As a side effect of a fruitless search for material on Armeno-Kipchak, I stumbled on Wolfgang Schulze’s excellent online grammar of Udi, which Ethnologue calls “one of the most divergent of the Lesgian languages.” I’m particularly taken with the sample text, which is followed by interlinear analysis and translation:

ostavar ostavar ait-p-es-ax uk’-a-n-te ic^ z/om-oxo arux-ne bar-sa.

strong strong word-say-inf-dat2 say:fut-opt-3sg:a-sub (>as if) refl mouth-abl fire-3sg:a come=out-pres

in order to say very strong words, as if FIRE comes out of his mouth

And with the appended lexical analysis, which gives the etyma of borrowed words (te < Armenian et’e ‘that’; yesir < Arabic asir ‘imprisoned’) and reconstructions for indigenous words. Don’t miss it, O fans of Caucasian languages!


  1. Isn’t Udi one of the candidates for the surviving version of the language of Caucasian Albania? That’s Albania in the classical world, roughly equal to modern day Azerbaijan, although I did once find a Macedonian (FYROM) nationalist site claiming that modern Albanians really had migrated from the Caucasus to the Balkans, with a handy map to prove it (!).

  2. Why yes, yes it is, and the good Doktor Schulze deals with that as well:
    “However, it should be noted that up to now we have not arrived at a safe interpretation of even a single of these documents, be it on the basis of Udi or another Lezgian language. Also see Manana Tandashvili’s contribution for examples of the Alvan script. All we know for sure ist that some officials in the kingdom of Alvan have used a language different from Armenian and Georgian which – according to the sources – shared some phonetic features with those languages that are generally described as ‘Southeast Caucasian’. There are some look-alikes between e.g. some names of the months as documented in a medivial manuscript (see Gippert, Jost: Old Armenian and Caucasian Calendar Systems [III.]: The Albanian Month Names- Annual of Armenian Linguistics 9 1988, 35-46) and certain Udi terms, but this evidence is not sufficient to finely declare the Alvan inscriptions as ‘Udi’ [the language of the palympsests seem to be more Udi-like than that of the inscriptions].”

  3. I’m really going to have to get Movses’ book. I can get it from ILL. After all these years looking forward to it, it’s bound to be a bit of a disappointment.

  4. For those interested, here’s a link to a number of articles, from “Azerbaijan International” magazine [quarterly], regrding Caucasian Albanian and Udin.

  5. See
    for more details on Caucasian Albanian and the question of ‘Old Udi’. By the way: The decipherment of the Caucasian Albanian Palimpsest, carry out by me and Jost Gippert (Frankfurt) has now nearly been finished. Results will be published as soon as possible in:
    Jost Gippert, Wolfgang Schulze, Zaza Aleksidze & Jean-Pierre Mahé 2005. An edition of the Caucasian Albanian Palimpsest from Mt. Sinai. Photographs, transliteration, glossed transcription, Armenian, Georgian, Greek and Syric parallels, translation, etymological glossary [working title]. Two Volumes. Turnhout: Brepols.
    Best wishes,

  6. Thanks for the further information! Here‘s the direct link.

  7. See now zizka/John Emerson’s review of Movses’ book on the Caucasian Albanians.

  8. John Emerson says

    A good link to my “review” of the History of the Caucasian Albanians”, in which I just pick out the juiciest parts:

    “For Movses the “Romans” are the Byzantine Greeks in Constantinople — despised Chalcedonian heretics like today’s Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox Christians. It’s the Albanians, Armenians and (up to a certain point) Georgians who are “Orthodox” — meaning Monophysite.2 The Western Europe of the Dark Ages, and the Pope, are not even factors here – Movses’ chronicle begins two centuries before Charlemagne, at a time when many Franks were still pagan and the pagan Anglo-Saxons were just getting settled in Britain. (But while there are no Catholics as we know them in this book, there is a Catholikos – a high-ranking Monophysite churchman).”

    The Caucasian Albanians in contemporary ethnic debates:

    I don’t seem to be able to link this article of Schulze’s, but it can be Googled:
    Wolfgang Schulze, “Caucasian Albanian and the Question of Language and Ethnicity”

  9. Here it is, and thanks!

  10. From the conclusion:

    Summing up we can say that the ‘Albanian’ language represented mainly a particular communicative system perhaps associated to a group of people in the regions of Albania members of which gained power over other groups. For some times (roughly 400-600), the language became part of the cultural capital of the ruling class, if not of the Albanian speaking population as such (in the sense of Bourdieu 1979). During this relatively small span of time, Albanian might have functioned as a marker of ethnicity, although it is more likely that it mainly served as a factor of social and religious identification. In this sense, it is difficult to claim that the givenness of ‘Albanian’ suggests an ‘Albanian ethnicity’. When looking at the linguistic data available from the palimpsests, only very few features become visible that would hint at cultural or even ethnic peculiarities of the speakers of the language. Obviously, this is mainly due to the nature of the texts. These texts importantly show to which degree the translators referred to Armenian, Georgian, Greek, and Syriac sources (see Gippert et al. 2009, I, II-79-84), but we can hardly claim that the adoption of foreign phrasings and word (be it directly, be it in terms of loan translations) would necessarily speak in favor of a corresponding knowledge of the audience or readership. Only in case we are dealing with terms that reflect common concepts we may assume that they are grounded in more general patterns of language contact […]

    As has been said above, language is often seen as a typical marker of ethnicity. In the case of the Albanians, we have to acknowledge, however, that we cannot even tell for sure that the available written documents (the palimpsests and the inscriptions) are ‘Albanian’ at all. Nowhere in the readable parts of the palimpsests we find an indication that would say something like *alowanowġoy mowzen campêne ‘it is written in the language of the Albanians’. The only indication that we indeed have to deal with the language of the ‘Albanians’ comes from indirect sources, e.g. the name of the alphabet in the alphabet list and from the list of month names referred to above (see Gippert 1988). Still, we cannot exclude the possibility that the script called ‘Albanian’ in the alphabet list had been used for languages other than Albanian, too. In this respect, we have to remember that Movsēs Xorenacci (Patmowtciwn Hayocc III, 54) talks about the Gargarians for whom Mesrop Maštocc had developed a script. Up to now, we cannot say whether the Gargarians were part of an ‘Albanian confederation’ sharing with the Albanians the same language. All we can say for sure is that people speaking the language of the palimpsests must have been present in the kingdom of Albania.

    It goes without saying that the language of the Caucasian Albanian palimpsests conventionally called ‘Albanian’ played a considerable role at the times of early Christianity in present-day Azerbaijan. Nevertheless, it is premature to assume that it marked a particular group with respect to specific features of ethnicity. The popular view, according to which a language necessarily reflects an ethnic unit is likely to fail at least with respect to the question of the Caucasian Albanians.

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