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Learn the Chechen Language & Culture

Overview of the Chechen Language

Chechen is the indigenous language of the Chechen peoples. It is a member of the Nakh branch of the Caucasian language family, and is spoken primarily in Chechnya. Several other languages in the Caucasus region, such as Ingush and Batsbi, are related to it. Within this group, Chechen is most similar to the Ingush language.

During the Soviet era, the use of the Chechen language was discouraged in favor of Russian. Nonetheless, the language survived, and has seen increasing use since the fall of the Soviet Union. It is now spoken more openly in many aspects of daily life, and is seen by many as a source of pride in their heritage. It is also taught in all Chechen schools.

Chechen Letters and the Chechen Alphabet

The first alphabet used for the Chechen language was a version of the Arabic alphabet. Then, for a brief period between 1923 and 1937, the Latin alphabet was used. In 1938, under Soviet rule, Chechen converted to a form of the Cyrillic alphabet used by Russian. Some Chechens opted to return to the Latin alphabet in 1992, after the fall of the Soviet Union, but the Cyrillic alphabet remains the most widely used form of Chechen writing.

Chechen is written from left to right, the same as English. The alphabet has both capital and lowercase letters. It is noteworthy that the character 1 is used as a letter in the Chechen Cyrillic alphabet.

Chechen Pronunciation

The sound system of the Chechen language is characterized by an abundance of vowels and the absence of labialized consonants. Vowels in the Chechen language can be divided into two groups, depending on whether they are long or short. All Chechen consonants are pronounced with a strong aspiration. The accent in Chechen words is always placed on the first syllable, although loan words from other languages may be exceptions to this rule.

Chechen Vocabulary

In addition to words of native origin, many of which are shared with Ingush, Chechen also includes many words borrowed from other languages. Russian loanwords commonly entered the language during the Soviet era, while borrowings from Arabic reflect the Muslim influence in Chechnya. The Chechen language has also absorbed words from Persian, Georgian, and various Turkic languages at different times in its history.

Chechen Grammar

Chechen grammar differs significantly from that of English. For example, Chechen nouns are divided into six grammatical classes and are declined in eight cases. Pronouns, adjectives, and numerals also decline. Verbs are conjugated to show time, inclination, mood, number, and grammatical class. Some verbs have different stems in the singular and plural. Chechen also uses postpositions, which come after the words they modify, rather than prepositions, which come before them.

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