South Caucasian Languages
Information about the South Caucasian (or Kartvelian) languages
Where are the South Caucasian languages spoken?
These languages are spoken primarily in Georgia, with some groups of speakers in Israel, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Iran and Russia
Total number of speakers (estimated):
Nearly 5 000 000 according to the site ethnologue.com (SIL)
The South Caucasian language family has 4 or 5 active languages.
Georgian: 4 100 000 speakers
Judeo-Georgian: 80 000 speakers
Laz: 200 00 speakers
Mingrelian: 450 000 speakers
Svan: no more than 30 000 speakers according to DoBes
Comments on the classification of South Caucasian languages:
It is generally accepted that the South Caucasian languages have no recognized linguistic kinship worldwide. Some similarities with Basque have been noted (especially in the casual system) but a linkage between the two remains purely hypothetical.
These languages have long been considered to be part of the “Caucasian” language family. This hypothetical family consisted of three main branches: the Northeast Caucasian languages, the Northwest Caucasian languages and South Caucasian languages. The validity of this larger family is not, however, widely accepted today by linguists. At best, if the term “Caucasian Languages” is sometimes still used, it is a geographical rather than a linguistic reference. Starotsine proposed the consolidation of the two northern families, but this grouping is still controversial. As a result, all three families are presented separately here.
The Zane languages are sometimes considered as two variants of the same “Zane” language. The question of whether the Judeo-Georgian language is a dialect or variant of Georgian is complex. Georgian officials seem to regard it as a kind of “slang”, but it is considered by the Georgian Jewish community as an important part of their cultural heritage. Most speakers now live in Israel.
Are South Caucasian languages in danger?
Mingrelian, Laz and Svan are “endangered” according to the criteria of UNESCO.
Atlas of the Caucasian Languages- Linguarium
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