Adyghe language

Adyghe (/ˈædɪɡ/ or /ˌɑːdɪˈɡ/;[2] Adyghe: Адыгабзэ, romanized: Adygabzə, [aːdɘɣaːbzɜ]), also known as West Circassian (Adyghe: кӀахыбзэ, romanized: khaxybzə), is a Northwest Caucasian language spoken by the western subgroups of Circassians.[3] It is spoken mainly in Russia, as well as in Turkey, Jordan, Syria and Israel, where they settled after the Circassian genocide. It is closely related to the Kabardian (East Circassian) language, though some reject the distinction between the two languages in favor of both being dialects of a unitary Circassian language.

West Circassian
Native toAdygea
Krasnodar Krai
Native speakers
300,000 (2015)[1]
Early forms
Official status
Official language in
  • Adygea
Recognised minority
language in
Language codes
ISO 639-2ady
ISO 639-3ady
Adyghe in Adygea (2002).png
Distribution of the Adyghe language in Adygea, Russia (2002)
Mother language in 1965 Turkey census - Circassian.png
Total percentage of the population speaking Adyghe or Kabardian language in Turkey (1965)
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters. For an introductory guide on IPA symbols, see Help:IPA.
Yinal speaking Adyghe.

The literary language is based on the Temirgoy dialect. Adyghe and Russian are the two official languages of the Republic of Adygea in the Russian Federation.

There are around 128,000 speakers of Adyghe in Russia, almost all of them native speakers. In total, some 300,000 speak it worldwide. The largest Adyghe-speaking community is in Turkey, spoken by the post Russian–Circassian War (c. 1763–1864) diaspora; in addition to that, the Adyghe language is spoken by the Cherkesogai in Krasnodar Krai.

Adyghe belongs to the family of Northwest Caucasian languages. Kabardian (also known as East Circassian) is a very close relative, treated by some as a dialect of Adyghe or of an overarching Circassian language. Ubykh, Abkhaz and Abaza are somewhat more distantly related to Adyghe.


The West Circassian (Adyghe) dialects family tree


Adyghe exhibits a large number of consonants: between 50 and 60 consonants in the various Adyghe dialects. All dialects possess a contrast between plain and labialized glottal stops. A very unusual minimal contrast, and possibly unique to the Abzakh dialect of Adyghe, is a three-way contrast between plain, labialized and palatalized glottal stops (although a palatalized glottal stop is also found in Hausa and a labialized one is found in Tlingit). The Black Sea dialect of Adyghe contains a very uncommon sound: a bidental fricative [h̪͆], which corresponds to the voiceless velar fricative [x] found in other varieties of Adyghe.

Labial Alveolar Post-alveolar Alveolo-
Retroflex Velar Uvular Pharyngeal Glottal
plain lab. plain lab. lat. plain lab. plain lab. plain lab. plain lab.
Nasal m n
Plosive voiceless p t k1 q ʔ ʔʷ
voiced b d ɡ1 ɡʷ
ejective pʷʼ tʷʼ kʷʼ
Affricate voiceless t͡s t͡sʷ t͡ʃ t͡ʂ
voiced d͡z d͡zʷ d͡ʒ
ejective t͡sʼ t͡ʃʼ t͡ʂʼ
Fricative voiceless f s ɬ ʃ ʃʷ ɕ ʂ x χ χʷ ħ
voiced v1 z ɮ ʒ ʒʷ ʑ ʐ ɣ ʁ ʁʷ
ejective ɬʼ ʃʼ ʃʷʼ
Approximant j w
Trill r
  1. Consonants that exist only in borrowed words.
  2. Note: Adyghe has many consonants that appear in dialects, and has a complex system of consonant allophony. More information on those can be found at Adyghe phonology.

In contrast to its large consonant inventory, Adyghe has only three phonemic vowels in a vertical vowel system.[4]

Close-mid ə
Open-mid ɐ


Adyghe, like all Northwest Caucasian languages, has a basic agent–object–verb typology, and is characterised by an ergative construction of the sentence.


The official alphabet for Adyghe is the Cyrillic script, which has been used since 1936. Before that, the Arabic script was used. In recent years, a new Latin script has been devised[by whom?] that seeks to include phonemes from all the Adyghe and Kabardian dialects, as well as other North Caucasian languages.[citation needed]

Cyrillic Transliteration[5] IPA Pronunciation Examples
А а A a [] ачъэ (goat), апчъы (they count)
Б б B b [b] баджэ (fox), бэ (a lot)
В в V v [v]
Г г G g [ɣ] гыны (powder), чъыгы (tree)
Гу гу Gu gu [ɡʷ] гу (heart), гущыӀ (word)
Гъ гъ Ġ ġ [ʁ] гъатхэ (spring), гъэмаф (summer)
Гъу гъу Ġu ġu [ʁʷ] гъунэгъу (neighbour), гъунджэ (mirror)
Д д D d [d] дыджы (bitter), дахэ (pretty)
Дж дж Dž dž [d͡ʒ] джан (shirt), лъэмыдж (bridge)
Дз дз Dz dz [d͡z] дзыо (bag), дзын (to throw)
Дзу дзу Dzu dzu [d͡zʷ] хьандзу (rick), хьандзуачӀ (lower rick)
Е е E e [ɜj] [] ешэн (to catch), еплъын (to look at)
(Ё ё)[a] (Jo jo) [jo] ёлк (Christmas tree)
Ж ж Ž ž [ʒ] жэ (mouth), жакӀэ (beard)
Жъ жъ Ẑ ẑ [ʐ] жъы (old), жъажъэ (slow)
Жъу жъу Ẑu ẑu [ʒʷ] жъун (to melt), жъуагъо (star)
Жь жь Ź ź [ʑ] жьыбгъэ (wind), жьао (shadow)
З з Z z [z] занкӀэ (straight), зандэ (steep)
И и I i [ɘj] [] ихьан (to enter), икӏыпӏ (exit)
Й й J j [j] йод (iodine), бай (rich)
К к[a] K k [k] кнопк (button), команд (team, command)
Ку ку Ku ku [] кушъэ (cradle), ку (cart)
Къ къ Q q [q] къалэ (city), къэкӀон (to come)
Къу къу Qu qu [] къухьэ (ship), къушъхьэ (mountain)
КӀ кӀ Kh kh [] [tʃʼ] кӀымаф (winter), кӀыхьэ (long), кӀэ (tail), шкӀэ (calf)
КӀу кӀу Khu khu [kʷʼ] кӀон (to walk), кӀуакӀэ (strong)
Л л L l [l] лагъэ (painted), лы (meat)
Лъ лъ Tl tl [ɬ] лъэбэкъу (step), лъащэ (lame)
ЛӀ лӀ Lh lh [ɬʼ] лӀы (man), лӀыгъэ (bravery)
М м M m [m] мазэ (moon), мэлы (sheep)
Н н N n [n] нэ (eye), ны (mother)
О о O o [ɜw] [] мощ (that), коны (bin), о (you), осы (snow), ощхы (rain)
П п P p [p] пэ (nose), сапэ (dust)
ПӀ пӀ Ph ph [] пӀэ (bed), пӀэшъхьагъ (pillow)
ПӀу пӀу Phu phu [pʷʼ] пӀун (to rise; to adopt), пӀур (pupil; apprentice)
Р р R r [r] рикӀэн (to pour), риӀон (TRANS. to tell)
С с S s [s] сэ (I, me), сэшхо (sabre)
Т т T t [t] тэтэжъ (grandfather), тэ (we, us)
ТӀ тӀ Th th [] тӀы (ram), ятӀэ (dirt)
ТӀу тӀу Thu thu [tʷʼ] тӀурыс (old), тӀурытӀу (pair)
У у U u [ɘw] [] ушхун (to straighten), убэн (to tamp; to smoothen)
Ф ф F f [f] фыжьы (white), фэен (to want)
Х х X x [x] хы (sea; six), хасэ (council)
Хъ хъ Ẋ ẋ [χ] хъыен (to move), пхъэн (to sow)
Хъу хъу Ẋu ẋu [χʷ] хъун (to happen), хъурай (circle)
Хь хь Ḥ ḥ [ħ] хьэ (dog), хьаку (oven)
Ц ц C c [t͡s] цагэ (rib), цы (body hair)
Цу цу Cu cu [t͡sʷ] цуакъэ (shoe), цу (ox)
ЦӀ цӀ Ch ch [t͡sʼ] цӀынэ (wet), цӀыфы (person)
Ч ч Č č [t͡ʃ] чэфы (cheerful), чэты (chicken)
ЧӀ чӀ Čh čh [t͡ʂʼ] чӀыпӀэ (area), чӀыфэ (debt)
Чъ чъ Ĉ ĉ [t͡ʂ] чъыгай (oak), чъыӀэ (cold)
Ш ш Š š [ʃ] шы (brother), шыблэ (thunder)
Шъ шъ Ŝ ŝ [ʂ] шъэ (hundred), шъабэ (soft)
Шъу шъу Ŝu ŝu [ʃʷ] шъугъуалэ (envious), шъукъакӀу (PL. to come)
ШӀ шӀ Šh šh [ʃʼ] шӀын (to do), шӀэныгъ (knowledge)
ШӀу шӀу Šhu Šhu [ʃʷʼ] шӀуцӀэ (black), шӀуфэс (greetings)
Щ щ Ś ś [ɕ] щагу (yard), щатэ (sour cream)
(Ъ ъ) - -
Ы ы Y y [ɘ] ыкӀи (and also), зы (one)
(Ь ь) - -
Э э Ə ə [ɜ] Ӏэтаж (floor), нэнэжъ (grandmother)
Ю ю Ju ju [ju] Юсыф (Joseph), Юныс (Jonah)
Я я Ja ja [jaː] яй (theirs), ябгэ (evil)
Ӏ H h [ʔ] Ӏэ (hand), кӀасэ (like)
Ӏу Hw hw [ʔʷ] ӀукӀэн (to meet), Ӏусын (to be near sitting), Ӏудан (thread)
  • There are thirteen labialised consonants; however, in some dialects, there are three additional ones: Кхъу [q͡χʷ], Ху [xʷ], Чъу [t͡ɕʷ].

Orthography rulesEdit

  • The letter ⟨ы⟩ [ə] is not written after a ⟨у⟩ [w], ⟨й⟩ [j] or a labialised consonant. For example: унэ [wənɐ] "house" instead of уынэ, илъэс [jəɬɐs] "year" instead of йылъэс, шӏу [ʃʷʼə] "well" instead of шӏуы, цумпэ [t͡sʷəmpɐ] "strawberry" instead of цуымпэ.
  • In case the letter ⟨у⟩ is the first letter of a word or when it is not related to any other consonant, it is pronounced as [wə] ⟨уы⟩. For example: унэ instead of уынэ, урыс [wərəs] "Russian" instead of уырыс, куу [kʷəwə] "deep" instead of кууы. When it is related to a consonant, it becomes a vowel and pronounced as [əw~u] ⟨ыу⟩. For example: чэту [t͡ʃɐtəw] "cat" instead of чэтыу, бзу [bzəw] "bird" instead of бзыу, дунай [dəwnaːj] "world" instead of дыуней.
  • In case a labialised consonant is followed by a vowel ⟨э⟩ [ɐ], instead of the letter ⟨у⟩ there is a ⟨о⟩. For example: гъогу [ʁʷɐɡʷ] "road" instead of гъуэгу, машӏо [maːʃʷʼɐ] "fire" instead of машӏуэ, шъо [ʃʷɐ] "you (pl.)" instead of шъуэ.
  • In case a labialised consonant is followed by a vowel ⟨а⟩ [aː] or ⟨и⟩ [əj~i], the labialised consonant letter is written fully. For example: цуакъэ [t͡sʷaːqɐ] "shoes", гуащэ [ɡʷaɕɐ] "princes", шъуи [ʃʷəj] "yours" (pl.).
  • In case the letter ⟨о⟩ is the first letter of a word or when it is not related to any other consonant, it is pronounced as [wɐ] ⟨уэ⟩. For example, о [wɐ] "you" instead of уэ, орэд [wɐrɐd] "song" instead of уэрэд, онтэгъу [wɐntɐʁʷ] "heavy" instead of уэнтэгъу, зао [zaːwɐ] "war" instead of зауэ, ныо [nəwɐ] "old lady" instead of ныуэ.
  • In case the letter ⟨е⟩ is the first letter of a word or when it is not related to any other consonant, it is pronounced as [jɐ] ⟨йэ⟩. For example: еӏо [jɐʔʷɐ] "he says" instead of йэӏо, еплъы [jɐpɬə] "he sees" instead of йэплъы, мые [məjɐ] "apple" instead of мыйэ, бае [baːjɐ] "rich" instead of байэ, шъэжъые [ʂɐʐəjɐ] "knife" instead of шъэжъыйэ. When it's related to a consonant, it becomes a vowel and pronounced as [ɐj~e] ⟨эй⟩. For example: делэ [dɐjlɐ] "fool" instead of дэйлэ, къедж [qɐjd͡ʒ] "read" instead of къэйдж, непэ [nɐjpɐ] "today" instead of нэйпэ.
  • In case the letter ⟨и⟩ is the first letter of a word or when is not related to any other consonant, it is pronounced as [jə] ⟨йы⟩. For example: илъэс [jəɬɐs] "year" instead of йылъэс, иунэ [jəwənɐ] "his house" instead of йыуын, шӏои [ʃʷʼɐjə] "dirty" instead of шӏойы, дэи [dɐjə] "bad" instead of дэйы. When it's related to a consonant, it becomes a vowel and pronounced as [əj~i] ⟨ый⟩. For example: сиӏ [səjʔ] "I have" instead of сыйӏ, уиунэ [wəjwənɐ] "your house" instead of уыйуынэ, къины [qəjnə] "hard" instead of къыйны.


The vowels are written ⟨ы⟩ [ə], ⟨э⟩ [ɐ] and ⟨а⟩ [aː]. Other letters represent diphthongs: ⟨я⟩ represents [jaː], ⟨и⟩ [jə] or [əj], ⟨о⟩ [wɐ] or [ɐw], ⟨у⟩ represent [wə] or [əw], and ⟨е⟩ represents [jɐ] or [ɐj].

Other writing systemsEdit

Although Adyghe is officially written in the Cyrillic script and unofficially in the Latin script, the language has been historically written in a version of the Arabic script before 1927, and then a version of the Latin alphabet implemented by the Soviet Union until 1938.

Examples of literary AdygheEdit

Native vocabularyEdit

Cyrillic Transliteration IPA[tone?] Translation
сэ [sɐ] I
пшъашъэ pŝaŝə [p͡ʂaːʂɐ] girl
тӀыс thys [tʼəs] to sit
тэдж tədž [tɐd͡ʒ] to stand
Тэу ущыт? Təu uśyt? [tɐw‿wəʃət] How are you?
СышӀу. Syšhu. [səʃʷʼ] I'm fine.
шы šy [ʃə] horse
щы śy [ɕə] three
жъуагъо ẑuaġo [ʐʷaːʁʷɐ] star
тыгъэ tyġə [təʁɐ] sun
мазэ mazə [maːzɐ] moon
цуакъэ cuaqə [t͡sʷaːqɐ] shoe
шъукъеблагъ ŝuqeblaġ [ʂʷəqɐjblaːʁ] welcome
лъэхъуамбэ tləẋuambə [ɬɐχʷaːmbɐ] toe
хьамлыу ḥamlyu [ħaːmləw] worm
кӀэнкӀэ khənkhə [kʼɐŋkʼɐ] egg
хьампӀырашъу ḥamphyraŝu [ħaːmpʼəraːʂʷ] butterfly
мэшӀоку məšhoku [mɐʃʼʷɐkʷ] train
пхъэтӀэкӀу pẋəthəkhu [p͡χɐtʼɐkʼʷ] chair
тхьалъыкӀо tḥatlykho [t͡ħaːɬəkʼʷɐ] prophet
къамзэгу qamzəgu [qaːmzɐɡʷ] ant
псычэт psyčət [p͡sət͡ʃɐt] duck


Cyrillic Latin Pronunciation Translation Origin
республикэ respublikə [rʲespublʲikɐ] republic Russian республика, from Latin rēs pūblicus (public concern)
компутер komputer [komputʲer] computer Russian компьютер, from Latin com putāre (to settle together)
математикэ matematikə [maːtʲemaːtʲikɐ] математика Russian математика, from Ancient Greek "μάθημα" máthēma (study, knowledge)
спорт sport [sport] sports Russian спорт, from English sport
быракъ byraq [bəraːq] flag Turkic batrak (spear, stick)
къартӀоф qarthof [qaːrtʼʷɐf] potato Russian картофель, from German Kartoffel (potato)
томат tomat [tomaːt] tomato Russian томат, from Spanish tomate, from Nahuan tomatl
орэндж orəndž [wɐrɐnd͡ʒ] orange Persian نارنگ nârang or نارنج nâranj
нэмаз nəmaz [nɐmaːz] salah (Islamic praying) Persian نماز namâz
къалэ qalə [qaːlɐ] city Akkadian kalakku (fort)
дунай dynaj [dəwnaːj] earth Arabic دنيا dunyā (world)

Adyghe outside CircassiaEdit

Adyghe is taught outside Circassia in a Jordanian school for the Jordanian Adyghes, Prince Hamza Ibn Al-Hussein Secondary School in the capital Amman. This school, which was established by the Adyghe Jordanians with support from the late king Hussein of Jordan, is one of the first schools for the Adyghe communities outside Circassia. It has around 750 Jordanian Adyghe students, and one of its major goals is to preserve Adyghe among newer Adyghe generations, while also emphasising the traditions of the Adyghes.[6]

Adyghe is spoken by Circassians in Iraq and by Circassians in Israel, where it is taught in schools in their villages. It is also spoken by many Circassians in Syria, although the majority of Syrian Circassians speak Kabardian.


There are many books written in or translated into Adyghe. An Adyghe translation of the Quran by Ishak Mashbash is available. The New Testament and many books of the Old Testament have been published in Adyghe by the Institute for Bible Translation in Moscow.

UNESCO 2009 map of endangered languagesEdit

According to the UNESCO 2009 map entitled "UNESCO Map of the World's Languages in Danger", the status of the Adyghe language in 2009, along with all its dialects (Adyghe, Western Circassian tribes) and (Kabard-Cherkess, Eastern Circassian tribes), is classified as vulnerable.[7]

Sample textEdit

John 1:1 in Adyghe Transliteration English translation

УблапӀэм ыдэжь ГущыӀэр щыӀагъ. Ар Тхьэм ыдэжь щыӀагъ, а ГущыӀэри Тхьэу арыгъэ. УблапӀэм щегъэжьагъэу а ГущыӀэр Тхьэм ыдэжь щыӀагъ. Тхьэм а ГущыӀэм зэкӀэри къыригъэгъэхъугъ. Тхьэм къыгъэхъугъэ пстэуми ащыщэу а ГущыӀэм къыримыгъгъэхъугъэ зи щыӀэп. МыкӀодыжьын щыӀэныгъэ а ГущыӀэм хэлъыгъ, а щыӀэныгъэри цӀыфхэм нэфынэ афэхъугъ. Нэфынэр шӀункӀыгъэм щэнэфы, шӀункӀыгъэри нэфынэм текӀуагъэп.

Ublaphəm ydəź Guśyhər śyhaġ. Ar Tḥəm ydəź śyhaġ, a Guśyhəri Tḥəu aryġə. Ublaphəm śeġəźaġəu a Guśyhər Tḥəm ydəź śyhaġ. Tḥəm a Guśyhər zəkhəri qyriġəġəẋuġ. Tḥəm qyġəẋuġə pstəumi aśyśəu a Guśyhəm qyrimyġġəxhuġə zi śyhəp. Mykhodyźyn śyhənyġə a Guśyhəm xətlyġ, a śyhənyġəri chyfxəm nəfynə afəẋuġ. Nəfynər šhunkhyġəm śənəfy, šhunkhyġəri nəfunəm tekhuaġəp.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god. This one was in the beginning With God. All things came into existence through him, and apart from him not even one thing came into existence. What has come into existence by means of him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light is shining in the darkness, but the darkness has not overpowered it.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b Only in Russian loanwords.


  1. ^ "Adyghe". Ethnologue. Retrieved 3 August 2018.
  2. ^ "Adyghe". Oxford English Dictionary (Online ed.). Oxford University Press. (Subscription or participating institution membership required.)
  3. ^ Aydın, Şamil Emre (2015), Çerkes Diyalektleri ISBN 9786056569111
  4. ^ Applebaum, Ayla; Gordon, Matthew (2013). "A Comparative Phonetic Study of the Circassian Languages". Berkeley Linguistics Society. University of California, Santa Barbara.
  6. ^ Circassians bid to save ancient language. Al Jazeera. 14 May 2010. Retrieved 29 December 2011.
  7. ^ "UNESCO Map of World's language in Danger" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 3 March 2017. Retrieved 24 June 2009.

External linksEdit