Prof. George Hewitt

Introduction & Languages

'Introduction' & 'Languages' in G. Hewitt (ed.) The Abkhazians. A Handbook, 13-22 & 167-175, 1998.

Abkhaz, Circassian and the now extinct Ubykh form the small North  West Caucasian language-family. As  far as one can ascertain, the dialect-divisions for Abkhaz were: Sadz, Ahchypsy, Bzyp, Abzhywa, Ashkhar  and T’ap’anta. Of these only Bzyp and Abzhywa  are today still found in the Republic of Abkhazia, roughly spoken to the north(-west) and south(-east) of Sukhum respectively. The last two in the list are attested in the North Caucasian region of Karachay-Cherkessia, where they are viewed as dialects of the Abaza language. The majority of Abkhazians (including those who speak dialects no longer heard in Abkhazia) today  live in Turkey, where knowledge of the language diminishes with the generations; there are also communities in Syria, Germany,  Holland, Britain, Switzerland, and America. Until at least the troubles of 1989 a small community also lived in the environs of  Batumi in the Georgian province of Ach’ara/Adzharia; in 1970 this numbered  1,361, of whom 982 considered Abkhaz  to be their native tongue (Kilba 1982). A short description of (T’ap’anta) Abaza can be found in Lomtatidze & Klychev (1989), whilst short accounts of (Abzhywa) Abkhaz can be found in Hewitt (1989b 1 ; To appear) and Hewitt & Khiba (1997), whilst a full grammar is available in Hewitt (1979). See also Dumézil (1967), Spruit (1986), and Trigo (1992).

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