Georgian ქართული ენა kartuli ena is the official language of Georgia. The language, like Basque, is considered to be a language isolate, meaning it formed independently from any other language and therefore bears no resemblance to any languages other than those that branched from Georgian and developed alongside it, called the Kartvelian languages. With that being said, the Georgian language is just one of four actively spoken Kartvelian languages. There is some degree of mutual intelligibility between the Kartvelian languages, similar to that between Spanish and French. Speakers of the languages can tell that there is a relationship between the languages and that many of the roots and grammar rules are similar, but geography has caused these language to diverge from each other. All of the Kartvelian languages use a variant of the Georgian alphabet.

 

Laz is the variant of Georgian spoken by the Laz people who live in northern Turkey on the border of Turkey and Georgia, south of Adjara. Svan is primarily spoken in the historical region of Svaneti. Today, both Laz and Svan have only a few thousand speakers. Megruli (also called Mingrelian) is spoken in Samegrelo, which is located around the town of Zugdidi. Of the three non-Georgian Kartvelian languages, Megruli is the most widely spoken, and many in Samegrelo are making an attempt to keep the language alive. The Georgian language is the by far the most widely spoken language of the four Kartvelian languages, with somewhere around 4-5 million speakers worldwide, most of whom live in Georgia itself.

 

The current Georgian script ქართული დამწერლობა kartuli damtserloba is the third iteration of the Georgian script. The first script is called Asomtavruli ასომთავრული. This script was developed in the 5th century C.E. and can be seen carved into the walls of Bolnisi Church. The name of the alphabet comes from the words “ასო” aso (letter), მთავარი mtavari (main/primary), and -ური (an adjectival ending) and was used primarily for clerical writing and carving into stone.

 

The second Georgian script is called Nuskhuri  ნუსხური and comes from ნუსხა nuskha (timetable/roster) and -ური and was used predominantly for clerical and ecclesiastical purposes. Nuskhuri closely resembles the modern Armenian script as that they are both very angular with many letters resembling the Latin letters m, n, u, and h. This was done in an attempt to simplify the Asomtavruli script.

 

The current Georgian script is called Mkhedruli მხედრული and is derived from მხედარი (horseman/rider/cavalryman) and -ური. Unlike the first two scripts, the Mkhedruli script is exceptionally curvy, allowing its users more artistic and calligraphic liberty. One commonality between all three alphabets is that they are all unicameral--there is no difference between uppercase and lowercase letters. The modern form of the Mkhedruli script contains 33 letters--27 consonants and 5 vowels. This translates to one letter for each phoneme (sound) in the Georgian language.

 

A

B

G

D

E

V

Z

T

I

K'

L

M

N

O

P'

ZH

R

S

T'

U

P

K

GH

Q'

SH

CH

TS

DZ

TS'

CH'

KH

J

H

Vowels

A

E

I

O

U

as in father

as in get

as in see

as in open

as in moon

Consonants

There are 27 consonants, of which 6 are unaspirated. The consonants here are presented in two groups. The first group consists of aspirated and easy to pronounce consonants. The second group consists of unaspirated consonants. An unaspirated consonant is when you prevent air from exiting your mouth after the sound of the consonant is produced. The 21 aspirated and 6 unaspirated consonants are:

Group 1

B

G

D

V

Z

T

L

M

N

ZH

R

S

P

K

GH

SH

CH

TS

DZ

KH

J

H

Group 2

K'

P'

T'

Q'

TS'

CH'

as in cake

as in spin or paper

as in stall

pronounce a "k" as far back in your throat as possible, almost in your throat

like pizza but much sharper

like chin but much sharper

Grammatically speaking, there are four notable features of the Georgian language. The first is that its nouns lack grammatical gender. This feature extends to pronouns, where there is a single word for the English pronouns, he, she, and it. Words like “boyfriend/girlfriend” lack gender as well. The second unique grammatical feature of Georgian is its case system. Unlike Slavic languages, which have extensive case systems, or German, which still has a basic case system, Georgian’s system is composed exclusively of suffixes that are attached to the nouns to which they are referring. This translates to 11 different suffixes, in lieu of prepositions. Furthermore, due to Georgian’s lack of grammatical gender, this makes most cases of adjective-noun-case agreement extremely simple.

 

The third unique grammatical feature is perhaps its most challenging--its verbal system. Georgian verbs don’t conjugate, instead they have pronoun markers that are placed at either the beginning or end of the verb stem. Not only do Georgian verbs not conjugate by person/pronoun, but they also do not conjugate by tense. They use a system of prefixes to determine the aspect (perfective or imperfective) and suffixes to determine the mood (subjunctive, conditional, optative, aorist, and indicative). Additionally, Georgian verbs can tell not only the subject of the verb (the do-er) but also the direct object (the one that the verb is acting on). For example, მახსოვხარ makhsovkhar translates to “I remember you.”

 

The fourth unique grammatical feature is that Georgian is an agglutinative language. Like the system of suffixes that is used for nouns and the prefixes and suffixes used for verbs, word formation in Georgian is used by combining word roots, verbal prefixes and adjectival suffixes to create new words. For example, the word გადასასვლელი gadasasvleli (crosswalk) comes from the verbal prefix გადა-, which is used for verbs that deal with crossing things, such as translating (crossing language), the prefix სა-, which means “place of” and the adjectival suffix -ელი, which is used to denote animate adjectives. As such, the Georgian word “crosswalk” literally means “the place where living things cross.” This can make learning new and/or unfamiliar words easier since it is usually easy to infer the meaning if the roots, prefixes, and suffixes are already known.

Visiting Georgia

We are here to help you learn about the beautiful country of Georgia and what to do once you are here! Learn more and contact us here.

 

Unless otherwise noted below the photograph, all photographs have been taken by us. Any graphics were created by us or have been significantly altered from their original form. 

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