Chapter 2. 'The Abkhazians: A Handbook' by George Hewitt (Editor) Richmond, Surrey: The Curzon Press 1999.
The ethnogenesis of any people is a complex problem. It can be tackled by marshalling evidence from a variety of disciplines: linguistics, archæology, anthropology, etc... Below I shall deal, somewhat briefly, with the first two of these; their data prove crucial in the search for the origin of the Abkhazian people.
The common ancestor of the modern Abkhazo-Adyghean languages, Proto-West Caucasian, can be dated approximately to the IIIrd millennium B.C. At the final stage of its development it split into at least three dialects: Proto-Circassian, Proto-Abkhaz, and Proto-Ubykh. Though Ubykh linguistically occupies an intermediate position between Abkhaz and Circassian, some features indicate that originally it was closer to Abkhaz, only later undergoing substantial Circassian influence. One may, therefore, suppose that initially Proto-West Caucasian was divided into Proto-Circassian and Proto-Abkhaz-Ubykh dialects, later splitting into Proto-Abkhaz and Proto-Ubykh.
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