Georgian Script
There are about 7,000 languages today in the world (the exact number of which is not available even to linguists), and the total number of scripts is -14, those are:
1. Chinese
2. Greek
3. Latin
4. Hebrew
5. Georgian
6. Syriac
7. Arabic
8. Armenian
9. Ethiopian
10. Japanese
11. Slavic-Cyrillic
12. Indian
13. Mongolian
14. Korean
The introduction of the Georgian literary language is directly linked to the first king of Georgia, Parnavaz the 1st, 3rd century B.C.

"So Parnavaz was the first king of Kartli from the relatives of Kartlos. He spread the Georgian language, and no other language was intended for Kartli then Georgian. And this created Georgian literacy"- tells the 11th century Georgian historian Leonti Mroveli in the "Life of Kartli" (I, 1955: 26).

The basis of the Georgian literary language became the capital's spoken language. Mtskheta, the first capital of the entire Georgia, was the most important economic and cultural center of the Caucasus even before Parnavaz united the separate Georgian kingdoms into one country, It controlled most of the caravan routes to the South Caucasus, including the so-called Great Silk Road, which, according to archaeological data, was supposed to function as a trade and transit highway in the Bronze Age; It also controlled sheep pastures in the summer and winter, which were traditionally crucial to the economy of the Caucasus, and so on. For these reasons, the densely populated ancient and Hellenistic Mtskheta was home to several considerable diasporas along with the Georgians: the Jews, Persians, Greeks, Armenians, etc. Georgians of Mtskheta, and this was natural for the capital, were a conglomerate of other Georgian tribes, and therefore the Mtskheta language was not identical in its phonetic or its lexical composition to any other local dialect. It represented only those sounds, phonetic processes and vocabulary that were common to all Georgian dialects of the time. In other words, the Mtskheta language was a super-dialect or inter-dialect.

But no matter how rich the vocabulary of the Mtskheta language was, it still could not carry the functions of a state language, because it did not have a sufficient terminological basis for the clerical, administrative, diplomatic, military, economic, educational, scientific, and other fields of the state. The declaration of Georgian as a state language was preceded by an intensive process of terminological support, which has accompanied it at all stages of its functioning and continues to the present day. This terminological work, organized by Parnavaz, in parallel with the development of terminology and filling the terminology pool with field vocabulary from Georgian language dialects, was mainly manifested in the borrowing of terms from different languages.

The fact that the Georgian literary language was indeed formed during the reign of King Parnavaz during the Hellenistic era is best attested by the Georgian administrative and military terminology borrowed from Ancient Persian, whose phonetic form excludes their borrowing in the post-Achaemenid era, i.e. Pityakhsh "ruler", "nation’s head" (borrowed from Middle Persian, i.e., Persian from the Sassanid era: Bidiakhsh); Sardali "Commander", "Leader" (must have been borrowed from Middle Persian: Salar, which we have in our terms – Spasalar, etc., as well as surnames - Salaridze, Saralidze), etc.

Georgian language - declared as state language in 284 B.C. by King Parnavaz, became not only the language of the royal chancellery, but was also given a polyvalent function and became the only language of education, science, literature, culture, and religion in the Georgian country and remains so up to the present day.

The geographic range of the Georgian language mainly includes the entire historical territory of the Georgian state in the South Caucasus, whose indigenous Georgian tribes represented its autochthons. These are: the current state of Georgia; Taoklardjeti (now part of Turkey); Saingilo (now part of Azerbaijan) and others. Outside the borders of historical Georgia, the Georgian-speaking tribe lives compactly in Iran (Fereydan province).

From the Hellenistic period until the end of the 19th century, until it was supplanted by Russian, Georgian was the language of interpersonal relations throughout the Caucasus.

European and Georgian linguists have long disagreed about the origin of the Georgian language and its place in the genealogical classification of languages. At present, using the historical-comparative method, it has been established that the Georgian language belongs to the Iberian-Caucasian ("Iberian-Caucasian" is a linguistic term and does not equal a geographical term) group of Basque-Kartvelian languages. Along with the Basque-Kartvelian languages, the Iberian-Caucasian linguistic family includes the Abkhaz-Adygean and Nakh-Dagestani languages. In the group of Georgian languages, along with Georgian language, relative (i.e., of common origin) languages Svanuri and Zanuri (Mingrelian-Chanuri) are included. The question of separating Georgian, Svanuri and Zanuri from Kartvelian is debatable. According to some views, the Svanuri division dates to the 2nd millennium B.C. and Zanuri as early as the beginning of the first millennium B.C. There is an opinion that the Svanuri language separated as early as in 10th century BC., And the period of the division of Zanuri is considered the border between the Old and New Chronicles. Recently, the opinion has been expressed that the common Kartvelian language separation occurred at the turn of the centuries.

As we know, the Indo-European (Russian, Ukrainian, Armenian, Ossetian, Talysh, Tatar, Kurdish, Greek...), Altaic (Azeri, Kumyk, Karachai-Balkar, Nogai, Tatar, Turkmen) and Semitic languages (Syrian, the same Assyrian or Assoryan) are also widely spoken in the Caucasus. Thus, the term "Iberian-Caucasian", introduced by the Institute of Linguistics of the Georgian Academy of Sciences in 1946, contributes to the separation of "Caucasian” from "Caucasus" languages.

Georgian is one of the oldest living languages in the world. An all-Kartvelian indigenous language coexisted with the common Indo-European and common Semitic root languages, as clearly evidenced by mutual borrowing between the languages at the chronological level of the root languages. The date of the separation of the Georgian language from the common Kartvelian language, according to the traces of linguistic data, including linguistic contacts, should be considered the turn of the 5th-4th millennia B.C. From this period begins the independent history of the Georgian language. The peculiar antiquity of the Georgian language is evidenced by numerous facts of linguistic contacts; For example: vocabulary borrowed from the Georgian language in the common Aryan (common Indo-Iranian) root, for example: kac-i (man) "human" etc.

There is disagreement about the periodization of the fixed history of the Georgian language, there are following periods in it: Two - Old (5th – 6th centuries) and New (from 12th century to the present) Georgian - Arnold Chikobava; Three - Old (5th – 11th centuries), Middle (12th – 18th centuries) and New (from 19th century to the present) - Akaki Shanidze; Five - First (5th – 11th/12th cc.), Second (11th/12th – 17th/18th cc.), Third (from the second half of 18th – 19th cc.), Fourth (from 60s of 19th century until the beginning of 20th century.), the Fifth (from 10s of 20th century until today). - Besarion Jorbenadze; There is also an opinion among literary scholars that the periodization of the history of the Georgian language is artificially divided by linguists by chronological divisions, and that in fact the Georgian literary language is one - "Fifteen Centuries of Integrity" - Revaz Tvaradze.

The main reason for this controversy is not so much a disagreement based on periodization as the unprecedented conservatism of the Georgian literary language; Old Georgian and New Georgian are not two different languages, such as: Ancient Greek and New Greek, Latin and Italian, or Ancient Armenian (Grabar) and New Armenian (Ashkharabar), etc. Georgian literary language is one language: "Over the centuries, the old Georgian language has been superseded by the new Georgian language: There has been a shift in vocabulary and grammar, but this change more of a grammatic system is less than anticipated: Not only "The Knight in the Panther's Skin" (twelfth century), but "Live of Grigol Handzteli" (tenth century), and "The Passion of Saint Shushanik" (fifth century) are almost completely understandable to the modern cultural reader" (Arn. Chikobava), as it is the history of one language that needs periodization. Two different languages, for example, Latin and Italian histories obviously cannot have one, common periodization.

Modern scientific literature considers two main theories of the origin of the Georgian alphabet: Greek and Semitic.

According to Greek theory, the Georgian alphabet is related by genesis to the Greek alphabet. This opinion was first expressed by the German paleographer Victor Gardthausen (later Dmitry Bakradze, David Karichashvili, Corneli Kekelidze, Akaki Shanidze, Tamaz Gamkrelidze, Winfried Beder, Besik Khurtsilava supported the theory of the origin of the Georgian alphabet from the Greek).

According to him, the phonetic meaning and sequence of letters are similar to the Greek in Georgian.

Corneli Kekelidze provides several arguments to support these views:

- The writing direction in both cases is from left to right, unlike in Semitic scripts where the text is written from right to left;

- The Georgian alphabet, like the Greek alphabet, has letters signifying vowels. Such signs are alien to Semitic letters;

- The arrangement of the Georgian alphabet from A to K exactly repeats that of the Greek alphabet, except for only Zh’ani and Iota;

- The numerical values of the Georgian letters also coincide almost exactly with the numerical values of the corresponding Greek letters;

According to T. Gamkrelidze, the Georgian alphabet Asomtavruli originates from the Greek alphabet, but was created after the introduction of Christianity…

According to the Phoenician or Semitic theory, Greek and Georgian writing came from Phoenician. According to this theory, the Georgian script was created in the pre-Christian era.

The theory of the Semitic origin of the Georgian alphabet was suggested by the German scientist Friedrich Müller. He believed that the Georgian and Armenian alphabets must derive from the Aramaic-Persian script. Linguist Sergo Gorgadze ("Letters from the History of Georgia") shared the same opinion.

The Semitic theory of the origin of the Georgian alphabet was formulated on a scientific basis by Iv. Javakhishvili in his fundamental work: "Georgian Paleography". He thoroughly criticized the arguments of the Georgian alphabet being derived from the Greek. According to him, the Georgian alphabet is a monument of the pagan era and was created on the basis of Phoenician-Semitic (Aramaic), however later, in the Hellenistic era, was numerously influenced by the Greek monumental script. The opinion presented has been supported by further discoveries and research.

Particularly valuable in this respect was the The Armazi Bilingua (the epitaph on the tombstone written in two languages, Greek and Aramaic. Hence the name "bilingual" came from its origin. The inscription dates with 150 y.). The monument was discovered by Iv. Javakhishvili (George Tsereteli deciphered the text in 1941) he identified the type of the Aramaic alphabet (which he called the "Armazuli script"), compared it with the Georgian alphabet and concluded: the Georgian alphabet is related to the Armazuli, both of which come from a common source - the Aramaic. In the form of the Azmazuli alphabet an intermediary appeared through which the Georgian alphabet appeared in direct contact with the Aramaic alphabet.

Especially interesting are Ramaz Pataridze's provisions; In his book: "Georgian Asomtavruli" by combining historical sources, existing views, legend like versions and a thorough analysis of cryptograms (recording with conventional, secret signs) he suggested: the Georgian script seems to be created from the Phoenician-Babylonian script in pagan times; It precedes even the Greek monumental (classical) alphabet.

The Phoenician-Semitic origin of the Georgian alphabet is considered provident by many prominent Kartvelologists.

Georgian script reveals the most peculiarities in letter outlines and graphic system. Despite the similarity between the Greek letters of some characters, the graphic system of the Georgian script is still considered independent, as the outlines of most letters are original and not based on the letters of any other script.

The Georgian alphabet consists of three historical types, systems: Asomtavruli (khutsuri asomtavruli, round (mrgvlovani), asomtavruli), Nuskhuri (khutsuri, nuskha-khutsuri, angular) and Mkhedruli. Each has its own distinctive graphic style, but they are genetically dependent on each other. In accordance with the variability of letter outlines, the Nuskhuri script is the result of the development of Asomtavruli, and the Mkhedruli script is the result of Nuskhuri. These changes, in turn, were prompted by the demand for quick and streamlined writing brought forth by the growing demand for books. Finally, it was established that Asomtauruli is the product of a single creative act, Nuskhuri (ancient specimen - 835 AD, Sioni of Ateni) and Mkhedruli (875 AD, Sioni of Ateni) are the gradual results of its evolution. The fact that Nuskhuri and Mkhedruli are considered the oldest specimens in monuments of the same century (mixed Nuskhur-Mkhedruli inscription of the 7th century, Siioni of Ateni) does not mean that Mkhedruli descended from Nuskhuri as soon as it was formed, there is more than century-long interval between them, as from the formation of Nuskhuri to its first dated manuscript.

Asomtavruli — the oldest among discovered Georgian scripts. The manuscripts are found as of 1st century B.C. And it is believed that until then was the only Georgian script. Early specimens of Asomtavruli are the Davati Stella (367), inscriptions discovered by the Italian Virgilio Corbo in Palestine, one of which is dated as of 429 year and the other 444 year. Construction inscription of Sioni of Bolnisi dating to 493-494, Phalimpest manuscripts of 5th – 6th centuries, inscriptions of Mtskheta Cross of 6th – 7th centuries and others. And Christian inscription considered to be the oldest is the inscription carved on the pedestal of cross in Tskisi fortress made in 616/619 years.

Untli 11th century, found manuscripts are executed entirely in Asomtavruli; In the following centuries Asomtavruli was used for epigraphic inscriptions, as well as in manuscripts for titles and execution of superscript (at the top of the paragraph), Asomtavruli letters, which is why this type of writing is called "Asomtavruli". Due to the shapes of the outlines, it is also called "round".

Nuskhuri examples are found as of 9th century. Until the 11th century, it was mainly used for "strings" together with Mtavruli script. As of 12th century there are manuscripts, which are entirely written in Nuskhuri. It was widely used including 18th century. It is considered, that Nuskhuri script has developed under the influence of Greek “String” script (its type and not the form). Asomtavruli and Nuskhuri are also both called “Khutsuri”, because they were mainly used by clergy, “Khutsis” (priests) were using it for church needs.

The Nuskhuri script originated from already developed forms of Asomtavruli. In the 8th century, the transition to the arcuate forms of circular outlines was completed, and in some letters the two-line system was broken. The letters in Nuskhuri are distributed in four lines and thus are already of different heights. Nuskhuri is an angular, fast, right-tilted script. In addition, the letters are written in italic. This type of writing is also called Cursive. The tendency to create a unified outline is already evident in the outline of the letters, which was eventually formed in the Mkhedruli script.

Mkhedruli — is the name of Georgian contemporary alphabet. Examples exist as of 11th century, and it is considered, that it has originated from Khutsuri with the strong influence of style and calligraphy of Arabic script. Forms of Mkhedruli script are simple. The outlines of the letters are again built on the vertical, only their contours are rounded and form a single outline. Several letters of the script (ს (s), ძ (dz), მ (m)) have maintained Asomtavruli outline, however most of them underwent complex graphic alteration. In the Mkhedruli four-line system, the outlines of the letters are also of different heights.

Ilia Chavchavadze (1837-1907) and his allies carried out the most important reform of the Georgian script within the framework of creating a modern, Georgian literary language - when 5 outdated letters were removed from the alphabet, which were no longer used in the living Georgian language:

ჱ — He
ჲ — Iota
ჳ — vie
ჴ — khari
ჵ — hoe

However, the sounds marked with these letters are still found in Kartvelian languages or dialects (Khevsurian, Pshauri, Svan, Taoist, Imerkheuli, Fereydun ...).

Contemporary Georgian script has 33 letters. Below is a table in which the archaic letters are highlighted in gray.
Georgisch Alphabet
Text: Gela Chikhinashvili.
Translation: Maka Kutateladze.
© Ramaz Goiati