Russian Federation: a dozen villages in the southwest of the Republic of Dagestan, between the middle reaches of the River Andi-Koisu and the border between Dagestan and Chechnya.
Total number: between 2,000 and 3,000 (data from 2002).
The Chamalals are one of the many small ethnic groups of the Republic of Dagestan. As is the case of the other Andi and Dido peoples, their traditions and culture are very similar to those of the Avars, due to their common history since the times of the Avar Khanate. The main factor that distinguishes the Chamalals from the other peoples in their vicinity is their language. The Chamalals live in a dozen small villages in southwest Dagestan, on the left bank of the middle reaches of the River Andi-Koisu.
Chamalal has three main dialects, namely Gadyrin, Gakvari and Gigatl.
Chamalal is an oral tongue with no written tradition, and a standard form of the language has never been created. The Chamalals generally use Avar as a literary language, and Avar or Russian for communication with the administration or other peoples. Virtually all the Chamalals are plurilingual.
Chamalal has never been taught in schools. The education system imposed by the Soviet regime involved the use of Avar in primary schools and Russian in secondary schools. The same system remains in place today.
Nowadays, Chamalal speakers only use the language at home, with Avar and Russian being used in all other settings. Like all the other Dagestani languages with few speakers, Chamalal is thus facing serious problems in relation to its survival and is in grave danger of extinction. Nonetheless, the Chamalals have a positive language attitude where keeping up the oral use of their tongue is concerned, and Chamalal is still passed on to the younger generations.
The first studies on Chamalal as an independent linguistic unit were carried out in the 19th century. Some descriptive linguistic studies of the language and some analyses of its sociolinguistic situation have been undertaken, but there are virtually no recordings of it being spoken. The first Chamalal-Russian dictionary was published in 1999.