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Georgian 

Georgian
Ket’ili ikos tk’veniseni mobrzaneba – Welcome

 Georgian (kartuli ena, ქართული ენა), also known as Kartvelian or Kartuli, is a member of the Kartvelian family, one of the Caucasian language families, along with SvanLaz, and Mingrelian. It is believed that Svan separated from the other languages in the second millennium BC. A thousand years later, Georgian separated from Laz and Mingrelian. The four are now considered to be separate languages.

The name Georgian used in the European languages was coined during the Crusades; it is based on Persian gorji ‘Georgian’, from which the Russian term gruzin ‘Georgian’ was also derived.

Georgia map

Status

Georgian is spoken by 3.9 million people who live mainly in the Republic of Georgia where it is the official language. Georgian speakers also live  in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russian Federation, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, Uzbekistan (Ethnologue). In Georgia, most newspapers and journals are published in Georgian. Radio Tbilisi broadcasts in Georgian and several other languages, while Tbilisi Television broadcasts in Georgian and Russian.

 

Dialects

According to Ethnologue, there are several varieties of Georgian (some of which may be endangered). They are believed to be mutually intelligible. The proliferation of dialects is due to the mountainous character of the country with many small isolated communities.

  • Adzhar (Acharian)
  • Ferejdan
  • Gurian
  • Imeretian
  • Imerxev Kartlian
  • Ingilo
  • Kaxetian (Kakhetian)
  • Meskhur-Javakhuri
  • Moxev (Mokhev)
  • Mtiul
  • Pshav
  • Racha-Lexchxum (Lechkhum)
  • Tush
  • Xevsur (Kheysur)
  • Moxev (Mokhev), Pshav
  • Mtiul

Structure

Sound system

The sound system of Georgian is characterized by a rich inventory of consonants and by long consonant clusters, especially at the beginning of words. The language allows up to six consonants in the beginning of words, e.g., tkven ‘you’, zghva ‘sea‘, mtsrtneli ‘trainer’.

Vowels 
Georgian has five cardinal vowels which are given below.

Close
i
u
Close-mid
e
o
Open
a

 

Consonants
Georgian has 28 consonants.

Uvular
Stops voiceless aspirated
p
x
t
xx
k
voiceless ejective
p’
t’
k’
q’
voiced
b
d
g
Fricatives voiceless
s
ʃ
x
h
voiced
v
z
ʒ
ɣ
Affricates voiceless aspirated
ts
voiceless ejective
ts’
tʃ’
voiced
dz
Nasals
m
x
n
xxx
Lateral x
l
xxx
Trill x
r
  • /p’, t’, k’, q’, ts’,tʃ’/ are ejective consonants made with the air pushed out by the vocal cords instead of the lungs so that the sounds appear to be spat out
  • /q’/ has no equivalent in English.
  • /x, ɣ/ have no equivalents in English
  • /ʃ/ = sh in shop
  • /ʒ/ = s in vision
  • /tʃ// = ch in chop
  • /dʒ/ = j in jet

 

Grammar

Georgian is an agglutinative language, i.e., one in which each affix typically represents one grammatical function such as ‘past tense’, ‘plural’, or ‘masculine’. These affixes do not become fused with each other like they do in European languages (e.g., –s in sings represents 2nd person + singular). They are simply added to each other in a string. This may occasionally result in long words which correspond to phrases and even whole sentences in European languages. Georgian uses postpositions rather than prepositions to mark grammatical relations.

Nouns and pronouns

 

Verbs 
Georgian verbs are very complex. Below is a short list of their major traits.

  • They tend to be long due to agglutination.
  • They can include reference to the subject and the direct and indirect objects, e.g.,’ I gave it to him’ is one word in Georgian, a phenomenon known as polypersonalism.
  • Verbs are usually analyzed in series, called screeves, each of which represents tense (present, past, future), aspect (imperfective and perfective) and mood (indicativeconditional and subjunctive).
  • There are four classes of verbs. Each class has its own set of conjugation rules for all screeves.
  • There is a large number of irregular verbs.
  • There is a distinction between stative and motion verbs; the later are precisely defined through the use of directional prefixes.

 

Word order 
The normal word order in Georgian is Subject-Object-Verb, but the order can vary, depending on contextual factors.

Vocabulary

Georgian has a rich vocabulary that can accommodate a variety of functions and genres, from poetry to science. Throughout history, it has borrowed words from languages with which it came into contact. As a result, it contains loanwords from ArabicPersian, and Turkish, e.g., khalkhi ‘people’ from Arabic khalq, Turkish halk. Georgian has also borrowed from European languages, especially Russian, e.g., gazeti ‘newspaper’ from Russian gazeta ‘newspaper’.

Below are some common Georgian words and phrases, presented in romanization.

Hello Gamarjoba
Goodbye Nakhvamdis
Sorry, I am sorry Bodishi
Excuse me Uk’atsravad
Thank you Gmadlobt
Please Ttu sheidzleba
Yes Diakh (formal), k’i (neutral)
No Ara

 

Below are Georgian numerals 1-10 in romanization.

1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
erti
ori
sami
otxi
xuti
ekvsi
shvidi
rva
cxra
ati

Writing

Georgian has a very rich and ancient literary tradition. The oldest surviving literary text in Georgian is the Martyrdom of Saint Shushaniki, the Queen by Iakob Tsurtaveli dating back to the 5th century AD. This tradition has continued uninterrupted until today. Georgian is also the liturgical language for all members of the Georgian Orthodox church and the literary language for speakers of SvanLaz, and Mingrelian.

It is believed that the Old Georgian script was developed from the Greek alphabet following the country’s conversion to Christianity in 337 AD. From the 5th to the 11th centuries, an alphabet named khutsuri ‘ecclesiastical’ was used. Since then, an alphabet called mkhedruli ‘military’ has been in use. The modern Georgian writing system uses a round-form cursive script and does not distinguish between upper and lower case letters. It contains 33 symbols with each letter corresponding to a unique phoneme and each phoneme being represented by only one letter. The alphabet is given below.

Georgian alphabet

Take a look at Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in the Georgian script and in transliteration. The script uses numerous ligatures which makes reading it relatively difficult.

მუხლი 1.
ყველა ადამიანი იბადება თავისუფალი და თანასწორი თავისი ღირსებითა და უფლებებით. მათ მინიჭებული აქვთ გონება და სინდისი და ერთმანეთის მიმართ უნდა იქცეოდნენ ძმობის სულისკვეთებით.
Qvela adamiani ibadeba t’avisup’ali dat’anascori tavisi g’irsebit’a da uplebebit’. Mat minicebuli ak’vt’ goneba da sindisi da ert’manet’is mimart’ unda ik’c’eodnen zmobis suliskvet’ebit’.
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

Did You Know?

Joseph Stalin was a native speaker of Georgian. He was born Ioseb Dzhugashvili in 1879 in the town of Gori, Georgia, then part of the Russian Empire. He learned Russian as a second language and spoke it with a strong accent throughout his life.

Difficulty

Language Difficulty
questionHow difficult is it to learn Georgian?
There is no data on the difficulty of Georgian for speakers of English.

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