Akhvakh language

The Akhvakh language (also spelled Axvax, Akhwakh) is a Northeast Caucasian language from the Avar–Andic branch. Ethnologue lists 6500 speakers,[2] but Magomedova and Abulaeva (2007) list 20,000 speakers of the language. Akhvakh has several dialects, though sources do not agree on the number. Ethnologue lists Kaxib, Northern Akhvakh and Southern Akhvakh (which can be further subdivided into the Tlyanub and Tsegob subdialects[3]). Creissels (2010) lists Northern Akhvakh and three dialects of Southern Akhvakh (Cegob, Tljanub, and Ratlub).

Ашвaлъи мицIи
Native toNorth Caucasus, Azerbaijan
RegionSouthern Dagestan, northern Azerbaijan
Native speakers
13,000 in Dagestan[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3akv

A few publications have been made in the Akhvakh language[citation needed], but for the most part speakers of Akhvakh have adopted Avar as their literary language.



Consonant phonemes of Akhvakh[4]
Labial Dental Alveolar Palatal Velar Uvular Pharyngeal Glottal
central lateral
lenis sib. fortis lenis fortis lenis fortis lenis fortis lenis fortis
Nasal m n
voiced b d d͡ʒ ɡ
voiceless p t t͡s t͡sː t͡ʃ t͡ʃː t͡ɬ t͡ɬː k q͡χ q͡χː ʔ
ejective t͡sʼ t͡sːʼ t͡ʃʼ t͡ʃːʼ t͡ɬʼ t͡ɬːʼ kːʼ q͡χʼ q͡χːʼ
Fricative voiceless s ʃ ʃː ɬ ɬː ç x ħ/ʜ [1] h
voiced v z ʒ ɣ ʕ/ʢ [1]
Trill r
Approximant l j

As with Avar, there are competing analyses of the distinction transcribed in the table with the length sign ⟨ː⟩. Length is part of the distinction, but so is articulatory strength, so they have been analyzed as fortis and lenis.[5] The fortis affricates are long in the fricative part of the contour, e.g. [tsː] (tss), not in the stop part as in geminate affricates in languages such as Japanese and Italian [tːs] (tts). Laver (1994) analyzes e.g. t͡ɬː as a two-segment affricate–fricative sequence /t͡ɬɬ/ (/tɬɬ/).[6]


Akhvakh has a standard five-vowel system /i e a o u/ with distinctive vowel length.[5]


Agreement classesEdit

Akhvakh has three agreement classes. In the singular, these are human masculine, human feminine, and non-human. In the plural, there are only two—human plural and non-human plural. Akhvakh verbs agree with the absolutive argument (subject of an intransitive or object of a transitive.)

Consider the following examples, which show the general principles. In the first example, the intransitive verb 'run' shows feminine agreement because its subject, 'girl', is feminine. In the second example, the transitive verb 'cook' shows neuter agreement because its object, 'meat', is neuter. (Creissels 2010:114)

Jaše q:'eɬ:-a j-et-e j-i:ni
girl home-lative fem-run-converb:fem fem-go:imperfective
'The girl ran home.'
Ak:'o-de riɬ:'i b-iž-e q:'-e:ni.
wife-ergative meat neut-eat-converb:neut eat-imperfective
'The wife cooked the meat and ate it.'

Note that in the second example, 'wife' is in the ergative case and appears to be the subject of both the verbs 'cook' and 'eat', but neither verb shows feminine agreement.


Akhvakh has an ergative-absolutive case-marking system. As the following examples (repeated from above) show, the transitive subject has the ergative case, while an intransitive subject has absolutive case. Absolutive case is not overtly marked by a suffix, but the noun phrase with absolutive case controls agreement on the verb:

Jaše q:'eɬ:-a j-et-e j-i:ni
girl home-lative fem-run-converb:fem fem-go:imperfective
'The girl ran home.'
Ak:'o-de riɬ:'i b-iž-e q:'-e:ni.
wife-ergative meat neut-eat-converb:neut eat-imperfective
'The wife cooked the meat and ate it.'

In addition to the ergative and absolutive cases, Akhvakh has eighteen other cases, for a total of twenty cases (Creissels 2010:108-9). The additional cases are

  • dative
  • genitive
  • comitative
  • purposive
  • fifteen spatial cases, arrayed in five series of three.



  • Creissels, Denis. 2009. Participles and Finiteness: The Case of Akhvakh. Linguistic Discovery, vol 7:1. http://journals.dartmouth.edu/cgi-bin/WebObjects/Journals.woa/2/xmlpage/1/article/334.
  • Creissels, Denis. 2010. Specialized converbs and adverbial subordination in Axaxdərə Akhvakh. In Clause linking and clause hierarchy: Syntax and pragmatics, ed. by Isabelle Bril. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. pp. 105–142.
  • Magomedova, Patimat and Abdulaeva, Indira. 2007. Axkaxsko-russkij slovar'. Maxačkala: Dagestanskij Naučnyj Centr Rossiskoj Akademii Nauk.

Further readingEdit

  • Wixman, Ronald. The Peoples of the USSR: An Ethnographic Handbook. (Armonk, New York: M. E. Sharpe, Inc, 1984), p. 8
  • Olson, James S., An Ethnohistorical Dictionary of the Russian and Soviet Empires. (Westport: Greenwood Press, 1994), pp. 25–26
  • Магомедбекова З. М. Ахвахский язык: Грамматический анализ, тексты, словарь. Тб., 1967
  • Богуславская О. Ю. Ахвахский язык // Языки Российской федерации и соседних государств. Т. 1. М., 1997

External linksEdit

  •   The dictionary definition of Akhvakh at Wiktionary