Old Georgian language

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Old Georgian
ენაჲ ქართული (enay kartuli)
Georgian inscription at Bir El-Qutt, 430 AD.jpg
Old Georgian of Bir el Qutt inscriptions
Native to Colchis, Kingdom of Iberia, Principality of Iberia, Kingdom of Georgia
Region Transcaucasus
Era 5th to 11th centuries
Kartvelian
  • Old Georgian
Georgian script
Language codes
ISO 639-3 oge
Linguist list
oge
Glottolog oldg1234[1]

Old Georgian (Georgian: ძველი ქართული ენა dzveli kartuli ena) was the literary language of Georgian monarchies in the 5th century. The language remains in use as the liturgical language of the Georgian Orthodox Church. Spoken Old Georgian gave way to what is classified as Middle Georgian in the 11th century, which in turn developed into the modern Georgian language in the 18th century.

Periodization[edit]

Two periods are distinguished within Old Georgian: Early Old Georgian (5th to 8th centuries) and Classical Old Georgian (9th to 11th centuries). Two different dialects are represented in Early Old Georgian, known as Khanmet’i (ხანმეტი, 5th to 7th c.) and Haemet’i (ჱაემეტი, 7th and 8th c.). They are so named after the presence of a second person subject prefix and a third person object prefix kh- or h- in the verbal morphology where Classical Old Georgian has h-, s- or zero.[2]

Texts[edit]

The corpus of Early Old Georgian texts is limited in size, consisting of a dozen inscriptions and eight manuscripts containing religious texts. The literature in Classical Old Georgian has a wider scope, including philosophical and historiographical works.

Phoneme inventory[edit]

Old Georgian had 29 phonemic consonants and 5 phonemic vowels. The native spelling also distinguishes the semivowel y, which is an allophone of the vowel i in postvocalic position.

Old Georgian consonants[3]
Labial Dental/
Alveolar
Alveo-
palatal
Velar Uvular Glottal
Voiceless aspirated stop p [pʰ] t [tʰ] k [kʰ] q [qʰ]
Voiceless glottalized stop p’ [pˀ] t’ [tˀ] k’ [kˀ] q’ [qˀ]
Voiced stop b d g [4]
Voiceless aspirated affricate ts [tsʰ] ch [tʃʰ]
Voiceless glottalized affricate ts’ [tsˀ] ch’ [tʃˀ]
Voiced affricate dz j [dʒ]
Voiceless fricative s sh [ʃ] kh [χ] h
Voiced fricative z zh [ʒ] gh [ʁ]
Nasal m n
Trill r
Lateral l
Semivowel w y [j]
Old Georgian vowels
Front Central Back
High i u
Mid e o
Low a

Script[edit]

Main article: Georgian scripts

Old Georgian was written in its own alphabetic script, known as Asomtavruli "capital letters" or Mrglovani "rounded". The alphabet is very nearly phonemic, showing an excellent "fit" between phonemes and graphemes. It is clearly modelled on the Greek alphabet, showing basically the same alphabetic order, and with letters representing non-Greek phonemes gathered at the end. Apart from letters for nearly all Georgian phonemes, the alphabet also contains three letters representing Greek phonemes not found in Georgian (ē, ü and ō). Most individual letters seem to be entirely independent designs, with only a few based directly on Greek letters (cf. Greek Φ Θ Χ [pʰ tʰ kʰ] → Asomtravuli Ⴔ Ⴇ Ⴕ).

Old Georgian Asomtavruli alphabet
Greek Α Β Γ Δ Ε Ϝ Ζ Η Θ Ι Κ Λ Μ Ν (Ξ) Ο Π (Ϙ) Ρ
Asomtavruli
Transliteration a b g d e v z ē t i k’ l m n y o p’ zh r
IPA a b g d e w z ey i l m n j o ʒ r
Greek Σ Τ Υ Φ Χ (Ψ) Ω
Asomtavruli
Transliteration s t’ ü p k gh q’ sh ch ts dz ts’ ch’ kh q j h ō
IPA s wi ʁ ʃ ts dz tsˀ tʃˀ χ ʤ h ow

Orthography[edit]

Old Georgian orthography is quite consistent, in the sense that the same wordis usually witten in the same way in all instances. Spelling is nearly phonemic, with almost all phonemes exclusively represented by a single letter. The exceptions are described below.[5]

Vowel u

The most conspicuous exception to the rule that each phoneme is written with its own letter is the vowel u, which is consistently written with the digraph ႭჃ 〈oü〉, for example ႮႭჃႰႨ 〈p’oüri〉 p’uri "bread". This usage was evidently adopted from Greek spelling, which writes u as ου. In the later Nuskhuri script, the original digraph ⴍⴣ 〈oü〉 merged into a single letter 〈u〉. A matching Asomtavruli single-letter counterpart was then divised which was not part of the original alphabet, and which was not used in the Old Georgian period.

Semivowel w

The semivowel w is written in two ways, depending on its position within the word. When it occurs directly after a consonant, it is written with the digraph ႭჃ 〈oü〉, for example ႹႭჃႤႬ 〈choüen〉 chwen "we", ႢႭჃႰႨႲႨ 〈goürit’i〉 gwrit’i "turtledove", ႧႠႢႭჃ 〈tagoü〉 tagw "mouse". The digraph ႭჃ 〈oü〉 thus represents both w and u, without differentiation in the spelling, for example ႵႭჃႧႨ 〈xoüti〉 xuti "five" vs. ႤႵႭჃႱႨ 〈ekoüsi〉 ekwsi "six".

In all other positions, w is written with the letter 〈v〉, for example ႧႭႥႪႨ 〈tovli〉 towli "snow", ႥႤႪႨ 〈veli〉 weli "field", ႩႠႰႠႥႨ 〈k’aravi〉 k’arawi "tent".

Application of these rules can be seen in nominal paradigms, for example ႱႨႲႷႭჃႠჂ 〈sit’q’oüaj〉 sit’q’wa-y "word" (absolutive case) vs. ႱႨႲႷჃႱႠ 〈sit’q’üsa〉 sit’q’w-isa (genitive).[6]

An exception to the rules is seen in words in which w occurs in postconsonantal position as a result of vowel elision. In such cases, it is usually spelled with 〈v〉, for example ႫႩႪႥႤႪႨ 〈mk’lveli〉 mk’lweli "murderer" from *mk’laweli. This spelling is also sometimes found in words in which, as far as is known, no vowel has been lost, for example ႷႥႤႪႨ 〈q’veli〉 q’weli "cheese" (the expected spelling is ႷႭჃႤႪႨ 〈qoüeli〉).

The two spellings of w clearly represent an allophonic variation between [w] in postconsonantal position and [v] or [β] in other positions which is very similar to the one described for modern Georgian.[7]

Semivowel y

The initial vowel i- of a case suffix is realized as y- after a vowel, and this allophonic y has its own letter in the alphabet, for example ႣႤႣႠჂ ႨႤႱႭჃჂႱႠ 〈deday iesoüysa〉 deda-y iesu-ysa (mother-ABS Jesus-GEN) "the mother of Jesus" (phonemically /deda-i iesu-isa/).

The "Greek" letters

The Asomtavruli alphabet contains three letters which are not needed for the writing of native words: 〈ē〉, 〈ü〉 and 〈ō〉. These were added to the alphabet in order to make possible a letter-for-letter transcription of Greek names and loanwords. They were indeed occasionally used to write the Greek vowels ē (ēta), ü (ypsilon) and ō (ōmega). As these vowels are alien to Georgian, they were replaced in actual pronunciation by ey, wi and ow respectively, as can be deduced from old variant spellings, and from corresponding modern forms. For example, Greek Αἴγυπτος is written ႤႢჃႮႲႤ 〈egüp’t’e〉 egwip’t’e "Egypt" (cf. modern Georgian ეგვიპტე egvip’t’e).

In native words, the letter 〈ō〉 was only used to write the vocative particle ow, for example Ⴥ ႣႤႣႨႩႠႺႭ 〈ō dedik’atso〉 ow dedik’atso "o woman!".

The letters 〈ē〉 and 〈ü〉 on the other hand are frequently used in the spelling of native words, as a short-hand way of representing the sequences ey and wi, for example ႫႤႴჁ 〈mepē〉 mepey "king", ႶჃႬႭჂ 〈ghünoy〉 ghwinoy "wine". These sequences can also be written out in full however, for example ႫႤႴႤჂ 〈mepey〉 mepey, ႶჃႭႨႬႭჂ 〈ghoüinoj〉 ghwinoy "wine".

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Old Georgian". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History. 
  2. ^ Tuite (2008:146).
  3. ^ The transliteration used here is the National Transliteration System, devised by Shukia Apridonidze and Levan Chkhaidze and promulgated by the Georgian Academy of Sciences in 2002. This system leaves aspiration unmarked, and marks glottalization with an apostrophe. International Phonetic Alphabet equivalents are included in square brackets when different.
  4. ^ A voiced uvular stop *ɢ can be reconstructed for Proto-Kartvelian (Fähnrich 2007:15). In Georgian this consonant merged with gh in prehistoric times.
  5. ^ This section is mainly based on Schanidse (1982:18-33).
  6. ^ Schanidse (1982:41).
  7. ^ Aronson (1997:930).

References[edit]

  • Aronson, Howard J. (1997). "Georgian phonology". In Alan S. Kaye. Phonologies of Asia and Africa. Vol. 2, Winona Lake, Indiana: Eisenbrauns. ISBN 1-57506-018-3. 
  • Fähnrich, Heinz (2007). Kartwelisches etymologisches Wörterbuch. Leiden: Brill. ISBN 978-9004161092. 
  • Fähnrich, Heinz (2012). Die georgische Sprache. Leiden: Brill. ISBN 978-9004219069. 
  • Schanidse, Akaki (1982). Grammatik der algeorgischen Sprache. Schriften des Lehrstuhls für altgeorgische Sprache, vol. 24. Transl. Heinz Fähnrich. Tbilissi: Staatsuniversität. 
  • Tuite, Kevin (2008). "Early Georgian". In Roger D. Wood. Ancient Languages of Asia Minor. Cambridge: CUP (pp. 145–165). ISBN 978-0521684965.