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What you may not know about the ‘Circassians’, ‘Adyghey’ and ‘Cherkess’

What you may not know about the ‘Circassians’, ‘Adyghey’ and   ‘Cherkess’

The name ‘adyghey’ is original, an endo-ethnonymor auto-ethnonym.

The Ubykhs used it as did all of the Circassian tribes, though the Ubykhs would pry the /a-/ off hen it was possessed, as in /s-aw-dyghey/ my-plural-(a)dyghey.

It is also cognate with the Abkhaz-Abaza tribal name suffix. /-r9a/ (with < 9 > a voiced pharyngeal fricative).

It is remotely cognate with Indo-Euroepan *aryo-.

Also, in the diaspora ‘adyghey’ is the recognized self-designation.

Circassian is an ex-onym that itself is first attested as the name of the seductress, Kirke, in the Odyssey.

It also occurs as the name of a tribe in Roman history, the Kerketai of eastern Anatolia, the west Caucasus.

The /-tai/ collective suffix gave rise to the /-ss-/ through Greek sound laws, the Greeks having had trade links with the ancient Circassians.

When the name came into English, the first < c > received a normal [s] pronunciation.

When it was taken up by Venetian and Geneose merchants, it underwent palatalization according to Italian sound laws and gave “Cherkess.”

By John Colarusso

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