North Caucasian languages

From Academic Kids

North Caucasian languages is a blanket term for two distinct, but possibly related, phyla of languages spoken in the north Caucasus and in Turkey.

The two phyla which make up the North Caucasian languages are:

Both groups are characterised by high levels of phonetic complexity, including the widespread usage of secondary articulation. However, the grammatical systems of the two phyla are extremely different. The Northeast Caucasian languages are characterised by extraordinary complexity in the noun: the example of Tabasaran has been noted, where a series of locative cases intersect with a series of suffixes designating motion with regard to the location, producing an array of some 48 locative suffixes (often incorrectly described as noun cases). By contrast, the Northwest Caucasian noun systems are extremely poor, usually distinguishing just two or three cases. However, the verbal complex in the Northwest Caucasian phylum is astonishing in its complexity: the subject, the direct object, the indirect object, benefactive objects and most local functions are expressed in the verb.

Despite this incredible contrast — the Northeast Caucasian languages being extremely rich vis--vis nouns, and the Northwest Caucasian languages being correspondingly rich in the verbal system — many linguists believe that the two groups sprang from a common ancestor, that split in two about five thousand years ago. The extremes of phonology found in these languages - Ubykh (Northwest) has 80 consonants, and Archi is thought to have 76 - as well as the grammatical extremes in the languages appear to back this up, but the issue is still contentious.

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