Georgian Language : A Whole New Adventure

Updated on January 11, 2019
Nini Dilsizi profile image

Nini is a Georgian native speaker and knows a lot about her language.

Something You Should Know

Do you know where's Georgia(country)? it's a small country in Caucasus, surrounded by Turkey, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Russia and Black Sea. Georgia has many things to be proud of, but the first and the most important is its alphabet, which is one of the fourteen written scripts in the world and is among the 10 oldest languages still spoken in the world today. This amazing language is included in UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage List of Humanity and I'm going to tell you why.

Three Complete Scripts

Asomtavruli, Nuskhuri and Mkhedruli. Bit hard to pronounce, right? These are the names of three writing systems used to write Georgian language.

Origin Of The Scripts

Asomtavruli is the oldest Georgian script. The name asomtavruli means ,,capital letters", from aso (ასო) - ,,letter" and mtavari (მთავარი)- ,,principal/head". It's also known as Mrgvlovani, meaning ,,rounded" , as the letters have rounded shape. Despite its name, the script is unicameral, just like the modern Georgian script, Mkhedruli. The oldest Asomtavruli inscriptions found so far date back to 5th century, but recently, a new inscription was found which is way older than this, according to some scientists, it brings us back to 10th century BC!

Asomtavruli

Language And Religion

Georgia is a Christian(Orthodox) country. This religion started to establish in Georgia from the very first century, but it became country's official religion in 4th century. Christianity played a big role in country's cultural development and it wouldn't be surprising if I said that language and literature reflected religion's symbolism and characteristics.The second Georgian script - Nuskhuri - first appeared in 9th century and became dominant over Asomtavruli in 10th century. It was used, along with Asomtavruli illuminated capitals, in religious manuscripts.


Nuskhuri Manuscript

Use Of Asomtavruli And Nuskhuri Today

Asomtavruli is used intensively in iconography, murals and exterior design, especially in stone engravings. Georgian linguist Akaki Shanidze made an attempt in the 1950s to introduce Asomtavruli into the the Mkhedruli script as the capital letters to begin sentences, but it did not catch on. Asomtavruli and Nuskhuri (khutsuri) are officially used by the Georgian Orthodox Church alongside Mkhedruli. Patriarch Ilia II of Georgia called on people to use all three Georgian scripts and we are actually doing so. Asomtavruli is taught in schools and almost every Georgian ten-year-old school pupil is able to write in both scripts.

Symbolism

The thing that will catch your eye while looking at the Nuskhuri alphabet is the letter ⴕ (kani). It is the first letter of the word ,,Christ" in Georgian and has a shape of cross, which reminds us of the True Cross, the cross upon which Jesus was crucified.

The Third And The Current Script

The script that we use today in everyday life is called Mkhedruli. It literally means ,,cavalry", or ,,military". Mkhedruli first appears in the 10th century. the oldest Mkhedruli inscription is found in Ateni Sioni Church dating back to 982 AD. Mkhedruli was mostly used then in the Kingdom of Georgia for the royal charters, historical documents, manuscripts and inscriptions. Mkhedruli was used for non-religious purposes only and represented the ,,civil", ,,royal", and ,,secular" script.

Mkhedruli Alphabet - მხედრული ანბანი

ა(ani) ბ(bani) გ(gani) დ(doni) ე(eni) ვ(vini) ზ(zeni) თ(tani) ი(ini) კ(k'ani) ლ(asil) მ(mani) ნ(nari) ო(oni) პ(p'ari) ჟ(zhani) რ(rae) ს(sani) ტ(t'ari) უ (uni) ფ(pari) ქ(kani) ღ(ghani) ყ(q'ari) შ(shini) ჩ(chini) ც(tsani) ძ(dzili) წ(ts'ili) ჭ(ch'ari) ხ(khani) ჯ (jani) ჰ(hae)

Old Mkhedruli Manuscript

Letters Removed From The Georgian Alphabet

Currently, we have 33 letters in our alphabet, but we used to have 38! In 1879, The Society for the Spreading of Literacy among Georgians, founded by Ilia Chavchavadze discarded five letters from the alphabet as they had become redundant.

Kartvelian Languages

Georgian is a Kartvelian language. This language family also includes other languages which are used by people living in Georgian. Those languages shared the same root in the ancient era, but then developed differently.

These languages are:

  • Svan
  • Mingrelian
  • Laz

Here I have to mention that I'm Laz and my people have very interesting history and culture, which I'll try to expose in my following articles!

Why Is Georgian Important For The World?

Every language is unique in its own way. Georgian has many unique characteristics, that's why it's considered as the heritage of humanity. Here are few reasons why Georgian is important.

  • Georgian literature is the treasure for Christian world. Our Hagiography is rich with Biblical symbolisms and parallels.
  • Georgian is an ancient language and our chronicles have a vast information about national and world history.
  • If you're fond of Mythology, then Georgia will be your paradise. Georgia, or Kolkha, old Georgian kingdom is mentioned in some of the Greek myths, like the myth of Argonauts. Furthermore, despite the fact that Georgia is a Christian country, we have our own mythological world which is still part of our everyday life.


Georgian Mythologycal Hero

At the bottom is written hero's name - Amirani
At the bottom is written hero's name - Amirani

Can I Learn Georgian?

YES! Although it's ranked as ,,exceptionally difficult " level 4 (out of 5) language, Georgian is not as hard to learn as it seems. Foreigners are sometimes frightened because of its uniqueness. Actually, Georgian is pretty easy to catch on. The only big difficulty is pronunciation and verb system. Here are some facts about the language which are quite interesting.

  • Georgian language has about 18 dialects. They share the similar morphology and syntax, but they still retain their unique features.
  • Hello in Georgian means ,,victory" (gamarjoba) and Good Morning/Evening means ,, morning/evening of peace"( dila/saghamo mshvidobisa).
  • The third person in Georgian doesn't have a gender - another simplicity!
  • You can tell which region a person is from by their surname.
  • Numerals are similar to French. e.g. 84 is pronounced as ,, four times twenty and four"
  • There are three words for ,,yes" . Diakh (formal), ki (informal) and ho/xo (colloquial).


Goodbye in Georgian is pronounced as Nakhvamdis, which means ,, until next time", or Mshvidobit, which means ,,be in peace"

Mother tongue in Georgian is pronounced as ,,deda ena", literally meaning mother language
Mother tongue in Georgian is pronounced as ,,deda ena", literally meaning mother language

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    • Jennifer Mugrage profile image

      Jennifer Mugrage 

      2 days ago from Columbus, Ohio

      Very interesting, thanks for the info. :)

    • Nini Dilsizi profile imageAUTHOR

      Nino Dilsiz 

      3 days ago from Tbilisi

      Gamarjoba!

      Thank you for such a wonderful comment, Jennifer! And I'm glad you liked George Papashvili's amazing book.

      Yes, scholars and linguists have different opinions on how Georgian language developed. Some assume that the language and culture can be connected to Sumerian civilization, ancient Greece , ancient Egypt and even Basques. because of Georgia's geopolitical location and history. But recently found artefacts suggest completely different and support the belief that Georgian developed on it's own. However, Researches are still ongoing and I can't give a certain answer.

    • Jennifer Mugrage profile image

      Jennifer Mugrage 

      3 days ago from Columbus, Ohio

      Gamarjoba!

      Thank you for this lovely article introducing us to your language! This is exactly the kind of information that I love. I look forward to reading more of your articles, especially about Georgian mythology. It is such a fascinating part of the world.

      Before you, the only Georgian whose name I know has been George Papshavily. (I am not sure I am spelling his name right.) He wrote a delightful little book about his adventures as an immigrant in America. He has such an open, cheerful personality. I particularly remember a scene where he meets a group of Navajo, who are sheep herders. George makes shashlik (again, not sure of the spelling?), and he and the Navajo are able to understand one another, because they come from similar cultures, though on opposite sides of the world.

      I recently wrote a short article (on another web site, not on Hubpages) about Sumerian. In my research for that article, I read that some scholars have speculated that Georgian may be related to the Sumerian language, but it is not certain. Have you ever heard of this?

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