Georgian Dialects

The dialects of Georgian can be divided into an eastern and a western group on the basis of shared features; a total of 17 can be identified. They differ from each other in certain aspects of phonology, morphology, syntax, and vocabulary, but all retain an overall set of features not very dissimilar to the standard language. Some of the dialects have come under the strong influence of neighboring languages. Ingilo, spoken in a part of the Alazani river valley that is now in Azerbaijan, has been influenced by Azerbaijani and by Avar, while Klarjian has come under the influence of Turkish, the dominant language of the region in which it is spoken. The Persian influence on the Fereidan dialect of Georgian is a special case, as the latter is spoken today in Iran by the descendants of Kakhetians who were deported there by the Safavid monarch Shah ’Abbas I in the seventeenth century. Among the features which are found in the Georgian dialects are the following:

•          the addition of - y- and - w- before certain vowels (as in ერთი erti  ერთი yerti  ‘one’, ორი ori  ორი wori  ‘two’, etc.)

•          a distinction between long and short vowels

•          additional vowel sounds not found in the standard language

•          presence of both q and q' sounds

•          the use of the n-plural

•          plural adjectival forms

•          non-standard verb forms

•          words not found in the standard language.

In general, the mountain dialects are more conservative and preserve a number of archaisms that have disappeared from other dialects. However, the simplification of certain complexities of standard Georgian also occurs in the dialects. The standard literary language is based on Kartlian dialect of the eastern lowlands.

Georgian has exerted an influence on other languages of the area, especially on Ts'ova-Tush and on some of the Tsezic languages.

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© PJ Hillery 1996-2004 • Rev. 2.0