Caucasian Programme

The Caucasian Programme will consist of four courses: Avar, Armenian, Ossetic, and Georgian.

Slot 1: Avar (9.30-11.00)

Gilles Authier (Paris)

Course description
Avar is one of the main languages of Daghestan, and its defining features give a typical example of the grammatical systems found in the quite large and diverse East Caucasian family. In this course, after a general introduction to East Caucasian, we will study a series of short texts of folklore, introducing all the basic structures of literary Avar (phonology, the case system, verb morphology and syntax).

Level and requirements
Materials will be supplied, no previous knowledge of Avar will be assumed. Nevertheless, some familiarity with cyrillic script is highly recommended.

Slot 2: Armenian (11.30-13.00)

Hrach Martirosyan (Leiden)

Course description
Armenian is an Indo-European language. At present, Armenian is spoken in the Republic of Armenia (ca. 3 million people), the Mountainous Karabagh (ca. 140.000 people) and by the diaspora community (ca. 7 million people). Classical Armenian or Grabar is known since the fifth century AD. The fifth century is regarded as the golden age of Armenian literature. The Armenian alphabet was invented by Mesrop Maštocʻ and consists of 36 original letters. Armenian plays an important role for the reconstruction of the Indo-European proto-language, although it underwent a number of significant changes, particularly in the verbal system. The aim of this course is to provide participants with the knowledge of the essentials of Classical Armenian grammar from an Indo-European perspective, with a particular reference to Greek. The reading excerpts from the Bible translation, and from a few original texts will allow participants to gain a better understanding of the structure of the language. At the end of the course the participants will be able to read Classical Armenian texts with the help of a dictionary.

The Armenian alphabet will be sent to the students two weeks before the Summer School.

This course requires basic familiarity with historical linguistics

Slot 3: Ossetic (14.00-15.30)

Oleg Belyaev (Moscow)

Course description
Ossetic is the last living descendant of the Scytho-Sarmatian group of Iranian languages. It goes back to the language of the Alans, who, in the first centuries A.D., created a kingdom in the area to the north of the Caucasus which existed until the 13-14th centuries, when it was wiped out by the Mongol and Timurid invasions. The surviving Alans fled to the highlands, where they became known to the outside world under their Georgian-based exonym “Ossetians”.

Since Ossetians have long existed in isolation from the rest of the Iranian world, their language has a unique status among Iranian languages. On the one hand, it has preserved a number of archaic morphological, phonological, and syntactic features, for example, a complex system of oblique moods. On the other hand, due to centuries of close contact of Ossetians with speakers of indigenous languages of the Caucasus, Ossetic has developed some innovative traits, for example, a rich agglutinative case system with several spatial forms. The knowledge of Ossetic is thus indispensable not only for comparative work on Iranian languages, but also for the typology of language contact and for the study of the Caucasian linguistic area. Also of importance is the cultural heritage of the Ossetians, in particular the Nart epics, which are, like the rest of Ossetic, a peculiar mixture of Indo-European and Caucasian elements.

Course outline
During the course, you will will gain knowledge of the central grammatical traits of Ossetic and its two main dialects: Iron and Digor. The course will include both synchronic and historical analysis; the possibility of external influence on Ossetic grammatical features will also be discussed. We will read several texts, in particular fragments of the Nart epics and contemporary spontaneous spoken narratives.

Literature for reference
Abaev, Vasilij I. 1964. A grammatical Sketch of Ossetic, ed. by Herbert H. Paper, translated from Russian by Steven P. Hill. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University. Available online.

Thordarson, Fridrik. 1989. Ossetic. In: Rüdiger Schmitt (ed.) Compendium linguarum Iranicarum, 456–479. Wiesbaden: Reichert.

Thordarson, Fridrik. 2009. Ossetic Grammatical Studies. [Veröffentlichungen zur Iranistik 48] Wien: Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften.

Online resources
Numerous Russian-language works on Ossetic grammar are available at: (section “Ахуыры чингуытӕ”). Also see for lots of information on Ossetic in Russian.
Spoken Ossetic texts are available at:
Ossetic National Corpus (Iron dialect, about 10 million tokens):

No prior knowledge of Ossetic is required. Knowledge or the Cyrillic alphabet is recommended

Slot 4: Georgian (16.00-17.30)

Tamar Makharoblidze (Tbilisi)

Course description
This course will provide the general information about the morphology and syntax of modern Georgian. The different topics will be considered in diachronic perspectives and in typological light as well. The course will be also enriched with the short lessons of elementary Georgian and general information about Georgian language and culture.

General lay-out
Week 1
1. Introduction: The languages of Caucasus and Iberian Caucasian - Kartvelian languages, the languages and culture of Georgia
2. Nominal morphology: Flexion in Georgian nouns and postpositions, adjectives
3. Nominal morphology: numerals, pronouns; derivation
4. Verbal morphology: polypersonalism
5. Verbal morphology: preverbs

Week 2
1. Verbal morphology: version, causation
2. Verbal morphology: conjugation system
3. Syntax: ergativity in Georgian
4. Syntax: word order in Georgian
5. Conclusions

The student should have a basic knowledge of general linguistics.

There will be a very little daily homework of practical Georgian

Makharoblidze, T. (2012) The Georgian Verb.; Germany
ISBN 9783862882960. LINCOM Studies in Caucasian Linguistics 20. 656pp.
Hand-outs and papers distributed in class.