A Grammar of Ubykh
Rohan S.H. Fenwick
Ubykh is one of the languages comprising the small North-West Caucasian (Abkhazo-Adyghean) language family. It is SOV, ergative, postpositional, head-marking, and massively agglutinative. First attested in around 1650 in the Seyâhatnâme of Evliya Çelebi, it was originally spoken in the region surrounding the modern Russian city of Sochi, then in exile in north-western Turkey after the 19th-century invasion of the northern Caucasus by the Russian Empire and subsequent emigration en masse of the Ubykh nation. Since the death in 1992 of Ubykh’s last competent native speaker, Tevfik Esenç, the language has been functionally extinct.
Ubykh already has considerable linguistic renown for its titanic inventory of consonant phonemes (comprising at least 80 segments in the only well-attested dialect), but it also demonstrates great complexity in morphology and syntax. This sketch takes a heavily descriptive approach, outlining not only Ubykh’s complex phonology and phonetics, but also its inflectional and derivational morphology – including the most comprehensive account to date of Ubykh noun morphology – and syntax, with particular focus on describing attested idiolectic and dialectic variation. The sketch is liberally illustrated with examples drawn mainly from 14 identified speakers, and is based upon both the published corpus and previously unpublished field recordings; many of the example sentences and one of the sample texts are published here for the first time. It is hoped that this sketch, the first Ubykh grammar in English, will stimulate renewed interest in the language and provide a useful reference for Caucasological researchers.
ISBN 9783862880508 (Hardbound). LINCOM Studies in Caucasian Linguistics 19. 225pp. 2011.