Avar language

Avar language

nativename=Авар мацunicode|Ӏ
Awar macʼ
states=Russia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Georgia and Turkey
region=Republic of Dagestan
fam1=North Caucasian "(disputed)"
fam2=Northeast Caucasian

The modern Avar language (self-designation магunicode|Ӏарул мацunicode|Ӏ IPA| [maʕarul maʦʼ] "language of the mountains" or Авар мацunicode|Ӏ IPA| [awar maʦʼ] "Avar language") belongs to the Avar-Andi-Tsez subgroup of the Alarodian Northeast-Caucasian (or Nakh-Dagestani) language family.

Geographic distribution

It is spoken mainly in the eastern and southern parts of the Russian Caucasus republic of Dagestan, and the Balaken, Zakatala north-west region of Azerbaijan. Some population of Avars live in other regions of Russia. There are also small communities of speakers living in the Russian republics of Chechnya and Kalmykia; in Georgia, Kazakhstan, Jordan, and the Marmara Sea region of Turkey. It has more than 1,400,000 speakers worldwide.

Official status

It is one of six literary languages of Dagestan, where it is spoken not only by Avars, but also serves as the language of communication between different groups.


There are two main dialect groups: the northern (Avar literature), which includes Khunzakh, Kazbek, Gunib, Gumbet and others; and the southern (sub dialects), which includes Andalal, Gidatl', Antsukh, Charoda, Tlyarata, Cumada, Cunta and others. Avar has fifteen spoken dialects, which by many linguists are considered separate languages: Avar, Bagulal, Chamalal, Budukh, Botlikh, Andi, Godoberi, Tindi, Karati, Akhvakh, Tsez (also known as Dido), Khwarshi, Hinukh, Hunzib and Bezhta, each named after its speaking tribe.

Writing system

The Avar language has been written since the 15th century, in the old Georgian alphabet. From the 17th century onwards it was written in a modified Arabic script known as "Ajam", which is still known today. As part of Soviet language planning policies the Ajam was replaced by a Latin alphabet in 1928, which was in turn replaced by the current Cyrillic alphabet in 1938. It is essentially the Russian alphabet plus one additional letter named "palochka" (unicode|Ӏ). As that letter is undisplayable on most computers, it is routinely replaced with capital Latin letter "I".



The literary language is based on the болмацunicode|Ӏ (bolmacunicode|ʼ) — "bo" = "army" or "country", and "macunicode|ʼ" = "language" — the common language used between speakers of different dialects and languages. The bolmacunicode|ʼ in turn was mainly derived from the dialect of Khunzakh, the capital and cultural centre of the Avar region, with some influence from the southern dialects. Nowadays the literary language is influencing the dialects, levelling out their differences.

The most famous figure of modern Avar literature is Rasul Gamzatov (died November 3, 2003), the People's Poet of Dagestan. Translations of his works into Russian have gained him a wide audience all over the former Soviet Union.


ee also

*Dene-Caucasian languages

External links

* [http://www.ethnologue.com/show_language.asp?code=ava Ethnologue report for Avar]
* [http://www.omniglot.com/writing/avar.htm Avar alphabet, language and pronunciation]
* [http://gilles.authier.free.fr/avar.htm Avar course (in French)]
* [http://www.rferl.org/listen/ondemand/bd/ca/ Rferl North Caucasus Radio (also includes Chechen and Adyghe)]

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