Prof. George Hewitt

Georgia: the language-situation

Georgia: the language-situation, in HSK: Soziolinguistik, 2006, 1897-99.

Georgia received international recognition in 1992 within the frontiers of the former Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic. Occupying 69,500 sq. km. east of the  Black Sea between longitudes 40° 05' and 46° 44' east and latitudes 41° 07' and 43° 35' north, it borders the North Caucasian territories of the Russian Federation, and the republics of Azerbaijan, Armenia and Turkey.

South-west Transcaucasia is home to  the South Caucasian (Kartvelian) language-family, of which Georgian is the best known  member. This family cannot be demonstrated  to be cognate with any other language(-family), extant or extinct. The most archaic member, Svan, is located in the N.W. mountains along the upper reaches of the Ingur and Tskhenis-ts’q’ali rivers; the western lowlands between  these same rivers provide the traditional home of Mingrelian, which  since the end of the 19th century has been yielding to Georgian in the east  whilst gaining at the expense of (North West Caucasian) Abkhaz in the west; the ancestors of the Mingrelians  and the Laz, jointly designated speakers of Zan, in classical times peopled the Black Sea littoral between northern Mingrelia and Rize, though they were  split by westward moving Georgian speakers fleeing the 7th century Arab incursions into central Georgia -- only between Laz and Mingrelian is there any degree of  mutual intelligibility; today Laz is spoken along the Turkish coast from the border-village of Sarpi  with only small numbers of speakers living further north (e.g. in Abkhazia); most ethnic Georgians live in Georgia itself, though an indeterminate number reside in Turkey, which has inherited such historical Georgian provinces as T’ao, K’lardzheti, Shavsheti.

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