An Abkhaz Miscellany (with an Old Georgian Excursion)

Paper prepared for delivery at the Caucasian Linguistics Conference
Istanbul, 29 Nov - 1 Dec 2012

When I began my weekly lessons on the structure of Abkhaz back in late 1975 in Tbilisi, where I was spending the academic year learning Georgian, my impression was that, in contrast to Georgian with its multiplicity of morphological variations, Abkhaz presented a picture of satisfying regularity, something that is always encouraging for the learner. The perverse thought occurred that, given the complexity of the language's basic structure (especially that of the verbal complex, in which the syntax of the entire clause is essentially encapsulated, not to mention the tongue-twisting phonetics that demands such lingual dexterity on the part of speakers), regularity of overall patterning might be necessary for the language to function. However, in becoming better acquainted with the language, I soon realised that Abkhaz is no exception in its ability to frustrate one's expectations. And so, I have decided to share with you an array of examples which have surprised me as I have been garnering data for what I hope in the fulness of time will be a comprehensive grammar of the language. I shall end with an excursion into Old Georgian, where the idea for the proposal which I shall advance there arose as I was pondering one such case of unexpected syntactic arrangement in Abkhaz.

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