Tsez TSUNTA DIS­TRICT,

Asian Geographic - - Front Page -

15,354 SPEAK­ERS

Tsez (or Dido) is the threat­ened lan­guage of the group of Mus­lim peo­ple in the moun­tain­ous Tsunta dis­trict of south­west­ern Dages­tan in Rus­sia. The ef­fects of mod­erni­sa­tion have re­sulted in this group adopt­ing Western cloth­ing and tech­nol­ogy, mov­ing to the low­lands and switch­ing to Rus­sian.

A North­east Cau­casian lan­guage with about 15,000 speak­ers, Tsez be­longs to the Dages­ta­nian branch of the Nakh-dages­ta­nian lan­guage fam­ily. It is de­scribed as hav­ing one of the most com­pli­cated sound sys­tems – and by far the most com­plex case sys­tem – of any lan­guage. The name is said to de­rive from the Tsez word for ‘ea­gle’, in­di­cat­ing that the Tsez live high up in the moun­tains, where ea­gles also hover.

In the writ­ten form, Tsez is poorly rep­re­sented, thus the lan­guage lacks a lit­er­ary tra­di­tion. It is not taught in Dages­tani schools; in­stead, Avar is taught for the first five years, and Rus­sian there­after. How­ever, at­tempts

A Dages­ta­nian girl wait­ing for her danc­ing round dur­ing Tatarstan’s Repub­lic Day celebration in Kazan have been made to de­velop a sta­ble or­thog­ra­phy for the Tsez lan­guage, mainly for the pur­pose of record­ing tra­di­tional folk­lore. Un­for­tu­nately, de­spite such ef­forts, the younger gen­er­a­tion tends to be more flu­ent in Rus­sian than Tsez, which is prob­a­bly due to the lack of ed­u­ca­tion in and about the lan­guage, lead­ing to a loss of tra­di­tional cul­ture among the peo­ple.

The vo­cab­u­lary shows many traces of in­flu­ences from Avar, Ge­or­gian, Ara­bic and Rus­sian, mainly through loan­words and, in the case of Rus­sian, in gram­mar and style. There are also loan­words of Tur­kic ori­gin.

be­low [ Tsez] is de­scribed as hav­ing one of the most com­pli­cated sound sys­tems – and by far the most com­plex case sys­tem – of any lan­guage.

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