Mingrelian language

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მარგალური ნინა margaluri nina
Native toGeorgia
RegionSamegrelo, Abkhazia
Native speakers
344,000 (2015)[1]
Georgian script
Language codes
ISO 639-3xmf
Kartvelian languages.svg

Mingrelian or Megrelian (მარგალური ნინა margaluri nina) is a Kartvelian language spoken in Western Georgia (regions of Samegrelo and Abkhazia), primarily by the Mingrelians. The language was also called Iverian (Georgian iveriuli ena) in the early 20th century. Since Mingrelian has historically been only a regional language within boundaries of both historical Georgian states and modern Georgia, the number of younger people speaking it has decreased substantially, with UNESCO designating it as a "definitely endangered language".[3]

Distribution and status[edit]

No reliable figures exist for the number of Mingrelian native speakers, but it is estimated to be between 300,000 and 500,000. Most speakers live in the Samegrelo (Mingrelia) region of Georgia, which comprises the Odishi Hills and the Kolkheti Lowlands, from the Black Sea coast to the Svan Mountains and the Tskhenistskali River. Smaller enclaves existed in Abkhazia,[4] but the ongoing civil unrest there has displaced many Mingrelian speakers to other regions of Georgia. Their geographical distribution is relatively compact, which has helped to promote the transmission of the language between generations.

Mingrelian is generally written with the Georgian alphabet, but has no written standard or official status. Almost all speakers are bilingual; they use Mingrelian mainly for familiar and informal conversation, and Georgian (or, for expatriate speakers, the local official language) for other purposes.

In the summer of 1999, books of the Georgian poet Murman Lebanidze were burned in the Mingrelian capital, Zugdidi, after he made disparaging remarks about the Mingrelian language.[5]


Mingrelian is one of the Kartvelian languages (South Caucasian Languages). It is closely related to Laz, from which it has differentiated mostly in the last 500 years, after the northern (Mingrelian) and southern (Laz) communities were separated by Turkic invasions. It is somewhat less closely related to Georgian (the two branches having separated in the first millennium BC or earlier) and even more distantly related to Svan (which is believed to have branched off in the 2nd millennium BC or earlier).[6] Mingrelian is not mutually intelligible with any of those other languages, although it is said that its speakers can recognize many Laz words.

Some linguists refer to Mingrelian and Laz as grouped within the Zan languages.[7] Zan had already split into Mingrelian and Laz variants by early modern times, however, and it is not customary to speak of a unified Zan language today.

The oldest surviving texts in Mingrelian date from the 19th century, and are mainly ethnographical literature. The earliest linguistic studies of Mingrelian include a phonetic analysis by Aleksandre Tsagareli (1880), and grammars by Ioseb Kipshidze (1914) and Shalva Beridze (1920). From 1930 to 1938 several newspapers were published in Mingrelian, such as Kazakhishi Gazeti, Komuna, Samargalosh Chai, Narazenish Chai, and Samargalosh Tutumi. More recently, there has been some revival of the language, with the publication of dictionaries—Mingrelian–Georgian by Otar Kajaia, and Mingrelian-German by Otar Kajaia and Heinz Fähnrich—and poetry books by Lasha Gakharia, Edem Izoria, Lasha Gvasalia, Guri Otobaia, Giorgi Sichinava, Jumber Kukava, and Vakhtang Kharchilava, as well as books and magazines published by Jehovah's Witnesses.[8]



Mingrelian has five primary vowels a, e, i, o, u. The Zugdidi-Samurzaqano dialect has a sixth, ə, which is the result of reduction of i and u.

Mingrelian vowels
Front Back
unrounded rounded
High i [i] [ə]) ჷ u [u]
Mid e [ɛ] o [ɔ]
Low a [ɑ]


The consonant inventory of Mingrelian is almost identical to Laz, Georgian, and Svan.

Mingrelian consonants
Labial Dental Alveolar Velar Uvular Glottal
Nasal m [m] n [n]
Plosive voiced b [b] d [d] g [ɡ]
voiceless p [p] t [t] k [k] ʔ [ʔ]
ejective [pʼ] [tʼ] [kʼ] [qʼ]
Affricate voiced ʒ [d͡z] ǯ [d͡ʒ]
voiceless c [t͡s] č [t͡ʃ]
ejective ċ [t͡sʼ] čʼ [t͡ʃʼ]
Fricative voiced v [v] z [z] ž [ʒ] ɣ [ɣ]
voiceless s [s] š [ʃ] x [x] h [h]
Trill r [r]
Approximant central y [j]
lateral l [l]

Phonetic processes[edit]

Vowel reduction[edit]

Certain pairs of vowels reduce to single vowels:[clarification needed]

  • ae and aieee
  • ao, oa and ooaaa
  • ou → uu → u

In Zugdidi-Samurzaqano dialect the vowels i and u also often reduce to ə.

Pre-consonant change of velar g[edit]

Before consonants, gr.

Positional change of uvular q' sound[edit]

In word-initial prevocalic and intervocalic positions, q' → ʔ. Before the consonant v, q' → ʔ/ḳ.

Regressive assimilation of consonants[edit]

The common types are:

  • voicing/devoicing of voiceless/voiced consonants before voiced/voiceless ones (respectively).
  • glottalization of consonants before the glottalized ones and the glottal stop.

Progressive dissimilation[edit]

If the stem contains r then the suffixes -ar and -ur transform to -al and -ul, e.g. xorga (Khorga, the village)→ xorg-ul-i ("Khorgan"). The rule is not valid if in the stem with r an l appears later, e.g. marṭvili ("Martvili", the town) → marṭvil-ur-i (adj. "Martvilian")

In a stem with voiceless affricates or voiceless sibilants, a later ǯ is deaffricated to d, e.g. orcxonǯi → orcxondi "comb", č'anǯi → č'andi "fly (insect)", isinǯi → isindi "arrow", etc.

The transformation of l[edit]

  • in all dialects of Mingrelian, before consonants lr.
  • in the Martvili subdialect in word-initial prevocalic position, l → y → ∅ and in intervocalic position l → ∅[further explanation needed]

Intervocalic deletion of v[edit]

Between the vowels the organic[clarification needed] v disappears, e.g. xvavi (Geo. "abundance, plenty") → *xvai → xvee (id.), mṭevani (Geo. "raceme") → ṭiani (id.), etc.

Phonetic augmentation n[edit]

Before the stops and affricates, an inorganic[clarification needed] augmentation n may appear (before labials n → m).


Megrelian is written in the Mkhedruli script.

Mkhedruli Transcription IPA transcription
a ɑ
b b
g ɡ
d d
e ɛ
v v
z z
t t
i i
l l
m m
n n
y j
o ɔ
ž ʒ
r r
s s
u u
ə ə
p p
k k
ɣ ɣ
ʔ ʔ
š ʃ
č t͡ʃ
c t͡s
ʒ d͡z
ċ t͡sʼ
čʼ t͡ʃʼ
x x
ǯ d͡ʒ
h h



The main dialects and subdialects of Mingrelian are:

  • Zugdidi-Samurzakano or Northwest dialect
    • Dzhvari
  • Senaki or Southeast dialect
    • Martvili-Bandza
    • Abasha

Famous speakers[edit]


  1. ^ Mingrelian at Ethnologue (19th ed., 2016)
  2. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Mingrelian". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. ^ "UNESCO Atlas of the World's Languages in danger". www.unesco.org. Retrieved 4 April 2018.
  4. ^ "Georgia". U.S. Department of State. First paragraph, third sentence. Retrieved 9 April 2016. The United States supports Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders, and does not recognize the Abkhazia and South Ossetia regions of Georgia, currently occupied by Russia, as independent.
  5. ^ Ammon, Ulrich; Dittmar, Norbert; Mattheier, Klaus J., eds. (2006). Sociolinguistics: an international handbook of the science of language and society. Walter de Gruyter GmbH. p. 1899. ISBN 978-3-11-018418-1.
  6. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-06-10. Retrieved 2011-06-10.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  7. ^ K2olxuri Ena (Colchian Language) Archived March 1, 2012, at the Wayback Machine
  8. ^ "იეჰოვაშ მოწმეეფიშ გიშაშკუმალირი ბიბლიური წიგნეფი დო ჟურნალეფი". jw.org. Retrieved 4 April 2018.
  9. ^ https://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20100708/ap_on_re_eu/eu_georgia_oldest_person
  • Aleksandre Tsagareli (1880), Megrelskie Etiudi, Analiz Fonetiki Megrelskogo Yazika ("Megrelian Studies — The Analysis of Phonetics of Megrelian Language"). (in Russian)
  • Ioseb Kipshidze (1914), Grammatika Mingrel’skogo (Iverskogo) Jazyka ("Grammar of Megrelian (Iverian) Language"). (in Russian)
  • Shalva Beridze (1920), Megruli (Iveriuli) Ena ("Megrelian (Iverian) Language"). (in Georgian)
  • Rusudan Amirejibi-Mullen, Nana Danelia and Inga Dundua (2006), kolkhuri (megrul-lazuri) ena (Tbilisi: Universali).
  • Laurence Broers (2012),"'Two Sons of One Mother'. Nested Identities and Centre-Periphery Politics in Post-Soviet Georgia". In Andreas Schonle, Olga Makarova and Jeremy Hicks (eds.), When the Elephant Broke Out of the Zoo. A Festschrift for Donald Rayfield (Stanford Slavic Studies, Volume 39).
  • Otar Kajaia (2001-2002), Georgian-Mingrelian dictionary.
  • Alio Kobalia (2010), Georgian-Mingrelian dictionary.

External links[edit]