Laz grammar

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Laz is a South Caucasian language. It is sometimes considered as a southern dialect of Zan languages, the northern dialect being the Mingrelian language.

Today, the area where Laz is spoken stretches from the village Sarpi of Khelvachauri district in Georgia to the village Kemer of Rize province in Turkey. Laz is spoken also in Western Turkey in the villages created by Laz muhajirs in 1877–1878. In Georgia, out of Sarpi, the Laz language islets were also in Abkhazia, but the fate of them is obscure at present.

Laz is divided into three dialects: Khopa-Chkhala, Vitze-Arkabe and Atina-Artasheni. Dialectical classification is mainly conditioned by phonetic characteristics. More specifically, the crucial point is the reflexes of the Kartvelian phoneme [qʼ], which is maintained only in the Khopa-Chkhala dialect but has different reflections in Vitze-Arkabe and Atina-Artasheni dialects (see below).

Phonology and writing system[edit]


Laz vowel inventory consists of five sounds: a, e, i, o, u.

Laz vowel scheme
front back
nonlabial labial
high i [i] u [u]
mid e [ɛ] o [ɔ]
low a [ɑ]


The consonant inventory of Laz varies among the dialects. A full set of sounds is present in the Khopa-Chkhala dialect, while the Vitze-Arkabe and Atina-Artasheni dialects lost glottalized uvular q.

Consolidated table of Laz consonants
labial dental alveolar velar uvular laryngeal
nasals m ⟨m⟩ n ⟨n⟩
stops voiced b ⟨b⟩ d ⟨d⟩ ɡ ⟨g⟩
voiceless aspirated p ⟨p⟩ t ⟨t⟩ k ⟨k⟩
glottalized ⟨p̌⟩ ⟨t̆⟩ ⟨ǩ⟩ ⟨q⟩
affricates voiced d͡z ⟨ž⟩ d͡ʒ ⟨c⟩
voiceless aspirated t͡s ⟨ʒ⟩ t͡ʃ ⟨ç⟩
glottalized t͡sʼ ⟨ǯ⟩ t͡ʃʼ ⟨ç̌⟩
fricatives voiced v ⟨v⟩ z ⟨z⟩ ʒ ⟨j⟩ ɣ ⟨ğ⟩
voiceless f ⟨f⟩ s ⟨s⟩ ʃ ⟨ş⟩ x ⟨x⟩ h ⟨h⟩
liquids l ⟨l⟩ r ⟨r⟩
glides j ⟨y⟩

Phonological processes[edit]

Uvular q sound change[edit]

Glottalized uvular q is preserved only in the Khopa-Chkhala dialect before the vowels and the consonants v and l. This sound is also evidenced after glottalized stops and affricates in several words, such as p̌qorop (I love smb./sth.); ǩqorop (I love you); t̆qubi (twins), ǯqv-/ǯqvin- (to reconcile); ç̌qint̆i (fresh-soft and unripe). But in the most of cases *t̆q → t̆ǩ; *ǯq → ǯǩ; *ç̌q → ç̌ǩ.

In the Vitze-Arkabe dialect, in the neighborhood of consonants *q → ǩ (exception is the verb ovapu ← *oqvapu "to be"). In the word-initial prevocalic and in the intervocalic positions *q → ∅.

In Atina-Artasheni dialect:

  • in word-initial prevocalic position q → ∅. E.g. *qoropa → oropa "love", *qona → ona "cornfield" etc.
  • in intervocalic position *q → y/∅. E.g. *loqa → *loʔa → loya/loa "sweet", *luqu → *luʔu → luu "cabbage" etc.
  • word-initial qv → ǩv/v. E.g. qvali → ǩvali/vali "cheese, *qvaci → ǩvaci/vaci "testicle" etc.
  • intervocalic qv → y. E.g. *oqvapu → oyapu "to be/become", *iqven → iyen "s/he will be/become" etc.
  • in all other cases q → ∅

Regressive assimilation[edit]

The most common types are:

  • regressive voicing:
    • s → z
    • t → d
    • k → g
    • ş → j
    • ç → c
    • p → b
  • regressive devoicing:
    • b → p
    • g → k
  • regressive glottalization
    • b → p̌
    • p → p̌
    • g → ǩ

Dissimilative deletion of consonant[edit]

In some morphological contexts featuring two consonants n split only with a vowel, the former can be deleted. miqonun → miqoun (I have {an animate object}), iqvasinon → iqvasion (s/he will be), mulunan → *muluan → mulvan (they are coming).

Another dissimilation, presumably sporadic, occurs in deǩiǩe → deiǩe (minute); note also that the Arabic source of this word دقيقة daqīqa contains a uvular [q], and as above uvulars are unstable in Laz.

Intervocalic reduction of r[edit]

This process is evidenced in the Khopa-Chkhala and Vitze-Arkabe dialects, where in intervocalic position facultatively r → y → ∅.

Palatalization of velars[edit]

In the Atina-Artasheni dialect, the velars followed by the front vowels e and i and the glide y transform to alveolar affricates:

  • g → c
  • ǩ → ç̌
  • k → ç


A Laz newspaper in 1928

Laz is written in a Georgian script or in the Latin script (as used in Turkish, but with specific Laz extensions).

Georgian (Mkhedruli) Latin (Turkey) Latin (rare) IPA
Orthographic alphabets Transcriptions
a a ɑ
b b b
g g ɡ
d d d
e e ɛ
v v v
z z z
t t t
i i i
ǩ, or
l l l
m m m
n n n
y y j
o o ɔ
p̌, or
j ž ʒ
r r r
s s s
t̆, or
u u u
p p p
k k k
ğ ɣ ɣ
ş š ʃ
ç č t͡ʃ
ʒ, or з [1] c t͡s
ž, or ʒ d͡z
ǯ, or зʼ [1] ċ t͡sʼ
ç̌, or çʼ č’ t͡ʃʼ
x x x
c ǯ d͡ʒ
h h h
f f f

Grammatical cases[edit]

Laz has eight grammatical cases: nominative, ergative, dative, genitive, lative, ablative, instrumental and almost extinct adverbial.

Nominative -i/-e
Ergative -k
Dative -s
Genitive -
Lative -işa
Ablative -işe
Instrumental -ite
Adverbial -ot

Example of adjective declension[edit]

  Marker Stem: mcveş- ("old")
Nominative -i mcveş-i
Ergative -k mcveş-i-k
Dative -s mcveş-i-s
Genitive - mcveş-
Lative -işa mcveş-işa
Ablative -işe mcveş-işe
Instrumental -ite mcveş-ite
Adverbial -ot mcveş-ot

Example of noun declension[edit]

  Marker Stem: ǩoç- ("man")
Nominative -i ǩoç-i
Ergative -k ǩoç-i-k
Dative -s ǩoç-i-s
Genitive - ǩoç-
Lative -işa ǩoç-işa
Ablative -işe ǩoç-işe
Instrumental -ite ǩoç-ite
Adverbial -ot n/a


As in other South Caucasian languages, Laz distinguishes two classes of nouns and classifies objects as:

  • 'Intelligent' entities. Respective interrogative is mi? (who?)
  • 'Non-intelligent' entities. Respective interrogative is mu? (what?)

Noun classification scheme[edit]

Concrete Abstract
Animate Inanimate
Human and "sentient" beings (e.g. God, deities, angels) Animals Inanimate physical entities Abstract objects
Intelligent Non-Intelligent
mi? ("who?") mu? ("what?")


The Laz numerals are near identical to their Megrelian equivalents with minor phonetic differences. The number system is vigesimal like in Georgian.

Cardinal numbers[edit]

Almost all basic Laz cardinal numbers stem from the Proto-Kartvelian language, except ar(t) (one) and eči (twenty), which are reconstructed only for the Karto-Zan chronological level, having regular phonetical reflexes in Zan (Megrelo-Laz) and Georgian. The numeral šilya (thousand) is a Pontic Greek loanword and is more commonly used than original Laz vitoši.

Laz cardinal numbers compared to Megrelian, Georgian and Svan[edit]

  Laz Megrelian Georgian Svan
1 ar(t) arti erti ešxu
2 jur/cur žiri/žəri ori yori
3 sum sumi sami semi
4 otxo otxi otxi oštxw
5 xut xuti xuti woxušd
6 anşi amšvi ekvsi usgwa
7 şkvit škviti švidi išgwid
8 ovro ruo rva ara
9 çxoro čxoro cxra čxara
10 vit viti ati ešd
11 vitoar vitaarti tertmeṭi ešdešxu
12 vitojur vitožiri tormeṭi ešdori
13 vitosum vitosumi cameṭi ešdsemi
14 vitotxo vitaantxi totxmeṭi ešdoštx
15 vitoxut vitoxuti txutmeṭi ešdoxušd
20 eçi eči oci yerwešd
21 eçidoar ečdoarti ocdaerti yerwešdiešxu
30 eçidovit ečdoviti ocdaati semešd
40 jurneçi žaarneči ormoci woštxuešd
50 jurneçidovit žaarnečdoviti ormocdaati woxušdešd
60 sumeneçi sumoneči samoci usgwašd
70 sumeneçidovit sumonečdoviti samocdaati išgvidašd
80 otxoneçi otxoneči otxmoci arašd
90 otxoneçidovit otxonečdoviti otxmocdaati chxarašd
100 oşi oši asi ašir
101 oşi do ar ošarti aserti ašir i ešxu
102 oşi do jur ošžiri asori ašir i yori
110 oşi do vit ošviti asati ašir i ešd
200 juroşi žiroši orasi yori ašir
500 xutoşi xutoši xutasi woxušd aršir
1000 şilya/vitoşi antasi atasi atas
1999 şilya çxoroş


antas čxoroš


atas cxraas


atas čxara ašir

chxarašd chxara

2000 jurşilya žiri antasi ori atasi yori atas
10000 vit şilya viti antasi ati atasi ešd atas

Ordinal numbers[edit]

Ordinal numbers in Laz are produced with the circumfix ma-...-a, which, in contrast with Megrelian, may be extended with suffix -n. The circumfix ma-...-a originates from Proto-Kartvelian and has regular phonetical equivalents in Georgian (me-...-e) and Svan (me-...-e)

Ordinal numbers' derivation rule[edit]

Laz Megrelian Georgian Svan
ma-NUMBER-a(ni) ma-NUMBER-a me-NUMBER-e me-NUMBER-e

Laz ordinal numbers compared to Megrelian, Georgian and Svan[edit]

  Laz Megrelian Georgian Svan
1st maartani ṗirveli ṗirveli manḳwi
2nd majura(ni) mažira meore merme
3rd masuma(ni) masuma mesame meseme
4th maotxa(ni) maotxa/mantxa meotxe meuštxwe
5th maxuta(ni) maxuta mexute meuxušde
6th maanşa(ni) maamšva meekvse meusgwe
7th maşkvita(ni) maškvita mešvide meyšgwide
8th maovra(ni) maruo merve meare
9th maçxora(ni) mačxora mecxre meyčxre
10th mavita(ni) mavita meate meyšde
11th mavitoarta(ni) mavitaarta metertmeṭe meyšdešxue
12th mavitojura(ni) mavitožira metormeṭe meyšdore
13th mavitosuma(ni) mavitosuma mecameṭe meyšdseme
14th mavitotxa(ni) mavitaantxa metotxmeṭe meyšdoštxe
15th mavitoxuta(ni) mavitoxuta metxutmeṭe meyšdoxušde
20th maeça(ni) maeča meoce meyerwešde
21st eçidomaarta(ni) ečdomaarta ocdameerte
30th ečidomavita(ni) ečdomavita ocdameate mesemešde
40th majurneça(ni) mažaarneča meormoce meuštxuešde
50th jurneçidomavita(ni) žaarnečdomavita ormocdameate meuxušdešde
60th masumeneça(ni) masumoneča mesamoce meusgwešde
70th sumeneçidomavita(ni) sumonečdomavita samocdameate meyšgwidešde
80th maotxoneça(ni) maotxoneča meotxmoce mearašde
90th otxoneçidomavita(ni) otxonečdomavita otxmocdameate mečxarašde
100th maoşa(ni) maoša mease meašire
101st oşmaarta(ni) ošmaarta asmeerte
102nd oşmajura(ni) ošmažira asmeore
110th oşmavita(ni) ošmavita asmeate
200th majuroşa(ni) mažiroša meorase meyorašire
500th maxutoşa(ni) maxutoša mexutase meuxušdašire
1000th maşilya(ni)/mavitoşa(ni) maantasa meatase meatase

Fractional numbers[edit]

The fractional numbers' derivation rule in Laz and Megrelian is akin to Old Georgian and Svan.

Fractional numbers' derivation rule[edit]

Laz Megrelian Georgian Svan
Old New
na-NUMBER-al/or na-NUMBER-al/or na-NUMBER-al me-NUMBER-ed na-NUMBER-al/ul

Laz fractional numbers compared to Megrelian, Georgian and Svan[edit]

  Laz Megrelian Georgian Svan
Old New
whole mteli teli mrteli mteli tel
half gverdi gverdi naxevari naxevari xənsga
1/3 nasumori nasumori nasamali mesamedi nasemal
1/4 naotxali naotxali/naantxali naotxali meotxedi naoštxul
1/5 naxutali naxutali naxutali mexutedi naxušdal
1/6 naanşali naamšvali naekvsali meekvsedi nausgwul
1/7 naşkvitali naškvitali našvidali mešvidedi nayšgwidal
1/8 naovrali naruali narvali mervedi naaral
1/9 naçxorali načxorali nacxrali mecxredi načxaral
1/10 navitali navitali naatali meatedi naešdal
1/11 navitoartali navitaartali natertmeṭali metertmeṭedi naešdešxul
1/12 navitojurali navitožirali natormeṭali metormeṭedi naešdoral
1/20 naeçali naečali naocali meocedi nayerwešdal
1/100 naoşali naošali naasali measedi naaširal
1/1000 naşilyali/navitoşali naantasali naatasali meatasedi naatasal


Personal pronouns[edit]

Laz Megrelian Georgian
Khopa-Chkhala Vitze-Arkabe Atina-Artasheni
I ma(n) ma ma ma me
You (sing.) si(n) si si si šen
That (close to speaker) aya haya ham ena esa
This ia heya him ina isa
We çki çku şǩu čki/čkə čven
You (pl.) tkvan tkvan t̆ǩva tkva tkven
Those antepe hamtepe hani enepi eseni
These entepe hemtepe hini inepi isini

Possessive pronouns[edit]

Laz Megrelian Georgian
Khopa-Chkhala Vitze-Arkabe Atina-Artasheni
My çkimi çkimi şǩimi čkimi/čkəmi čemi
Your (sing.) skani skani sǩani skani šeni
His/her/its muşi muşi himuşi muši misi
Our çkini çkuni şǩuni čkini/čkəni čveni
Your (pl.) tkvani tkvani t̆ǩvani tkvani tkveni
Their mutepeşi hemtepeşi nişi inepiš mati


Laz verbs are inflected for seven categories: person, number, version, tense, mood, aspect and voice.

Person and Number[edit]

In Laz, like Megrelian, Georgian and Svan, verbs can be unipersonal, bipersonal and tripersonal

  • Monovalent verbs have only subjective person and are intransitive.
  • Bivalent verbs have one subject and one object (direct or indirect). They are:
    • transitive if the object is direct
    • intransitive if the object is indirect
  • Trivalent verbs have one subject and two objects (one direct and the other indirect) and are ditransitive.
Verb personality table
Unipersonal Bipersonal Tripersonal
intransitive transitive intransitive ditransitive
Subject + + + +
Direct Object + +
Indirect Object + +

The person may be singular or plural.

Subject and object markers in Laz are the same as in Megrelian

Subject markers[edit]

  Singular Plural
S1 v- v-...-t
S2 ∅- ∅-...-t
S3 ∅-...-n/-s/-u ∅-...-an/-es

Object markers[edit]

  Singular Plural
O1 m- m-...-an/-es/-t
O2 g- g-...-an/-es/-t
O3 ∅- ∅-...-an/-es

In pre-consonant position, the markers v- and g- change phonetically:

  • Before voiced consonants: v- → b-
  • Before voiceless (nonglottalized) consonants:
    • v- → b- → p-
    • g- → k-
  • Before glottalized consonants:
    • v- → b- → p̌-
    • g- → ǩ-


Like Megrelian, Georgian and Svan, Laz has four types of version marking:

  • subjective – shows that the action is intended for oneself,
  • objective – action is intended for another person,
  • objective-passive – the action is intended for another person and at the same time indicating the passiveness of subject,
  • neutral – neutral with respect to intention.

Laz version markers compared to Megrelian, Georgian and Svan[edit]

Version Laz Megrelian Georgian Svan
Subjective -i- -i- -i- -i-
Objective -u- -u- -u- -o-
Objective-passive -a- -a- -e- -e-
Neutral -o- -o-/-a- -a- -a-


The maximum number of screeves in Laz is 22. They are grouped in three series. Two screeves (future I and past of future I) exist only for the verb r-, which serves as a 1st series root for oqopumu/ovapu/oyapu (to be).

Paradigm of verb conjugation[edit]

stems: ç̌ar- (to write) and r- (to be: just for future I and past of future I)

I Series
Khopa-Chkhala Vitze-Arkabe Atina-Artasheni
present ç̌arups ç̌arums
imperfect ç̌arupt̆u ç̌arumt̆u
imperfective optative ç̌arupt̆as ç̌arumt̆as
imperfective inferential ç̌arupt̆-eren ç̌arumt̆u-doren ç̌arumt̆u-donu
present conditional ç̌arupt̆u-ǩon ç̌arumt̆u-ǩo(n)
future I (r)t̆as-unon (r)t̆asen ort̆as-en
past of future I (r)t̆as-unt̆u t̆ast̆u ort̆as-eret̆u
II Series
Khopa-Chkhala Vitze-Arkabe Atina-Artasheni
aorist ç̌aru
aoristic optative ç̌aras
aoristic inferential I ç̌ar-eleren

/ç̌ar-een /ç̌ar-elen

ç̌aru-doren ç̌aru-donu
aoristic inferential II ç̌ar-eleret̆u

/ç̌ar-eet̆u /ç̌ar-elet̆u

aoristic inferential optative ç̌ar-eleret̆as

/ç̌ar-eet̆as /ç̌ar-elet̆as

aoristic conditional ç̌aru-ǩon
future II ç̌aras-unon ç̌aras-en
past of future II ç̌aras-unt̆u


ç̌ara-t̆u ç̌aras-ert̆u
conditional of aoristic inferential II ç̌ar-eleret̆u-ǩon


inferential of the past of future II ç̌aras-unt̆-eren ç̌ara-t̆u-doren n/a
conditional of the past of future II ç̌ara-t̆u-ǩon n/a
III Series
Khopa-Chkhala Vitze-Arkabe Atina-Artasheni
inversive inferential I uç̌arun
inversive inferential II uç̌arut̆u
inferential optative uç̌arut̆as
inferential conditional uç̌arut̆u-ǩo(n)

According to oldness these screeves can be grouped in two sets:

  • old (primary) (common with Megrelian).
  • new (secondary) derived from the basic screeves (specific Laz).

Classification of screeves according to oldness

Old (common with Megrelian) New (specific Laz)
present imperfective inferential
imperfect future I
imperfective optative past of future I
present conditional aoristic inferential I
aorist aoristic inferential II
aoristic optative aoristic inferential optative
aoristic conditional future II
inversive inferential I past of future II
inversive inferential II Conditional of aoristic inferential II
inferential optative inferential of the past of future II
inferential conditional conditional of the past of future II



Indicative statement claims that the proposition should be taken as an apparent fact.


There are two ways to transform an indicative statement into a question:

  • by means of interrogative words. E.g. mi? (who?), mu? (what?), so? (where?), mundes? (when?), muç̌o? (how?) etc. This rule is valid for Megrelian, Georgian and Svan as well.
  • by adding an interrogative particle -i to the end of a verb. It has the same function as Megrelian -o, Old Georgian -a and Svan -ma/-mo/-mu.


Indicates a command or request. The aorist form is used when addressing 2nd person (singular/plural) and aoristic optative in all other cases.


Expresses possibility, wish, desire.


Indicates condition in contrary to a fact. For this reason a verbal suffix -ǩo (At.-Arsh, Vtz.-Ark.) / -ǩon/-ǩoni (Khop.-Chkh.) is used.



See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Extension consonant for the Altaic (Turkish) version of the Latin alphabet, often represented with the digit three (3) (currently missing from Unicode ?) ; the Cyrillic letter ze (З/з) has been borrowed in newspapers published in the Socialist Republic of Georgia (within USSR) to write the missing Latin letter ; modern orthographies used today also use the Latin digraphs Ts/ts for З/з and Ts’/ts’ for(З’/з’


  • Chikobava, Arn. (1936). Grammatical analysis of Laz with texts (in Georgian). Tiflis.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  • Chikobava, Arn. (1938). Chan-Megrel-Georgian Comparative Dictionary (in Georgian). Tbilisi.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  • Fähnrich, H. & Sardzhveladze, Z. (2000). Etymological Dictionary of the Kartvelian Languages (in Georgian). Tbilisi.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link) CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  • Kajaia, O. (2001–2002). Megrelian-Georgian dictionary. 3 Vols. (in Georgian). Tbilisi.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  • Kartozia, G. (2005). The Laz language and its place in the system of Kartvelian languages (in Georgian). Tbilisi.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  • Klimov, G. (1964). Etymological Dictionary of the Kartvelian Languages (in Russian). Moscow.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  • Klimov, G. (1998). Etymological Dictionary of the Kartvelian Languages. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.
  • Klimov, G. (1998). Languages of the World: Caucasian languages (in Russian). Moscow: Academia.
  • Marr, N. (1910). Grammar of Chan (Laz) with reader and wordlist (in Russian). St. Petersburg.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link).
  • Qipshidze, I. (1911). Additional information about Chan (in Russian). St. Petersburg.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  • Qipshidze, I. (1914). The Grammar of Mingrelian (Iver) Language with reader and dictionary (in Russian). St. Petersburg.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link).
  • Shanidze, A. (1973). Essentials of Georgian Grammar (in Georgian). Tbilisi.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  • Topuria, V. & Kaldani, M. (2000). Svan Dictionary (in Georgian). Tbilisi.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link) CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)

External links[edit]