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Georgian language

Georgian is the official language of the Republic of Georgia. It is spoken by about 3.5 million, or seventy percent of the total population. It is a Caucasian language.

In the Georgian language, the word mama means father, and deda means mother, a reversal of the nearly universal "m for maternal, d for paternal" pattern for "baby-speak".

Georgian is a member of the South Caucasian (or Kartvelian) language family. Some scholars posit a relationship with the other indigenous language families of the Caucasus; others have tried to link it to Basque or other languages, but none have met with any success. In any case, it is the most widely spoken of these languages, and the only one with a long-standing literary tradition.

The Georgians call themselves Kartvelebi (sing. Kartveli), their land Sakartvelo, and their language Kartuli. The language contains some formidable consonant clusters, as may be seen in words like gvprtskvni ("You peel us") and mtsvrtneli ("trainer"). Most Georgian surnames end in -dze ("son") or -shvili ("child"). During the Soviet period, many Georgians rendered their names in the Russian style. For instance, Joseph Stalin's original Georgian name was Ioseb Jugashvili but it is commonly rendered in the Russian style as Iosif Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili.


The origin of the Georgian alphabet is obscure. Its invention is usually attributed to Saint Mesrob Mashtots (inventor of the Armenian alphabet) or King Farnavaz but it is known to have been invented in the 3rd century BC. The original alphabet is known as Asomtavruli ("capital") or Mrgvlovani ("rounded"), examples of which are still preserved in monumental inscriptions, such as those of the church of Bolnisi Sioni near Tbilisi, which date back to the 5th Century.

The Nuskhuri ("minuscule") or Kutkhovani ("squared") script first appeared in the 9th Century. Asomtavruli and Nuskhuri, collectively known as Khutsuri (ხუცური) or church script, were used together to write religious manuscripts, with the Asomtavruli serving as capital letters. The present alphabet, called Mkhedruli (მხედრული, "secular [or, military] writing"), which appeared in the 11th century, was used for non-religious purposes up until the 18th century, when it completely replaced Khutsuri. The modern alphabet has thirty-three letters (some of the original letters having become obsolete), without distinction between upper and lower case (though modern "capital" versions of the letters have been invented). Georgian linguists claim that it is a phonemic orthography.


Georgian makes no distinction between upper and lower cases:




Stopp/b/[p']t/d/[t'] k/g/[k'][q']¹'
Fricativevs/zS/Zx/[Y] h
Affricate [ts]/[dz]/[ts']c/j/[c']   
Liquid l, r [l>]²  
¹/q'/ has neither non-ejective nor voiced counterparts
²/l>/ is a velarized /l/



See also: Georgian in Iran

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