Megrelian language

Megrelian language

Discussion
Ask a question about 'Megrelian language'
Start a new discussion about 'Megrelian language'
Answer questions from other users
Full Discussion Forum
 
Encyclopedia
Mingrelian, or Megrelian (მარგალური ნინა margaluri nina; ), is a Kartvelian language spoken in Western Georgia
Georgia (country)
Georgia is a sovereign state in the Caucasus region of Eurasia. Located at the crossroads of Western Asia and Eastern Europe, it is bounded to the west by the Black Sea, to the north by Russia, to the southwest by Turkey, to the south by Armenia, and to the southeast by Azerbaijan. The capital of...

 (regions of Samegrelo
Samegrelo
Samegrelo/Samargalo or Megrelia, Mingrelia is a historic province in the western part of Georgia, formerly also known as Odishi.It is inhabited by the Megrelians, an ethnic subgroup of the Georgians.-Geography and Climate:...

 and Abkhazia
Abkhazia
Abkhazia is a disputed political entity on the eastern coast of the Black Sea and the south-western flank of the Caucasus.Abkhazia considers itself an independent state, called the Republic of Abkhazia or Apsny...

), primarily by Georgians
Georgians
The Georgians are an ethnic group that have originated in Georgia, where they constitute a majority of the population. Large Georgian communities are also present throughout Russia, European Union, United States, and South America....

 of Mingrelian origin
Mingrelians
The Mingrelians are a subethnic group of Georgians that mostly live in Samegrelo region of Georgia. They also live in considerable numbers in Abkhazia and Tbilisi...

. The language was also called Iverian (Georgian iveriuli ena) in the early 20th century. Because for more than a thousand years Mingrelian holds only a regional status within Georgia, the number of its speakers has been decreasing in favor of the national language.

Distribution and status


No reliable figures exist for the number of Mingrelian native speakers, but it is estimated to be between 500,000 and 800,000. Most speakers live in the Samegrelo
Samegrelo
Samegrelo/Samargalo or Megrelia, Mingrelia is a historic province in the western part of Georgia, formerly also known as Odishi.It is inhabited by the Megrelians, an ethnic subgroup of the Georgians.-Geography and Climate:...

 (Mingrelia) region of Georgia, that comprises the Odishi Hills and the Kolkheti Lowlands, from the Black Sea
Black Sea
The Black Sea is bounded by Europe, Anatolia and the Caucasus and is ultimately connected to the Atlantic Ocean via the Mediterranean and the Aegean seas and various straits. The Bosphorus strait connects it to the Sea of Marmara, and the strait of the Dardanelles connects that sea to the Aegean...

 coast to the Svan Mountains and the Tskhenistskali River. Smaller enclaves existed in the autonomous Georgian republic of Abkhazia
Abkhazia
Abkhazia is a disputed political entity on the eastern coast of the Black Sea and the south-western flank of the Caucasus.Abkhazia considers itself an independent state, called the Republic of Abkhazia or Apsny...

, but the ongoing civil unrest there has caused many Mingrelian speakers to emigrate, mostly to 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
Georgian alphabet
The Georgian alphabet is the writing system used to write the Georgian language and other Kartvelian languages , and occasionally other languages of the Caucasus such as Ossetic and Abkhaz during the 1940s...

, but has no written standard or official status. Almost all speakers are bilingual; they use Mingrelian mainly for familiar and informal conversation, and Georgian
Georgian language
Georgian is the native language of the Georgians and the official language of Georgia, a country in the Caucasus.Georgian is the primary language of about 4 million people in Georgia itself, and of another 500,000 abroad...

 (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. It is, however, common to hear self-deprecating remarks from Mingrelians about the uselessness of their language.

History


Mingrelian is one of the Kartvelian languages. It is closely related to Laz
Laz language
The Laz language is a South Caucasian language spoken by the Laz people on the Southeast shore of the Black Sea...

, 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
Svan language
The Svan language is a Kartvelian language spoken in the Western Georgian region of Svaneti primarily by the Georgians of Svan origin...

 (which is believed to have branched off in the 2nd millennium BC or earlier). 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 dialects of a single Zan language or Colchian. 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 Kazaxishi 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 Gaxaria, Edem Izoria, Lasha Gvasalia, Guri Otobaia, Giorgi Sichinava, Jumber Kukava, and Vaxtang Xarchilava.

Dialects


The main dialects and sub-dialects of Mingrelian are:
  • Zugdidi-Samurzakano or Northwest dialect
    • Dzhvari
  • Senaki or Southeast dialect
    • Martvili-Bandza
    • Abasha


Famous speakers

  • Lavrenti Beria, Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin
    Joseph Stalin
    Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin was the Premier of the Soviet Union from 6 May 1941 to 5 March 1953. He was among the Bolshevik revolutionaries who brought about the October Revolution and had held the position of first General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union's Central Committee...

    's chief of secret police
  • Konstantine Gamsakhurdia
    Konstantine Gamsakhurdia
    Konstantine Gamsakhurdia was a Georgian writer and public figure, who, along with Mikheil Javakhishvili, is considered to be one of the most influential Georgian novelists of the 20th century...

    , one of the most influential Georgia
    Georgia (country)
    Georgia is a sovereign state in the Caucasus region of Eurasia. Located at the crossroads of Western Asia and Eastern Europe, it is bounded to the west by the Black Sea, to the north by Russia, to the southwest by Turkey, to the south by Armenia, and to the southeast by Azerbaijan. The capital of...

    n writers of the 20th century
  • Zviad Gamsakhurdia
    Zviad Gamsakhurdia
    Zviad Gamsakhurdia was a dissident, scientist and writer, who became the first democratically elected President of the Republic of Georgia in the post-Soviet era...

    , first president of post-Soviet Georgia
  • Antisa Khvichava
    Antisa Khvichava
    Antisa Khvichava is a Georgian woman who claims to be 131 years old, which, if true, would make her the oldest person of all time. Her passport is given as evidence....

    , claimed world's oldest person (130 years).

External links

  • Mingrelian Ethnologue
    Ethnologue
    Ethnologue: Languages of the World is a web and print publication of SIL International , a Christian linguistic service organization, which studies lesser-known languages, to provide the speakers with Bibles in their native language and support their efforts in language development.The Ethnologue...

     report
  • Nanashi Nina - The First ABCBook In Megrelian
  • TITUS Caucasica: Megrelisch
  • Otar Kajaia's Megrelian-Georgian dictionary at TITUS.
  • Megrelian Project at Lund University
    Lund University
    Lund University , located in the city of Lund in the province of Scania, Sweden, is one of northern Europe's most prestigious universities and one of Scandinavia's largest institutions for education and research, frequently ranked among the world's top 100 universities...

    , Sweden
    Sweden
    Sweden , officially the Kingdom of Sweden , is a Nordic country on the Scandinavian Peninsula in Northern Europe. Sweden borders with Norway and Finland and is connected to Denmark by a bridge-tunnel across the Öresund....