|proposed language family, which is widely disputed; although links with other families have been proposed, none of these has received mainstream acceptance|
North Caucasian languages (sometimes called simply Caucasic as opposed to Kartvelian, and to avoid confusion with the concept of "Caucasian race") is a blanket term for two language phyla spoken chiefly in the north Caucasus and Turkey: the Northwest Caucasian family (Pontic, Abkhaz-Adyghe, Circassian, West Caucasian) and the Northeast Caucasian family (Caspian, Nakh-Dagestanian, East Caucasian); the latter includes the former North-central Caucasian (Nakh) family.
Many linguists, notably Sergei Starostin and Sergei Nikolayev, believe that the two groups sprang from a common ancestor about five thousand years ago. However, due to the nature of the languages in question, this proposal is difficult to evaluate, and remains controversial.
 Comparison of the two phyla
The main perceived similarities between the two phyla lie in their phonological systems. However, their grammars are quite different.
 Main similarities
Both phyla are characterised by high levels of phonetic complexity, including the widespread usage of secondary articulation. Ubykh (Northwest) has 80 consonants, and Archi (Northeast) is thought to have 76.
A list of possible cognates has been proposed. However, most of them may be loanwords or simply coincidences, since most of the morphemes in both phyla are quite short (often just a single consonant).
 Main differences
The Northeast Caucasian languages are characterised by great morphological complexity in the noun. For example, in Tsez, a series of locative cases intersect with a series of suffixes designating motion with regard to the location, producing an array of 126 locative suffixes (often – depending on the analysis – described as noun cases).
By contrast, the Northwest Caucasian noun systems are extremely poor in morphology, usually distinguishing just two or three cases. However, they make up with a very complex verbal structure: the subject, the direct object, the indirect object, benefactive objects and most local functions are expressed in the verb.
 Some comparisons
Abbreviations: PN = Proto-Nakh, PDL = Proto-Dargi-Lak, PLK = Proto-Lezgic-Khinalugh, PAAT = Proto-Avar-Andic-Tsezic, PNEC = Proto-Northeast Caucasian, PNWC = Proto-Northwest Caucasian, PNC = Proto-North Caucasian
Not all scholars accept the unity of the North Caucasian languages as proposed by Nikolayev and Starostin, and some who do believe that the two are, or may be, related do not accept the methodology they use. A notable critic of Nikolayev and Starostin's hypothesis is Johanna Nichols.
 See also
- ^ a b c Nikolayev, S., and S. Starostin. 1994 North Caucasian Etymological Dictionary. Moscow: Asterisk Press. Available online.
- ^ PN = Proto-Nakh, PDL = Proto-Lak-Dargwa, PLK = Proto-Lezghian-Khinalug, PAAT = Proto-Avar-Andi-Tsezic, PNEC = Proto-Northeast Caucasian, PNWC = Proto-Northwest Caucasian, PNC = Proto-North Caucasian
- ^ Wolfgang Schulze 2007 . Personalität in den ostkaukasischen Sprachen. (190 pp.). Munich Working Papers in Cognitive Typology
- ^ Schulze considers this to be a loanword from Proto-Indo-European
- ^ Ubykh/Proto-Adyghe-Kabardian/Proto-Abkhaz-Tapant. These forms are difficult to reconcile.
- ^ Probably the original 1st plural inclusive.
- ^ Nichols, J. 1997 Nikolaev and Starostin's North Caucasian Etymological Dictionary and the Methodology of Long-Range Comparison: an assessment. Paper presented at the 10th Biennial Non-Slavic Languages (NSL) Conference, Chicago, 8-10 May 1997.