Sunday, April 10, 2011

April Diversion

I'm still doing my regular routine with Norwegian, Polish and Turkish, with the exception of no Norwegian movie this week.

But, like last month's little detour to take a look at Anishinaabemowin, I've decided to take a couple days this last week and look at something completely foreign to me. This was really fueled by my interest in Turkish. I started looking at Turkey's surrounding countries and their languages.

So, this week's post is going to be all about Georgian!

Georgian, or Kartuli, is a South Caucasian language spoken by about 4.5 million people, mostly within Georgia. It's writing system is unique and has changed significantly over the centuries. The name of the modern alphabet in use is called mkhedruli, meaning cavalry or military. It's phonetic and has 33 characters consisting of 5 vowels and 28 consonants. I took some time to learn the alphabet. It was much easier that I thought it would be. Total time to actually learn the alphabet was probably two hours or so, drilling included. For kicks, I left it for a couple days, then came back to it to see how much I had retained. I'd remembered all of it. This gives me hope for learning any other different written system in the future - something I'd feared before.

Here is the complete mkhedruli alphabet:

The vowels: ა ე ი ო უ

The consonants: ბ გ დ ვ ზ თ კ ლ მ ნ პ ჟ რ ს ტ ფ ქ ღ ყ შ ჩ ც ძ წ ჭ ხ ჯ ჰ

Consonants are often clustered, with seemingly difficult pronunciation, but with very little practice I was able to reproduce all sounds with ease with the exception of one: , which is a q sound with a very sharp glottal stop. There are a few of these sharp glottal stopped consonants, which almost give the language a click-like characteristic to it. It's very interesting to listen to.

Georgian has remained stable grammatically for centuries. It's not unusual for a middle school-aged child to be able to read 12th century literature.

It is an agglutinative language. Like many agglutinative languages, it has post-positions instead of prepositions. It's syntax is largely Subject-Verb-Object, but it's not strict. Subject-Object-Verb syntax is also used. It has vowel syncope, much like I discovered in certain dialects of Anishinaabemowin. Stress is very light and usually on the first syllable.

There is little in the way of Georgian self-study material. There is a decent course with audio called "Beginner's Georgian", written by Dodona Kiziria. There are two decent grammar-based courses, one by Hewitt and another by Aronson. There also appears to be a "TalkNow" computer-based course. Aside from that, there really isn't much else out there. There seems to be a couple of in-country study programs in Tbilisi too.

It's been an interesting couple of days looking at the language. Would I take the time to study it in depth? Probably not. But it's opened up a path to learning a language with another writing system - something I'd considered too difficult before.

I'm kind of liking the idea of taking these short language excursions every now and then. I don't know that I'll do it monthly, but it's something that I'll at least occasionally do. It helps keep my sanity in check with my current language goals.

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