Quick usage question: do you use vun/kyn distinction?

A question to readers:

Do you -when speaking in Lezgi- address unknown or elder people by vun or kyn?

I have written earlier that Lezgi, like other Caucasian languages, doesn’t have a special ‘respect’ form (like French vous or German Sie or Russian Vy) but that appears to be correct only in the historical sense (ie. Lezgi acquired the distinction relatively recently and under influence of Russian).

What is your opinion?

How to say “I am going to…”?

As you perhaps recall, in one of the previous posts I have listed various verbal forms used in Lezgi. They were many, but they were not all there is. In the upcoming series of short posts I will deal with the remaining forms and meanings.

For a start the “going to” or immediate future form. Its ending is -dajwal added to the imperfect stem of the verb (eg. qachudajwal ‘going to take’; ghidajwal ‘going to bring’ zhedajwal ‘going to be’).

This form is usually used with forms of the verb “to be”, as in following examples:

Gila kyn chi chkadal zhedajwal ja = Now, you are going to be in our place.

I xabar adaz c’iji ymyr ghidajwal ja = This news is going to bring him a new life

With past forms of ‘to be’ it corresponds to the English “was going to…”

Za waz ewer gudajwal tir = I was going to call you

Qe chun ekskursijadiz fidajwal tir, amma marf qwana = We were going to go for a trip today, but it started to rain

Lezgiblog, reloaded


Hello and welcome to this blogs’ new home! The posting will be more regular, if not very frequent. Realistically I would expect a new post every two weeks or so.

To all those who commented: thank you for your feedback! It’s really appreciated. I will try to get back and reply to all of you shortly.

Word stress in Lezgi

I have already said a bit about Lezgi pronunciation, but unfortunately nothing about the placement of stress in Lezgi words. Let’s fill that gap now.

General information

Lezgi stress is dynamic, that is the stressed syllable is pronounced a bit longer and louder than the other parts of the word. Stress usually falls on the second syllable of the root, but many Arabic and Turkish loanwords are stressed on the last syllable and Russian loanwords often retain their original stress. Some case-forming and word-forming suffixes are always stressed, some others are not. There are also some other exceptions. See below for details (sorry for not including Cyrillic at this stage – I will update the post later). I will mark stress by putting the stressed vowels in capitals.

Stress in verbs

Quite simple – the second syllable of the root is usually stressed: aqwAz (second a stressed) – stop! alcIf – settle!; bashlAmisha – begin!; inAndirmisha – make sb. believe!

Verbs with -ar are an exception in that the first syllable is stressed: gAdarun – throw; xkAdarun – jump.

Stress in nouns, adjectives and the rest

Also on second syllable: aq’Ul ‘inteligence’; chetIn ‘difficult’; jashAjish ‘life’; xyshrEkan ‘spider’; qalAbulux ‘panic’.

Loans ending in -i or -at are stressed on the last syllable: haqiqI;’real’; tarixI ‘historical’; zijarAt ‘pilgrimage’; hukumAt ‘government’; teshkilAt ‘organization’

The same goes for many other Oriental (Turkish, Persian, Arabic) loanwords: barabAr ‘equal’; zhehennEm ‘hell’; inqilAb ‘revolution’ alishwerIsh ‘commerce’

But some other (less than 50 words in all) Oriental words are stressed on the first syllable: Asul ‘fundamental’ shEher ‘town’ fAhum ‘reason’; bAde ‘grandmother’; c’Ajlapan ‘lightning’; dIshehli ‘woman’…

Adverbs, particles, interjections

Many adverbs,particles and interjections are stressed on the first syllable as well: Amma ‘but’; bElki ‘perhaps’; gIla ‘now’; hAtta ‘even’; xEjlin ‘a lot’; Inshallah ‘God willing’; Alla ‘wow (surprise)’; Amin ‘amen’; Aferin ‘well done’


Usually, when a suffix (eg. plural forming -ar /-er) is added to a one-syllable word, that suffix is stressed.

Suffixes -lu; -suz; -dar; -kar; and prefix bej- (with three exceptions) are always  stressed

Most suffixes creating various verbal forms are not stressed eg.: -zawa; -nawa; -iz (infinitive); -un (masdar); -da (future) -mir (prohibitve)… also not stressed are -ni ‘and’; -ni ‘? (question marker)’; -t’a ‘if’; -wal (abstract nouns); -dakaz and -diz (adverb forming suffixes); -chi and -xana

Lezgi verbal forms

This is yet another post on Lezgi verbs. I feel it is needed, because a thorough knowledge of the Lezgi verbal forms is needed if one wants to achieve a minimal level of proficiency in Lezgi. On the surface it looks plain and simple, as Lezgi verbs don’t inflect (change) for person, gender and number, but once you take a closer look, you see that there is a bewildering variety of forms, some of them quite unfamiliar (so-called ‘converbs’ for instance.

I will start with listing (as always with the help of Haspelmath’s grammar) all main forms of the verb fin ‘to go’. Later on I will add explanations and examples to this list, for now let’s just marvel at how many different forms are there. Sorry for all the big grammar words, I’ll try to explain them later.

Masdar: fin ‘going; to go’; tefin ‘not going; not to go’
Optative: firaj ‘may it/you go’ tefiraj ‘may it/you not go’
Imperative: alad ‘go!’

Infinitive: fiz ‘to go’; tefiz ‘not to go’
Imperfective: fizva ‘is going’; fizvach ‘is not going’; fizvaj ‘the going one’; tefizvaj ‘the not going one’
Past Imperfective: fizvaj ‘was going’; fizvachir ‘was not going’
Continuative Imperfective: fizma ‘still going’; fizmach ‘not going anymore’; fizmaj ‘the still going one’; tefizmaj
Past Cont. Imperfective: fizmaj ‘was still going’; fizmachir ‘was not going anymore’
Future: fida ‘will go; usually goes’; fidach ‘will not go; usually doesn’t go’; fidaj ‘the one who will go’; tefidaj ‘the one who won’t go’
Past Future: fidaj ‘was going to go; would go’; fidachir ‘wasn’t going to go; wouldn’t go’
Hortative: fin ‘let us/me go’; tefin ‘let us/me not go’
Prohibitive: fimir ‘don’t go!’
Posterior converb: fidaldi ‘until he goes, before he goes’
Graduative converb: firdavaj ‘as was going’
Immediate-Anterior converb: fizmaz ‘as soon as he goes’

Aorist: fena ‘went’; fenach ‘didn’t go’; feji ‘the one who went’; tefej ‘the one who didn’t go’
Past Aorist: fenaj ‘had gone’; fenachir ‘hadn’t gone’
Perfect: fenva ‘has gone’; fenvach ‘hasn’t gone’; fenvaj ‘one who has gone’; tefenva ‘one who hasn’t gone’
Past Perfect: fenvaj ‘had been gone’; fenvachir ‘hadn’t been gone’
Cont. Perfect: fenma ‘is still gone’; fenmach ‘isn’t gone anymore’; fenmaj; tefenma
Past Cont. Perfect: fenmaj ‘was still gone’; fenmachir ‘wasn’t gone anymore’
Aorist converb: fena; tefena
Immediate-Anterior converb: fenmazdi ‘as soon as he went’; tefenmazdi ‘he didn’t manage to go yet when’

Converbs are verbal forms used in complex sentences and demanded by the sentence structure and other verbs being used. Apart from the ones mentioned above there are also some endings which create other converb forms:

Temporal: -la ‘when doing sth’
Immediate-Anterior: -valdi ‘as soon as’
Conditional: -t’a ‘if’
Interrogative: -ni ‘?; forms question when added to the verb form’
Purpose/Manner: -val ‘ so that’
Causal: – vilaej ‘because of’

Lezgi verbs of perception (UPDATED)

If you read carefully one of the previous posts, entitled “Lezgi syntax trivia” you may have noticed that the sentences with the verb ‘to see’ looked a bit strange. I’ll repeat them now for the record:

Рушаз гада акуна. The girl saw the boy.
Гададиз руш акунач. The boy didn’t saw the girl.

What’s so strange about them? The fact that they seem to be constructed “backwards”. The noun representing the person who sees has an ending while the noun representing the person who is seen stands in its dictionary form.

That’s because a certain set of verbs, mainly related to perception,  but also to feelings, behave in Lezgi in a peculiar way. You may think of Lezgi way of saying “the boy saw the girl” as something along the lines of “to the boy the girl was seen”. More adequately, you can compare this with syntax of the verb “to like” in many languages (cf. Italian mi piace and Russian мне нравится).

Incidentally, the Lezgi verb ‘to like’ – кIан (you’ve met it before, it means also ‘to love’ and ‘to want’) uses the same arrangement, so Рушаз гада кIанзава means “the girl loves the boy” and not the other way around.

Another useful verb behaving this way is ‘to know (a fact)’ – чида. ‘I don’t know’ is in Lezgi Заз чидач

An incomplete list of other verbs using this construction:

жугъун ‘to find’; ава (only in the meaning ‘to have’); бегенмиш хьун ‘to like’; бизар хьун ‘to be fed up with’; такIан хьун ‘to hate’; шад хьун ‘to be happy’; гьайиф хьун ‘to be hurt’

In some cases the construction is more complicated as none of the nouns/pronouns in the sentence stand in the dictionary form:

киче хьун ‘to be afraid’ Ваз захъай киче жемир! ‘don’t be afraid of me’
регъуь хьун ‘to be ashamed’ Ваз захъай регъуь жемир! ‘don’t be ashamed of me’
бейкеф хьун ‘to be angry’ Ваз закай бейкеф жемир! ‘don’t be angry at me’

There’s a group of verbs formed with the aid of verb атун ‘to come’ using this construction.
хъел атун ‘to be angry’ – адаз хъел атанва ‘he is angry’ lit. ‘anger has come to him’
шел атун ‘to feel like crying’
гьайиф атун ‘to be sorry; to regret’
хъвер атун ‘to be happy; to feel like laughing’
хуш атун ‘to be glad about something; to like something’

Lastly, this construction is used in verbs made from adjectives like гишин ‘hungry’ or мекьи ‘cold’

адаз гишинзава ‘he is hungry’
мекьизавани ваз? ‘are you cold?’

Persian and Lezgi

The lands inhabited by Lezgis have been either a part of or a neighbour of Iranian empires since the times of Caucasian Albania. The oldest town in this part of the Caucasus, Derbent / Darband / دربند was founded as an Iranian border fortress and, in the course of history, many Iranians were settled in its environs where their descendants the Tats and the Mountain Jews live even today.

Even though the picture of Lezgi – Iranian relations is not all rosy, given that the rise of the militantly Shi’a Safavid dynasty started a 300-year period of periodic warfare between the Sunni mountaineers and the Shi’a Iranian state, a lot of the cultural heritage remains shared. Iranian poets are cherished (and translated into Lezgi!) by the Lezgis even today, the folktales show many paralells, the same games are played, the same stories are told and lastly, there’s a good number of Iranian words which made their way into Lezgi and, by large, are not even perceived as foreign by native speakers.

As my master’s thesis touched upon this subject (ie. Iranian loanwords in Lezgi) and as the matter is not well-known may be of some interest to Lezgi readership, I will dedicate a couple of post to those words. For now, some general points:

  • There’s at least a thousand identifiably Iranian words in current usage.
  • Most of the loans can be traced back to Persian, but some display characteristics suggestive of a different source language – in many cases dialects of Tati spoken in the area.
  • While some words came directly from Persian, the majority was borrowed through Azerbaijani (ie. Azerbaijanis borrowed from Persians and Lezgis borrowed from Azerbaijani).
  • Sometimes there are interesting changes of meaning, in many cases a given word has one meaning in Persian and a slightly different one in Azerbaijani and Lezgi. This supports the argument of a said word being borrowed via Azerbaijani and not directly.
  • While some loanwords must have been borrowed many centuries ago, the bulk of them, in my opinion, was introduced into Lezgi relatively recently, when interactions with Azerbaijanis increased.

Let’s end with a couple of examples: азад ‘free’ (from Persian آزاد azad); гардан ‘neck’ (Persian گردن gardan); жанавур ‘wolf’ (in Persian جاناور ‘janavar’ means ‘monster’); асант ‘easy’ (Persian: آسان asan; Tati: (h)asant); гзаф ‘many, much, a lot’ (Persian گزاف gazaf ‘too many); чка ‘place’ (earlier form чика; Persian: جایگاه jaigah, Tati: jiga).

Lezgi with ANKI

Elsewhere I am talking about ways to use a flashcard program ANKI to help with language learning (what it does is basically it shows you a word and you have to remember its translation correctly; it is a great help in remembering; you can download it for free from here).

Now, the main news is that ANKI lets you share your collections (“decks”) of words & translations with other people, which is precisely what I did with my Lezgi deck. To get it, first download and install ANKI program, then open it, click “Download” and search for “lezgi-english” in the list of the available shared decks. All in all there’s around 1600 words in my deck, but I will be updating and expanding it.

How to say “How to say it in Lezgi” in Lezgi? Conversational Lezgi II

After breezing through the basic Lezgi courtesies the lesson before, lets now stop by some expressions related to knowledge of languages.

Ваз лезги чизвани? – Do you know Lezgi?
Лезги чIал заз чидач – I don’t know Lezgi
Заз лезги чIал пис чида – I know Lezgi poorly (lit. bad)
Заз лезги чIал хъсан чида – I know Lezgi well
Зи хайи (// дидед) чIал  лезги  чIал я – Lezgi is my native (mother) language

Лезги чIалал зун гъавурда акьазвач – I don’t understand Lezgi (lit. on Lezgi language)
Вун зи гъавурда акьазвани? – Do you understand me?
Гъавурда акьуна – I understood
Гъавурда акьунач – I didn’t understand
Зун ви гъавурда дуьз акьунани? – Did I understand you correctly?
Тикрар хъия – Repeat (please) lit. repetition-do again
За дуьз лугьузвани? – Am I saying it correctly?

Заз лезги чIалал рахаз чириз кIанзава – I want to learn to speak Lezgi
Захъ галаз лезги чIалал рахух – Speak with me in Lezgi
Им лезгидалди кхьихь – Write it down in Lezgi
Идаз лезгидалди гьикI лугьуда? – How do they call it in Lezgi?
Лезги чIалал им гьикI я (жеда)? – Lit. what is it (will be) in Lezgi? ie. How is it called in Lezgi?
Ада вуч лугьузва? – What is he/she saying?
И гафунин мана вуч я? – What does this word mean? (lit. what is this word’s meaning?)

1. лезги чIалал ‘on Lezgi language ie. in Lezgi’ and лезгидалди ‘from the top of Lezgi ie. the Lezgi way’ are interchangeable and have the same meaning. For other languages, just substitute a language name as appropriate (урус чIалал – in Russian;  фарс чIалал – in Persian; поляк чIалал – in Polish etc.)

2. The translations may seem quite direct and even blunt to the average English speakers. In particular, the lack of the word ‘please’ in requests may raise some eyebrows. But its omission is not a mistake. The traditional Lezgi culture, like many other Caucasian cultures, is very egalitarian and not keen on formalities. That is all men are equal to each other and speak directly and up to the point. For instance, in Lezgi, there is no form of polite addrees (like the French “Vous” or German “Sie”).

This is not to say that the Lezgi culture doesn’t value politeness… On the contrary, politeness, respect and good manners  are extremely important, it’s only that they are displayed in general behaviour and not necessarily in using flowery (often meaningless) words.

An illustrative anecdote read at a Caucasian forum:

Q: “How do you say ‘please’ as in ‘could you please bring me a cup of tea’ ?”
A: “In our culture and society, there’s a strict hierarchy. Everybody knows who should bring tea for whom. We don’t need words for that.”