The Georgian language

The Georgian language is spoken by more than four million people who mostly live in Georgia, a small country in the Caucasus. It is the official language of Georgia.

It belongs to the small Kartvelian language family, which includes only four languages: Georgian, Svan, Mingrelian and Laz. Svan and Mingrelian are minority languages of Georgia, Laz is mostly spoken in Turkey. So whatever your native language is, Georgian is completely unrelated to it, which means the grammar and most words are alien. Its alphabet is also unique.

Georgian has a rich literary tradition and an ancient history: the first known Georgian texts are inscriptions from the 5th century. The Georgian national epic, The Knight in the Panther’s Skin (ვეფხისტყაოსანი, Vepkhist’q’aosani), by Shota Rustaveli, dates from the 12th century. Modern Georgian is considered to have emerged in the 17th century.

Georgian has five vowels, the same as Spanish. It has no tones and no vowel length. The consonants are more problematic because Georgian has a few unusual sounds. In addition, Georgian has complex consonants clusters, with words such as რძე rdze Listen (milk), ზმნა zmna (verb), მცხეთა Mtskheta Listen (name of a town) or even მწვრთნელი mts’vrtneli Listen (coach).

Georgian has seven noun cases, but they are not that difficult to learn. It has no grammatical gender and no articles. The major difficulty of Georgian is, by far, verbs. There are numerous prefixes and suffixes that can indicate tense, subject, object and other parameters. For instance, “I love you” can be expressed with a single word:

Although Georgian does not belong to a major language family, it has been influenced by many languages during its history and borrowed a lot of words from different sources. Many words from European languages entered Georgian, often through Russian. Once you know the alphabet, you can easily recognize words such as ნციკლოპედია (entsik’lop’edia), ბიოლოგია (biologia) or ცენტრი (tsent’ri).