Alphabet with 33 letters
The Georgian alphabet is called Mkhedruli. It consists of 33 letters, including 5 vowels and 28 consonants. Thus, Georgien contains more consonants than English contains letters.
The vowels are a, e, i, o and u. Somewhat more complicated it is with the consonants, which are difficult for non-Georgians to pronounce. For example, there are two «p», two «t», two «k», two «ts» and two «ch». One of the two is aspirated and the other not (ejective).
The Georgian alphabet doesn't know any uppercase letters, even the names of cities, countries, or persons are written in lowercase letters.
Up to 8 consonants in a row
What makes the pronunciation even more difficult are the numerous consonant clusters, sometimes even at the beginning of the word. Here are some examples:
- 3 consonants: tskhviri (nose)
- 4 consonants: Mkvleli (murderer)
- 5 consonants: Tsinamdzghvriantkari (name of a village)
- 6 consonants: Mtsvrtneli (trainer)
- 8 consonants: Gvbrdghvni (you tear us)
7 grammatical cases
In the Georgian language, there are seven different grammatical cases. which we don't really know in English. Here are some examples.
The vocative case is used for direct addressing. While in English there is no difference between «my friend» and «Hey, my friend!», it is different in Georgian: «My friend» is called «chemi megobari» and «Hey, my friend!» Is called «chemo megobaro». The ending changes from «i» to «o». Here is another example:
Good dog = kargi dzaghli
Hey good dog! = Hey kargo dzaghlo!
The instrumental case is used when a means (tool, instrument) is used to do something. In English we use «by» or «with» therefore. The spoon is Georgian means «kovsi». I eat is called «vcham». And if I eat with the spoon, that means «kovsit vcham» (with the spoon I eat). In the instrumental case the nouns always end in -it or -ti (after o and u).
The other five cases in Georgian are nominative, dative, genitive, ergative and adverbials.
Numbers in the 20's system
Georgian is one of the few languages whose counting is not in the 10's but in the 20's system. To a small extent, the French language knows this as well. Eighty in French is quatre-vingts (four times twenty).
This is how it is in Georgian. 20 is called «otsi» and 10 is called «ati.» So 30 is «otsdaati» (ots - da - ati; 20 and 10).
40 means «ormotsi» in Georgian, which is composed of the words «ori» (two) and «ozi» (twenty) which means 2 x 20. Here are some other examples:
50 = ormotsdaati (2 x 20 + 10)
60 = samotsi (3 x 20)
70 = samotsdaati (3 x 20 + 10)
77 = samotsdachvidmeti (3 x 20 + 17)
80 = otkhmotsi (4 x 20)
90 = otkhmotsdaati (4 x 20 + 10)
99 = otkhmotsdatskhrameti (4 x 20 + 19)
Suffixes, suffixes, suffixes
Georgian is an agglutinating language. Adding suffixes at the end of the words changes the meaning. Unlike in English, in Georgian you don't say «in the house», but «house-in». Instead of «from England» one says «England-from» or instead of «for the friends» one says «friends-for». Here are some suffixes, their meaning and examples.
shi = in
In Georgia: sakartveloshi
dan = from
He is from Russia: Is aris rusetidan
ze = on
On the bed: loginze
tvis = for
for me: chemtvis
ts = too, also, as well
You too: shents
tan ertad = with, together
With the friends: megobrebtan ertad
No grammatical gender
Georgian doesn't know any grammatical gender. While English or German know the three genders female, male and neuter and other languages such as Italian or Spanish at least know female and male, there is only one form in Georgian.
So the word «sheqvarebuli» means both «boyriend» and «girlfriend». Or the phrase «is aris mastsavlebeli» means both «she is a teacher» and «he is a teacher».
A nearly isolated language
A language is called isolated when it has no relationship with any other language (for example Basque and Korean). Georgian is not an isolated language, but it is only related to very few other languages.
Georgian belongs to Kartvelian (South Caucasian) language family and is only related to Mingrelian, Svan, Laz and Judaeo-Georgian, the language of the Georgian Jews.