Conversational Lezgi I

As you can see my approach here is a bit ecclectic (in plain language: I’m doing a little bit of everything), taking “shots” at Lezgi from various angles – grammar, writing system, dialects… What I feel has been missing so far was essentials of real, useful, daily conversation. True, I have written about a couple of expressions elsewhere on my website, but it would be good to repeat some of that here (adding new stuff, of course). So, today I give you the most basic basics:


Хийирар – These two greetings are appropriate for any time of day. First of them may carry a bit of religious undertone, but it is more popular than the second.
Пакаман хийир
Сабагъ хийир – Two ways to say “Good morning”. First of them is purer Lezgi.
Абатхийир - Ways to answer the greetings above
Салам - More casual (but still polite) greeting

Хвашгелди – Welcome


Сагърай - A much-used word, can mean “thank you” as well as “goodbye”. Literally, means “be healthy”.
Сагъ-саламат хьуй (хьурай)! - “Be healthy and sound” another farewell greeting.
Гьелелиг - “So long”, a more casual farewell.
Хъсан рехъ хьуй (хьурай)! – “Have a good way (home)”, said to the person departing
Геже хийирар – “Good night”
Хийирар Аллагьди гуй! – “Let God give wellness” – answer to the above
Some other things you may want to say:
Чун акван хъийида – We’ll see each other again
Чун рикIелай алудмир – Don’t forget about us (lit. don’t take us down from your heart, a very poetic Lezgi idiom).
X-з саламар це – Pass my regards to X


Вавай … хабар кьадай ихтияр авани? – Can I ask you….?
Багъишламиша, квез ….чидачни? - Excuse me, do you (lit. don’t you) know….?
Багъишламиша, ихтияр аватIа … – Excuse me, if it is possible…
Вахъ са тIалабун ава заз - I have a request for you
ГъвечIи тIалабун – (I have a) small request
Четин туштIа …. – If it’s not difficult…
ЖедатIа, … / Эгер жедатIа, … – If it’s possible…


Чухсагъул / Баркалла / Сагърай – Ways to say ‘thank you’
Вазни сагърай – Thank you, too.
Лап рикIин сидкъидай чухсагъул – I’m thanking you from the deep of my heart
Фикир гунай чухсагъул – Thank you for your attention
Куьмек гунай чухсагъул – Thank you for your help
Пишкеш гунай чухсагъул – Thank you for your gift
Теклиф авунай чухсагъул – Thank you for the invitation


Багъишламиша – Excuse me / Forgive me
ТIалабда, зун багъишламишун – I beg (ask) you to forgive me
Багъишламиша, зи тахсир я – I’m sorry, it’s my fault
Инжиклу авунай багъишламиша – I’m sorry to disturb you
Багъишламиша, ваз  хъел гъиз кIанзавачир – I’m sorry, I didn’t want to upset you
Хъел къвемир! – Don’t be angry!
Зи тахсир ина авач – It wasn’t my fault!

Any questions? Comments? Requests for the next instalment?

Почему не пишу здесь по-русски?

… потому что во-первых, не получается так, как хотелось бы и, во-вторых, не считаю того нужным. А точнее:

1. Признаться стыдно, но надо. Дамы и господа, мой русский никак не на высоте и писать на таком уровне как следовало бы кое-как образованному человеку просто не могу. Искренно извиняюсь.

2. Наличие в рунете хороших материалов по лезгинскому (и другим дагестанским языкам) а также возможности прямого общения с его (их) носителями, подавляющие большинство которых владеет русским языком так, как я никогда не буду, – всё это делает все мои усилия и попытки лишными. Я просто ничего не могу добавить к тому, что уже сказано, написано, настоящими знатоками и носителями живого языка.

Думаю однако, что этот блог и другие мои странички, могут прийти в пользу тем, у кого интерес к лезгинскому языку есть, а знания русского и знакомства с цирилицей- пока нет. К примеру – лезгинам проживающим вне границ исторического Лезгистана (в Турции, США и др. странах). Именно на них рассчитан этот ресурс. Конечно, это не значит, что только и исключительно на них. Может быть и русскоязычны лица найдут здесь что-то интересное.

Если у Вас есть какие-либо предложения, вопросы, комментарии или советы – большая просьба не таить их, а писать :)

Lezgi – how to say ‘I want’

Let’s stop talking about how this blog is being reactivated and start actually, um… reactivate it, shall we? I thought it would be a good idea to make a series of posts explaining how does one express in Lezgi some particularly important notions.
I want to start with… the verb to want, why not? Brace yourselves now and here we go:
The verb кIан k’an ‘to want’ is one of small number of so-called defective verbs, which means it lacks some grammatical forms the other verbs have (for instance, it has no past tense or Aorist) and behaves somewhat differently from them. But we will leave the grammar talk for later and focus on practical usage of this verb.
1. Somebody wants something
To say that somebody wants something (eg. an apple) you put that somebody’s name in the dative case (-з / -z ending) and leave the word for the thing being wanted as it is (absolutive case = no ending). Then comes either кIанзава k’anzava or кIанда k’anda (both forms have the same meaning)
Заз картуф кIандач
Zaz kartuf k’andach
I don’t want potatoes
Самираз цIийи машин кIанзава
Samiraz c’iji mashin k’anzava.
Samir wants a new car.
Чи халкъдиз азадвални садвал кIанда
Chi xalqdiz azadvalni sadval k’anda
Our people want freedom and unity
2. When somebody loves somebody…
Now it may be surprising, but кIан k’an means also ‘to love’. Grammatical structure as above:
Заз вун кIанзава
Zaz vun k’anzava
I love you
Ваз зун кIандани?
Vaz zun k’andani?
You(dat).I(abs).love-quest (-ни is a question marker)
Do you love me?
3. Somebody wants to do something
The structure is as follows: wanter is again in dative and the verb signifying what is wanted, in so-called infinitive (ie. –из /-з  -iz/-z form)
Квез Лезги чIалал рахаз кIанзава
Kvez Lezgi ch’alal raxaz k’anzava
you want to talk in Lezgi language
Заз ваз куьмек гуз кIанда
Zaz vaz kymek guz k’anda
I want to help you
4.  Somebody wants somebody else to do something.
Happens all too often, doesn’t it?
In this type of sentences, the structure is: somebody again in the dative; but the wanted verb in the Aorist form (-на / -na ending); and ‘somebody else’ in the case governed by the verb, most often absolutive or ergative.
Дидедиз бала ксуна кIанда
Didediz bala ksuna k’anda
Mother wants the child to sleep (ksun = to sleep needs nominative)
Дидедиз балади ктаб кIелна кIанда
Didediz baladi ktab k’elna k’anda
Mother wants the child to read a book.
Заз куьне Лезги чIал кIелна кIанда
Zaz kyne Lezgi ch’al k’elna k’anda
I want you to learn Lezgi language (k’elun = to read needs ergative)
5. It is wanted that someone does something.
Now, what happens if we take the previous construction, but leave only ‘somebody else’ omitting the ‘wanter’. The resulting sentence looks like this:
Куьне Лезги чIал кIелна кIанда
Kyne Lezgi ch’al k’elna k’anda
… and this means “You have to learn Lezgi”.
Which you really, really do. Honestly.
Now, if there are any questions or comments, I would absolutely love to hear them before we proceed to more complicated issues (eg. how to say “I loved you” or how to differentiate between “I don’t want you to do X”, and  “I want you not to do X”). This blog will die again without constructive criticism.

New sources.

Just a short note to tell you all about the excellent web-resources for Lezgi I came across just recently. – is a blog dedicated to spreading knowledge about Islam and one of the rare examples of a website publishing entirely in Lezgi

Lezgikim – is a personal website of Majrudin Babaxanov a Lezgi poet and translator. Great resource indeed! Includes lots (and I mean lots) of yummy downloadable books and articles, including the best Lezgi dictionaries I’ve ever seen.

By the way, ким /kim/ is a very nice word. It’s a part of the village where people (usually older men) gather to share news and gossip.

New beginning

As you can see, the blog’s address has changed (as a part of my strategy of putting all my blogs in one place), but its contents have not.

Expect new additions soon(ish), as I’ve just found not only a wealth of very useful materials, but more importantly the willpower to move further on.

Lezgi dialects. Why bother?

Elsewhere on this blog, I’ve been trying to deal with the Standard Literary Lezgi, the kind of normative language used in school instruction and in official publications (and also in books, newspapers etc.).  However, as with any other language, Standard Literary Lezgi is not the only form of Lezgi in existence and worthy of preservation.

All around the Lezgi speech area, people use different varieties of Lezgi in their daily life. Sometimes those varieties differ considerably from the Standard language, and sometimes their speakers are not well-acquainted with the Standard at all. This variety is a good thing, as each dialect may teach us a thing or two about the Lezgi language in general (eg. by preserving words or grammatical structures lost in standard Lezgi, or by evolving in interesting directions or…). It is, thus, quite enlightening to take a look at the dialects as well.

The problem is that as even resources for Standard Literary Lezgi can be quite hard to come by, there’s serious shortage of information regarding the dialects. In my opinion, it is especially the Lezgi dialects spoken in Azerbaijan that are underresearched. One of my goals for the future would be to make an attempt at addressing this situation. In other words I am willing (and going to) to publish on this blog or elsewhere all the information on Lezgi dialects that I can gather (a request directed at Lezgi speakers: please, help me if you can, by telling me about your native version of Lezgi).

I’ll start soon(ish) by giving a bit of our attention to Lezgi as spoken in Yargun (a Lezgi-speaking village in Northern Azerbaijan; the official name of the village is actually Xazry). I’ll be using the information kindly provided by Ayten Babaliyeva, a Lezgi linguist now studying and working in France (merci beaucoup!). Yargun Lezgi is both her native dialect and the subject of her thesis. All I do  is basically translating her work from French and putting extracts from it on the web.

Until next time, then.

Verbs weak and strong

I’m going to talk about Lezgi verbs in the next couple of entries, so let’s start from the basics.

Lezgi verbs can be divided into two groups: so-called “strong” and “weak” verbs. The latter are much more numerous and in fact new weak verbs can be formed any time (weak verbs are thus an open class). What is the difference between them and what consequences does it have?

For starters, the strong verbs have a thematic vowel while the weak verbs don’t. Thematic vowel is stressed and forms the three verb stems (called Masdar, Imperfective and Aorist; each of them may have a different vowel) from which all the other verbal forms are made. As the weak verbs have no thematic vowel they are stressed on the stem itself, which stays the same in Masdar, Imperfective and Aorist forms.

Examples (pay close attention; SV – strong verb; WV – weak verb):

kisun (WV) ‘fall asleep’

base: kis
Masdar: kisun (base + Masdar ending for WV: -un) 
Imperfective: kisiz (base + Imperf ending for WV: -iz)
Aorist: kisna (base + Aorist ending for WV: -na)

fin (SV) ‘go’

base: f
Masdar: fin (base + vowel: -i + Masdar ending for SV: -n) 
Imperfective: fiz (base + vowel: -i + Imperf ending for SV: -z)
Aorist: fena (base + vowel: e + Aorist ending for SV: -na)

raxun (SV) ‘talk’

base: rax
Masdar: raxun (base + vowel: -u + Masdar ending for SV: -n) 
Imperfective: raxaz (base + vowel: -a + Imperf ending for SV: -z)
Aorist: raxana (base + vowel: -a + Aorist ending for SV: -na)

As you can see, the thematic vowels differ both between verbs and between stems of one strong verb.  In fact, they’re unpredictable, you have to learn them by heart for every strong verb (they are affected by vowel harmony, which limits the choices, but we’ll talk about it later). Fortunately, as we’ve said, there’s only limited number of strong verbs.

Lezgi syntax trivia. Subjects and participles.

Now that I’m done with “reading lezgi” I thought I’d share with you two bits of info on Lezgi syntax (ie. sentence-forming). Or rather not, I’ll just show you some things, withholding any comments until you ask some questions.

I. The subject (or the doer/experiencer).

Руш кIвализ хтана.  The girl returned home.
Гада кIвализ хтанач. The boy didn’t return home.
Гада кIвале авач. The boy is not home.
Рушаз гада акуна. The girl saw the boy.
Гададиз руш акунач. The boy didn’t saw the girl.
Бубади гада кIвализ ракъурна. Father sent the boy home.
Гадади рушаз ич гана. The boy gave the apple to the girl.
Руша гададиз ич ганач. The girl didn’t give the apple to the boy.

II. Participles. Do you know any other language which makes the following possible?

рушаз ич гайи гада – the boy who gave the apple to the girl
гадади ич гайи руш – the girl whom the boy gave the apple
гадади рушаз гайи ич – the apple which was given by the boy to the girl

Reading Lezgi. Step 4.2 The twin signs.

Okay, so the time has come to take the last step. Previously we talked a bit about the three ‘modifier’ signs present in Lezgi orthography and we breezed through the digraphs / combinations employing one of them, the ‘I’ sign aka palochka.

Now let me tell you a thing about the two modifier signs that we are left with – ъ and ь. These are vestiges of the Russian Cyrillic orthography where they are known as, respectively, ‘hard sign’ and ‘soft sign’. I won’t go into detail on how do they function in Russian, focusing exclusively on their role in Lezgi.

So, we’ve already seen that in Lezgi, the ‘hard sign’ (ъ), can stand on its own (spelling the so-called glottal stop, the sound the Cockneys make instead of syllable-final ‘t’). Now lets take a look on ъ as a part of digraphs/letter combinations. Relax, there are only three of them:

гъ къ хъ

гъ (gh) is like Scottish ‘ch’ in ‘loch’ but voiced. Or like an Arabic غ sound. Or, in other words, very similar to the way Parisians pronounce their ‘r’s.

къ (q) is like Arabic ق. If that tells you nothing, think of a ‘k’ pronounced further back in the throat and you’re there.

хъ (qh) is much like къ (q) but it is aspirated. That is, a breath of air follows the throaty ‘k’. You may recall that the aspirated/not-aspirated distinction is somewhat important in Lezgi, yet not reflected in writing. Well, къ and хъ are the only pair of sounds where that difference is written down.


гъалатI ghalat’ – mistake
гъвечIи ghwech’i – little, younger
гъед ghed – fish; star
гъил ghil – hand
ягъун jaghun – to hit, to strike
къав qaw – roof
къад qad – twenty
къалурун qalurun – to show, to demonstrate
къацу qacu – green
къачун qachun – to take, to catch
къван qwan – stone
къец qec – outside
къе qe – today
ракъурун raqurun – to send
хъвер qhwer – laughter, smile
хъел qhel – anger

Адак хъел ква adak qhel kwa – he’s angry (lit. anger is under him)
хъипи qhipi – yellow
хъсан qhsan – good
хъун qhun – to drink

за яд хъвазва za jad qhwazwa – I am drinking water
ва яд хъвада wa jad qhwada – you’ll drink water or you drink water (habitually)
ада яд хъвана ada jad qhwana – he drank water
яд хъухъ jad qhuqh – drink water!

Okay, enough of this, let’s move on. The last remaining modifier sign is ‘ь’ which, like ‘I’, cannot stand on its own in Lezgi. The four combinations:

уь кь хь гь

уь (y) is a vowel, pronounced like German or Azerbaijani ü (an ‘i’ with rounded lips).

кь (q’) is to къ (q) what кI (k’) is to к (k). In other words, it is both throaty and glottalised.

хь (xh) is like a crossover between German ch in ‘Bach’ and German ch in ‘ich’. It’s a bit like Scottish ‘ch’ in ‘loch’ but there’s less friction. Remember how I told you to pronounce Lezgi x very throaty? The need to make it different from the softer xь was the reason.

гь (h), coming last, is straightforward, as it is a plain English ‘h’.


гьа ha – that one
гьазур hazur – ready
гьал hal – state (of things)
гьикI hik’ – how?

ви гьалар гьикI я?  vi halar hik’ ja? – how are you?
гьина hina – where?
гьич hich – at all
гьуьрмет hyrmet – respect
гьялун haelun – to solve
гьахъ haqh – truth
гьекь heq’ – sweat
кьабулун q’abulun – to accept
кьак q’ak – syphilis
кьарай q’araj – patience
кьатI q’at’ – part, piece
кьван q’wan – that much, (to) that degree, as much as
кьвед q’wed – two
кьев q’ew – wives of the same husband with relation to each other
кьел q’el – salt
уьгьу yhy – cough
уьлгуьч ylgych – razor
уьмуьр ymyr – life
хьел xhel – arrow
хьи xhi – that, so that
хьун xhun – to become, to be
гьатун hatun – to fall upon, to get
гъавурда гьатун ghawurda hatun – to understand

зун ви гафрин гъавурда гьатизва(ч) zun wi gafrin ghawurda hatizwa(ch)
- I (don’t) understand your words

Okay, so we’re now done with the alphabet and writing conventions. If there’s still anything unclear, please let me know. I will try go back to the previous lessons to review and improve them.

Now, what do you want to have next?

Reading Lezgi – Step 4.1. Meet the palochka.

Now that we’ve covered the whole alphabet let’s turn our attention to digraphs (or two-letter combinations signifying one sound). Lezgi has many of those because it has more sounds than Russian, for which the Russian Cyrillic script was originally designed.

Not counting the в /w/ (which we’ve already met – go back a bit and read once more how it behaves after a consonant), Lezgi has three… , let’s say, ‘modifier symbols’  – I, ъ, ь . In contrast to the English ‘h’ which is a letter of its own apart from forming digraphs (I’m talking about ‘ph’, ‘th’, ‘ch’ and ‘sh’, and to stretch things a bit ‘gh’, ‘kh’ and ‘zh’ as well), those three are barely (ъ) or not at all (two others)  independent letters.

We’ve already met ъ /’/ in its role as a letter, but we’ll talk about its combo-making abilities a bit later.

For now – let’s meet palochka,  everybody! ‘Palochka’ is not a Russian folk dance, but a word (it means literally ‘little stick’) for a special symbol designed for use in orthographies of several Caucasian languages. It looks (almost) like I, but as you’ll find out, because of technology constraints the proper palochka is almost never used, I, l, 1, or ! being substituted for it on the web. I’ll use I

In standard Lezgi, palochka is used in the following letter combinations (remember, it’s not a letter in Lezgi):

пI тI кI цI чI

These all mark so-called ejective consonant. You pronounce them like you would pronounce their regular equivalent except that you stop the airflow through your glottis (that is, you make a glottal stop). The resulting sounds sounds to me as if it was stopped in the mouth for a split-second and then forcefully released. Anyway, don’t worry, they are quite easy to learn.

кичIе – to be afraid (a very irregular verb)
кIан – to love / like / want (another very irregular verb)
кIвал – house, home
пIуз – lip
тIал – pain
тIвар – name
балкIан – horse
цIап – horse-shit
цIай – fire
чIал – language
-тIа – if (suffixed)
тIимил – a bit

And now let’s see if you can translate the following:

Зи тIвар Петр я.
Ваз Лезги чIал чидани?
Заз Лезги чIал са тIимил чида.
Заз вун кIанда, вазни зун кIандани?

КичIе жемир, чан хва – Don’t worry, dear son.

And we’ll finish for now with this lovely proverb:
БалкIан кIандай цIап такIан. – loves the horse but hates the horseshit

This post may be expanded, I’ll let you know.