Mingrelian language

მარგალური ნინა margaluri nina
Native to Georgia
Region Samegrelo, Abkhazia
Ethnicity Georgians
Native speakers
344,000 (2015)[1]
Georgian script
Language codes
ISO 639-3 xmf
Glottolog ming1252
ELP Mingrelian
Kartvelian languages.svg

Mingrelian or Megrelian (მარგალური ნინა, margaluri nina) is a Kartvelian language spoken in Western Georgia (regions of Samegrelo and Abkhazia), primarily by the Mingrelians. The language was also called Iverian (Georgian iveriuli ena) in the early 20th century. Mingrelian has historically been only a regional language within the boundaries of historical Georgian states and then modern Georgia, and the number of younger people speaking it has decreased substantially, with UNESCO designating it as a "definitely endangered language".[2]

Distribution and status

No reliable figure exists for the number of native speakers of Mingrelian, but it is estimated to be between 300,000 and 500,000. Most speakers live in the Samegrelo (Mingrelia) region of Georgia, which comprises the Odishi Hills and the Kolkheti Lowlands, from the Black Sea coast to the Svan Mountains and the Tskhenistskali River. Smaller enclaves existed in Abkhazia,[3] but the ongoing civil unrest there has displaced many Mingrelian speakers to other regions of Georgia. Their geographical distribution is relatively compact, which has helped to promote the transmission of the language between generations.

Mingrelian is generally written in the Georgian alphabet, but it has no written standard or official status. Almost all speakers are bilingual; they use Mingrelian mainly for familiar and informal conversation, and Georgian (or, for expatriate speakers, the local official language) for other purposes.


Mingrelian is one of the Kartvelian languages. It is closely related to Laz, from which it has become differentiated mostly in the past 500 years, after the northern (Mingrelian) and southern (Laz) communities were separated by Turkic invasions. It is somewhat less closely related to Georgian, the two branches having separated in the first millennium BC or earlier, and even more distantly related to Svan, which is believed to have branched off in the 2nd millennium BC or earlier.[4] Mingrelian is not mutually intelligible with any of those other languages, although it is said that its speakers can recognize many Laz words.

Some linguists refer to Mingrelian and Laz as Zan languages.[5] Zan had already split into Mingrelian and Laz variants by early modern times, however, and it is not customary to speak of a unified Zan language today.

The oldest surviving texts in Mingrelian date from the 19th century, and are mainly items of ethnographical literature. The earliest linguistic studies of Mingrelian include a phonetic analysis by Aleksandre Tsagareli (1880), and grammars by Ioseb Kipshidze (1914) and Shalva Beridze (1920). From 1930 to 1938 several newspapers were published in Mingrelian, such as Kazakhishi Gazeti, Komuna, Samargalosh Chai, Narazenish Chai, and Samargalosh Tutumi. More recently, there has been some revival of the language, with the publication of a Mingrelian–Georgian dictionary by Otar Kajaia, a Mingrelian-German dictionary by Otar Kajaia and Heinz Fähnrich, and books of poems by Lasha Gakharia, Edem Izoria, Lasha Gvasalia, Guri Otobaia, Giorgi Sichinava, Jumber Kukava, and Vakhtang Kharchilava, as well as books and magazines published by Jehovah's Witnesses.[6]



Mingrelian has five primary vowels a, e, i, o, u. The Zugdidi-Samurzaqano dialect has a sixth, ə, which is the result of reduction of i and u.

Mingrelian vowels
Front Back
unrounded rounded
High i [i] [ə]) ჷ u [u]
Mid e [ɛ] o [ɔ]
Low a [ɑ]


The consonant inventory of Mingrelian is almost identical to that of Laz, Georgian, and Svan.

Mingrelian consonants
Labial Dental Alveolar Velar Uvular Glottal
Nasal m [m] n [n]
Plosive voiced b [b] d [d] g [ɡ]
aspirated p [pʰ] t [tʰ] k [kʰ]
ejective [pʼ] ţ [tʼ] ǩ [kʼ] [qʼ] ɔ [ʔ]
Affricate voiced ž [d͡z] dj [d͡ʒ]
aspirated ʒ [t͡sʰ] ç [t͡ʃʰ]
ejective ǯ [t͡sʼ] č [t͡ʃʼ]
Fricative voiced v [v] z [z] j [ʒ] ɣ [ɣ]
voiceless s [s] ş [ʃ] x [x] h [h]
Trill r [r]
Approximant central y [j]
lateral l [l]

Phonetic processes

Certain pairs of vowels reduce to single vowels:[clarification needed]

  • ae and aieee
  • ao, oa and ooaaa
  • ou → uu → u

In Zugdidi-Samurzaqano dialect the vowels i and u also often reduce to ə.

Before consonants, gr.

In word-initial prevocalic and intervocalic positions, q' → ʔ. Before the consonant v, q' → ɔ/ǩ.

The common types are:

  • voicing/devoicing of voiceless/voiced consonants before voiced/voiceless ones (respectively).
  • glottalization of consonants before the glottalized ones and the glottal stop.

If the stem contains r then the suffixes -ar and -ur transform to -al and -ul, e.g. xorga (Khorga, the village)→ xorg-ul-i ("Khorgan"). The rule is not valid if in the stem with r an l appears later, e.g. marṭvili ("Martvili", the town) → marṭvil-ur-i (adj. "Martvilian")

In a stem with voiceless affricates or voiceless sibilants, a later ǯ is deaffricated to d, e.g. orcxonǯi orcxondi "comb", č'anǯi č'andi "fly (insect)", isinǯi isindi "arrow", etc.

  • in all dialects of Mingrelian, before consonants lr.
  • in the Martvili subdialect in word-initial prevocalic position, l → y → ∅ and in intervocalic position l → ∅[further explanation needed]

Between the vowels the organic[clarification needed] v disappears, e.g. xvavi (Geo. "abundance, plenty") → *xvai xvee (id.), mṭevani (Geo. "raceme") → ţiani (id.), etc.

Before the stops and affricates, an inorganic[clarification needed] augmentation n may appear (before labials n → m).


Mingrelian is written in the Mkhedruli script.

Mkhedruli Transliteration IPA transcription
a ɑ
b b
g ɡ
d d
e ɛ
v v
z z
t t
i i
l l
m m
n n
y j
o ɔ
r r
s s
u u
ƨ ə
p p
k k
ɣ ɣ
ş ʃ
ç t͡ʃ
ts / ʒ t͡s
ž d͡z
tz / ǯ t͡sʼ
ç̌ t͡ʃʼ
x x
j d͡ʒ
h h



The main dialects and subdialects of Mingrelian are:

  • Zugdidi-Samurzakano or Northwest dialect
    • Dzhvari
  • Senaki or Southeast dialect
    • Martvili-Bandza
    • Abasha

Famous speakers


  1. ^ Mingrelian at Ethnologue (19th ed., 2016)
  2. ^ "UNESCO Atlas of the World's Languages in danger". www.unesco.org. Retrieved 4 April 2018.
  3. ^ "Georgia". U.S. Department of State. First paragraph, third sentence. Retrieved 9 April 2016. The United States supports Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders, and does not recognize the Abkhazia and South Ossetia regions of Georgia, currently occupied by Russia, as independent.
  4. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-06-10. Retrieved 2011-06-10.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  5. ^ K2olxuri Ena (Colchian Language) Archived March 1, 2012, at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ "იეჰოვაშ მოწმეეფიშ გიშაშკუმალირი ბიბლიური წიგნეფი დო ჟურნალეფი". jw.org. Retrieved 4 April 2018.
  7. ^ https://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20100708/ap_on_re_eu/eu_georgia_oldest_person
  • Aleksandre Tsagareli (1880), Megrelskie Etiudi, Analiz Fonetiki Megrelskogo Yazika ("Megrelian Studies — The Analysis of Phonetics of Megrelian Language"). (in Russian)
  • Ioseb Kipshidze (1914), Grammatika Mingrel’skogo (Iverskogo) Jazyka ("Grammar of Megrelian (Iverian) Language"). (in Russian)
  • Shalva Beridze (1920), Megruli (Iveriuli) Ena ("Megrelian (Iverian) Language"). (in Georgian)
  • Rusudan Amirejibi-Mullen, Nana Danelia and Inga Dundua (2006), kolkhuri (megrul-lazuri) ena (Tbilisi: Universali).
  • Laurence Broers (2012),"'Two Sons of One Mother'. Nested Identities and Centre-Periphery Politics in Post-Soviet Georgia". In Andreas Schonle, Olga Makarova and Jeremy Hicks (eds.), When the Elephant Broke Out of the Zoo. A Festschrift for Donald Rayfield (Stanford Slavic Studies, Volume 39).
  • Otar Kajaia (2001-2002), Georgian-Mingrelian dictionary.
  • Alio Kobalia (2010), Georgian-Mingrelian dictionary.

External links