Ubykh: a brief note
Ubykh, studied notably by the French Caucasologist Georges Dumézil (1898-1986), achieved a measure of celebrity as the poster-child of endangered languages before the demise of the last speaker in 1992. Its rich consonant inventory is legendary among linguists.
In 1968 Dumézil made ten tapes with the last speaker, Mr. Tevfic Esenç (or Tevfic Saniç) in Paris. We present here a series of recordings of seven stories found on the third of these tapes. Each track begins with an announcement of the French title.
Transcriptions and word-by-word French glosses in Dumézil's own handwriting have been found for four of the stories and are made available here as scanned images in pdf files. For one of the stories, "Eating fish makes you clever", Dumézil made a second transcription containing morpheme as well as word glosses for a non-specialist linguist, Mme Christine Leroy. This second annotation is in a sufficiently legible hand that we undertook, with the help of Mme Dina Dabjen-Bailly, a speaker of Adyge, to computerize the transcription and the word-glosses and to synchronize them with the recording for browsing. Sentence-level translations were composed on the basis of the word and morpheme glosses by a linguist (Boyd Michailovsky) with no knowledge of Ubykh, again with the help of Mme Bailly.
All available resources here
Browse the story "Eating Fish Makes you Clever"
The following is a complete list of the recordings and annotations:
1. "The Goat and the Sheep" recording (wav); Dumézil annotation (pdf).
2. "Eating Fish Makes you Clever" recording (wav); Dumézil annotation (pdf); second annotation (pdf).
3. "The World Ends Tomorrow" recording (wav); Dumézil annotation (pdf).
4. "Hodjah is Dead" recording (wav); Dumézil annotation (pdf).
5. "The Narts" recording (wav).
6. "The Ubykh Exodus" recording (wav).
7. "From Istanbul to Paris" recording (wav).
The complete set of ten tapes was digitalized at the Lacito in 2003 by M. Alexis Michaud, who undertook to locate, catalogue, and digitalize Parisian Ubykh materials as part of a pre-doctoral project on language documentation and archiving. The Ubykh vocabularies and other elicitations which make up the greater part of the recordings will be made available at a later date.
For details concerning the Dumézil system of transcription, see in particular:
Charachidze, Georges, 1989, Ubykh. In: Greppin, John, ed. The Indigenous languages of the Caucasus, vol. 2: Hewitt, George, ed. The North West Caucasian Languages. Caravan. Delmar, NY. 357-459.
Colarusso, John. 1994. How many consonants does Ubykh have? Hewitt, G., ed. Caucasian Perspectives. Munich. Lincom Europa.
Dumézil, Georges, 1965, Documents anatoliens sur les langues et les traditions du Caucase III, Nouvelles Études Oubykhs. Institut d'Ethnologie. Paris.
Vogt, Hans. 1963. Dictionnaire de la Langue Oubykh. Universitets Forlaget. Oslo.
M. Michaud thanks the following persons for their help in locating Ubykh documents:
- Mme Agnès Gsell-Noy
- M. Robert Paris
- Mme Dina Dabjen-Bailly
- the librarian of the nstitut de Linguistique et Phonétique Générales et Appliquées, Laboratoire Phonétique et Phonologie, UMR 7018 CNRS/Université de la Sorbonne Nouvelle Paris-3
New annotations by Brian Fell, 2010
In March 2008, Brian Fell, a student of linguistics working on Ubykh, proposed to prepare transcriptions and English translations of the seven stories for us, an unexpected offer we were glad to accept. He sent us computerized annotations of the four stories for which we had Dumézil's manuscript transcriptions later the same year, and revised them slightly in 2010. These transcriptions are based on Dumézil's mss. transcriptions, which are difficult to interpret reliably without knowledge of Ubykh, with minor corrections. These, and further annotations are available below:
Brian Fell's annotation of the three remaining stories, for which we have no transcription or translation at present, will be posted when it is ready.
During a visit to Paris in 2010 at our invitation, Brian Fell helped us complete the annotation of Dumézil's recordings of Ubykh vocabulary, elicited (usually in Turkish) to illustrate Ubykh phonology and verify the perception of some of the phonemic oppositions. The final versions were computerized and synchronized with the recordings by Tanguy Solliec during an internship in 2010.
Brian Fell is currently working on a dictionary of Ubykh. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
B. Michailovsky. 2010 November