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(South Caucasian or Iberian languages), the southern group of Caucasian languages. Kartvelian languages are spoken in the Georgian SSR, in part of the Azerbaijan SSR, and also in Turkey and Iran. In the USSR there are more than 3 million speakers of Kartvelian languages (1970 census). The Kartvelian languages include the Old Georgian literary language (records from the fifth century) and the unwritten Mingrelian, Chan, and Svan languages (the closely related Mingrelian and Chan languages are joined in the Zan subgroup and are often regarded as a single Zan or Mingrelo-Chan language).
Kartvelian sound systems usually have five to seven simple vowel phonemes and 25 to 28 consonant phonemes. Stress is weakly expressed dynamic. Kartvelian morphology is characterized by well-developed declension and conjugation. Synthesism and verbal prefixation occur within the generally agglutinative morphology. There are traces in the verb of an ancient system of vocalic alternation (ablaut). The noun is marked for the categories of number (singular and plural) and case (six to nine). Declension is monotypic (diverging only in Svan). There is a system of postpositions. Transitive and intransitive and static and dynamic verbs are distinguished. The principal categories of the verb are person (the conjugation is of the multipersonal type with denotation of both subject and object), version, voice (primarily by prefixation), number, tense, and mood (by suffixa-tion). There are 11 to 15 modal-temporal forms in the Kartvelian languages.
Types of syntactic relation include government, coordination, parataxis, and agreement. There are three basic sentence types: nominative, ergative (with transitive verbs in most tenses), and dative (with verbs of perception). The order of sentence elements is free, although the verb tends to occur at the end of a sentence. Native words and derivatives from them constitute the basic vocabulary. Word derivation is prefixal, suffixal, and—most frequently—prefixal-suffixal; compounding occurs. There are many imitative words. Borrowings have entered Kartvelian languages from Arabic, Persian, and the Turkic languages.
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G. A. KLIMOV