ქართველური ენები

Kartvelian Languages



Kartvelian languages represent the southern group of Caucasian languages. This group consists of three languages: Georgian, Svan and Laz (Chan)-Megrelian.

The Laz and Megrelian languages represent two dialects of one language, which is the third member of the Cartvelian language group. Conventionaly this language is called  Zan.


Explanation of terms

Svans call Megrelians  "Zan". Besides the Svans, the Cabardinians call the area, occupied by Megrelians  "Zane"  ("ზანე").
The form "San", which we find in the texts of Procopius of Caesaria and other greek writers, should mean "zan".  The old greek sources identify the San nation with "macron":  "The Sans, which earlier were called macrons... ",  Strobon wrote. "The macrons are called the Sans now" ,  notices Stephan from Bysantz. "The ancestors of the Chans, barbarians  from the very beginning, were called earlier the Sans ... ". "The Sans, now called  the Chans  ...",  writes Procopius of Caesaria. The name of one village "Sazano" in Imereti and the name of the river "Zana" in Megrelian prove the historical evidence of the notion "Zan".

The ethnical value and political importance of this notions (Laz, Macron, Chan, San, Zan) in different epochs  are the result of historical research. To stress is, that the term " Zan" according to its historical tradition  exists till now.

All mentioned above allows us to use the  term "Zan"  (it is used also for a designation of the  parent language of  Chan and Megrelian) as a conventional term.

Area of distribution

The Mengrelian language is spoken in the western part of  Georgia, namely:  in the Odishi Hills and in the Kolcheti lowlands - from the sea-coast of the Black Sea as far as the Svan mountains and  the  river Tskhenistsqali.

The  area of distribution of the Chan language is limited: The Chans live along the sea-coast of the Black Sea starting with the Sarpi village up to Rize. From the eastern side the spread area of their language is restricted by the mountains. According to  Joseph Qipshidze, the Chan language can be spread to the West only  through one gorge  with  8 chan villages at the Chkhala river. The Chan language had to be spread along the whole sea-coast of the Black Sea towards Trabson. Nikolaj Marr cites  the quotation of  the laz bai  Favzy from Atina:

"The inhabitants of  Istanbul  call the  people,  who live on the sea-coast of the Black Sea,  the Laz. The last  includes also the inhabitants of  Sinop and Samsun. The inhabitants of  Sinop  in their turn call the inhabitants of  Samsun Laz; the inhabitants of  Samsun call Laz those, who live in  Trapesun; the inhabitants of  Trapesun - the inhabitants of Riza,  and the last ones call us the Laz ".
Chania is a part of Turkey. There is  only one  village, called Sarpi, which  is situated partly on the territory of Georgia and partly in Turkey.  The border between Georgia and Turkey goes through this village and divides it into two parts.


Dialect varieties

The Zan dialects, Laz and Megrelian are divided in their turn in  subdialects.

There are three main major dialects of Laz: Khopa, Vitse-Arkabe, and Atina. Their distribution follows a line along the Black Sea from northwest to southwest. In most respects, Vitse-Arkabe and Atina are similar to each other, and opposed to Khopa, though there are some respects in which Vitse-Arkabe is closer to Khopa, and the two are opposed to Atina.

Megrelian is divided into two main dialects, Zugdid-Saurzaqan, sometimes called the Northwest dialect, and Senak, sometimes referred to as the Southeast dialect. Within the former, the Dzhvar subdialect is recognized; and within the Senak dialect, are the Martvil-Bandz and Abash subdialects. 

The former Zan alphabet

The consonant system of Zan (Laz and Megrelian)

Copyright ARMAZI Project / Manana Tandashvili, / Lana Ahlborn Frankfurt / Tbilisi 2001. All rights reserved.

საავტორო უფლება ეკუთვნის "არმაზის" პროექტს და მანანა თანდაშვილს,/   ლანა ალბორნს  ფრანკფურტი / თბილისი 2001 წ.