Introduction

The noun in the East-Caucasian languages has grammatical categories of number, case and lexical and grammatical category of noun classes1, which is qualified as typologically typical and genetically common peculiarity of their grammatical structure. The category of noun classes is the most ancient grammatical category in the East-Caucasian languages [Chikobava, 1978]. It formed in the East-Caucasian cultural community when in its social development had appeared class relations and notions of [who?] and [what?].

The changes in the system of grammatical category of noun classes were caused by the changes in the comprehension of the matter [who?] that reflected the changes in the cultural development of the society.

Noun classes are distinguished as semasiological and morphological categories [Chikobava, 1978]. Semasiologically all the names are divided into two «classes»:   
    one «class» — nouns [who?], 
    another «class» — nouns [what?].
The matter of semasiological division into [who?] and [what?] is the same for all the speakers of the East-Caucasian (resp. Iberian-Caucasian) languages:
    [who?] — a person (as a social living being)2,      
    [what?] — all the rest.
Morphological division of nouns into «classes» is expressed by special classifiers (class indexes) which in syntactic constructions are used in class words correlated with the nouns. The noun classifiers in the East-Caucasian languages are v-, j-, b-, r-/d- or their phonetic variants. None of these languages has more than four classifiers [Dirr 1907; Chikobava 1960, 1978, …]. In the Avar-Andin-Tsez (except Andin) and Nakh languages the classifiers of nouns [who?] in the singular and plural are always different, in Lak, Darghin and in the languages of Lezghin group they are different for the names of (a man). The classifiers of nouns [what?] in the singular and plural may be both different and the same.

Morphological division of nouns into «classes» in the East-Caucasian languages represents a variety of organizations. The organizations of the singular and plural (except Tabasaran and the lower dialects of Andin) are different.

The language speakers always correctly determine what classifier should be used with the name. But there may be some differences in using classifiers in language dialects. While learning any of these languages it is necessary to learn the classifiers in class words in the context. Moreover, classifiers in class words are multifunctional, as a rule. Besides their main function they can indicate singularity or plurality of the subject (object) of the action, non-repeatability of the action or its recurrence (repeatability), they can function as word-forming elements, express the speaker’s negative (scornful) or approving attitude etc. The use of a wrong classifier may cause misunderstanding the matter of the utterance. The choice of the classifier with the name is a subconscious process, determined by the existing language norm. The speaker does not think if the noun is regarded as [who?] or [what?] or about form its number or the function of the classifier. The use of the classifier is determined by the context in which it is the language norm.

 The researchers of the East-Caucasian languages determine the «class» of the noun and the number of noun classes in different ways: 
a) according to the noun classifier: in the language there are as many noun classes as there are classifiers; 
b) according to the set of criteria: the noun classifier, correlation of noun classifiers in the singular and plural, regard of the noun to [who?] — [what?], semantics, etc. And in this case the number of «classes» in the Nakh languages can vary from 6 to 13.

In the languages where noun division into «classes» is clear, the «class» of the noun and the number of noun classes are usually determined according to the classifiers. And in the languages where noun division into «classes» is complex, noun classes are determined according to the set of criteria. There are as many noun classes in these languages as many combinations the classifiers in the singular and plural can form, and even more classes, taking into consideration that nouns [who?] and nouns [what?] may have the same combinations of classifiers. This approach leaves out of account the fact that in the languages there are also nouns singularia tantum and pluralia tantum. Both approaches do not take into consideration the autonomy of morphological division of nouns into classes in the singular and plural and that the matter of morphological division of nouns [who?] into «classes» in them is different, and also the fact that the grammatical category of noun classes is common for all East-Caucasian languages and it originated at the time of the North-East Caucasian cultural community. Therefore, the age of this category in the East-Caucasian languages may be correlated to the ethnic history of their speakers which is considered to include historic epochs from the Neolithic up to now, and the modern comprehension of the matter [who?] — a person (as a social living being) may not spread over all the history of the systems of noun classes in the East-Caucasian languages. This comprehension should be spread only over the period when [who?] is regarded as a person (as a social living being).

 All the details of morphological division of nouns into «classes» in the East-Caucasian languages are described synchronically3: classifiers, ways of expression, main and optional functions of the classifiers, noun distribution into «classes» and its peculiarities, deviations from existing regularities etc. And it is rightfully one of the most investigated peculiarities of the East-Caucasian languages.

The principles of the idea about the system and history of grammatical classes in the Iberian-Caucasian languages formulated in Chikobavas works published before 1978 [Chikobava, 1937, 1942, 1960] are theoretical basis of the majority of descriptions of noun division into «classes». Though the problems of system and history of grammatical classes seem to take much room in these descriptions, in fact they are re-account of the principles of the idea about the grammatical classes in the Iberian-Caucasian languages which are the following:

a) opposition of names of a person [who?] and names of a thing [what?] is fundamental in them; 
b) both the class of the names of a person and the class of the names of a thing are divided into two classes (First the second class appeared for the names of a thing and later for the names of a person. The second class of the names of a person  the names of a woman used the classifier of the second class of the names of a thing. This fact is explained by possible deterioration of womens social position during the epoch of patriarchy); 
c) the names of a man and the names of a woman in the plural are in the grammatical class of the names of a thing and it is the result of de-personification; 
d) the category of grammatical classes in the East-Caucasian languages is fading.

The principle that the classifier of the second class of the names of «a thing» [what?] was used for the second class of the names of a person [who?] (the names of a woman) is based on the following facts: 
a) the supposition that in the initial two-class organization the class of the names of a person (personality) [who?] included the names of both men and women till the deterioration of womens social position led to formation of the second class of the names of a person (the class of the names of a woman) with the classifier of the second class of the names of «a thing»; 
b) in the East-Caucasian languages the variety of organizations of the singular are divided into two groups «group j» and «group r//d» according to the classifier of the names of a woman:

«group j»   «group r//d»  
Grammatical class I     v     v
Grammatical class II     j     r//d
Grammatical class III           b     b
Grammatical class IV             r//d     r//d

c) the classifiers of «group r//d» are regarded as initial for the classifiers of «group j» [Chikobava, 1960, 1977; Andguladze, 1954] and the four-class organization of Andin is initial for the organizations of «group j»
d) the use of the classifier of the names of a thing with the names of a person [who?] in the plural is the result of de-personification. 

 Having analyzed the researches of noun classes in the East-Caucasian languages in chronological succession (A.Schiefner, P.Uslar, A.Dirr, A.Chikobava and other) we have noticed that the principles of their system and history are based: 
firstly, on the principles of the idea about the grammatical category of gender in the Iberian-Caucasian languages, general theory for which has not been worked out yet; 
secondly, on the explanation of origin of the variety of organizations of noun division into «classes» in the East-Caucasian languages; 
thirdly, on the perception and estimate of functioning of the most ancient grammatical category in the East-Caucasian languages from the notions and concepts of a modern person.

Nowadays we have a lot of information that should be generalized and interpreted, but the existing idea about the system and history of noun classes restricts the possibility to explain the peculiarities of noun division into «classes» in concrete languages and to work out the general theory of the category of noun classes. Evidently, the reason is that the peculiarities of the systems of noun division into «classes» in the East-Caucasian languages were not taken into consideration. The most principal of them are the following:

 Social nature of the language supposes that in it there should exist social base of noun division into «classes», but it is not easy to ground it on the basis of the data of the systems functioning in the East-Caucasian languages. Moreover, it is very easy to demonstrate the absence of this base: general principle of noun division into «classes» is their division into the names [who?] (a person) and the names [what?] (all the rest). But according to the social base of noun division into «classes» there should be division of the names of a person [who?] into «classes», but not opposition of the names of a person and the names of animals and objects of inanimate nature that exists in the East-Caucasian languages.

 Morphological division of the names of a person [who?] into the names of a man and the names of a woman in the organizations in the singular (in the Andin language also in organizations in the plural) on the base of sex can be qualified as reflection of understanding of the content «a person»  or of women’s position in the society, but not as social differentiation in it.

 The use of the classifier v- is strictly limited by the names of a man and some mythological characters pictured in the image of a man and it reflects formation of particular social status of a man (not as a biological kind of a person).

 Relative autonomy of noun division into «classes» in the singular and plural in the East-Caucasian languages (except Andin) supposes independent studying noun division into «classes» in the singular and plural as elements of one language system with following clearing up their interconnection and interrelation.

 Comprehension of the classifiers v- and j- in the system of noun division into «classes» in the singular. In the Avar-Andin-Tsez and Nakh languages in the singular v- is regarded as the classifier of the names [men] and j- as the classifier of the names [women] even in the languages where j- is also used with the names [what?].

In Lak, Darghin and the languages of Lezghin group v- is regarded as the classifier of the names [men], and though different classifiers are used with the names [men] and the names [women] in these languages there is no independent classifier of the names [women]. There is no independent classifier j- in them either. Therefore, in the organizations of noun division into «classes» in Lak, Darghin and the languages of Lezghin group we have no grounds to distinguish the «class» of the names [women] and to suppose that four-class organization was initial in them.

 In the singular there is no classifier of the names [a person]. In semasiological division of nouns into «classes» [who?] is regarded as a person and some mythological characters pictured in the image of a man, but on the grounds of this fact existing division of the nouns [who?] into the «class» of the names [men] and the «class» of the names [women] cannot be regarded as adequate to the notion [a person]. Moreover, in the singular the use of the classifier v- is strictly limited by the names of a man and some mythological characters pictured in the image of a man.

 Semasiological division into [who?] and [what?] and its taking morphological shape of the grammatical category in the language suppose existing of social division and its institutions in the society. Supposition that in this division originally [who?] was regarded as a person (as a social living being) has no grounds. Firstly, this category is common for all the East-Caucasian languages and it is believed to appear during the East-Caucasian cultural community that existed till the middle of the III millennium BC [Gadzhiev, 1991]. Secondly, regarding [who?] as a person (as a social living being) cannot suppose division into the names [men] and the names [women], which presents a person as a biological kind and corresponds to low level of cultural and social development. Thirdly, regarding a person as a social living being, especially as a living being cannot be correlated with social differentiation in the society.

Language is the most important means of communication of the members in the given human society and development of its mentality. Language reflects not only objective reality of existence, social and cultural development of the speakers, but also the development of mentality and formation of world outlook perception of this reality. That is why in noun division into «classes» and, first of all, in their semasiological division there should be social relations determined by the relations of economic activity and world outlook notions which were formed on the grounds of the social relations during cultural and social evolution of this human community and due to it are generally recognized. Comprehension of [who?] as a person (as a social living being) which we have in modern East-Caucasian languages is the final stage of successive evolution of the initial comprehension of [who?] during the formation of social relations and social structure of the community which determine the development of mentality.

 Besides two-class organizations of the plural («class b» — nouns [who?], «class r» (or j) — nouns [what?]) in the majority of the Avar-Andin-Tsez languages there also function:

a) two-class organization of the plural in the Tsez language with division into:

«class b» —  the names [men],
the names of some mythological characters [who?],
«class r» —  all the rest names:
  the names [women] [who?],
the names [animals, objects of inanimate nature] [what?];    

b) the tendency of the Gunzib language to use the classifier b- in the plural not with all the names [who?] but only with the names [men] [who?] and due to it the existing organization with:

«class b» —  the names [a person],
the names of some mythological characters [who?], 
«class r» —  all the rest names: 
  the names [animals],  
the names [objects of inanimate nature] [what?]

is reforming into the organization similar to the Tsez one:

«class b» —  the names [men],
the names of some mythological characters [who?], 
«class r» —  all the rest names: 
  the names [women] [who?],  
the names [animals, objects of inanimate nature] [what?];

c) one-class organization of the plural in the Avar language in which one and the same classifier is used with all the names in the plural:

«класс r» —  all the names [who?],
all the names [what?];

d) two-class organization of the plural in the Botlikh language in which noun division into «classes» is presented as division into the names of animated nouns and inanimate ones:

«class r» —    the names [a person], 
the names of some mythological characters [who?],
the names [animals] [what?]; 
«class b» —    the names [objects of inanimate nature] [what?], 

and these are the stages of successive changes of the two-class organization in the plural typical of the majority of the Avar-Andin-Tsez languages:

«class b» —  the names [a person], 
the names of some mythological characters [who?],
«class r» —   the names [animals],
the names [objects of inanimate nature] [what?];

e) the tendency of the system of noun division into «classes» in the Batsbi language to use the classifier d- with the names [a person] both in the singular and plural proves weakness of the explanation that de-personification causes the use of the classifier of the names of a thing b- with the names of a person in the plural.

 In the article «Grammatical classes of nouns in the Iberian-Caucasian languages: general problems of system and history» A.S.Chikobava did considerable corrections to the idea about the system and history of grammatical classes.

«Binary system of grammatical classes, opposition of the category of a person [who?] to the category of a thing [what?], is fundamental in the Iberian-Caucasian languages: it implies distinguishing two classes: I  class of a person and II  class of a thing» [Chikobava, 1978, p.16-17].

«Originally the category of a person came to one grammatical class v- which included only men … women were in the class of things  it was remnant of hoary antiquity (the phenomenon hardly possible during matriarchy, probably during patriarchy)…
The second grammatical category of a person (a woman) was the result of reinterpretation and it appeared later» [Chikobava, 1978, p.18].

«… The process of unification (neutralization of differences) in the plural and on the contrary the process of bifurcation (specification) are of considerable interest from the point of view of the history of the given category, but the indexes of the plural cannot be the ground for determining the number of grammatical classes: the problem of their number should be solved according to the indexes of the singular» [Chikobava, 1978, p.15].

«The processes of neutralization of grammatical classes in the plural reflect general tendencies of simplification of morphological system, that we observe in the languages of different structure and origin. They correspond to inner regularity of the development.

As for the opposite process  the process of splitting (bifurcation) when the names of one class in the singular disintegrate into two (sometimes three) groups in the plural, here we can only suppose the processes of convergence, as the result of intensive contacts with the speakers of other kindred or unkindred languages; mutual influence of different dialects of one and the same language with the complex system of division of the names of things into classes is also possible» [Chikobava, 1978, p.14].

In the article A.S.Chikobava presented the history of formation of grammatical classes in the East-Caucasian languages in the following way:

«a) the supposed initial  state — 2 classes:
class І — persons (only full age men)
class ІІ  — things (oll the rest)
b) 3 classes  class І —  v- (only full age men)
class ІI — things b-
class III — вещи d-
с) 4 classes: two classes of persons   I — v
 ІІ — j
two classes of things ІІІ — b-
ІV — d-
d) 3 classes: two classes of persons   І — v-
 ІІ  j
one class of things ІІІ — b
e) 2 classes: І  persons d- (→ r- →  j-…)   
ІІ  things b- (→w-…)» [Chikobava1978с.19-20].     

 Even the first researchers of the East-Caucasian languages realized the grammatical category of noun classes in them as common and self-evident on the grounds of material unity of the classifiers and display of the main principle of noun division into «classes». The first description of morphological division of nouns into «classes» was done as correlation of gender of nouns in German and classifiers of the auxiliary verb «to be» used with the corresponding nouns in Batsbi  one of the East-Caucasian languages [Schiefner, 1856] and it was presented in the following way:  

«Singular: wa, ja, ba, da
            
Plural: ba, da, ja da, ba, ja   da»  [Schiefner, 1856, § 82],

In this scheme the first two combinations of the classifiers in the singular and plural (waba, jada) are used with the names [men] and the names [women], i.e. the nouns [who?] in semasiological division. Essentially this scheme predetermined all the following researches of the given grammatical category in the East-Caucasian languages.

In the Chechen language unification of the nouns according to correlation of the classifiers in the singular and plural P.K.Uslar called categories:

I II III IV V VI
suo (I) vu (am) suo ju   suo ju   suo bu   suo du  suo bu  
tkhuo (we) du (are) tkhuo du   tkhuo ju   tkhuo du   tkhuo du   tkhuo bu  
izush (they) bu (are) izush bu   izush ju       isush du   izush du   izush bu»  [Uslar, 1888, § 9]

and concluded that «there are no difficulties with categories I and II, they include only the names of reasonable beings of masculine and feminine correspondingly, in plural gender is not distinguished at all» [Uslar, 1888, § 10]. About the rest categories (III  VI) he said, «In spite of all efforts I could not reveal the laws which distribute the words among these categories» [Uslar, 1888, § 11].

All the following researches did not make the problem clear either. And the data of the languages with the seeming transparence of noun division into «classes» favoured the assertion of the following common scheme in Caucasian linguistics:

     men  
a person [who?]    things [what?].
women

A.Dirr made the first attempt of theoretical interpretation of noun division into «classes» in the East-Caucasian languages in the article «About the classes (genders) in the Caucasian languages» [A.Dirr, 1907], which influenced the formation of the idea about the history of grammatical classes in the Iberian-Caucasian languages. P.Uslar’s «categories» A.Dirr called «grammatical classes». In A.Dirr’s opinion all the Nakh-Dagestan languages «have one and the same classification and some dialects considerably simplified it, having abolished secondary classes and classified the nouns according to one general principle». Grammatical class (gender) has nothing in common with sex and the origin of grammatical classes (genders) should be «searched for in ancient classifications». «Grammatical classes (genders) were originally estate classes (Rangklassen) and on their basis later formed classes (genders) to designate beings of male and female». In conclusion A.Dirr admitted, «I have failed to solve the problem of classes (genders) in the Caucasian languages, but the article throws light on this problem and may suggest somebody the idea to solve the problem of origin of grammatical genders by means of ethnological method as only philological one is not enough for it» [Dirr, 1907, p.102]. Evidently it means that the problem of origin and development of the category of noun classes in the East-Caucasian should be solved in connection with ethnocultural, cultural and historic development of their speakers.

Language formation and development, which are connected with social life of the concrete people society and form integral whole with its mentality as the means of communication and mentality development, reflect the reality of society life. This reality first of all has reflection in the vocabulary (in the names of objects, phenomena, actions, concepts etc. of this reality). Language vocabulary is always enlarging and refreshing. In this connection polarity contrary to vocabulary is grammatical structure of language that reflects forming system connections of functional unity of language as the means of communication of the members of the given people society and the means of development of its social mentality. And in this unity the basis of intercommunication of the main functions in the language (the means of communication of the members of the given people society and the means of development of their social mentality) forms system connections and takes shape of grammatical categories. That is why grammatical structure of language as a system is very firm and the traces of realities of its speakers ethnocultural development can be kept reflected in language categories. 

Noun division into «classes» in the language of the people society supposes that there should be social division in the given society, i.e. existence of social hierarchy of its members and consequently functioning of the corresponding social institutions: relations of supremacy and submission, functions of government and the roles of their bearers, individuals with high public status and firm social functions etc., which were the basis of formation of the notion of gods: supernatural images that were more powerful than ghosts and demons of pre-religion, more individual and had more distinct functions, personal names, more definite and wide sphere of activity, i.e. existence of religious world outlook notions.

To be reflected in the language structure of the given society the perception of the reality should be reflected in the social consciousness of the speakers and, therefore, it should have general significance, recognition, wide and constant functioning in the notions of the surrounding reality in the given society.

Relations of supremacy and submission, social hierarchy, formation of functions of government and their bearers, notions of deities as supernatural images with wide and general functions of government were formed during productive structure of economy. Therefore, we can suppose that noun division into «classes» appeared in the language of indigenous population  ancestors of the speakers of the East-Caucasian languages  during the period of forming social relations of productive structure of economy in the society. In this connection initial comprehension of the division into [who?] and [what?] was evidently division into [bearers of functions of government]  [who?] (expression of respectful attitude) and [all the rest] [what?]. The following changes of social relations in the community of the language speakers were reflected in the comprehension of the matter [who?] and consequently in the comprehension of morphological expression of the division into [who?] and [what?].

For this supposition there are enough grounds in the peculiarities of the systems of noun division into «classes» functioning in the East-Caucasian languages: correlation of the matter [who?] and morphological division of nouns into «classes» in the singular and plural; the matter of «class» v-  only the names [men] and the names of some mythological characters pictured in the image of men; the strict limit of the use of the classifier v- and a veto on use of any other classifiers except v- with the names [men] show that the system has kept the old condition, etc. We shall consider these questions while analyzing the corresponding systems of noun classes.

 The researchers of the East-Caucasian languages do not dispose of any written monuments of a long period of time in these languages, that is why their diachronical study is exclusively based on the methods of comparative analysis. The evidence of relationship of the languages in the groups, strongly marked language divisibility into dialects give much possibility for the comparative analysis. In the given work we demonstrate it on the category of noun classes.

Different researchers at different times described the systems of noun classes in the East-Caucasian languages. These works give authentic data of use of the classifiers. But while solving the problems of system and history, interpretation some facts and phenomena need their estimate and more precise definition taking into account the experience that Caucasian linguistics has got for many years. To do it the available data about noun classes in the East-Caucasian languages should be presented in strict conformity with the reality estimated according to the same principles and the same system of notions and terms. In this connection in the given work:

 We determine morphological «class» according to the classifier in the auxiliary verb «to be» used with the noun in the nominative case. In the East-Caucasian languages the question «Who (or what) is this?» has the form «This who (or what) is?». And correspondingly the answer has the form «This … is». The class index in the verb (predicate) functions only as the index of the class of the noun in the nominative case.

 We examine morphological division of nouns into «classes» in the singular and plural separately. This approach answers the existence of the organizations of noun division into «classes» with different structures in the singular and plural; presence of great number of nouns singularia tantum and pluralia tantum, considerably enriched by borrowings from Russian and other languages; the «class» of a noun is determined according to its classifier.

Morphological division of nouns into «classes» in the Avar-Andin-Tsez, Nakh, Darghin and Lak languages represents whole and well preserved systems. In the majority of the languages of Lezghin group morphological division of nouns into «classes» is not so clear because of the complex and multi-stage phonetic changes of the classifiers in the class words. Due to them the researchers have to use the term «the series of the class index» while describing noun division into «classes» in these languages. The researchers distinguish from 7 to 17 such series [See Kakhadze, 1984 for details].

 From the following table of the noun classifiers in the East-Caucasian languages it results that:

 The classifiers of morphological expression of noun division into «classes» in the East-Caucasian languages are v-, j-, b-,
d-/r-. None of these languages has more than four main classifiers [Chikobava, 1960, 1978]. Their phonetic variants should be regarded as the changes of the petrified classifiers.
 The noun classifiers of the singular are used in the plural.
 The noun classifiers in the Avar-Andin-Tsez and Nakh languages are v-, j-, b-, d-/r- (they are four).
 The noun classifiers in Lak, Darghin and the languages of Lezghin group are v-, b-, d-/r- (they are three).
 In the languages where noun division into «classes» is morphologically expressed by the special classifiers, morphological noun «classes» and their number should be determined according to morphological classifiers.
 In the singular the noun classifiers are:
in the Avar-Andin-Tsez and Nakh languages:
    v-, j-, b-, d-/r-
    v-, j-, b-;
in Lak, Darghin and the languages of Lezghin group:
    v-, b-, d-/r-
 In the plural the noun classifiers are:
in the Avar-Andin-Tsez and Nakh languages:
    v-, j-, b-, r-
    v-, j-, b-
         j-, b-, d-/r- (l-) 
         j-, b-
             b-, r-
                  r-;
in Lak, Darghin and the languages of Lezghin group:
             b-, d-/r-
                  d-/r-.

 The systems of means of morphological division of nouns into «classes» are divided into: a) the systems with the classifier j- (the systems of the Avar-Andin-Tsez and Nakh languages) and b) the systems without the classifier j- (the systems of Lak, Darghin and the languages of Lezghin group). The full series of classifiers for the former  is v-, j-, b-, d-/r-; for the latter is v-, b-, d-/r-.  

 The systems of means of morphological division of nouns into «classes» in the East-Caucasian languages witness the tendency towards reduction of the number of the classifiers.

                                        Noun classifiers in the East-Caucasian languages

Noun classifiers in the singular Noun classifiers in the plural
The Nakh languages
Chechen
Ingush
Batsbi
v
v
v
j
j
j
b
b
b
d
d
d
j
j
j
b
b
b
d
d
d
The Avar-Andin-Tsez languages
Chamalin
Godoberin
Karatin
Akhvakh
Bagvalin
Tindin
Botlikh
Avar
Andin (lower dialect)
Andin (upper dialect)
v
v
v
v
v
v
v
v
v
v
j
j
j
j
j
j
j
j
j
j
b(m)
b
b
b
b
b
b
b
b
b
d(njb)
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
r
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
v
v
j
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
j
j
b
b
b
b
b
b(m)
b(m)
 
b
b
 
r
r
r
r
r(l,n)
r(l,n)
r
 
r
Tsez
Ghinuch
Gunzib
Khvarshin
Bezhtin
  
  
  
  
  
j
j
j
j
j
b
b
b
b(m)
b
r
r
r
l(n)
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
j
b
b
b
b
b
r
r
r
l
 
The Lak language      b d(r,l,n)     b d(r)
The Darghin language v(j,)   b d(r)     b d(r)
The languages of Lezghin group
Tabasaran
Archin
Budukh
Rutul
Tsakhur
Kryz
Khinalug
 
w(u,,j)
  
w(j)
w(j)
  
(j)
  b(p,,w,f)
b
b(p)
b(w,j)
b(w)
b(p, ,w)
b(w,f, )
d(t,),r
rd(j,t,)
d(t), r(l)
d(t), r(j)
dr(j)
d(t,), r(j)
r(j,z,s)
     
b
b(p)
b(m)
 
b(p,)
b(w,p,f)
d(t,), r(j)
(d>j,), r
d
d(j)
(j)
d(t)
r(j,t)
Lezghin
Agul
Udin


 



   



 In Caucasian linguistics the problems of the system and history of noun classes in the East-Caucasian languages have already been researched and have firm traditions, therefore, their studying supposes: a) thorough interpretation of the former researchers data of studying of noun classes; b) complex analysis of noun division into «classes» in the languages; c) generalization of all the information. As a result of the work we have got the data to solve the problems of system and history of noun classes, the category that is the peculiarity of grammatical structure of the East-Caucasian languages and its indexes pierce the whole morphological structure of these languages [Chikobava, 1960]. The suggested solutions are considered objective if they can satisfactorily explain the peculiarities of noun division into «classes» in any of the East-Caucasian languages: the nature of these peculiarities, the nature and mechanism of the changes which have taken and are taking place in this division, if they let predict possible changes and what is more important if they stimulate formation of the idea about the system and history of the given grammatical category.

The category of noun classes is the most ancient and genetically common [A.Chikobava] peculiarity of the East-Caucasian languages, its origin and formation is believed to date from the time when there existed the community of the speakers of the East-Caucasian languages. This category has been researched for a century and a half and the results testify that it is very difficult to solve the problems of its system and history taking into account all the data of all East-Caucasian languages. First of all, it concerns the data of the Lezghin group languages. Comparison of the data of their systems of noun classes with the data of the systems of the Lak, Darghin, Avar-Andin-Tsez and Nakh languages requires reconstruction of the systems of the former up to the level comparable to the latter. It should be kept in mind that the results of any reconstruction are orientated at the existing theoretical principles and ideas, which determine vision and interpretation of the language data.

In the Avar-Andin-Tsez languages the organizations of noun division into «classes» in the singular have four-class (class  — class j — class b — class d, class  — class j — class b — class r) and three-class (class  — class j — class b) structures; in the plural four-class (class  — class j — class b — class r), three-class (class  — class j — class b), two-class (class b — class r, class  — class j, class r – class b) and one-class (class r) structures. In these languages noun division into «classes» in three-class organizations of the singular and the majority of two-class ones of the plural is rather transparent and it generally conforms to the comprehension of semasiological division into [who?] and [what?]. Against a background of the relationship of the languages the above-mentioned facts testify that in order to solve the problems of the system and history of noun classes in the East-Caucasian languages it is necessary first of all to analyse the systems in the Avar-Andin-Tsez and close to them Nakh languages which historically have the classifier j- among the means of morphological expression of noun division into «classes» and then the systems in Lak, Darghin and the languages of Lezghin group which historically had no classifier j- among the means of morphological expression of noun division into «classes» and in which phonetic changes of noun classifiers in class words considerably complicated the expression of noun division into «classes». These changes are qualified as display of fading of the category of noun classes side by side with the multifunctionality of noun classifiers. The suggested succession of reconstruction of the history of the systems of noun classes in the East-Caucasian languages is based on the well-known results of their research:

 None of the East-Caucasian languages has more than four classifiers v-, j-, b-, d-/r- [Chikobava, 1960, 1977].

 Lak, Darghin and the languages of Lezghin group [Kakhadze, 1984] have no more than three classifiers v-, b-, d-/r-, the Avar-Andin-Tsez and Nakh languages have no more than four classifiers v-, j-, b-, d-/r-.

It results from this that morphological division of nouns into «classes»  was originally a binary system: 
   «class v» — the names [who?],
   «class r/d» — the names [what?],
that initially corresponded to the binary system of semasiological division into [who?] and [what?], later it got complicated and in Lak, Darghin and the languages of Lezghin group it turned into three-class system: «class v» — «class b» — «class d/r» and in the Avar-Andin-Tsez and Nakh languages into four-class one: «class v» — «class j» — «class b» — «class d/r». Initial for the systems of noun classes functioning in Lak, Darghin and the languages of Lezghin group must be three-class system «class v» — «class b» — «class d/r» and in the Avar-Andin-Tsez and Nakh languages four-class one «class v» — «class j» — «class b» — «class d/r» which in its turn goes back to three-class system «class v» — «class b»  — «class d/r».

The comparison of the data of the systems of noun classes in Lak, Darghin and the languages of Lezghin group with the data of the Avar-Andin-Tsez and Nakh languages and determination of the comparability of their facts and phenomena should be done separately and with great care even in the cases when comparability seems evident. It can partly been explained by the fact that the systems functioning in these languages go back to different though closely connected systems.

It is possible to reconstruct the history of the formation of the systems of noun classes in the East-Caucasian languages on the basis of the data of the transparent and well preserved systems in the Avar-Andin-Tsez and Nakh languages. The results may be correlated with the data of the systems in Lak, Darghin and the languages of Lezghin group and later be corrected if necessary. Reconstruction of the history of the systems of noun classes in the East-Caucasian languages is not the end in itself. Without determining the origin of common features, they do not present objective picture of interrelation of languages.


1 Among the East-Caucasian languages Lezghin, Udin and Agul have no morphological category of noun classes. The specialists consider that in these languages the traces of this category remained in petrified class indexes.
2 «The Person is the highest stage of living organisms on the Earth, subject of social and historic activity and culture. Marxism sees the specific peculiarity of the person in his ability to make tools and use them in order to influence the world around. The person is «the totality of all social relations» (K.Marx). The person appeared on the Earth as a result of complex and long historic and evolutionary process. The modern person (Homo sapiens, the person reasonable) appeared not later than 40 thousand years ago, and according to some data even earlier» (Soviet encyclopaedia. Moscow, 1987).
3 See the bibliography.