A comparative phonetic study of the Circassian languages by Ayla Applebaum and Matthew Gordon

Proceedings of the 37th Annual Meeting of the Berkeley Linguistics
Society: Special Session on Languages of the Caucasus (2013), pp. 3-17 Editors: Chundra Cathcart, Shinae Kang, and Clare S. Sandy

Ayla Applebaum and Matthew Gordon
University of California, Santa Barbara


This paper presents results of a phonetic study of Circassian languages. Three phonetic properties were targeted for investigation: voice-onset time for stop consonants, spectral properties of the coronal fricatives, and formant values for vowels. Circassian is a branch of the Northwest Caucasian language family, which also includes Abhaz-Abaza and Ubykh. Circassian is divided into two dialectal subgroups: West Circassian (commonly known as Adyghe), and East Circassian (also known as Kabardian). The West Circassian subgroup includes Temirgoy, Abzekh, Hatkoy, Shapsugh, and Bzhedugh. East Circassian comprises Kabardian and Besleney. The Circassian languages are indigenous to the area between the Caspian and Black Seas but, since the Russian invasion of the Caucasus region in the middle of the 19th century, the majority of Circassians now live in diaspora communities, most prevalently in Turkey but also in smaller outposts throughout the Middle East and the United States.

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