Abkhaz did not become a written language until the 19th century. Up until then, Abkhazians, especially princes, had been using Greek (up to c. 9th century), Georgian (9–19th centuries), and partially Turkish (18th century) languages. The Abkhaz word for alphabet is анбан (anban), which was borrowed from Georgian ანბანი (anbani).
The first Abkhaz alphabet was created in 1892 by Dimitry Gulia and K. Machavariani. The script was developed by Peter von Uslar. It had 37 letters and was based on the Cyrillic script. In 1909, it was expanded to 55 letters by Andria Tchotchua to adjust to the extensive consonantal inventory of Abkhaz.
In 1926, during the korenizatsiya policy in the Soviet Union, the Cyrillic alphabet was replaced by a Latin alphabet devised by Nikolay Marr. It featured 76 letters and was called the "Abkhaz analytical alphabet". In 1928, this was replaced by another Latin alphabet. (See illustration at right.) From 1938 to 1954 the Abkhaz language was written in 3 Georgian alphabets: the Asomtavruli, Nuskhuri and Mkhedruli.
Since 1954, the Abkhaz language has been written in a new 62-letter Cyrillic alphabet (see chart below). Of these, 38 are graphically distinct; the rest are digraphs with ⟨ь⟩ and ⟨ә⟩ which indicate palatalization and labialization, respectively. In 1996, the most recent reform of the alphabet was implemented: while labialization had hitherto been marked with two additional letters, ә and у, since then only ә was retained in this function. Unusually, the Cyrillic plosive letters К П Т represent ejective consonants; the non-ejectives (pulmonic consonants) are derived from these by means of a descender at the bottom of the letter. In the case of the affricates, however, the plain letter are pulmonic, and the derived letters ejective.
The modern Abkhaz orthography gives preference to the letters Г П with descender (Ӷ Ԥ) instead of hook (Ҕ Ҧ). The characters Ԥ and ԥ are encoded in Unicode since version 5.2.
|Letter||Name||Transliteration (ISO)||IPA Value|
|И и||Иы||i||/j, jɨ, ɨj, i/|
|У у||Уы||u||/w, wɨ, ɨw, u/|
|Ҩ ҩ||Ҩы||õ||/ɥ ~ ɥˤ/ (< */ʕᶣ/)|