Chechen, together with Ingush and
Bats, belongs to the Veinakh group of the Iberian-Caucasian family of languages.
The Chechen and Ingush languages have developed a written tradition. Not so the Bats language. The earliest description of the Veinakh languages is found in the Big Comparative Dictionary of Russian Empress Catherine the Great (second half of the 18th century.) The Dictionary presents about 400 Chechen words and their Ingush and Bats equivalents. Baron P.K. Uslar described the Caucasian languages on instructions from the general staff of the Russian Army. His voluminous "The Chechen Language" came off print in 1888. It contains a grammar of the Chechen language.
The languages of the Veinakh group are the widest spoken of the Northern Caucasus. Ethnic Chechens and Ingushis can communicate without a translator. The idea of "veinakh" ("our people") brings them close together. The Bats people live in the Pankisky Gorge of Georgia. Their language has come under a heavy influence of Georgian, which is why neither Chechens nor Ingushi can understand it. The Chechen language is also spoken by the Chechen communities of Turkey, Jordan, Iraq and Syria. The Chechen language brings together a number of dialects and tongues.
The Chechen language of the written tradition rests on the Grozny dialect of flatland Chechnya. Works of fiction, newspapers and magazines, textbooks and scholarly treatises have been written in that dialect of the Chechen language. Classical fiction writings have been translated into it.
It was not until 1925 that written Chechen switched over from the Arabic to the Latin alphabet. In 1938 it gave up Latin for Cyrillic. An unsuccessful attempt to return to the Latin alphabet was made in 1992.
As they opened up new frontiers, the Chechens and Ingushis could not help getting in close contact with other ethnic communities. That is why the Chechen word stock as many foreign borrowings: up to 500 words from Georgian, up to 700 words from the Turk languages,a good number of Arabic, Persian, Ossetian and Daghestani words, and a great many words from the Russian language.
In the 16th century, the Veinakh tribes moved to the Cossack-populated fertile flatland. Trade interests encouraged contacts between the Russians and the Veinakhs. New borrowings enriched the word stock of the Chechen language. English, German and French borrowings entered the chechen language via Russian: take the Chechen equivalents for "export," "meeting," "parliament," "tanz," "kuche,""mundschtuk,""avantguarde," "mousquet,""boillon," "taxi."
Even the phonetic system of the Chechen language has undergone change. The /f/, /l'/, /shch/, /r'/ sounds entered Chechen on the coattails of new words such as a factory, a broom, a secretary and a teacher.
Even though they are hard to pronounce, Chechen words sound pleasing to the ear. Here are some of the easiest and frequentest-used words of the Chechen language:
Daimokhk - Fatherland
Malkh - the sun
Mashar - peace
Bezam - love
Bepig - bread
Latta - Earth
Khi - water
Seda - a star
Zezag - a flower
Nana - Mother
Da - Father