Language and Script

Language and Script


Georgian Language or ქართული  (Kartuli  ena) belongs to the Ibero-Caucasian or Kartvelian ( South-Caucasian) language group. The Georgian language is one of the oldest in the world with its own distinctive alphabet, one of only 14 existing alphabets in the world. Being unrelated to any other, it is an only one language in its own group.

First inscriptions According to historical sources, the Georgian alphabet was created in the III century B.C. during the reign of the King Parnavaz. It was changing in the course of centuries and thus reached the present days. The Georgian Language has an ancient literary tradition in the form of inscriptions dating back to the 5th century AD. An early example of Georgian writing can been seen in Palestine, in the Georgian monastery of the Holy Cross as well as in Bethlehem desert (Bir-ell-Katt). In Georgia, one of the oldest examples of it is at the Sioni church in Bolnisi, just south of Tbilisi.

Where spoken. Georgian Language is the primary language of about 3.9 million people in Georgia itself, and of another 500,000 abroad (chiefly in parts of Azerbaijan and northeastern Turkey and in many villages in the region of Eṣfahān in Iran, Russia, the USA and the rest of Europe).

Sub-languages. Georgian Language together with the related sub-languages (only spoken and virtually separate languages): Mingrelian (Megrelian მარგალური ნინა, is spoken in north-western Georgia by half a million people or so), Laz (Chan is closely related to Mingrelian and spoken in Turkey and Georgia by about 33,000 people), and Svan (with about 30,000 speakers mainly in the northwest of Georgia) languages makes up Kartvelian ( South-Caucasian) language family and is the literary language for all these regional subgroups of the Georgian ethnos. These languages are spoken south of the chief range of the Caucasus. Abkhaz, a Northwest Caucasian language, was also once written with the Mkhedruli alphabet, but is now written with the Cyrillic alphabet.

Dialects. Georgian Language dialects may be classified according to their geographic distribution and still retain many of their unique features. At least eighteen dialects can be identified that fall into the groups. Some examples are as follows: Northeast dialects like Tushetian (Tušuri, თუშური) spoken in Tusheti, Mokhevian (Moxevuri, მოხევური), spoken in Khevi; two of Eastern dialects, Ingiloan and Fereidanian, are spoken outside Georgia, the former by the indigenous Georgians in northwest Azerbaijan, and the latter by the descendants of the 17th-century Georgian deportees in Iran, Kakhetian (Kaxuri, კახური) spoken  in KakhetiCentral dialects are spoken in central and southern Georgia, and provide the basis for Standard Georgian language: Kartlian (Kartluri, ქართლური) spoken in Kartli, Javakhian (Javaxuri, ჯავახური) - in Javakheti; Southwest dialects like Gurian (Guruli, გურული) - in Guria, Adjarian (Ačaruli, აჭარული) in Adjara, Northwest dialects, Imeretian (Imeruli, იმერული) in Imereti, Lechkhumian (Lečxumuri, ლეჩხუმური) in Lechkhumi, Rachan (Račuli, რაჭული) in Racha. These and many other dialects reflect a traditional ethnographic subdivision of the Georgian people.


Georgian Alphabet / 33 letters





















































The original Georgian alphabet has as many letters as the sounds in the speech. Modern Georgian makes use of 33 letters. Georgian does not distinguish between upper and lower case letters. Graphic of the alphabet is original and it has no parallel among any other alphabets in the world.

Georgian script is of three kinds: Asomtavruli, Nuskhuri and Mkhedruli (mkhedruli  or 'military' is the contemporary Georgian script in contrast to the earlier khutsuri  or 'ecclesiastical' script).  The oldest writings that reached our days are Asomtavruli. Basically hagiographic and ecclesiastical works were written in Asomtavruli and Nuskhuri. In the 10-12 centuries during the golden ages of Georgian State System, Mkhedruli was developed mostly, in which secular works were written and the oldest surviving examples of mkhedruli date from the 11-12th centuries. The first printed material in the Georgian language, in the Mkhedruli alphabet, was published in 1669. Since then the alphabet has changed very little, though a few letters were added in the 18th century, and 5 letters were dropped in the 1860s when Ilia Chavchavadze introduced a number of reforms.

Notable features. Direction of writing: left to right, horizontal. When printed, Mkhedruli letters are not connected at all, though they can be in cursive handwriting. The headline letters are used for titles and headlines. Georgian has no symbols for numerals. Each letter has a numerical value as well as a phonological one, but Indic numerals (1, 2, 3, etc) are normally used. The order of the Mkhedruli letters is based on that of the Greek alphabet. The Georgian consonants with no Greek equivalents come at the end of the alphabet.