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Svan language

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Svan language

Svan
ლუშნუ ნინ Lušnu nin
Pronunciation
Native to Georgia
Region Svaneti
Kodori Gorge)
Native speakers
est. 30,000 (1997)[1] or 15,000  (2000)[2]
Kartvelian
  • Svan
Georgian script
Language codes
ISO 639-3 sva
Glottolog svan1243[3]
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The Svan language (Svan: ლუშნუ ნინ lušnu nin; Svaneti primarily by the Svan people.[4][5] With its speakers variously estimated to be between 30,000 and 80,000, the UNESCO designates Svan as a "definitely endangered language".[6]

Features

Familial features

Like all languages of the Kartvelian family, Svan has a large number of consonants. It has agreement between subject and object, and a split-ergative morphosyntactic system. Verbs are marked for aspect, evidentiality and "version".

Distinguishing features

Svan retains the /a ɛ i ɔ u æ ø y/ plus /ə eː/, a total of 18 vowels (Georgian, by contrast, has just five).

Its morphology is less regular than that of the other three sister languages, and there are notable differences in verbal inflections.

Distribution

Svan is the native language of fewer than 30,000 Enguri, Tskhenistskali and Kodori rivers. Some Svan speakers live in the Kodori Valley of the de facto independent republic of Abkhazia. Although conditions there make it difficult to reliably establish their numbers, there are only an estimated 2,500 Svan individuals living there.[1]

The language is used in familiar and casual social communication. It has no written standard or official status. Most speakers also speak Mingrelian and Laz). Svan is believed to have separated from them in the 2nd millennium BC or earlier, about one thousand years before Georgian branched off from the other two.

Dialects

The Svan language is divided into the following dialects and subdialects:

  • Upper Svan (about 15,000 speakers)
    • Upper Bal: Ushguli, Kala, Ipar, Mulakh, Mestia, Lenzer, Latal.
    • Lower Bal: Becho, Tskhumar, Etser, Par, Chubekh, Lakham.
  • Lower Svan (about 12,000 speakers)
    • Lashkhian: Lashkh.
    • Lentekhian: Lentekhi, Kheled, Khopur, Rtskhmelur, Cholur

Phonology

Consonants

Bilabial Dental Palatal Velar Uvular Glottal
Plosive b
ფ ბ პ
d
თ დ ტ
ɡ
ქ გ კ

ჴ ყ
ʔ
Fricative f v
ჶ ვ
s z
ს ზ
ʃ ʒ
შ ჟ
x ɣ
ხ ღ
h
Affricate tsʰ dz tsʼ
ც ძ წ
tʃʰ tʃʼ
ჩ ჯ ჭ
Nasal m
n
Liquid l, r
ლ, რ
j
w

Vowels

Front Central Back
unrounded rounded unrounded rounded
short long short long short long short long
Close /i/

i
/iː/
ი̄
ī
/y/
უ̈, ჳი
ü
/yː/
უ̄̈
ű
/u/

u
/uː/
უ̄
ū
Close-mid /eː/

ė
/ə/¹

ə
Open-mid /ɛ/

e
/ɛː/
ე̄
ē
/œ/
ო̈, ჳე
ö
/œː/
ო̄̈
ő
/ɔ/

o
/ɔː/
ო̄
ō
Open /æ/
ა̈
ä
/æː/
ა̄̈
ã
/a/

a
/aː/
ა̄
ā
  1. Freely varies between [ə] and [ɨ]

Apart from the odd /eː/, only Upper Bal and Lashkh dialects have long vowels. Only Upper Bal has /æ, æː/; Lashkh does not have the front rounded vowels /œ, œː, y, yː/.

Alphabet

The alphabet, illustrated above, is similar to the Georgian script:

  • /f/
  • /q⁽ʰ⁾/
  • /ʔ/
  • /j/
  • /w/
  • /ə/
  • /eː/

These are supplemented by diacritics on the vowels (the umlaut for front vowels and macron for length), though those are not normally written. The digraphs

  • ჳი /y/
  • ჳე /œ/

are used in the Lower Bal and Lentekh dialects, and occasionally in Upper Bal; these sounds do not occur in Lashkh dialect.

References

Notes

  1. ^ a b prachen, Documentation of Endangered Languages)Sdrohter Bekumentation DoDoBeS (
  2. ^ Svan at Ethnologue (17th ed., 2013)
  3. ^ Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Svan". Glottolog 2.2. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. 
  4. ^ Levinson, David. Ethnic Groups Worldwide: A Ready Reference Handbook. Phoenix: Oryx Press, 1998. p 34
  5. ^ Stephen F. Jones. Svans. World Culture Encyclopedia. Retrieved on March 13, 2011
  6. ^ UNESCO Interactive Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger

General References

  • Kevin Tuite, Svan. Université de Montréal. ISBN 3-89586-154-5.

External links

  • Svan at TITUS database
  • ECLING - Svan (includes audio/video samples).
  • Svan alphabet and language at Omniglot
  • Svan Youth literature in Svan language
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