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Archi language

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Title: Archi language  
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Subject: Lateral consonant, Archi people, Aghul language, Rutul language, Tsakhur language
Collection: Endangered Caucasian Languages, Languages of Russia, Northeast Caucasian Languages
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Archi language

аршаттен чIат
Region Archib, Dagestan, Russia
Native speakers
970  (2010 census)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3 aqc
Glottolog arch1244[3]
Map of where Archi is spoken (pink area)

Archi [4] is a Northeast Caucasian language spoken by the Archis in the village of Archib, southern Dagestan, Russia, and the six surrounding smaller villages.

It is unusual for its many phonemes and for its contrast between several voiceless velar lateral fricatives and voiceless and ejective velar lateral affricates and a voiced velar lateral fricative. It is an ergative–absolutive language with four noun classes[5] and has a remarkable morphological system with huge paradigms and irregularities on all levels.[6] Mathematically, there are 1,502,839 possible forms that can be derived from a single verb root.[7]


  • Classification 1
  • Phonology 2
    • Vowels 2.1
    • Consonants 2.2
  • Orthography 3
  • Grammar 4
    • Nouns 4.1
      • Case 4.1.1
      • Noun classes 4.1.2
  • References 5
  • Bibliography 6
  • Further reading 7
  • External links 8


The classification of the Archi language has not been definitively established. Peter von Uslar felt it should be considered a variant of Avar, but Roderich von Erckert saw it as closer to Lak. The language has also been considered as a separate entity that could be placed somewhere between Avar and Lak. The Italian linguist Alfredo Trombetti placed Archi within an Avar–Ando–Dido group, but today the most widely recognized opinion follows that of the Soviet scholar Bokarev, who regards Archi as one of the Lezgian–Samur group of the Dagestan languages. Schulze places it in the Lezgian branch with all other Lezgian languages belonging to the Samur group.[2]


Archi has, like its Northeast Caucasian relatives, a very complicated phonological system, with Archi being an extreme example. It has 26 vowel phonemes and, depending on analysis, between 74 and 82 consonant phonemes.


Archi has a symmetric six-vowel system (/i e ə a o u/).[5] All except /ə/ can occur in five varieties: short, pharyngealized, high tone, long (with high tone), and pharyngealized with high tone (e.g. /a/, /aˤ/, /á/, /áː/, and /áˤ/). Of all these, only /ə/ and /íˤ/ do not occur word-initially.[8] Examples of non-initial /íˤ/ are /díˤt͡ʃa/ ('to be fat')[9] and /iˤntíˤmmaj/ ('brain').[10]


Of the languages without click consonants, Archi has one of the largest consonant inventories, with the recently extinct Ubykh of the Northwest Caucasian languages having a few more. The table below shows all consonants that can be found in the Archi Language Tutorial[5] and the Archi Dictionary.[8]

Consonant phonemes of Archi
Labial Dental (Post)-
Palatal (Pre-)velar Uvular Radical Glottal
lenis fortis lenis fortis lenis fortis lenis fortis lenis fortis
pl. lab. pl. lab. pl. lab. pl. lab. pl. lab. pl. lab. pl. lab. phar. phar.+lab. pl. lab. phar. phar.+lab
Nasal m n
Plosive voiced b d ɡ ɡʷ
voiceless p t k kːʷ q qˤʷ ʡ ʔ
ejective kʷʼ qʷʼ qˤʼ qˤʷʼ qːʼ qːˤʼ
Affricate voiceless t͡s t͡sʷ t͡sː t͡ʃ t͡ʃʷ k͡ʟ̝̊ k͡ʟ̝̊ʷ
ejective t͡sʼ t͡sʷʼ t͡sːʼ t͡ʃʼ t͡ʃʷʼ t͡ʃːʼ k͡ʟ̝̊ʼ k͡ʟ̝̊ʷʼ
Fricative voiceless s sːʷ ʃ ʃʷ ʃː ʃːʷ ʟ̝̊ ʟ̝̊ʷ ʟ̝̊ː ʟ̝̊ːʷ χ χʷ χˤ χˤʷ χː χːʷ χːˤ χːˤʷ ʜ h
voiced z ʒ ʒʷ ʟ̝ ʁ ʁʷ ʁˤ ʁˤʷ
Trill r
Approximant w l j

Of the consonants listed above, the ones in orange have no word-initial dictionary entries (even though /pː/, /tː/, and /kː/ are relatively common), the one in green does not appear in the Tutorial but does have a word-internal dictionary entry (in /mot͡sːór/, 'alpine pasture used in summer'),[11] and the ones in blue appear in the Tutorial but have no dictionary entries.

Some of these sounds are very rare. For example, /ʁˤʷ/ has only one dictionary entry word-internally (in /íʁˤʷdut/, 'heavy')[12] and two entries word-initially. Likewise, /ʟ̝/ has only two dictionary entries: /náʟ̝dut/ ('blue; unripe')[13] and /k͡ʟ̝̊ʼéʟ̝dut/ ('crooked, curved').[14]

The fortis consonants are not simply two instances of the same consonant, though they do appear largely complementary, with the double instances /mm/, /ll/, and /nn/ being the most common and /zz/ less so. That said, /pp/ can still be found in /ʟ̝̊íppu/ ('three').[15] This is also noted by Kodzasov (1977),[16] who describes the fortis consonants as follows:

"Strong phonemes are characterized by the intensiveness (tension) of the articulation. The intensity of the pronunciation leads to a natural lengthening of the duration of the sound, and that is why strong [consonants] differ from weak ones by greater length. [However,] the adjoining of two single weak sounds does not produce a strong one […] Thus, the gemination of a sound does not by itself create its tension."

The voiceless velar lateral fricative /ʟ̝̊/, the voiced velar lateral fricative /ʟ̝/, and the corresponding voiceless and ejective affricates /k͡ʟ̝̊/, /k͡ʟ̝̊ʼ/ are extremely unusual speech sounds among the languages of the world, because velar fricatives are usually central rather than lateral. The velar laterals are further forward than velars in most languages and could better be called prevelar, like the Tutorial does.[5]


Until recently Archi did not have a written form, except in studies by specialists who used the Latin script. In 2006, the Surrey Morphological Group developed a Cyrillic alphabet for Archi based on the Avar alphabet, which is used in the Archi–Russian–English Dictionary alongside an IPA transcription.[7]

Practical orthography of Archi by SMG[8]
Base letter Derived letters and their pronunciation in IPA
а А а /a/ Аӏ аӏ /aˤ/ А́ а́ /á/ А́а а́а /áː/ А́ӏ а́ӏ /áˤ/
б Б б /b/
в В в /w/ various others, see below
г Г г /ɡ/ Гв гв /ɡʷ/ Гь гь /h/ Гъ гъ /ʁ/ Гъв гъв /ʁʷ/ Гъӏ гъӏ /ʁˤ/ Гъӏв гъӏв /ʁˤʷ/ Гӏ гӏ /ʡ/
д Д д /d/ Дв дв /dʷ/
е Е е /e/ Еӏ еӏ /eˤ/ Е́ е́ /é/ Е́е е́е /éː/ Е́ӏ е́ӏ /éˤ/
ж Ж ж /ʒ/ Жв жв /ʒʷ/
з З з /z/ Зв зв /zʷ/
и И и /i/ Иӏ иӏ /iˤ/ И́ и́ /í/ И́и и́и /íː/ и́ӏ /íˤ/
й Й й /j/
к К к /k/ кк /kː/ Кв кв /kʷ/ ккв /kːʷ/ Кӏ кӏ /kʼ/ Кӏв кӏв /kʷʼ/ Къ къ /qʼ/ Къв къв /qʷʼ/
ккъ /qːʼ/ Къӏ къӏ /qˤʼ/ Ккъӏ ккъӏ /qːˤʼ/ Къӏв къӏв /qˤʷʼ/ Кь кь /k͡ʟ̝̊ʼ/, /ʟ̝/ Кьв кьв /k͡ʟ̝̊ʷʼ/
л Л л /l/ Лъ лъ /ʟ̝̊/ Ллъ ллъ /ʟ̝̊ː/ Лъв лъв /ʟ̝̊ʷ/ Ллъв ллъв /ʟ̝̊ːʷ/ Лӏ лӏ /k͡ʟ̝̊/ Лӏв лӏв /k͡ʟ̝̊ʷ/
м М м /m/
н Н н /n/
о О о /o/ Оӏ оӏ /oˤ/ О́ о́ /ó/ О́о о́о /óː/ О́ӏ о́ӏ /óˤ/
п П п /p/ пп /pː/ Пӏ пӏ /pʼ/
р Р р /r/
с С с /s/ Сс сс /sː/ Св св /sʷ/ Ссв ссв /sːʷ/
т Т т /t/ тт /tː/ Тӏ тӏ /tʼ/ Тв тв /tʷ/
у У у /u/ Уӏ уӏ /uˤ/ У́ у́ /ú/ У́у у́у /úː/ У́ӏ у́ӏ /úˤ/
х Х х /χ/ Хх хх /χː/ Хв хв /χʷ/ Ххв ххв /χːʷ/ Хӏ хӏ /ʜ/ Хьӏ хьӏ /χˤ/ Ххьӏ ххьӏ /χːˤ/ Хьӏв хьӏв /χˤʷ/
Ххьӏв ххьӏв /χːˤʷ/ Хъ хъ /q/ Хъв хъв /qʷ/ Хъӏ хъӏ /qˤ/ Хъӏв хъӏв /qˤʷ/
ц Ц ц /t͡s/ Цв цв /t͡sʷ/ Цӏ цӏ /t͡sʼ/ Цӏв цӏв /t͡sʷʼ/ Цц цц /t͡sː/ Ццӏ ццӏ /t͡sːʼ/
ч Ч ч /t͡ʃ/ Чв чв /t͡ʃʷ/ Чӏ чӏ /t͡ʃʼ/ Чӏв чӏв /t͡ʃʷʼ/ Ччӏ ччӏ /t͡ʃːʼ/
ш Ш ш /ʃ/ Щ щ /ʃː/ Шв шв /ʃʷ/ Щв щв /ʃːʷ/
ы ы /ə/
ъ ъ /ʔ/ various others, see above



Archi nouns inflect for number (singular or plural) and for one of 10 regular cases and 5 locative cases that can all take one of 6 directional suffixes.[5] There are four noun classes, which are only evident from verbal agreement.[5]


Case Marker Sg. 'ram' Pl. 'rams'
Absolutive -∅ baˁkʼ baˁkʼ-ur
Ergative -∅ beˁkʼ-iri baˁkʼ-ur-čaj
Genitive -n beˁkʼ-iri-n baˁkʼ-ur-če-n
Dative -s, -sː beˁkʼ-iri-s baˁkʼ-ur-če-s
Comitative -ʟ̝̊ːu beˁkʼ-iri-ʟ̝̊ːu baˁkʼ-ur-če-ʟ̝̊ːu
Similative -qˁdi beˁkʼ-iri-qˁdi baˁkʼ-ur-če-qˁdi
Causal -šːi beˁkʼ-iri-šːi baˁkʼ-ur-če-šːi
Comparative -χur beˁkʼ-iri-χur baˁkʼ-ur-če-χur
Partitive -qˁiš beˁkʼ-iri-qˁiš baˁkʼ-ur-če-qˁiš
Substitutive -k͡ʟ̝̊ʼəna beˁkʼ-iri-k͡ʟ̝̊ʼəna baˁkʼ-ur-če-k͡ʟ̝̊ʼəna

Depending on the specifics of the analysis, neither the ergative nor absolutive cases are necessarily marked by a specific suffix. Rather, they are marked by the use of the basic (for the absolutive) and oblique (for the ergative) stems in the absence of other markers. There is also a locative-case series, where 6 directional-case suffixes are combined with 5 spatial cases to produce a total of 30 case-localization combinations. However, these do not constitute 30 distinct case forms, because they are easily derivable from a pair of morphemes.

Spatial case Marker Directional case Marker
Inessive ("in") -aj / -a Essive ("As") -∅
Intrative ("between") - qˁ(a-) Elative ("Out of")
Superessive ("above") -tːi- / -t Lative ("To"/"Into") -k
Subessive ("below") -k͡ʟ̝̊ʼ(a-) Allative ("Onto") -ši
Pertingent ("against") -ra- Terminative (Specifies a limit) -kena
Translative (Indicates change) -χutː

Noun classes

The four noun classes of Archi are only evident from verbal inflection. The table below summarizes these noun classes and their associated verbal morphology.
Class Description Singular Plural
Prefix Infix Prefix
I Male human w- -w- b-
II Female human d- -r-
III All insects, some animates,
some inanimates
b- -b- ∅-
IV Abstracts, some animates,
some inanimates
∅- -∅-


  1. ^ Archi at Ethnologue (17th ed., 2013)
  2. ^ a b Schulze's classification schemata of the Caucasian languages
  3. ^ Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Archi". Glottolog 2.2. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. 
  4. ^ Laurie Bauer, 2007, The Linguistics Student’s Handbook, Edinburgh
  5. ^ a b c d e f The Archi language tutorial, presenting an overview of the grammar of Archi
  6. ^ Archi language home page of the Surrey Morphology Group
  7. ^ a b Kibrik, A. E. (2001). "Archi (Caucasian—Daghestanian)", The Handbook of Morphology, Blackwell, pg. 468
  8. ^ a b c the Archi dictionary
  9. ^ , including sound file/díˤt͡ʃa/Dictionary entry for
  10. ^ , including sound file/iˤntíˤmmaj/Dictionary entry for
  11. ^ , including sound file/mot͡sːór/Dictionary entry for
  12. ^ , including sound file/íʁˤʷdut/Dictionary entry for
  13. ^ , including sound file/náʟ̝dut/Dictionary entry for
  14. ^ , including sound file/k͡ʟ̝̊ʼéʟ̝dut/Dictionary entry for
  15. ^ , including sound files/ʟ̝̊íppu/ and its derived form /ʟ̝̊íbtʼu/Dictionary entry for
  16. ^ translated in Ladefoged & Maddieson (1996:97–98)


  • Kodzasov, Sandro (1977). "Fonetika Archinskogo Jazyka, part 2". In Kibrik, A. E.; Samedov, I. P.; Olovjannikova et al. Opyt Strukturnogo Opisanija Archinskogo Jazyka 1. Moscow: Izdatel’stvo Moskovskogo Universiteta,. 

Further reading

  • Dirr, A. M. (1908). "Arčinskij jazyk". Sbornik materialov dlja opisanija mestnostej i plemen Kavkaza (in Русский). Tbilisi. 
  • Kaxadze, O. I. (1979). The Archi language and its relation to other Daghestan languages (in ქართული). Tbilisi: Mecniereba. 
  • Kibrik, Aleksandr E. (1972). "O formal'nom vydelenii soglasovatel'nyx klassov v arčinskom jazyke". Voprosy jazykoznanija (in Русский) 1: 124–31. 
  • Kibrik, Aleksandr E. (1977). Taksonomičeskaja grammatika (in Русский). vol. 2 of Opyt strukturnogo opisanija arčinskogo jazyka. Moscow: Izdatel'stvo moskovskogo universiteta. 
  • Kibrik, Aleksandr E. (1977). Dinamičeskaja grammatika (in Русский). vol. 3 of Opyt strukturnogo opisanija arčinskogo jazyka. Moscow: Izdatel'stvo moskovskogo universiteta. 
  • Kibrik, Aleksandr E. (1993). "Archi". In R. Smeets. Indigenous languages of the Caucasus. vol. 3. New York: Caravan Books. pp. 297–365. 
  • Kibrik, Aleksandr E. (1998). "Archi". In Andrew Spencer and Arnold M. Zwicky. The Handbook of Morphology. Blackwell Publishers. pp. 455–476. 
  • Kibrik, Aleksandr E.; Kodzasov, S. V., Olovjannikova, I. P. and Samedov, D. S. (1977). Arčinskij jazyk. Teksiy i slovari (in Русский). Moscow: Izdatel'stvo moskovskogo universiteta. 
  • Kibrik, Aleksandr E.; Kodzasov, S. V., Olovjannikova, I. P. and Samedov, D. S. (1977). Opyt strukturnogo opisanija arčinskogo jazyka. Tom 1. Leksika. Fonetika (in Русский). Moscow: Izdatel'stvo moskovskogo universiteta. 
  • Mikailov, K. Š. (1967). Arčinskij jazyk (in Русский). Maxachkala. 
  • Xajdakov, S. M. (1967). "Arčinskij jazyk". Jazyki narodov SSSR (in Русский). vol. 4. Moscow: Nauka. 

External links

  • Appendix:Cyrillic script
  • Archi–Russian–English dictionary
  • Archi language tutorial
  • Archi Vocabulary List (from the World Loanword Database)
  • Archi basic lexicon at the Global Lexicostatistical Database
  • A sample of the Archi language, 'the Bear Story':
    • as a sound file
    • in written form
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