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Open Access Publications from the University of California


Languages of the Caucasus is an open-access peer-reviewed electronic journal that publishes linguistic research on languages of the Caucasus.

The first issue (1.1) will be a memorial volume for Aleksandr Kibrik and Sandro Kodzasov, founders of an illustrious tradition of fieldwork and analysis of languages of the Caucasus and intellectual inspiration to Caucasianists and typologists everywhere. 

We will use a volume and issue number system for ease of bibliographical reference, but papers will be published as soon as they are accepted and received in final form.  Articles for the memorial issue can be submitted at any time from Jan. 15 to about mid-November 2015 (leaving time for review, acceptance, and editing during 2015).  Articles not for the memorial issue will appear in Vol. 1.2 if received in time for review and acceptance during 2015.  (That is, the memorial and plain issues of Vol. 1 will run simultaneously.)

Languages of the Caucasus


Evidentiality in East Caucasian on the map

Languages spoken in contiguous areas tend to have similar systems of evidentiality marking. The Caucasus is part of a large area where systems centered on marking events as not witnessed by the speaker are widespread among genealogically unrelated languages. It is often suggested that Turkic languages could be the source of diffusion in this case, because evidentiality is an old and prominent feature of Turkic grammar. This paper explores the areal dimension of evidentiality in languages of the East Caucasian family, which are spoken on a relatively compact territory in the eastern Caucasus. It provides an overview of the most common types of marking and their geographical distribution among the East Caucasian languages and their Turkic neighbors. The spread of evidentiality as part of the tense system shows a peculiar pattern in the eastern Caucasus, which suggests that it could be a contact-induced feature. However, a number of factors prevent the reconstruction of a specific borrowing scenario. Based on the currently available data the Turkic contact hypothesis cannot be confirmed nor refuted. The paper proposes an alternative scenario for a mixed language-internal and contact-induced development that can possibly be verified with data from oral narratives.

"A museum of ethnology and philology": rediscovering an early work of Caucasian linguistics

Cyril Graham’s The Avar Language, a treatise consisting of a linguistic description and an extensive English-Avar wordlist, originally appeared in the late nineteenth century in the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland, and has been republished in the early twenty-first century in book form, with Russian translation and commentary by Boris Ataev of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Makhachkala. Welcoming Ataev’s contribution in making it accessible to the modern Russophone audience, I discuss the linguistic qualities and shortcomings of Graham’s article as well as the complex and revealing history of its composition. Engagingly written and in some respects perceptive, while in other respects outmoded even in its own time, it provides an insight into the early development of Caucasian linguistic study in the West.

A history of the vowel systems of the Nakh languages (East Caucasian), with special reference to umlaut in Chechen and Ingush

Chechen, Ingush and Batsbi together form the Nakh subgroup of the East Caucasian language family. Chechen and Ingush, and to a lesser degree Batsbi, underwent regressive vowel assimilation (umlaut). The sound laws that govern umlaut have already been established to some degree. The article focuses on two issues: umlaut rules for the Chechen dialects are worked out in detail on the basis of the Chechen dialectal material provided by Imnajshvili 1977, and the different umlaut effects caused by the mid vowels *e and *o on the one hand and the close vowels *i and *u on the other are highlighted, for both Chechen and Ingush. The conclusions are applied to the reconstruction of the verbal endings of the present tense, Proto-Nakh *‑u, *-o, *-i and *-e, and the endings of the recent past tense, Proto-Nax *-iᶰ and *-eᶰ. Building on work by Handel 2003, the many different inflectional classes of the Chechen and Ingush verb are reconstructed as a relatively simple Proto-Nakh system, where morphological complexity resides almost exclusively in the choice of the aforementioned allomorphs. Finally, following on from Nichols 2003, an attempt is made to reconstruct the Proto-Nakh vowel system beyond Proto-Nakh, by comparing nominal ablaut in Nakh with a very similar phenomenon in Avar-Andic-Dido, which allows us to reconstruct the vowel alternation in detail for Proto-East Caucasian and, specifically, to reconstruct the Proto-Nakh alternation *i ~ *a as Proto-East Caucasian in (reconstructed) stressed and unstressed position, respectively.