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Department of the Languages and Cultures of the Near and Middle East

Languages of the Near & Middle East at SOAS: Georgian

Georgian is the state-language of Georgia (capital Tbilisi) in western Transcaucasia, north-east of Turkey. The language belongs to the small South Caucasian (or Kartvelian) family, whose other three members are Mingrelian, Laz and Svan; this family cannot be demonstrated to be related to any other language(-family) spoken today or in the past. Whilst Laz is almost wholly confined to (north-eastern) Turkey, where Georgian speakers too reside, Georgian serves as the literary language for Mingrelians and Svans, as their languages have historically not been awarded official status, and their speakers became classified as ‘Georgians’ under Soviet rule circa 1930. Georgian has its own unique script, which is fully phonemic and can easily be adapted also to serve Mingrelian and Svan. The alphabet was probably devised in the late 4th century in order to help disseminate doctrinal works for the newly adopted Christian religion. Though the script has passed through three stages, the language boasts a literary tradition of a millennium and a half and has some five million speakers.

Those taking Georgian as part of their degree have the opportunity in their final year of learning about the phonology and morphology of the North West Caucasian language, Abkhaz, unrelated to Georgian.

If you would like to learn Georgian, contact Professor George Hewitt (gh2@soas.ac.uk) in the Department of the Languages and Cultures of the Near and Middle East.

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