Abkhaz is often claimed to be simply a divergent dialect of a larger language, Abkhaz-Abaza. It makes better linguistic sense, however, to separate Abkhaz and Abaza into two separate languages. Abkhaz is generally viewed as having three major dialects, Abzhuy, Bzyp (the Caucasian dialects) and Sadz (in Turkey).
Abkhaz is characterised by unusual consonant clusters and a small vowel inventory. It has only two distinctive vowels: an open vowel /a/ and a closed vowel /ı, ǝ/. Depending on the environment both of the vowels can be realized as [e,i,o,u]. Abzhuy Abkhaz has 58 consonants, whereas Bzyp has 67.
The first fragments of Abkhaz that we have were taken down in the Arabic alphabet by the Turkish traveller Evliya Celebi in the 11th century. Abkhaz has only been a full literary language for about 100 years, and during the Stalinist Russian years Abkhaz was banned as a literary language.