Ossetian also sometimes called Ossete, is an East Iranian language spoken in Ossetia, a region on the slopes of the Caucasus Mountains. The area in Russia is known as North Ossetia-Alania, while the area south of the border is referred to as South Ossetia, recognized by Russia, Nicaragua, Venezuela and Nauru as an independent state but by the rest of the international community as part of Georgia. Ossetian speakers number about 525,000, 60% of whom live in Alania, and ten percent in South Ossetia.
The unique features of Ossetic in comparison with most of Iranian languages can be explained by rich medieval contacts with languages of other linguistic groups: Slavic, Baltic, Germanic etc., and from the other side, with the Caucasian substratum languages which were spoken here when Ossetians arrived on Caucasus. Ossetic now differs from other Iranian languages by its “Caucasian” glottalized consonants in phonetics, and strange agglutinative noun declension with plenty of cases.
Ossetic first used Perso-Arabic script since the 18th language, then Cyrillic-based alphabet in the 19th century, then Latinized graphics in 1923-38, then again Cyrillic.
There are two important dialects: Iron and Digor — the former being the more widely spoken. Written Ossetian may be immediately recognized by its use of the ӕ, a letter to be found in no other language using the Cyrillic alphabet. A third dialect of Ossetian, Jassic, was formerly spoken in Hungary. The overwhelming majority of Ossetes speak the Iron dialect, and the literary language is based on it.
Lambert M. SURHONE, Miriam T. TIMPLEDON, Susan F. MARSEKEN
Ossetic Language: North Ossetia-Alania, Jassic Language, Caucasian Languages, Alans, Ossetian Literature, Caucasus, South Ossetia
Betascript Publishing (24 Feb 2010)