Prof. George Hewitt

Caucasian Languages

Caucasian Languages, 2nd edition of Elsevier Encyclopædia of Language & Linguistics, 2005.

Around 38 languages are deemed to be indigenous to the Caucasus; often difficult demarcation between language and dialect explains the uncertainty. The ancestral homelands are currently divided between:
Russia's north Caucasian provinces (Circassian, Abaza, Ingush, Chechen, Avaro-Ando-Tsezic, Lako-Dargic, northern Lezgic) de facto independent Abkhazia (Abkhaz, Mingrelian, Svan, Georgian, Laz) Georgia (Georgian, Mingrelian, Svan, Laz, Bats, Chechen, Avar, Udi) Azerbaijan (Lezgi, Budukh, Kryts’, Khinalugh, Rutul, Ts’akhur, Avar, Udi) Turkey (Laz, Georgian).

Diaspora-communities of north (especially north-west) Caucasians can be found across former Ottoman territories, particularly Turkey, where the majority Circassian and Abkhazian populations reside and where the term 'Cherkess' often indiscriminately applies to any north Caucasian. Circassians are found in Syria, Israel and Jordan, home also to a significant Chechen population. Speaker-numbers range from 500 (Hinukh) to 3-4 million (Georgian). Many of the languages are endangered.

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