Brief introduction to the Chechen language


        Chechen belongs to the Nakh-Daghestanian, or Northeast Caucasian, language family, a very old language family which is indigenous to the Caucasus and has no traceable outside relationships. Chechen is closely related to Ingush (they are about as close as Spanish and Portuguese) and slightly less closely related to the moribund Batsbi, or Tsova-Tush, language of Georgia.  It is distantly related to the indigenous languages of Daghestan (such as Avar, Lak, Dargi, and Lezgi).

        Chechen is the first language of the great majority of the Chechen people, who numbered somewhat over a million in 1994.  The present number is less, perhaps under 800,000.

         In terms of linguistic typology, Chechen is head-final, ergative, moderately synthetic, and dependent-marking.   It has a complex consonant system including ejectives, uvulars, and pharyngeals.  It also has a large vowel system rather like that of Swedish or Finnish.

        About 84% of the basic vocabulary is cognate with Ingush, and much less with the more distantly related Daghestanian languages:  about 30% with Avar, and about 20% with Lezgi.  Other sources of vocabulary include Arabic, Persian, and neighboring languages.  Much of the traditional scientific and technical vocabulary is from Persian or Arabic. 

        Chechens call themselves noxchii and their language noxchiin mott.  The name "Chechen" was first applied to them by Russians.  It is taken from the name of the lowland town Cheechan, one of the first Chechen towns encountered by Russians.