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Georgian (Georgian: ქართული, Kartuli) is a Kartvelian language spoken by about 4.1 million people primarily in Georgia, but also in Russia, northern Turkey in previously Georgian-controlled territories, and the diaspora (such as in Iran, Azerbaijan, Europe etc.). It is a highly standardized language, with the first attempts to establish literary and linguistic norms dating back to the 5th century.
While there are at least eighteen dialects of the language, standard Georgian (which is mostly based on East-Central Georgian of Tbilisi) has over centuries wiped out significant regional linguistic differences within Georgia, particularly through the centralized educational system and the mass media. Dialects still retain their unique features in terms of phonology, morphology, syntax, and vocabulary, but they are virtually entirely intelligible with each other. The three other regional Kartvelian languages – Mingrelian, Svan and Laz – are sisters to national Georgian, but are only partially intelligible to speakers of the standard Georgian and its dialects.
Some of the basic variations among the Georgian dialects include:
- The presence of y (ჲ) and w (ჳ) before certain vowels;
- The presence of q (ჴ) and q' (ყ) sounds;
- Distinction between long and short vowels;
- Extra vowel sounds not found in Standard Georgian;
- The usage of n (ნ) plural form;
- Plural adjectival forms;
- Non-standard verb forms;
- Archaisms and borrowings from neighboring languages not found in Standard Georgian.
The Georgian dialects are classified according to their geographic distribution, reflecting a traditional ethnographic subdivision of the Georgian people. Beyond the Western and Eastern categories, some scholars have also suggested a Southern group. These can be further subdivided into five main dialect groups as proposed by Gigineishvili, Topuria, and K'avtaradze (1961):
- Imeretian (Imeruli, იმერული) in Imereti
- Lechkhumian (Lečkhumuri, ლეჩხუმური) in Lechkhumi
- Rachan (Račuli, რაჭული) in Racha
- Gurian (Guruli, გურული) in Guria
- Adjarian (Ačaruli, აჭარული) in Adjara
- Imerkhevian (Imerkheuli, იმერხეული) in Imerkhevi (Turkey)
The Central dialects, sometimes considered part of the Eastern group, are spoken in central and southern Georgia, and provide the basis for Standard Georgian language.
- Kartlian (Kartluri, ქართლური) in Kartli
- Meskhian (Meskhuri, მესხური) in Meskheti
- Javakhian (Javakhuri, ჯავახური) in Javakheti
This group is spoken by the mountaineers in northeast Georgia.
- Mokhevian (Mokheri, მოხეური), spoken in Khevi
- Mtiuletian-Gudamaqrian (Mtiulur-Gudamaqruli, მთიულურ-გუდამაყრული) in Mtiuleti and Gudamaqari
- Khevsurian (Khevsuruli, ხევსურული) in Khevsureti
- Pshavian (Pšavuri, ფშავური) in Pshavi
- Tushetian (Tušuri, თუშური) in Tusheti
Two of these dialects, Ingiloan and Fereidanian, are spoken outside Georgia, the former by the indigenous Georgians in northwest Azerbaijan, and the latter by the descendants of the 17th-19th century Georgian deportees and migrants in Iran.
- Kakhetian (Kakhuri, კახური) in Kakheti
- Tianetian (Tianeturi, თიანეთური) in Ertso-Tianeti
- Ingiloan (Ingilouri, ინგილოური) in Saingilo (Azerbaijan)
- Fereydanian (Pereidnuli, ფერეიდნული) in Fereydoon Shahr (Iran)
- The obsolescent Kizlar-Mozdokian dialect, was spoken in the north central Caucasian areas of Kizlyar and Mozdok by descendants of those Georgians who fled the Ottoman occupation of Georgia in the early 18th century. It was technically a mixture of various Georgian dialects laden with Russian loanwords. Subsequently, the group was largely Russified and the dialect went extinct.
- Judæo-Georgian is a language spoken by the Georgian Jews. Largely Georgian phonetically, morphologically, and syntactically, and mixed Georgian-Hebrew lexically, it is considered by some not to be a distinct language but rather a dialect of Georgian.
- Amiran Lomtadze (Institute of Foreign Languages and Literatures, Tbilisi, Georgia) and Manana Tabidze (Chikobava Institute of Linguistics, Georgian Academy of Sciences). Some problems of the functioning of the Georgian language in Georgia, p. 31 (PDF). Retrieved 2007-03-27.
- Georgian Dialects, The ARMAZI project. Retrieved on March 28, 2007
- Manana Kock Kobaidze (2004-02-11) From the history of Standard Georgian
- Kevin Tuite (1987). The geography of Georgian q’e (PDF). Retrieved 2007-03-27.
- Price, Glanville (2000), Encyclopedia of the Languages of Europe, Blackwell Publishing, ISBN 0-631-22039-9
- Roʹi, Yaacov; Beker, Avi (1991), Jewish Culture and Identity in the Soviet Union, NYU Press, ISBN 0-8147-7432-6
- Grenoble, Lenore A. (2003), Language Policy in the Soviet Union, Springer, ISBN 1-4020-1298-5