Bats (also Batsi, Batsbi, Batsb, Batsaw, Tsova-Tush) is the language of the Bats people, a Caucasian minority group, and is part of the Nakh family of Caucasian languages. It had 2,500 to 3,000 speakers in 1975.
There is only one dialect. It exists only as a spoken language, as the Bats people use Georgian as their written language. The language is not mutually intelligible with either Chechen or Ingush, the other two members of the Nakh family.
Until the middle of the 19th century, the Tsovians lived in Tushetia, the mountain region of Northeast Georgia. They were expected to have come settled with Tush people in mid centuries later became assimilated with other Tush people and now are known as one of four tush subgroups. The Tsova Gorge in Tushetia was inhabited by four Bats communities: the Sagirta, Otelta, Mozarta and Indurta. Later they settled on the Kakhetia Plain, in the village of Zemo-Alvani, where they still live. Administratively they are part of the Akhmeta district of Georgia.
Bats belongs to the Nakh family of Northeast Caucasian languages.
Most speakers of Bats live in the village of Zemo-Alvani, on the Kakhetia Plain, in the Akhmeta district of Georgia. There are some families of Bats in Tbilisi and other bigger towns in Georgia.
Bats has a typical triangular five-vowel system with short–long contrast (except for u, which has no long form). Bats also has a number of diphthongs, ei, ui, oi, ai, ou, and au. All vowels and diphthongs have nasalized allophones that are the result of phonetic and morphophonemic processes; this is represented by a superscript n, as in kʼnateⁿ boy-GEN.
Bats has a relatively typical consonant inventory for a Northeast Caucasian language. Unlike its close relatives, Chechen and Ingush, Bats has retained the lateral fricative /ɬ/.
The first grammar of Bats – Über die Thusch-Sprache – was compiled by the German orientalist Anton Schiefner (1817–1879) making it into the first grammar of any indigenous Caucasian languages based on sound scientific principles.
Traditional analyses posit that Bats has eight noun classes, the highest number among the Northeast Caucasian languages—however, a more-recent analysis gives only five classes. This analysis (not unlike analyses of Lak) yields the grouping shown below:
Under this analysis, the additional three classes are examples of inquorate gender, where the number of items displaying this behavior are insufficient to constitute an independent grouping. Furthermore, they can be explained as inflecting as one class in the singular, and another in the plural, e.g. the B/B group agrees as if it belonged to Bd class in the singular, but male human class in the plural.
Batsbi makes use of nine noun cases total, though in the majority of nouns the ergative and instrumental case have a common form.
Like most of its relatives, Batsbi's numerals are vigesimal, using 20 as a common base. This is mainly evident in the construction of higher decads, so that 40 šauztʼqʼ formed from 2 × 20 and 200 icʼatʼqʼ is 10 × 20. When modifying nominals, the numeral precedes the noun it modifies.
In Bats, as in the its closest relatives Chechen and Ingush, the number Dʕivʔ "four" actually begins with a noun-class marker, represented by D (by default, or another capital for the other classes). This marker will agree in class with the class of the nominal which the number modifies, even if that nominal is not overtly expressed and only apparent through pragmatic or discursive context, as in Vʕivʔev "four (males)". This is seen in the word "four" itself as well as its derivatives.
Bats has explicit inflections for agentivity of a verb; it makes a distinction between as woʒe I fell down (i.e. through no fault of my own) and so woʒe I fell down (i.e. and it was my own fault).