Tsez, also known as Dido (цезяс мец cezyas mec or цез мец cez mec in Tsez) is a Northeast Caucasian language with about 15,354 speakers (2002) spoken by the Tsez, a Muslim people in the mountainous Tsunta district of southern and western Dagestan in Russia. The name is said to derive from the Tsez word for "eagle", which is most likely a folk etymology. The name Dido is derived from the Georgian word დიდი (didi), meaning "big".
Tsez lacks a literary tradition and is poorly represented in written form. Avar and Russian are used as literary languages locally, even in schools. However, attempts have been made to develop a stable orthography for the Tsez language as well as its relatives, mainly for the purpose of recording traditional folklore; thus, a Cyrillic script based on that of Avar is often used. Fluency of Avar is usually higher among men than women, and the younger people tend to be more fluent in Russian than in Tsez, which is probably due to the lack of education in and about the language. Tsez is not taught in school and instead Avar is taught for the first five years and Russian afterwards.
The vocabulary shows many traces of influences of Avar, Georgian, Arabic and Russian, mainly through loanwords and, in the case of Russian, even in grammar and style. There are also loanwords of Turkic origin. These factors may eventually lead to the decline of use of the Tsez language, as it is more and more replaced by Avar and Russian, partly due to loss of traditional culture among the people and the adoption of a Western clothing, technology and architecture.
Tsez grammar was first analyzed by the Georgian linguist Davit Imnaishvili in 1963. Currently, a collection of Tsez folklore texts (written in the Mokok dialect) is in production.
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