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South Caucasian

The South Caucasian or Kartvelian language family comprises four languages: Georgian, Laz, Mingrelian and Svan. The so called Judeo-Georgian is best regarded as a dialect of Georgian with Hebrew loan words. Laz and Mingrelian form a subgroup within South Caucasian. Some scholars even regard them as dialects of one language, called Zan, even though they are not mutually intelligible.

The South Caucasian languages are spoken by about 4.500.000 people. The majority of the speakers live in Georgia and Turkey.

Only Georgian is a written language. It is attested since the 5th century and has a rich literary tradition.

There have been several attempts to link the Kartvelian languages to other language families, for example with Basque or with Hurrian and Urartian of the ancient Near East and the ancient Caucasus, respectively.

The South Caucasian languages have on an average about 30 consonant phonemes, but only 5-7 vowel phonemes.
The plosives and affricates of South Caucasian languages exhibit a three-way opposition: voiced, voiceless aspirated, and voiceless ejective. The fricatives show a binary opposition between voiced and voiceless.
Complex consonant clusters are very common in Georgian and Svan, but not in Mingrelian and Laz.

Laz and Mingrelian are clear-cut agglutinative languages, whereas Georgian and Svan have both agglutinative and fusional features.
The South Causasian noun has seven cases or more. In Georgian and Svan a split ergative system is in use: The subject of transitive and medial verbs in the aorist series are marked by the 'narrative' (or 'ergative') case, the direct object of transitive verbs requires the nominative case. In Mingrelian the narrative case marks all subjects of all verbs in the aorist series. Laz uses the narrative case to mark subjects of transitive and medial verbs in all series.
South Caucasian verbs can indicate person and number agreement with subject, direct object, and indirect object, although markers for all three arguments cannot appear in one verb form.
In South Caucasian a certain number of agglutinative verb paradigms, also called 'screeves', express tense, aspect, and mood. On the basis of morphological criteria screeves are grouped in series. The term screeve is derived from a Georgian word meaning 'row' and used to avoid the traditional term 'tense' with its pronounced temporal implications.

According to shared morphosyntactic and semantic features verbs are generally divided into four classes: 'transitive', 'intransitive', 'medial', and 'inversion' verbs. 'Medial verbs' take the same case marking as transitive verbs. Since they denote intransitive actions they commonly do not take a direct object (at least there is no obligatory direct object) 'Inversion verbs', which are generally affective verbs, have a logical subject in the dative case and the direct object is marked by the nominative. There are three tense-aspect series/stems: present, aorist and perfect.

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