Archi Language
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Archi Language

Archi [1] is a Northeast Caucasian language spoken by the Archis in the village of Archib, southern Dagestan, Russia, and the six surrounding smaller villages.

Map of where Archi is spoken (red area)
Native toNorth Caucasus
RegionArchib, Dagestan
Native speakers
970 (2010 census)[2]
Cyrillic script (developed in 2006 based on the Avar alphabet)
Language codes
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters. For an introductory guide on IPA symbols, see Help:IPA.

It is unusual for its many phonemes and for its contrast between several voiceless velar lateral fricatives, /, ?, :, :?/, voiceless and ejective velar lateral affricates, /k?, k, k?', k'/, and a voiced velar lateral fricative, //. It is an ergative-absolutive language with four noun classes[4] and has a remarkable morphological system with huge paradigms and irregularities on all levels.[5] Mathematically, there are 1,502,839 possible forms that can be derived from a single verb root.[6]


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[by whom?][]. 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.[3]


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 ? a o u/).[4] All except /?/ can occur in five varieties: short, pharyngealized, high tone, long (with high tone), and pharyngealized with high tone (e.g. /a/, /a?/, /á/, /á:/, and /á?/). Of all these, only /?/ and /í?/ do not occur word-initially.[7] Examples of non-initial /í?/ are /dí?ta/ ('to be fat')[8] and /i?ntí?mmaj/ ('brain').[9]


Of the known languages without click consonants, Archi has the world's largest phonemic consonant inventory, with only 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[4] and the Archi Dictionary.[7]

Consonant phonemes of Archi
Labial Dental (Post)-
Palatal (Pre-)velar Uvular Epiglottal 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 d? ?
voiceless p p: t t? t: k k? k: k:? q q? q? q ? ?
ejective p' t' k' k?' q' q?' q?' q' q:' q:?'
Affricate voiceless t?s t?s? t?s: t t k? k
ejective t?s' t?s?' t?s:' t' t' t:' k?' k'
Fricative voiceless s s? s: s:? ? ?: ?:? ? : :? ? ?: ?:? ?:? ?: ? h
voiced z z? ? ?
Trill r
Approximant l j w

Of the consonants listed above, the ones in orange have no word-initial dictionary entries (even though /p:/, /t:/, and /k:/ are relatively common), the one in green does not appear in the Tutorial but does have a word-internal dictionary entry (in /mot?s:ór/, 'alpine pasture used in summer'),[10] and the ones in blue appear in the Tutorial but have no dictionary entries.

Some of these sounds are very rare. For example, // has only one dictionary entry word-internally (in /ídut/, 'heavy')[11] and two entries word-initially. Likewise, // has only two dictionary entries: /nádut/ ('blue; unripe')[12] and /k?'édut/ ('crooked, curved').[13]

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 /íppu/ ('three').[14] This is also noted by Kodzasov (1977),[15] 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 //, the voiced velar lateral fricative //, and the corresponding voiceless and ejective affricates /k?/, /k?'/ 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.[4]


Until recently Archi did not have a written form, except in studies by specialists who used the Latin script. In 2006, the Surrey Morphology 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.[6]

Practical orthography of Archi by SMG[7]
Base letter Derived letters and their pronunciation in IPA
? ? ? /a/ /a?/ /á/ /á:/ /á?/
? ? ? /b/
? ? ? /w/ various others, see below
? ? ? /?/ // /h/ /?/ // // ? ? // /?/
? ? ? /d/ /d?/
? ? ? /e/ /e?/ /é/ /é:/ /é?/
? ? ? /?/ //
? ? ? /z/ /z?/
? ? ? /i/ /i?/ /í/ /í:/ /í?/
? ? ? /j/
? ? ? /k/ /k:/ /k?/ /k:?/ /k'/ /k?'/ /q'/ /q?'/
/q:'/ /q?'/ ? ? /q:?'/ ? ? /q'/ /k?'/, // /k'/
? ? ? /l/ // /:/ /?/ ? ? /:?/ /k?/ /k/
? ? ? /m/
? ? ? /n/
? ? ? /o/ /o?/ /ó/ /ó:/ /ó?/
? ? ? /p/ /p:/ /p'/
? ? ? /r/
? ? ? /s/ /s:/ /s?/ /s:?/
? ? ? /t/ /t:/ /t'/ /t?/
? ? ? /u/ /u?/ /ú/ /ú:/ /ú?/
? ? ? /?/ /?:/ // /?:?/ /?/ // ? ? /?:?/ ? ? //
/?:/ /q/ /q?/ /q?/ ? ? /q/
? ? ? /t?s/ /t?s?/ /t?s'/ /t?s?'/ /t?s:/ /t?s:'/
? ? ? /t/ /t/ /t'/ /t'/ /t:'/
? ? ? /?/ ? ? /?:/ // /?:?/
? ? /?/
? ? /?/ various others, see above


Archi is 5 grammaticals: Noun class currently has been replaced.


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.[4] There are four noun classes, which are only evident from verbal agreement.[4]


Case Marker Sg. 'ram' Pl. 'rams'
Absolutive -? ba?k' ba?k'-ur
Ergative -? be?k'-iri ba?k'-ur-?aj
Genitive -n be?k'-iri-n ba?k'-ur-?e-n
Dative -s, -s: be?k'-iri-s ba?k'-ur-?e-s
Comitative -:u be?k'-iri-:u ba?k'-ur-?e-:u
Similative -q?di be?k'-iri-q?di ba?k'-ur-?e-q?di
Causal -?:i be?k'-iri-?:i ba?k'-ur-?e-?:i
Comparative -?ur be?k'-iri-?ur ba?k'-ur-?e-?ur
Partitive -q?i? be?k'-iri-q?i? ba?k'-ur-?e-q?i?
Substitutive -k?'?na be?k'-iri-k?'?na ba?k'-ur-?e-k?'?na

Depending on the specifics of the analysis, the ergative and the absolutive cases are not always 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 in which 6 directional-case suffixes are combined with 5 spatial cases to produce a total of 30 case-localization combinations. However, they 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") - q?(a-) Elative ("Out of") -?
Superessive ("above") -t:i- / -t Lative ("To"/"Into") -k
Subessive ("below") -k?'(a-) Allative ("Onto") -?i
Pertingent ("against") -ra- Terminative (Specifies a limit) -kena
Translative (Indicates change) -?ut:

Noun classes

The four noun classes of Archi are only evident from verbal inflection. This table summarizes the 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
?- -?-

Example phrases

The following phrases were phonetically transcribed from Archi:[16]

Archi transcription English
x?it bar?ur The ladle breaks.
x?it ax?u The spoon (literally: little ladle) became dirty.
k?ut?ali berx?ur The bag stays.
k?ut?ali eku The little bag fell.
ut ab?u The jug broke.
ut a?u The little jug broke.
?un?um barx?ur The kettle becomes dirty.
?un?um oqu The little kettle sank (literally: drowned).
motol orqur The young goat drowns.
uri arur The young horse hides itself.
bi? au The young cow hid itself.
?êrt erkur The young donkey falls.
dogi ebku The donkey fell.
q?on abu The goat hid itself.
nôi? ebx?u The horse stayed.


The inclusions of "little" and "young" in the phrases above refer to a diminutive form of the verb, which in Archi language commonly refers either to a smaller or younger version of the subject. While nouns pertaining to smaller objects such as items stay the same regardless of whether it is a diminutive or not (e.g. x?it for both "ladle" and "spoon", k?ut?ali for both "bag" and "little bag" etc.), nouns pertaining to younger animals change into entirely different words (e.g. dogi "donkey" but ?êrt "young donkey", nôi? "horse" but uri "young horse" etc.). The verb changes to fit the diminutive regardless of whether the noun changes or not. In the past tense this is done by removing the -b- in front of the -x?u/-u/-ku inflection. In the present tense this is done by removing the b- as the first letter of the verb.


  1. ^ Laurie Bauer, 2007, The Linguistics Student's Handbook, Edinburgh
  2. ^ Archi at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  3. ^ a b Schulze's classification schemata of the Caucasian languages[permanent dead link]
  4. ^ a b c d e f The Archi language tutorial, presenting an overview of the grammar of Archi Archived 2011-09-04 at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ "Archi language home page of the Surrey Morphology Group". Archived from the original on 1 March 2015. Retrieved 2015.
  6. ^ a b Kibrik, A. E. (2001). "Archi (Caucasian--Daghestanian)", The Handbook of Morphology, Blackwell, pg. 468
  7. ^ a b c "Archi Dictionary". Retrieved 2015.
  8. ^ "Archi - 1083 - I". Retrieved 2015.
  9. ^ "Archi - 1420 - ?II?". Retrieved 2015.
  10. ^ "Archi - 2101 - ". Retrieved 2015.
  11. ^ "Archi - 1387 - I?". Retrieved 2015.
  12. ^ "Archi - 2213 - I". Retrieved 2015.
  13. ^ "Archi - 1838 - ". Retrieved 2015.
  14. ^ "Archi - 3833 - I?". Retrieved 2015.
  15. ^ translated in Ladefoged & Maddieson (1996:97-98)
  16. ^ Lubotsky, Alexander (2010). Van Sanskriet tot Spijkerschrift: Breinbrekers uit alle talen [From Sanskrit to Cuneiform: Brain teasers from all languages] (in Dutch). Amsterdam University Press. pp. 17, 68-69. ISBN 978-9089641793. Retrieved 2016.


Further reading

  • Chumakina, Marina (2014). ? ? [Semantic agreement in Archi]. In Plungyan V.A. et al (eds), ?. . ?. ? ? [Language. Constants. Variables. In memoriam of A.E. Kibrik], 454-470. St Petersburg: Aleteya (in Russian).
  • Chumakina, Marina (2015). Archi. In Peter O. Müller, Ingeborg Ohnheiser, Susan Olsen & Franz Rainer (eds), Word formation: An international handbook of the languages of Europe (Handbooks of Linguistics and Communication Science, HSK40). Berlin: de Gruyter Mouton.
  • Dirr, A. M. (1908). "Ar?inskij jazyk". Sbornik materialov dlja opisanija mestnostej i plemen Kavkaza (in Russian). Tbilisi.
  • Kaxadze, O. I. (1979). The Archi language and its relation to other Daghestan languages (in Georgian). Tbilisi: Mecniereba.
  • Kibrik, Aleksandr E. (1972). "O formal'nom vydelenii soglasovatel'nyx klassov v ar?inskom jazyke". Voprosy jazykoznanija (in Russian). 1: 124-31.
  • Kibrik, Aleksandr E. (1977). Taksonomi?eskaja grammatika (in Russian). vol. 2 of Opyt strukturnogo opisanija ar?inskogo jazyka. Moscow: Izdatel'stvo moskovskogo universiteta.
  • Kibrik, Aleksandr E. (1977). Dinami?eskaja grammatika (in Russian). vol. 3 of Opyt strukturnogo opisanija ar?inskogo jazyka. Moscow: Izdatel'stvo moskovskogo universiteta.
  • Kibrik, Aleksandr E. (1993). "Archi". In R. Smeets (ed.). Indigenous languages of the Caucasus. vol. 3. New York: Caravan Books. pp. 297-365.
  • Kibrik, Aleksandr E. (1998). "Archi". In Andrew Spencer; Arnold M. Zwicky (eds.). The Handbook of Morphology. Blackwell Publishers. pp. 455-476.
  • Kibrik, Aleksandr E.; Kodzasov, S. V.; Olovjannikova, I. P. & Samedov, D. S. (1977). Ar?inskij jazyk. Teksiy i slovari (in Russian). Moscow: Izdatel'stvo moskovskogo universiteta.
  • Kibrik, Aleksandr E.; Kodzasov, S. V.; Olovjannikova, I. P. & Samedov, D. S. (1977). Opyt strukturnogo opisanija ar?inskogo jazyka. Tom 1. Leksika. Fonetika (in Russian). Moscow: Izdatel'stvo moskovskogo universiteta.
  • Mikailov, K. ?. (1967). Ar?inskij jazyk (in Russian). Maxachkala.
  • Xajdakov, S. M. (1967). "Ar?inskij jazyk". Jazyki narodov SSSR (in Russian). vol. 4. Moscow: Nauka.

External links

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