Skip to main content
Select Source:

Caucasian languages

Caucasian languages, family of languages spoken by about 7 million people in the Caucasus region of SE European Russia. The Caucasian languages take their name from the Caucasus Mountains, on the slopes of which their original homeland is believed to have been located. This linguistic family was once considerably more extensive; however, only about 25 of its tongues have survived into modern times. There are two major subdivisions of the Caucasian family of languages, northern and southern. Whether or not these two branches are related linguistically is still disputed, but Georgian scholars since the 1930s have regarded as proved the kinship of all the Caucasian tongues. The northern group consists of about 20 languages native to 2 million people. Its most important members are Chechen, Abkhaz, and Adyghe, which with its two dialects of Kabardin and Circassian, is also spoken to some extent in Turkey and Syria. The southern group of Caucasian languages includes four tongues.

Georgian, the leading member of the northern group, is the mother tongue of about 4 million people in Georgia and in neighboring areas of Turkey and Azerbaijan in Iran. It is a modern representative of the language of the ancient Colchians, of whom the celebrated mythological figure Medea was one. A literature in Georgian goes back to the 5th cent. AD, and the language has two alphabets of its own, one of which is still in use, although increasingly the Cyrillic alphabet is being adopted. In general, the Caucasian languages have inflection and tend to be agglutinative in that different linguistic elements, each of which exists separately and has a fixed meaning, are often joined to form one word. Phonetically, the Caucasian tongues are distinctive, combining simplicity of vowels with abundant richness of consonants. Many of the Caucasian languages are spoken by comparatively few people (that is, fewer than 100,000), and they are gradually giving ground to Russian. An exception is Georgian, which has a comparatively large number of speakers.

See B. Geiger et al., Peoples and Languages of the Caucasus (1959).

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Caucasian languages." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 25 Feb. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Caucasian languages." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. (February 25, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/caucasian-languages

"Caucasian languages." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved February 25, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/caucasian-languages

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

Caucasian

Cau·ca·sian / kôˈkāzhən/ • adj. 1. often offens. of or relating to one of the traditional divisions of humankind, covering a broad group of peoples from Europe, western Asia, and parts of India and North Africa. ∎  white-skinned; of European origin. 2. of or relating to the Caucasus. 3. of or relating to a group of languages spoken in the region of the Caucasus. The most widely spoken is Georgian, of the small South Caucasian family, not related to the three North Caucasian families. • n. often offens. a Caucasian person. ∎  a white person; a person of European origin.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Caucasian." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Encyclopedia.com. 25 Feb. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Caucasian." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Encyclopedia.com. (February 25, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/caucasian-1

"Caucasian." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Retrieved February 25, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/caucasian-1

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.