Ossetian language

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Spoken in

Russia ( North Ossetia ), South Ossetia , Georgia , Turkey
speaker approx. 580,000
Official status
Official language in North Ossetian flag North Ossetia-Alania South Ossetia
Ossetian flag
Language codes
ISO 639 -1


ISO 639 -2


ISO 639-3


The Ossetian language (own name Ирон ӕвзаг / Iron æwsag ) belongs to the Iranian languages and thus to the Indo-European language family . Ossetian has around 580,000 speakers and is spoken by the Ossetian people in the Caucasus in the Russian republic of North Ossetia-Alania and in the controversial South Ossetia . In addition, it is still widespread among Ossetian population groups in the diaspora , as well as a smaller number of non-Ossetians as a second language. It is one of the few Iranian languages ​​with a wider distribution in the Caucasus and - besides Jaghnobischen - the only living language from the branch of the north-east Iranian languages .

Two dialects can be distinguished: the more widespread ironic in the east and Digorian in the west. Both Ironic and Digorian have their respective written language, although nowadays Ironic is practically exclusively used as the written language.

In South Ossetia only the ironic is common, namely in the three sub-dialects Kudar (most common), Ksan and Urstual . Almost all Ossetians speak Russian as a second language.

Graffito in Vladikavkaz : If you are Ossete, know your language!


Ossetian goes back to the language of the Alans , a sub-tribe of the Sarmatians . Originally located further north on the Don River , the Ossetians migrated into their current settlement area in the Middle Ages against the background of frequent incursions by the Mongols . Individual written certificates in the Ossetian language have already been documented for this period. The Greek alphabet was used at that time .

In general, Ossetian was not a written language until the early modern period. The Ossetian treasure trove of legends and legends, the Narten , was passed on orally from generation to generation. When what is now Ossetia came under Russian rule at the end of the 18th century , missionaries began to use the Cyrillic alphabet for Ossetian. Until then, there were only a few written documents in this language, some based on the Georgian and, more rarely, the Greek alphabet. In 1798 the first book in Ossetian was printed, an Orthodox catechism . Andreas Johan Sjögren played an important role in the history of the language. In 1844 he not only published the first works on grammar and vocabulary of Ossetian, but also developed a standardized Cyrillic alphabet for the language for the first time. This was largely identical to the Ossetian-Cyrillic alphabet used today. After 1844, through Sjogren's work, Cyrillic finally established itself as the writing system for the Ossetian.

In the 19th century, an Ossetian literature developed for the first time, of which Kosta Chetagurow was perhaps the most important representative . At the beginning of the 20th century, an Ossetian press was finally created. During the Latinization phase in the Soviet Union , the language was briefly written with the Latin alphabet, but in 1938 it was decided to return to Cyrillic. In the Soviet Union, Ossetian received the status of an official language for the first time in the North Ossetian ASSR and in the South Ossetian AO .

Today, Ossetian is the official language in the Russian republic of North Ossetia-Alania and in South Ossetia , a de facto independent state supported by Russia, which, however, is hardly recognized internationally. Today there is press, literature and television in the Ossetian language.


Despite the comparatively small number of speakers, there is a separate Ossetian literature. One of the most important writers who wrote his works in the Ossetian language was Kosta Chetagurow , who is seen today as the national poet and founder of modern Ossetian literature. Other important Ossetian writers and poets included Arsen Kozojew , Ivan Jalgusidze , Vladimir Gaglojew and Seka Gadijew . Some Ossetians, including Gaito Gasdanov , did not write in their mother tongue, but in Russian .

With the Gaset Iron also the first Ossetian newspaper appeared in 1906 at all, but this was discontinued after a few years since 1923, the newspaper is Ræstdsinad in North Ossetia issued since 1924, the South Ossetian newspaper Hursærin . This makes them the oldest still existing newspapers in the Ossetian language.


The sound inventory of Ossetian is strongly influenced by the surrounding Caucasian languages. Today's Ossetian alphabet is characterized by the use of the letter Ӕ , which cannot be found in any other language written with Cyrillic letters.

Nominal morphology

With its complex grammar, Ossetian has moved far away from other Indo-European languages and is therefore not very similar in its grammar. For example, the grammatical category gender has disintegrated; That is, there are no masculine, feminine or neutral nouns like in German.

Although the case system has eight to nine cases (similar to Urindo European ), only the nominative , genitive , and dative are possibly inherited from Urindo European. The other cases were probably innovated through language contact with other Caucasian languages: they are the ablative , the adessive , the equative and the comitive . The Inessive is the same shape in many cases with the genitive. The comitive does not appear in all dialects.

The principle of agglutination in noun morphology is also unusual for an Indo-European language : case and number suffixes are joined together so that each case form of the plural can be recognized by the plural suffix -t- , but at the same time each plural form has the same case suffix as the corresponding singular form. The inflection paradigm of the noun "head" is given as an example:

Singular Plural
Nominative sær sær- t
Genitive sær-ə sær- t ə
dative sær-æn sær- t -æn
Allative sær-ma sær- t -æm
ablative sær-æy sær- t -æy
Inessive sær-ə sær- t
Adessive sær-əl sær- t -əl
Equative sær-aw sær- t -aw
Comitative sær-imæ sær- t -imæ

Determination as a grammatical category is not generally marked, but only for nouns with more than one syllable : There, the shift of the word accent from a last to the first syllable serves to mark definiteness - example:

færǽt „eine Axt“
fǽræt „die Axt“

Pronominal system

The pronominal system of Ossetian is relatively simple in that - unlike German - it differentiates neither according to gender ( he, she, es ) nor according to sex ( cf.English he, she ):

Singular Plural
1 æz Max
2 semax
3 wəy wədon


Today's Cyrillic alphabet

First edition of Ræstdsinad 1923, an Ossetian newspaper written in the first Cyrillic alphabet

A Cyrillic alphabet has been used to write the language, with short interruptions, since the 19th century . This was originally introduced in 1844 by Andreas Johan Sjögren .

In today's Ossetian-Cyrillic script, 35 graphemes are distinguished: 26 consonants, 7 vowels and 2 diphthongs.

А / а, Ӕ / ӕ, Б / б, В / в, Г / г, Гъ / гъ, Д / д, Дж / дж, Дз / дз, Е / е, Ё / ё, Ж / ж, З / з, И / и, Й / й, К / к, Къ / къ, Л / л, М / м, Н / н, О / о, П / п, Пъ / пъ, Р / р, С / с, Т / т, Тъ / тъ, У / у, Ф / ф, Х / х, Хъ / хъ, Ц / ц, Цъ / цъ, Ч / ч, Чъ / чъ, Ш / ш, Щ / щ, Ъ / ъ, Ы / ы, Ь / ь, Э / э, Ю / ю, Я / я.

Modern Ossetian alphabet:

А а Ӕ ӕ Б б В в Г г Гъ гъ Д д Дж дж Дз дз Е е Ё ё
Ж ж З з И и Й й К к Къ къ Л л М м Н н О о П п
Пъ пъ Р р С с Т т Тъ тъ У у Ф ф Х х Хъ хъ Ц ц Цъ цъ
Ч ч Чъ чъ Ш ш Щ щ Ъ ъ Ы ы Ь ь Э э Ю ю Я я

Latin script

From 1923 to 1937, an extended Latin alphabet was used, which, however, could not prevail and was replaced by the Cyrillic alphabet (see Latinization in the Soviet Union )

A / a, Æ / æ, B / b, C / c, Č / č, D / d, E / e, F / f, G / g, H / h, I / i, J / j, K / k, L / l, M / m, N / n, O / o, P / p, Q / q, R / r, S / s, Š / š, T / t, U / u, V / v, X / x, Y / y, Z / z, Ž / ž

A a Æ æ B b C c Ch ch Č č Čh čh D d Dz dz Dž dž E e
F f G g H h I i J j K k Kh kh L l M m N n O o
P p Ph ph Q q R r S s Š š T t Th th U u V v X x
Y y Z z

Georgian script

From 1938 to 1954, during the Stalinist era in South Ossetia, the Georgian script was forcibly used to reproduce Ossetian. However, this only affected South Ossetia, which had joined the Georgian SSR in 1922 , while in North Ossetia a return to the Cyrillic alphabet was just being decided. The use of the Georgian alphabet was enforced against opposition from the population; After Stalin's death, South Ossetia returned to the Cyrillic alphabet in 1954.

Allocation table for the various alphabets

Today's alphabet (since 1938) Alphabet of Sjogren (1844) Alphabet by Miller (1881) Teachers Congress Alphabet (1917) Latinized alphabet (1923-1938) Alphabet based on the Georgian script ( South Ossetia , 1938-1954) IPA
А а А а A a {a}
Ӕ ӕ Ӕ ӕ Æ æ {æ}
Б б Б б B b {b}
В в В в V v {v}
Г г Г г G g {G}
Гъ гъ Ҕ ҕ Г̓ г̓ H h Ꜧ ꜧ, H h {ʁ} / {ɦ}
Д д Д д D d {d}
Дз дз Ꚉ ꚉ Z z Dz dz {d͡z}
Дж дж Ԫ ԫ Џ џ G g Dž dž {d͡ʒ}
Е е Е е E e {each}
Ё ё  - {yo}
Ж ж Ж ж Ž ž {ʒ}
З з З з Z z {z}
И и І і I i {i}
Й й Ј ј J j {j}
К к К к K k {k}
Къ къ Ӄ ӄ К̓ к̓ Ӄ ӄ Kh kh {kʼ}
Л л Л л L l {l}
М м М м M m {m}
Н н Н н N n {n}
О о О о O o {O}
П п П п P p {p}
Пъ пъ Ҧ ҧ П̓ п̓ Ҧ ҧ Ph ph {pʼ}
Р р Р р R r {r}
С с С с S s {s}
Т т Т т T t {t}
Тъ тъ Ꚋ ꚋ Т̓ т̓ Ꚋ ꚋ Th th {tʼ}
У у У у, Ў ў U u, W w უ, ჳ {u} / {w}
Ф ф Ф ф F f {f}
Х х Х х X x {χ}
Хъ хъ Ԛ ԛ Q q {q}
Ц ц Ц ц C c {t͡s}
Цъ цъ Ҵ ҵ Ц̓ ц̓ Ҵ ҵ Ch ch {t͡sʼ}
Ч ч Ч ч Č č {t͡ʃ}
Чъ чъ Ꚓ ꚓ Ч̓ ч̓ Ꚓ ꚓ Čh čh {t͡ʃʼ}
Ш ш Ш ш  - Š š {ʃ}
Щ щ  - {ɕ}
ъ -
Ы ы Ѵ ѵ Y y {ə}
ь -
Э э  - {ɛ}
Ю ю  - {ju}
Я я  - {Yes}

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Ossetian on Ethnologue
  2. a b Wolfgang Schulze: Ossetisch on the website of the University of Klagenfurt (PDF file; 226 kB)
  3. Ladislav Zgusta , "The old Ossetic Inscription from the River Zelenčuk" (Publications of the Iranian Commission = session reports of the Austrian Academy of Sciences. Philosophical-historical class 486) Vienna: Verlag der Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften, 1987, ISBN 3-7001-0994 -6 in Kim, op.cit., 54.
  4. Исаев М. И., Дигорский диалект осетинского языка. Фонетика. Морфология, «Наука», М., 1966 ( Memento of the original of May 24, 2010 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was automatically inserted and not yet checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / allingvo.ru
  5. a b c d e Pronunciation of the phoneme varies.
  6. Used in the early 1920s, then replaced by H h
  7. W w was abolished from the alphabet in the 1920s.