Research - Kartvelian


Egyptian, Urartian, Hurrian or Mitannic, Elamite, Hittite, Sumerian, Basque, Etruscan, Cretan, Greek, Latin, North Caucasian languages, Semitic, Ural-Altaic are languages that at different times, different scholars have connected the Kartvelian languages. But how is it possible for a language family spoken by only about 5 million people today – a language discounted by many scholars as being completely irrelevant for prehistoric studies, to be connected to a great number of both dead and living languages?

Answering this question is one of the major goals of the Center for Research of Kartvelian Civilization.

The Kartvelian language family comprises Kartuli (Georgian), Megruli, Lazuri and Svanuri languages. They are spoken over a large territory to the south of the Caucasian mountains. J. A. Guldenstedt (1745-1781), a German scholar was the first to notice their genetic connections, later confirmed by G. Rozen, M. Brosset, F. Bopp and others in the 19th century. 

Like many languages, the Kartvelian languages are thought to have derived from a common ancestor, usually referred to as Common Kartvelian. It is assumed that the branching off of Common Kartvelian started in the 3rd millennium B.C. with the Svan language separating from the basic core. 

The 2nd millennium B.C. marked the separation of the Zan language which split into Megruli and Laz languages around the first millennium B.C. As a result, the Svan and Kartuli languages have existed for 5000 years, and Megruli and Lazuri for at least 3 millennia. Such longevity is unmatched among other members of the same language family.

The problem of the genesis of Kartvelian languages occupied the minds of Europeans in the 17th-18th centuries. Then, the discussion focused on two major aspects: first, the relation between Kartvelian and the language of the ancient population of Spain, and second, the genetic contacts between Kartvelian and Egyptian. 

Later Kartvelian was linked to Greek and Latin, an idea supported by M. Brosset (1802-1880) and F. Bopp (1791-1867). A different view, connecting Kartvelian with Ural-Altaic (Turanic) was also expressed. Stating his views on the genesis of Kartvelian languages, F. Müller (1823-1900) disconnected them from both Indo-European and Turanic, linking them instead to a much larger group of ancient languages which spread in the Causasus and its southern territories before these were settled by Semitic, Aryan and Ural-Altaic tribes. This view was shared by Al. Tsagareli, then a Professor at Petersburg University. 

The view on Kartvelo-Indo-European contacts was revived in the 20th century by a German scholar G. Deeters, a Russian Kartvelologist G. Klimov, and Georgian linguists A. Shanidze, M. Andronikashvili, T. Gamkrelidze and G. Machavariani. 

Ivane Javakhishvili first formulated the theory on the genetic relationship of Kartvelian and Caucasian languages. Developing I. Javakhishvili’s theory, A. Chikobava expanded the area of genetic relations of Ibero-Caucasian languages to include the dead languages of Asia Minor. He wrote: “The deeper we look into the history of Kartvelian and other Ibero-Caucasian languages, the more apparent their genetic contacts with the languages of ancient civilizations of the Near East and Mesopotamia become: Urartian, Hittite, Sumerian, Elamite…”. The Kartvelian languages have also been linked to a number of languages of ancient civilizations in the Mediterranean basin (Cretan, Etruscan, and Basque). 

It follows that scholars have attributed the Kartvelian languages to two worlds – the world of ancient and dead languages of Mesopotamia, Near East, North Africa and Mediterranean as well as the world of modern and living languages of Indo-European origin. 
To make things worse, the Kartvelian languages have been genetically linked with Semitic, too (N. Marr, A. Gleie). In a word, Kartvelian which is also called Japhetic is connected with Semitic and Hamitic (modern Afro-asiatic family) taking us back to the Bible, which tells us not only of the genetic identity of Semitic, Hamitic and Japhetic, but also of the fact that Japhetic was the oldest:

“And Noah was five hundred years old, and Noah begot Shem, Ham, and Japheth” (Ge 5:32).
“And children were born also to Shem, the father of all the children of Eber, the brother of Japheth the elder” (Ge 10:21).