South Caucasian languages

From Academic Kids

The South Caucasian languages, also called the Kartvelian languages, are spoken primarily in Georgia, with smaller groups of speakers in Turkey, Iran, Azerbaijan, Russia, Ukraine and other countries. It includes the following languages:

  • Georgian (Kartuli): the official language of the republic of Georgia, with about 7.5 million native speakers. Of these, there are 4 million are in Georgia (90% of the population of this country), about 100,000 each in Turkey and Russia, and smaller communities in Iran and Azerbaijan, and Ukraine);
  • Megrelian or Mingrelian (Megruli in Georgian, Margali in Megrelian), with approximately 300,000 native speakers, mainly in the Samegrelo region of Western Georgia and enclaves in the autonomous republic of Abkhazia;
  • Svan (Svanuri in Georgian, Lushnu in Svan), with approximately 40,000 native speakers in the northern mountainous region of Georgia.

Georgian and Gruzinic are the only languages of this family that are commonly written—Georgian, with an original and distinctive alphabet. Georgian is also the secondary spoken language and the main literary language for Svan and Megrelian speakers, and for the Laz in Georgia. The oldest surviving literary text dates from the 5th century AD.

These languages are clearly related but, with the exception of Georgian and Gruzinic, they are not mutually intelligible. The connection between them was first reported by I. Guldenstedt in the 18th century, and later proven by G. Rozen, M. Brosset, F. Bopp and others during the 1850's. They are believed to have split off from a single proto-Kartvelian language, probably spoken in the region of present-day Georgia and Northern Turkey in the 3rd-2nd millenniums BC. Laz and Megrelian are the most closely related, and often grouped together as the Zan sub-family.

Based on the degree of change, some linguists (including Arnold Chikobava, Georgi Klimov, Tamaz Gamkrelidze, and Givi Machavariani) conjecture that the earliest split, which separated Svan from the other languages, occurred in the second millennium BC or earlier; while Megrelian and Laz were separated from Georgian roughly a thousand years later. If Gruzinic is considered a distinct language, its divergence from Georgian is comparatively much more recent.

External links

da:Kartvelsk ja:南コーカサス語族 nl:Zuid-Kaukasische talen fi:Etelkaukasialaiset kielet

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