Last updated 2021-04-10 17:59:29

This is a big work in progress!


I would like to first thank Dr. Нэзэр Хьамыт for his time spent teaching a few of us Kabardian and patiently listening to us – at midnight his time! – all make pronunciation mistakes over and over again. Kabardian is a language that is more interesting to linguists than it is for pedagogues, and as such, there are few materials aimed at a Kabardian as a Second Language learner. Even less so after the untimely passing of Amjad Jaimoukha, may he rest in peace.

With this in mind, it's important to mention a few things about these notes. First, because there are no standard teaching materials (at least in English) and there are wide variety of dialects (Adyge-influenced Kabardian, diaspora Kabardian etc.), spellings may be off from what is found in the dictionary. This occurs most often with vowels, where ы/э/а can vary.

As such, this is my attempt to distill what little I have learned into something that approaches a resource for learners rather than for linguists. If you see any mistakes below, have suggestions, or have questions, please do not hesitate to reach out at parry @ parryc.com.

Notes about Cyrillic

й + а will become я (flesh out other examples)
For example, the PST is -ащ. If the stem of a verb ends in й, then we get a scenario like this: жейн - жей - жейащ - жеящ.


Case Marking

Kabardian is a ergative language, meaning that the subject of an intransitive verb and the object of a transitive verb share the same case marking (absolutive/ABS). Subjects of a transitive verb have a different marking (oblique/OBL).

However, only definite nouns are marked. Thus, names or things where English speakers would use "the". Otherwise, there are no case markings on the noun.

ABS marking -
OBL marking -

Note that some resources call the case marking for the subject of a transitive verb the ergative case. In Kabardian, at least, this marking is also serves many other functions, so I will follow the style of calling it the oblique case.

-уэ adverbial case?



1s. сысейр
2s. ууейр


  near far
sg мы мор
pl мыхэр мохэр


3rd person possession is done using the following form: {possessor}-(ы)м и {possessed}-(ы)р.


Suffixes come before the noun case marking.

too, as well, also

The Oblique Case (-м)

This м does a lot of things.

  1. Marks the subject of a transitive verb
  2. During/on/at/for a time
  3. In a month
  1. Блыщхьэм адыгэбзэ зэдгъащӀэу диӀэнущ.
    On Monday, we will have a class for learning Kabardian
  2. Сэ мэкъуауэгъуэм сыкъалъхуащ.
    I was born in June.


Nouns proceed adjectives. For example, in Нарыч чыцӀ цӀыкӀур сгъашхэ ⧸ Narich is feed the small goat, чыцӀ:goat comes before цӀыкӀу:small. is appended because it is the small goat being fed, rather than a small goat.


Verbs are complex in Kabardian, not just because everyone tells you they are, but because a lot goes into each verb. Take for example the English phrase "I will not be able to join you". This phrase, 8 words long, is a single verb in Kabardian.

I will not be able to join you
сы ны хэхьэ фы нукъым
1SG towards listener to join able NEG.FUT.DEF

As a result, this section, more so than others, will be a constant work in progress.


Similar to other ergative languages, like /r/learns/k'iche', there are two sets of person markers. The first set is used for the person who matches the subject of an intransitive verb or the person who matches the object of a transitive verb.

1 сы- ды-
2 у- ф-
3 ∅/мэ/ма- ∅/мэ/ма-

The second set match the subject of a transitive verb.

1 с/з- д-
2 у/б- ф-
3 и/р- я-

Though I have not seen it called out explicitly, it appears that for indirect objects, it is also (perhaps obligatorily?) possible to have пэ- and вэ- in 2SG and 2PL respectively when both sides are vowels. Or when followed by an unvoiced consonant? Such as ттхыгъэ -- we write. (гъэ??) Applebaum 2013 also lists п as a 2sg, but does not list т, which appears Шхапацева. This may be an alternative form to ды- used in Turkish Kabardian (see also www.circassiancenter.com/cc-turkiye/edebiyat/dil_egitimi/13_dilegitimi-28.htm)

р, "[i]n the 3rd person singular [...] denotes the indirect object (usually the Recipient)."Matasović, 37

Additionally, you may find that for oblique roles (such as indirect object), the vowel will change from ы to э.

Since Kabardian verbs mark multiple people in the verb, one must also be aware of the ordering of such markers when parsing a verb. The order will always be subject of intransitive verb/object of transitive verb – indirect object – subject of transitive verb. Thus, Абы сэ yэ yкъызeтaщ ⧸ He gave you to me, where we can decompose the verb as y-къы-з-e-т-a-щ.

yкъызeтaщ {
у къы з е т а щ
2SG (DO) direction 1SG (IO) 3SG (S) give PST AFF

So taking our bread examples (ed. now moved below, reword), it is straightforward to see that since this is a transitive verb (someone is doing something to something else), that we use the transitive prefixes. Only thing to note is that е is functioning as и + о.

It appears that copular sentences suffix -щ to the end of the noun? Matasović says it is the "affirmative". Used with "stative verbs" – basically any copular phrase. I am a professor == I am professoring -> сэ сыпрофeссорщ (I 1SG-professor-{is})
Дэ ды еджакӀуэщ. We are students.
However, what's up with man in Сэ сы ц1ыхухьущ: I am a man.

Which aspect is this?
сэ сыщолъ: i recline (as a habit)
сэ сыщылъщ: i am reclining (now)

The prefix ма- is typically used in the present tense, with intransitive verbs which have only one expressed argument (Matatsović)


Still can't figure out the vowels. I think transitivity changes this some how and I'm not totally sure yet.

сещӀащ --> ещӀэн:to swing (this is in the dictionary as to make sth... not to swing :shrug:)
сищӀащ --> щӀэн: to do

сыкӀуащ vs. сокӀуащ ?? I went vs. I go?


Infinitive -(э)н

This is also the dictionary form. Thus шхэн:to eat, with шх as the root.

Imperative -т/-∅

Present Tense -∅

The present tense drops the -эн of the infinitive and prefixes person markers with о as the intermediary vowel. Compare Сэ сыжэрэ - I am (one who is) running vs. сэ сожэ - I am running.

Сэ щӀакхъуэ сошх: I am eating bread
Уэ щӀакхъуэ бошх: You are eating bread
Абы щӀакхъуэ ешх: S/he is eating bread
Дэ щӀакхъуэ дошх: We are eating bread
Фэ щӀакхъуэ фошх: You all are eating bread
Ахэм щӀакхъуэ яшх: They are eating bread

What's up with the vowel changing from infinitive to present tense? бэнэн:to bark (in dictionary) but мэбанэ:it's barking in PRS. Similar with мэкъакъэ vs. къэкъэн. (clucking vs. cluck). If I had to hazard a guess, it is from when the verb is derived from a noun. псалъэ word, псэлъэн:to speak, same thing applies to the prior examples.

Past Tense -ащ

In this example, http://www.circassiancenter.com/cc-turkiye/edebiyat/dil_egitimi/13_dilegitimi-02.htm, the final щ is dropped when asking a question.

Prestem vowel is ы. Does not appear in 3SG

there are 3 past tenses, though I think only 2 are really used
-эри "has an important result" compared with -ащ
-ати when something happens once?

сэри дэрбзэрым сыкӀуэри сыхуэмыхъужу сӀиэ гъуэнщӀэджыр езгъэгъэбыхъуащ
I went to the tail and had my pants enlarged. (Not sure what сыхуэмыхъужу is -- my small something?)

Future Tense

Definite Future -нщ

It looks like й becomes и, Сэ сыжеинщ I will sleep

Person Marking

All parts of a sentence – subject, direct object, indirect object – can be marked on the verb. In many cases, the person will also be a standalone pronoun in the sentence. However, while this pronoun can be dropped, the person marker cannot be dropped.

For example, for the verb псалъэн:to speak:

къ(ы/э) indicates action towards the speaker. I don't yet know what is doing at the end of the 1st and 2nd examples.

Щынэр къызоплъ - the lamb looks at me плъэн
Сэ щынэм соплъ – I look at the lamb

Verbal Prefixes

Can be э or ы as the vowel, ex хэ/хы and нэ/ны. If the root has a directional prefix make sure to check the dictionary under both vowels (ex. someone may say хэхьэн, but the dictionary will list it under хыхьэн:to go into.) This may be a Turkish dialetical variation?

towards the speaker

Verbal Suffixes

overly, excessively.
affirmative sentence (it seems like this can be dropped more more often than Jaimoukha says, esp. for positive PRS verbs)


-м- infix: NEG, хуей:want -- хуэмей:don't want, see also екӀу:good behavior vs. емыкӀу:bad behavior

Participles (-рэ/∅)

A particple in PRS is formed by appending -рэ to the base form (non-infinitive) of the verb. In PST and FUT, it is simply the base form of the verb. Thus, жэн:to run becomes жэ:run and then жэрэ:the one who is running. This is also the same as the question marker.


Ordinal Numbers

Ordinal numbers 1-19 are formed from cardinal numbers with the suffixes е- and -анэ. In the case where the cardinal number ends with a vowel, the vowel is dropped. Thus, зы:one becomes езанэ:first.

Distributive Numbers

Such as "one by one", or "two by two", these are formed by suffixing the reverse of the number on to the number with р. Thus, "one by one" becomes зы:one + ыз:'eno' = зырыз.

Fractional Numbers

Fractions are formed by denominator + нэ/и + first consonant of numerator. When the numerator is one, then no additional syllables are suffixed. Thus, плӀанэ:1/4 and плӀанищ:3/4, where щ is the first letter of щы:three.

Sentence Structures

Simple Sentences

There is no copula in Kabardian, that is, there is no specific verb for "to be". In its most simple form, to say something is something, place the two words next to each other. Thus, Ажэ хужь ⧸ The goat is white.

One could also think of the suffix as form of "to be", since it often found at the end of simple "to be" sentences. In linguistic papers, it is often referred to as the affirmative (i.e. denotes a non-negative statement). For example, Мыр мэзщ ⧸ This is a forest.

Questions (-рэ)

-рэ is appended to the last work (usually a verb)... I think?

Уэ сыт узэджэрэ? what are you reading?
зы тхылъ уэджэрэ? are you reading the book?
зыгуэр уэджэрэ? did you read anything?

This appears to not take the same subject markers. Ex. сыжэрэ? am I running vs. сожэ I am running. Similarly, ма is not added for 3SG questions

Possession (и)

Possession is indicated by the word и:'s, which by the gloss, can be thought of as 's. That is, it always follows the possessor, which is marked with ERG () and the possessed always comes after. For example, СЩАМ и Аласка ⧸ USA's Alaska.

Saying And (икӀи, -и, -рэ...-рэ)

There are three different ways to say "and" in Kabardian.

  1. икӀи: for use between clauses
  2. -и: ? not sure on this one, maybe it actually means "too"
  3. -рэ...-рэ: for a list of objects

How about x? (...щэ?)

Added at the end of a sentence, it gives the sense of "how abobut {sentence}". It is an abbreviated form of дапщэщ:when.

Liking things

мы усэр икъукӀэ сигу ирихьащ
this poem.ERG very heart-1sg.POSS (?like?).PST
I liked this poem very much.

хьэр фӀуэ слъагъукъым
I don't like dogs

сэ унэм хьэ щапӀу сыфӀэфӀкъым
I don't like raising dogs at home


in front of, жьэгу пащхьэ in front of the hearth


Days of the Week

The Kabardian weeek starts on Monday


Псым хэлъ мывит1 пэтрэ зонт1э1у.
"Even two stones in the water may hit each other." Even two people who are close may fight.
Си псалъэ т1о жы1экъым, си жы1э т1о 1уатэкъым.
"I don't speak twice and no comment is made."
Узэпатэк1ыр къопагэк1ыж.
The one youd on't like will never like you.
Уигу къызэбгъэмэ, уи анэ джэдыбгъэ къэзышх.
"Your mother will eat chicken if you offer it."
Узыщыгугъур уи дауэгъущ.
"The person you trust is also your opponent."
Уи шыр умыгъэжакъуэ, уи хьэр умыгъэшхакъуэ.
"Don't run too much on your horse, don't over feed your dog." Dogs and horses have different roles, don't over exert them.
Ф1ыгъуэм еф1эк1ыжыр зэгуры1уэщ.
"It's the union that increases the good."


Family names come first

г is often found in diaspora, versus ж in russia, ex.
игири:again vs. ижири:again (spelling?)

Sentences to analyze

Налшык уес къыщеса?
Is there snow in Nalchik?
Уэшх къешхын
The rain rains (it is raining)
In this year (?)
I will try
пыӀэ алъыжь зыщыгъ
the teenager in the red hat
I am tired
сыт пщӀар апхуэдизу уезэшыну?
What did you do to make you tired?
Уэ дэтхэнэ мазэра укъыщалъхуар?
When were you born? (maybe, which month were you born?) cf. example sentence under obl for changes in the verb)
Сэ щакӀуэгъуэ мазэм сыкъалъхуащ.
I was born in November.
Пэррй къызэупщӀащ
Parry asked
we eat together/we each eat one (distributive?)
ХьэтӀутӀ къэбэрдейм лӀо къыщӀэкӀур?
Why does Hatut live in Kabardia?


is to sleep жейн (on circassian center lessons) or жеин (in dictionary) or both?