|Geographic location:||Russia, Georgia, Azerbaijan|
|Number of Languages:||52|
|Number of Genetic Units:||13|
|Mean Level of Endangerment:||3.3|
|Mean Documentation Status:|
The Caucasus mountains hold a large number of languages, from a few main genetic units. Three genetic units in this Hotspot (Kartvelian, Northwest Caucasian and Daghestanian) have no related languages outside of the Caucasus. Despite Soviet attempts to force residents of the Caucasus to speak Russian, many Caucasian languages are quite robust today.
A language we plan to investigate during our expedition to the Caucasus is Balkar, a Turkic language. Balkar is spoken in the highlands of the North Caucasus in the republic of Karachai-Cherkessia, a part of Russia. In 1944, the Balkar and many other non-Russian speaking groups in the USSR, were deported to Kazakhstan and Siberia, losing up to half of their population. After returning to their land in 1957, the Balkar have maintained their language and identity successfully, with 97% of the 87,126 ethnic Balkars speaking Balkar.
Genetic Units found in Hotspot (13):
- Northwest Caucasian
- Mixed (Lomavren)
List of Languages:
- Bohtan Neo-Aramaic
- Judeo Tat
- Muslim Tat
- Northern Azeri
- Northern Kurdish
Endangered Languages include:
- Archi (< 1,000, Lezgic, spoken in Russia)
- Bagvalal (< 2,000, Avar-Andic, spoken in Russia)
- Bohtan Neo-Aramaic (1,000 speakers, Semitic, spoken in Georgia and Russia)
- Budukh (1,000 speakers, Lezgic, spoken in Azerbaijan)
- Hinukh (< 200, Tsezic, spoken in Russia)
- Khinalug (1,500 speakers, Lezgic, spoken in Azerbaijan)
- Khvarshi (500 speakers, Tsezic, spoken in Russia)
- Laz (2,000 speakers, Kartvelian, spoken in Georgia)
Some Features of Languages in Hotspot include:
- Complex consonant systems, including ejectives and pharyngeals
- Complex morphology
Gvprtskvni means 'you peel us' in Georgian (Georgia, 4.2 million speakers)
Ingush (230,000 speakers, Ingushetia (Russia)) has 40 consonants, including seven ejectives (consonants produced by closing and raising the vocal cords to compress air inside the pharnyx, then releasing the pressure suddenly to create a popping sound along with the consonant).
A noun in Tabassaran (95,000 speakers, Dagestan (Russia)) may have up to 53 distinct forms, using suffixes that describe the location and movement of objects in relation to that noun.
Comrie, Bernard and Maria Polinsky. 1998. The great Daghestanian case hoax. In Siewierska and Song, eds.
Nichols, Johanna. 1998. An Overview of languages of the Caucasus. http://popgen.well.ox.ac.uk/eurasia/htdocs/nichols/nichols.html