Khinalug in its Genetic Context: Some Methodological Considerations. Part 1: The Problem, Loans and Cognates

In: Iran and the Caucasus

Khinalug, a minority language spoken by some 1,500 people mainly in the village of Khinalug in the Quba district of Azerbaijan Republic, is generally regarded as the most divergent East Caucasian language. Its exact genealogical place within the group of around 30 East Caucasian languages has been debated since long. Still, at least some of the relevant contributions to this debate, ground their arguments in a rather small piece of evidence, usually taken from a handful of assumed lexical correspondences and typological analogies. In the present paper, I discuss some methodological problems related to the enterprise of determining the place of Khinalug among the East Caucasian languages, addressing both selected lexical and grammatical features. I also include some sociolinguistic features that are crucial to the discussion. As an alternative to the current hypotheses, I suggest to consider the possibility that Khinalug is not an East Caucasian language from a genetic point of view, but a non-East Caucasian language that has become “Caucasianised” over times. In the first part of my paper I will focus on some general issues and on the lexicon.

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