Lezgian language

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Лезги чӏал Lezgi č’al
Pronunciation [lezɡi tʃʼal]
Native to Russia and Azerbaijan, also spoken in Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan
Region Southern Dagestan, western Caspian Sea coast, central Caucasus
Ethnicity Lezgins
Native speakers
790,000 (2007–2010)[1]
Northeast Caucasian
  • Lezgic
    • Samur
      • Eastern Samur
        • Lezgi–Aghul–Tabasaran
          • Lezgian
Official status
Official language in
Dagestan (Russia)
Language codes
ISO 639-2 lez
ISO 639-3 lez
Glottolog lezg1247[2]
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters.

Lezgian /ˈlɛzɡiən/,[3] also called Lezgi or Lezgin, is a language that belongs to the Lezgic languages. It is spoken by the Lezgins, who live in southern Dagestan and northern Azerbaijan. Lezgian is a literary language and an official language of Dagestan. It is classified as "vulnerable" by UNESCO's Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger.[4]

Geographic distribution

In 2002, Lezgian was spoken by about 397,000 people in Russia, mainly Southern Dagestan, and in 1999 by 178,400 people in mainly the Qusar, Quba, Qabala, Oghuz, Ismailli and Khachmaz (Xaçmaz) provinces of northeastern Azerbaijan. Lezgian is also spoken in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan by immigrants from Azerbaijan and Daghestan.

There are also small populations in the Balikesir and Yalova regions in Turkey. The Lezgian people are concentrated mainly in Kirne (Ortaca) village of the Balikesir region.

The total number of speakers is about 800,000.[5]

Related languages

There are nine languages in the Lezgic language family, namely: Lezgian, Tabasaran, Rutul, Aghul, Tsakhur, Budukh, Kryts, Udi and Archi. These languages have the same names as their ethnic groups.

Some of its dialects are considered very different from the standard form, including the Quba dialect spoken in Azerbaijan.[5]



Vowels of Lezgian[6]
Front Central Back
plain rounded
Close i (и) y (уь) u (у)
Mid e (е; э) (ə)? o (o)
Open æ (я) a (а)
  • /a/ has two main allophones: [ɑ] and [ʌ]; the former prevails in closed syllables (especially before uvulars and /r/), the latter in open syllables.
  • /a/ is very often rounded after labialized consonants, which may then lose their labialization.
  • /e/ is open ([ɛ]) in stressed syllables
  • if a vowel plus /n/ sequence is not followed by a vowel, the /n/ may be deleted and the vowel nasalized. Thus /zun/ ('I') can be pronounced [zũ].


There are 54 consonants in Lezgian. Characters to the right are the letters of the Lezgian Cyrillic Alphabet. Note that aspiration is not normally indicated in the orthography, despite the fact that it is phonemic.

Consonants of Lezgian[7]
Labial Dental (Post)-
Palatal Velar Uvular Epiglottal Glottal
plain lab. plain lab. plain lab.
Nasal /m/ м /n/ н
Plosive voiced /b/ б /d/ д /g/ г /gʷ/ гв /ʢ/ гl
voiceless /p/ п /t/ т /tʷ/ тв /k/ к /kʷ/ кв /q/ къ /qʷ/ къв /ʔ/ ъ
aspirated /pʰ/ п /tʰ/ т /tʷʰ/ тв /kʰ/ к /kʷʰ/ кв /qʰ/ хъ /qʷʰ/ хъв
ejective /pʼ/ пI /tʼ/ тI /tʷʼ/ тIв /kʼ/ кI /kʷʼ/ кIв /qʼ/ кь /qʷʼ/ кьв
Affricate voiceless /t͡s/ ц /t͡sʷ/ цв /t͡ʃ/ ч
aspirated /t͡sʰ/ ц /t͡sʷʰ/ цв /t͡ʃʰ/ ч
ejective /t͡sʼ/ цI /t͡sʷʼ/ цIв /t͡ʃʼ/ чI
Fricative voiced /z/ з /zʷ/ зв /ʒ/ ж /ʁ/ гъ /ʁʷ/ гъв /ʜ/ xl
voiceless /f/ ф /s/ с /sʷ/ св /ʃ/ ш /x/ хь /χ/ х /χʷ/ хв /h/ гь
Approximant /l/ л /j/ й /w/ в
Trill /r/ р


Lezgin has been written in several different alphabets over the course of its history. These alphabets have been based on three scripts: Arabic (before 1928), Latin (1928–38), and Cyrillic (1938–present).

The Lezgin Cyrillic alphabet is as follows:[8]

А Б В Г Гъ Гь Д Е Ё Ж З И Й К Къ Кь Кӏ Л М Н О П Пӏ Р С Т Тӏ У Уь Ф Х Хъ Хь Ц Цӏ Ч Чӏ Ш Щ Ъ Ы Ь Э Ю Я
а б в г гъ гь д е ё ж з и й к къ кь кӏ л м н о п пӏ р с т тӏ у уь ф х хъ хь ц цӏ ч чӏ ш щ ъ ы ь э ю я

The Latin alphabet was as follows:

A a Ä ä B b C c Č č Ch ch Čh čh D d
E e F f G g Gh gh H h I i J j K k
Kh kh L l M m N n Ꞑ ꞑ O o Ö ö P p
Ph ph Q q Qh qh R r S s Š š T t Th th
U u Ü ü V v X x X́ x́ Y y Z z Ž ž


Lezgian is unusual for a Northeast Caucasian language in not having noun classes (also dubbed with the term "grammatical gender"). Standard Lezgian grammar features 18 grammatical cases, produced by agglutinating suffixes, of which 12 are still used in spoken conversation.


The four grammatical cases are:

  • Absolutive case (basic form of the word, no ending): marks the subject of an intransitive verb and the direct object of a transitive sentence. It is also used to mark a nominal predicate (who or what something turns into/becomes) and as a vocative.
  • Ergative case (various endings; the most common are: -ди, -a or -е; [-di, -a or e], which are added to the Absolutive): marks the subject of transitive verbs, and the subject of some compound intransitive verbs.
  • Genitive case (ending -н [-n]; added to the Ergative): marks possession. It is also used with the meaning 'of'. The genitive case precedes the noun that it modifies.
  • Dative case (ending -з [-z]; added to the Ergative): usually marks the indirect object of sentences, that is the recipient of an action. It is also used to mark the subject of some verbs (mainly about emotions) and to express a point of time and direction.
  • There are fourteen Locative cases:
    • Adessive case (ending -в [-v]; added to the Ergative): marks the object of some verbs to mean 'near by'.
    • Adelative case (ending -вай [-vaj]; added to the Ergative): expresses movement from somewhere. It is also used with the verb 'to be able' and to express an accidental action.
    • Addirective case (ending -вди [-vdi]; added to the Ergative): used as an instrumental case, but also sometimes used with its original meaning, 'in the direction of', and more rarely 'near by'.
    • The Postessive case (ending -хъ [-qh]; added to the Ergative): means 'behind', 'in exchange for', and 'with.' In a construction with the verb ава (ava), it means 'there is'.
    • Postelative case (ending -хъай [-qhaj]; added to the Ergative): can either mean 'from' or 'who is feared'.
    • Postdirective case (ending -хъди [-qhdi]; added to the Ergative): rarely used case, meaning 'toward(s)'.
    • Subessive case (ending -к [-k]; added to the Ergative): means either 'below' or 'participates'.
    • Subelative case (ending -кай [-kaj]; added to the Ergative): means either 'from below', 'from', '(from) against', 'with' or 'out of'. It is also used to mark Y in the construction 'X becomes out-of-Y' and can express the topic of a sentence or the cause of emotions.
    • Subdirective case (ending -кди [-kdi]; added to the Ergative): expresses cause, and can mean 'because' or 'of' (when in sentences such as 'the man died of a disease'.
    • Inessive case (endings -а or -е [-a or -e]; added to Absolutive): means 'at', 'in' or 'during/whilst'.
    • Inelative case (endings -ай or -ей [-aj or -ej]; added to Inessive): means 'out of' or 'in return for'.
    • Superessive case (ending -л [-l]; added to the Inessive): means 'on', and also to express the cause of some emotions.
    • Superelative case (ending -лай [-laj]; added to the Inessive): means 'off', 'after' or 'than'.
    • Superdirective case (ending -лди [-ldi]; added to the Inessive): means 'onto', 'until', 'in' (when followed by an adjective) and to mark the language being used.


There are two types of declensions.

First declension

Case Singular Plural
Absolutive буба buba бубаяр bubajar
Ergative бубади bubadi бубайри bubajri
Genitive бубадин bubadin бубайрин bubajrin
Dative бубадиз bubadiz бубайриз bubajriz
Adessive бубадив bubadiv бубайрив bubajriv
Adelative бубадивай bubadivaj бубайривай bubajrivaj
Addirective бубадивди bubadivdi бубайривди bubajrivdi
Postessive бубадихъ bubadiqʰ бубайрихъ bubajriqʰ
Postelative бубадихъай bubadiqʰaj бубайрихъай bubajriqʰaj
Postdirective бубадихъди bubadiqʰdi буабайрихъди buabajriqʰdi
Subessive бубадик bubadikʰ бубайрик bubajrikʰ
Subelative бубадикай bubadikʰaj бубайрикай bubajrikʰaj
Subdirective бубадикди bubadikʰdi бубайрикди bubajrikʰdi
Inessive бубада bubada бубайра bubajra
Inelative бубадай bubadaj бубайрай bubajraj
Superessive бубадал bubadal бубайрал bubajral
Superelative бубадалай bubadalaj бубайралай bubajralaj
Superdirective бубадалди bubadaldi бубайралди bubajraldi



The numbers of Lezgian are:

уд ud zero
сад sad one
кьвед qʷ’ed two
пуд pud three
кьуд q’ud four
вад vad five
ругуд rugud six
ирид irid seven
муьжуьд muʒud eight
кӏуьд k’yd nine
цӏуд ts’ud ten
цӏусад ts’usad eleven
цӏикьвед ts’iqʷ’ed twelve
цӏипуд ts’ipud thirteen
цӏикьуд ts’iq’ud fourteen
цӏувад ts’uvad fifteen
цӏуругуд ts’urugud sixteen
цӏерид ts’erid seventeen
цӏемуьжуьд ts’emyʒud eighteen
цӏекӏуьд ts’ek’yd nineteen
къад qad twenty
  qadtsud thirty
яхцӏур jaxts’ur forty
  jaxtsurtsud fifty
пудкъад pudqad sixty
  pudqadtsud seventy
кьудкъад q’udqal eighty
  qudqaltsud ninety
виш viʃ one hundred
агъзур aɣzur one thousand

Nouns following a number are always in the singular. Numbers precede the noun. "Сад" and "кьвед" lose their final "-д" before a noun.

Lezgian numerals work in a similar fashion to the French ones, and are based on the vigesimal system in which "20", not "10", is the base number. "Twenty" in Lezgian is "къад", and higher numbers are formed by adding the suffix -ни to the word (which becomes "къанни" - the same change occurs in пудкъад and кьудкъад) and putting the remaining number afterwards. This way 24 for instance is къанни кьуд ("20 and 4"), and 37 is къанни цӏерид ("20 and 17"). Numbers over 40 are formed similarly (яхцӏур becomes яхцӏурни). 60 and 80 are treated likewise. For numbers over 100 just put a number of hundreds, then (if need be) the word with a suffix, then the remaining number. 659 is thus ругуд вишни яхцӏурни цӏекӏуьд. The same procedure follows for 1000. 1989 is агьзурни кӏуьд вишни кьудкъанни кӏуьд in Lezgi.


  1. Lezgian at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Lezgian". Glottolog. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Laurie Bauer, 2007, The Linguistics Student's Handbook, Edinburgh
  4. UNESCO Interactive Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger Archived February 17, 2010 at the Wayback Machine
  5. 5.0 5.1 "Enthnologue report for Lezgi". Ethnologue.com. 1999-02-19. Retrieved 2013-12-15.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. Chitoran & Babaliyeva (2007:2153)
  7. *Haspelmath, M. (1993). A grammar of Lezgian. (Mouton grammar library; 9). Berlin & New York: Mouton de Gruyter. – ISBN 3-11-013735-6, p. 2
  8. Талибов Б. Б., Гаджиев М. М. Лезгинско-русский словарь. Moscow, 1966.


  • Chitoran, Ioana; Babaliyeva, Ayten (2007). "An acoustic description of high vowel syncope in Lezgian". Proceedings of the 16th International Congress of Phonetic Sciences. pp. 2153–2156. CiteSeerX: maint: ref=harv (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Haspelmath, M. (1993). A grammar of Lezgian. Mouton grammar library. 9. Berlin & New York: Mouton de Gruyter. ISBN 3-11-013735-6.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Talibov, Bukar B.; Gadžiev, Magomed M. (1966). Lezginsko-russkij slovar’. Moskva: Izd. Sovetskaja Ėnciklopedija.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links