Nakh languages

The Nakh languages are a group of languages within Northeast Caucasian, spoken chiefly by the Chechens and Ingush in the North Caucasus within Southern Russia.

Central Caucasus
Linguistic classificationNortheast Caucasian
Northeast Caucasian languages.png

Bats is the endangered language of the Bats people, an ethnic minority in Georgia. The Chechen, Ingush and Bats peoples are also grouped under the ethno-linguistic umbrella of Nakh peoples.


The Nakh languages were historically classified as an independent North-Central Caucasian family, but are now recognized as a branch of the Northeast Caucasian family.

The separation of Nakh from common Northeast Caucasian has been tentatively dated to the Neolithic (ca. 4th millennium BC).[1]

The Nakh language family consists of:

The voicing of ejective consonantsEdit

The Nakh languages are relevant to the glottalic theory of Indo-European, because the Vainakh branch has undergone the voicing of ejectives that has been postulated but widely derided as improbable in that family. In initial position, Bats ejectives correspond to Vainakh ejectives, but in non-initial position to Vainakh voiced consonants. (The exception is *qʼ, which remains an ejective in Vainakh.)

Bats Chechen gloss Dagestanian cognate
nʕapʼ naːb 'sleep'
ʃwetʼ ʃad 'whip' Gigatil Chamalal: tsatʼán
pʰakʼal pʰaɡal 'hare' Andi: tɬʼankʼala
dokʼ dwoɡ 'heart' Andi: rokʷʼo
matsʼ mezi 'louse' Chadakolob Avar: natsʼ
ʕartsʼiⁿ ʕärʒa- 'black' Gigatil Chamalal: -etʃʼár
jopʼqʼ juqʼ 'ashes'

A similar change has taken place in some of the other Dagestanian languages.[5]

Extinct Nakh languagesEdit

Many obscure ancient languages or peoples have been postulated by scholars of the Caucasus as Nakh, many in the South Caucasus. None of these have been confirmed; most are classified as Nakh on the basis of placenames.


The Èrsh language, language of the Èrs who inhabited Northern Armenia, and then, (possibly) later, mainly Hereti in Southeast Georgia and Northwest Azerbaijan. This is considered to be more or less confirmed as Nakh.[6] They were assimilated eventually, and their language was replaced by Georgian or Azeri.


The language of the Malkhs[6] (whose name, malkh, refers to the sun) in the North Caucasus, who lived in modern day Kabardino-Balkaria, Karachay–Cherkessia, and once briefly conquered Ubykhia and Abkhazia. They were conquered first by Scythian-speaking Alan tribes and then by Turkic tribes, and seem to have largely abandoned their homeland and found shelter among the Chechens, leading to the formation of a teip named after them. Those who stayed behind were either wiped out or assimilated.


The language of the Kakh, old inhabitants of Kakheti and Tusheti in Eastern Georgia.[6][7] The Kakh apparently called themselves Kabatsas and their territory Kakh-Batsa.[8] They may or may not be ancestral to the modern Bats, and they may or may not be closely related to them. They were assimilated (completely or almost completely, depending on if one believes the theory that the Bats are descended from them) by the Kartlians to speak Georgian.


Gligvs, a mysterious people in the North Caucasus attributed by Georgian historians to be a Nakh people. They may be ancestral to the Ingush, but the term used by Georgians consistently for the Ingush is "Kist", causing large amounts of confusion (as the Nakh people in Georgia who speak Chechen are also called "Kists").


The language of the Tsanars in historical Georgia is thought by many historians to be Nakh, based on place names, geographic location, and other such information.[6]


The language of the Dvals is thought to be Nakh by many historians,[6][9][10][11][12][13] though there is a rivaling camp arguing for its status as a close relative of Ossetic.[13] Various backing for the Nakh theory (different scholars use different arguments) includes the presence of Nakh placenames in former Dval territory,[13] evidence of Nakh–Svan contact which probably would've required the Nakh nature of the Dvals or people there before them,[6] and the presence of a foreign-origin Dval clan among the Chechens,[12] seemingly implying that the Dvals found shelter (like the Malkhs are known to have done) among the Chechens from the conquest of their land by foreign invaders (presumably Ossetes). The Dvals were assimilated by the Georgians (and possibly the Ossetes as well) and conquered by the Ossetes in the north. It is thought that Dval did not go fully extinct until the 18th century, making the Dvals the most recent Nakh people known to have died out (if they were Nakh).


According to Georgian scholars I.A. Javashvili and Giorgi Melikishvili, the Urartian state of Supani was occupied by the ancient Nakh tribe Tsov, whose state is called Tsobena in ancient Georgian historiography.[14][15][16] The Tsov language was the dominant language spoken by its people, and was thought by these Georgian historians (as well as a number of others) to be Nakh. Tsov and its relatives in the area may have contributed to the Hurro-Urartian substratum in the Armenian language.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Johanna Nichols, "Cechen" and "Ingush" in R. Smeets (ed.), The Indigenous Languages of the Caucasus (1994).
  2. ^ Ethnologue report for Chechen
  3. ^ Ethnologue report for Ingush
  4. ^ Ethnologue report for Bats
  5. ^ Paul Fallon, 2002. The synchronic and diachronic phonology of ejectives, p 245.
  6. ^ a b c d e f Jaimoukha, Amjad. The Chechens: A Handbook. Routledge Curzon: Oxon, 2005.
  7. ^ Vakhushti, an 18th century Georgian historian cited by Jaimoukha, apparently stated that "the Kakh considered Gligvs, Dzurdzuks and Kists as their ethnic kin." Dzurdzuk is the Georgian name for Chechens, Kists is used to refer to the Ingush here.
  8. ^ Jaimoukha. Chechens. Page 29
  9. ^ Гамрекели В. Н. Двалы и Двалетия в I—XV вв. н. э. Тбилиси, 1961 page 138
  10. ^ Меликишвили Г. А. К изучению древней восточномалоазийской этнонимики. ВДИ, 1962,1 page 62
  11. ^ Gamrekeli
  12. ^ a b Melikishvilli
  13. ^ a b c Kuznetsov, V. (1992), Essays on the history of Alans (in Russian), Vladikavkaz: IR, ISBN 978-5-7534-0316-2
  14. ^ Джавахишвили И. А. Введение в историю грузинского народа. кн.1, Тбилиси, 1950, page.47-49
  15. ^ Ахмадов, Шарпудин Бачуевич (2002). Чечня и Ингушетия в XVIII - начале XIX века. Elista: "Джангар", АПП. p. 52.
  16. ^ Гаджиева В. Г. Сочинение И. Гербера Описание стран и народов между Астраханью и рекою Курой находящихся, М, 1979, page.55.

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