Svan language

From Academic Kids

The Svan language (Lushnu nin in Svan, Svanuri ena or სვანური ენა in Georgian) is a language spoken in Northwest Georgia.



Svan is the native language of about 30,000 people living in the mountains of Svaneti, i.e. in the districts of Mestia and Lentekhi of Georgia, along the Enguri, Tskhenistskali and Kodori rivers. Some Svan speakers live in the autonomous republic of Abkhazia; although conditions there make it difficult to reliably estimate their numbers, they are thought to number only around 2,500 individuals. Svans are one of the ethnographic groups of Georgian people.

The language is used in familiar and casual social communication. It has no written standard or official status; most speakers also speak Georgian, the country's official language, and use it as their literary and business language. There is no official instruction in Svan, and the number of speakers is declining due to the dispersal of the Svan population in the face of increasing economic hardship. The language is regarded as being endangered, as proficiency in it is limited among young people.


Svan is the most differentiated member of the four South Caucasian (Kartvelian) languages, and is not intelligible with the other three (Georgian, Laz, and Megrelian). Svan is believed to have separated from them in the 2nd millennium BC or earlier, about one thousand years before Georgian branched off from the other two.


Familial features

Like all languages of the South Caucasian family, Svan has a large number of consonants. It has agreement between subject and object, and a split-ergative morphosyntactic system. Verbs are marked for aspect, evidentiality and "version".

Distinguishing features

Svan retains the consonant /q/ (voiceless aspirated stop), and the glides /w/ and /y/. It has a larger repertoire of vowels than Georgian; the Upper Bal dialect of Svan has the most vowels of any South Caucasian language, showing both long and short versions of //, a total of 18 vowels (Georgian, by contrast, has just five).

Its morphology is less regular than that of the other three sister languages, and there are notable differences in verbal inflections.


The Svan language is divided into the following dialects and sub-dialects:

  • Upper Bal (about 15,000 speakers): Ushgul, Kala, Ipar, Mulakh, Mestia, Lenzer, Latal.
  • Lower Bal (about 12,000 speakers): Becho, Tskhumar, Etser, Par, Chubekh, Lakham.
  • Lashkh.
  • Lentekh: Kheled, Khopur, Rtskhmelur, Cholur


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