved 2011.
  9. ^ "UNESCO Map of World's language in Danger" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 3 March 2017. Retrieved 2009.
  10. ^ [1]
  11. ^ [2]
  12. ^ [3]

External links

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



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