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the national language of the Georgians; the main language of the Kartvelian language group. There are approximately 3.25 million speakers of Georgian in the USSR (1970, census). In the opinion of most Caucasian scholars, Georgian is related to the Abkhazo-Adygei, Nakh, and Dagestan languages, forming with them the Ibero-Caucasian language family.
Georgian is an ancient written language. The oldest written records date from the fifth century A.D. Two main periods are distinguished in the history of Georgian: Old Georgian, from the fifth to 11th centuries, and modern Georgian, which began to develop in the 12th century in secular literary records. Modern Georgian differs from Old Georgian primarily in vocabulary. The Georgian literary language is based on the Kartlian and Kakhetian dialects. Divergences between dialects are insignificant and are usually at the level of sub-dialects. The mountain dialects of eastern Georgia (for example, Tush and Khevsurian) are characterized by archaisms, whereas innovations are typical of the dialects of western Georgia (for example, Adzhar and Gurian).
Modern Georgian has five unmarked vowel phonemes and 28 consonant phonemes. Stops and affricates form a three-part series (voiced, aspirated, and glottalized); spirants are paired (voiced and voiceless). Harmonic groups of consonants are typical. Stress is weak dynamic. The morphology is rich. Prefixation and suffixation are widely used. The principle of word building is agglutinative, and there are elements of inflection. The category of grammatical gender is alien to nouns. The semantic categories of person and thing are distinguished. There are two numbers and a single declension, with six cases. The absence of an accusative case and the presence of an ergative case is typical. The declension is supplemented by postpositions. The system of verbal conjugation is complex.
The Georgian verb is marked for the categories of person, number, version, aspect, voice, the causative, and mood. Verbs are divided into transitive and intransitive, static and dynamic. They are conjugated according to the persons and numbers of both the subject and object. The subject-object conjugation system gives rise to the complex syntactic structure of a simple sentence. Three constructions are distinguished: nominative, ergative (with transitive verbs in the main past tenses), and dative. The syntactic link between the verb and the subject and object is distinctive (interdepen-dency of the members of a syntagma). A complex sentence is made up of simple sentences. Types of subordination are well developed. The word order is free. The predicate tends to occur last (in simple sentences). The attributive in modern Georgian usually precedes the dependent member. The vocabulary is rich. Stem combinations (compounds) and derived stem formations (formed by means of suffixation and prefixation) are widely used.
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A. S. CHIKOBAVA