The Kartvelian languages are spoken primarily in Georgia, with smaller groups of speakers in Turkey, Azerbaijan, Iran, Russia and Israel. There are approximately 5.2 million speakers of this language family group worldwide. The Kartvelian language group is not related to any language groups in the world (Indo-European, Semitic, or Turkic).

Geographic distribution

The verb

The verb system distinguishes the categories of person, number (singular and plural, with differentiation of inclusive and exclusive plural in Svan), tense, aspect, mood, voice, causative, and version (the latter defines the subject–object relations). These categories are expressed mainly by the use of prefixes and suffixes, as well as by internal inflection (changes within the verb stem), which is frequently a redundant grammatical feature.

The system of verb conjugation in Kartvelian languages is multipersonal; that is, the verb forms can indicate the person of the subject (the agent) and of the direct or indirect object by the use of special prefixes. (The subject of the third person is marked by endings in Georgian and Mingrelo-Laz and by a lack of ending in Svan.) An example is Georgian m-c̣er-s “he writes to me,” m-xaṭav-s “he paints me,” in which m denotes the first person as object and s marks the third person as subject. The finite verb forms fall into three series of tenses: the present tense, the aorist (indicating occurrence, usually past, without reference to completion, duration, or repetition), and the perfect or resultative (denoting an action in the past not witnessed by the speaker).

There is a developed system of preverbs, elements preceding the verb stem and attached to it, with local meaning indicating location of the action in space, as well as its direction (especially in Mingrelian? and Laz). Simple preverbs are combined into complex ones. The preverbs are also used to mark the aspect (nature of the action indicated by the verb, with reference to its beginning, duration, completion), which is used for the formation of future and aorist forms—e.g., Georgian c̣er-s “he writes” versus da-c̣er-s “he will write” and da-c̣er-a “he wrote.”

Kartvelian languages tree