Review of HELMA VAN DEN BERG: Dargi folktales

HELMA VAN DEN BERG:Dargi folktales. Oral stories from the Caucasus and an introduction to Dargi grammar. 324 pp. Leiden: Research School CNWS. 2001.

Dargi, also known as Dargwa or Dargin, is a member of the North East Caucasian, or Daghestanian, language-family, in which it is most closely linked to Lak. Both these, along with Avar, Lezgi(an) and Tabasaran (plus Chechen and Ingush from the related North Central Caucasian group) were granted literary status during Soviet times, though Dargi remains sadly unique in having been provided to date with no (bilingual) dictionary. In the last Soviet census of 1989 there were some 365,800 Dargis. The various dialects differ so sharply that three (Kubachi, Megeb and Chirag) are often considered distinct languages. Literary Dargi is based on Akusha, with admixtures from other dialects, especially Urakhi, which allows van den Berg to make the (at first sight) odd assertion: 'There are no native speakers of Standard Dargi'; Russian is the principal means of inter-dialectal communication.

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