A Comprehensive Self-Tutor
SOAS, University of London
Abkhaz belongs to the small North West Caucasian language-family, whose other members are the various Circassian dialects and Ubykh, extinct since 1992. It is spoken by (a) upto 100,000 Abkhazians either in the historical homeland of the Republic of Abkhazia, located in north-west Transcaucasia, or in Russia, and (b) an indeterminate number of members of the diaspora-communities, which have been centred on Turkey since the great exodus from Abkhazia following Russia's conquest of the North Caucasus in 1864; ethnic Abkhazians in Turkey number between 300,000 and half a million, and smaller communities are found elsewhere in the Near East (plus Europe and America). Each member of the language-family is characterised by (i) large consonantal phoneme-inventories coupled with minimal vowel-systems, (ii) morphs often consisting of just a consonant(-complex) ± vowel, and (iii) extreme polysynthetic verbal complexes, all of which combine to present the learner/speaker with considerable challenges.
Serious attempts to provide Abkhaz (and Circassian) with scripts only began in Tsarist Russia in the late 19th century, by which date all speakers of Ubykh had migrated to the Ottoman Empire (settling in regions of today’s Turkey). Since that time, a number of orthographies have been used for Abkhaz. The current, Cyrillic-based standard in Abkhazia was devised (by a committee!) after Stalin died (1953), though a slight spelling reform was introduced in the late 1990s to regularise the marking of the feature of labialisation. The most divergent Abkhaz dialect, Abaza, is spoken in the actual North West Caucasus (Russia), where it has its own alphabet. Whilst grammatical sketches and grammars of Abkhaz designed for linguists exist in a variety of languages (including my own grammar ‘Lingua Descriptive Studies 2: Abkhaz’, originally published in 1979, though it was most recently reprinted), this is the first attempt to produce a comprehensive, graded self-tutor. It is based on the literary dialect, Abzhywa, which is one of only two dialects remaining in the ancestral territory (the other being Bzyp). The work consists of: Introduction, 19 explanatory chapters with exercises plus one chapter of texts, an Appendix dealing with mathematical terms, Key to the exercises, and a grammatical Summary.
ISBN 9783895866708. LINCOM Student Grammars 03. 332pp. 2010. Students' discounts available! Please ask.