Sometimes I read about random languages on the internet. Usually I stay within the Slavic family (it’s strangely satisfying to read about the obscure grammatical concepts in Slovak, for instance, and actually understand what that means by virtue of knowing Russian grammar), but sometimes, I venture away from Slavic languages, away from Indo-European languages, and read about random languages hardly anyone has heard of.

One of these languages is the Ubykh language. It’s a language that was from the North Caucasus. I say was because it’s extinct now. The last native speaker died in Turkey in 1992. Luckily, linguists were able to talk to him before his death and record him speaking Ubykh, so at least the sound of it isn’t lost forever. Still, I think the idea of languages going extinct is very sad.

The Ubykh language has the distinction of having eighty-four consonants, the most in any language aside from one with clicks. What makes this even stranger is it had only two vowels—I can’t even imagine how to pronounce words in it, as they must be so consonant-heavy.

The Ubykh people lived on the eastern coast of the Black Sea until 1864, when the Russian Empire drove them out. They found their way to Turkey, where they assimilated with the Turkish people and spoke Turkish. This gradually led to their language dying out, as many members of the subsequent generations born after the migration did not learn the Ubykh language.

As I wrote above, linguists have done some work on the language and some Ubykh people have allegedly shown interest in reviving the language.

2 thoughts on “Extinct Language: Ubykh

  1. That is interesting. I wish the recording were available (say, on YouTube) to hear what a language with 84 consonants and 2 vowels sounds like.

    1. Lisa, I’m actually pretty sure there are recordings on YouTube because I think I listened to one once… it was a very strange-sounding language! Search Ubykh and see if there’s anything.

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