The Diversity of Languages in the Caucasus

The linguistic diversity of the Caucasus is a unique phenomenon, similar to that of New Guinea. There are approximately 6,000 languages spoken throughout the world currently and about 820 (~14%) of them are spoken in New Guinea. In the Caucasus, you can expect to find representative languages from the Kartvelian, Abkhaz-Adyghe, Lesgian, Nakh, Indo-European, Avar-Andi-Dido, Andi, Dido/Tsez, Lak-Dargwa, Turkic language families. This image to the right documents the ethnic and linguistic diversity of the Cacasus region:

Curiously, neighboring regions, such as the Middle East and Europe, do not exhibit such a diverse array of languages. In a review piece, Bernard Comrie writes about the, “Linguistic Diversity in the Caucasus.” Linguistically diverse regions are important in understanding cultural evolution. Comrie describes these regions to be critical accretion zones — areas where population growth has added new layers in geneology, societal structure, etc. which has all effected the variation in the languages of the Caucasus.

Comrie describes the languages and their affiliations along with their divergences and convergences. He’s also offered up some useful resources, such as this map of languages in the area. If you would like a copy of this paper for academic purposes, let me know and I’ll email you it.

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