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Index / Languages /
Caucasian languages

Figures in 1000
% of MENA population
1,530 0.3%
1,130 0.2%
400 0.1%
110 <0.1%
60 <0.1%
50 <0.1%
14 <0.1%
10 <0.1%
8 <0.1%
By country
Figures in 1000.
% of country population.
60 0.1%
30 0.1%
62 0.8%
123 1.9%
Saudi Arabia
25 0.1%
65 0.3%
1,425 1.8%

Georgian writing

Writing in Georgian, using the Georgian alphabet.

Caucasian languages are of two stems, either North Caucasian or Kartvelian, which also often is called South Caucasian.
There is in total 1.78 million Caucasian speakers in the MENA region. In total between 10 and 11 million speak a Caucasian language as daily language. Most live in Russia and Georgia.
Caucasian languages are noted for a large number of consonants and few vowels.

The North Caucasian has two main categories, East and West. In the MENA region, the Western, or Northwestern group is the largest.
Circassian language, or languages, is spoken by the Circassians, that have arrived in Middle Eastern countries mainly through the second half of the 19th century. Of a total 2.1 million Circassian speakers, 1.5 million live in the Middle East. Kabardian is the largest of the two Circassian languages, spoken by 1.1 million, while Adyghe is spoken by 400,000 in the Middle East.
Two languages that often are classified as one is Abaza spoken by 10,000 in Turkey and Abkhaz, spoken by 8,000, also in Turkey.
There is one more language to the group, Ubykh, which ended in 1992, when the last native speaker died. Refugees to the region of Istanbul in 1894, the Ubykh speakers gradually took up Turkish.

Of Northeastern Caucasian languages, there is only one in the whole MENA region: Chechen, spoken by small communities in Turkey and Jordan.

Kartvelian (Southern)
The Kartvelian, or Small Caucasian language family, originates in the regions of modern Georgia, which remains its homeland today. The family counts only 5 languages, divided between 3 branches. About 5.2 million worldwide speak one as daily language. Some 500,000 live outside Georgia, and of these 220,000 in Turkey, Israel and Iran.
Georgian is by far the largest of all Caucasian languages. The variant called Judeo-Georgian is often considered merely a dialect of Georgian. The two are all there is of the Georgian branch.
Laz is of the Zan branch, together with Mingrelian, the second largest language of Georgia.
The third branch, Svan, is only spoken in Georgia.

By Tore Kjeilen