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Overview of the Georgian Language:
Georgian is the official language of the country of Georgia, one of the former Soviet Republics located in the Caucasus. Within Georgia, the Georgian language is used in all areas of society, and a working knowledge of the language is essential for effective communication in the country. There are also people who speak Georgian in parts of Iran, Azerbaijan, Turkey, and Russia.
Georgian is a member of the South Caucasian family of languages. It is the most widely spoken member of that language family. Georgian has a number of regional dialects which are usually mutually intelligible.
The Georgian Alphabet
The current Georgian alphabet, called the Mkhedruli alphabet, appeared between the eleventh and twelfth centuries. The direction of writing (from left to right), the use of separate symbols for the vowel sounds, the numerical values assigned to the letters in earlier times, and the order of the letters all point to significant Greek influence on the script. The Mkhedruli alphabet is shown below.
The Mkhedruli alphabet has 33 letters. It does not have capital and lowercase letters. Georgian is written from left to right, just like English.
Two older alphabets, the Asomtavruli and the Nuskhuri, are still sometimes used for religious purposes by the Georgian Orthodox church. In such writing, Asomtavruli letters are used as capitals and Nuskhuri letters are used for lowercase text.
Generally speaking, the written forms of Georgian words and their pronunciation correspond extremely closely. Certain aspects of Georgian pronunciation can be tricky for non-native speakers, including the sounds of some of the consonants. Practice is required to learn the distinctions between ‘voiced’, ‘voiceless aspirated’, and ‘voiceless ejective’ sounds. Georgian has five vowel sounds. In general, there are no diphthongs in Georgian.
Stress in Georgian is dynamic and very weak. It is not significant at the lexical level (that is, it is not used to differentiate between words that are otherwise the same). In words of two and three syllables, the stress is usually on the first. In longer words, the stress is often on the third syllable from the end (the antepenultimate). However, there is often a secondary stress in addition to the main one in longer words.
Georgian has a very rich vocabulary that is capable of meeting the widest range of demands, from traditional folk tales, through lyrical poetry, to the requirements of modern science and technology. Throughout its long history, Georgian has borrowed from the other languages with which it came into contact, and this process continues up to the present day. The Arabic, Persian, and Turkish languages constitute a very important source of loanwords. Greek, Latin, and the major European languages (including Russian) have also provided a very large number of loanwords. With the exception of some early loans directly from Greek, these borrowings have largely been via Russian, and are of relatively recent origin.
Georgian nouns do not distinguish gender. However, nouns, adjectives, and pronouns are declined to show case, meaning they change form to indicate their role in a sentence. Georgian has seven cases. There are no articles in the Georgian language. Georgian uses post positions (which come after the words they apply to) in place of the English prepositions (which come before such words).
The Georgian verb is relatively complex. The familiar tenses (past, present, future, etc.) are replaced by what are known as ‘screeves’, which are characterized by more than just differences in the time reference. Georgian numbers are also interesting. The Georgian counting system is fundamentally vigesimal (that is, based on 20), with some decimal features.
Overview of the Russian Language:
The Russian language is the official language of the country of Russia. Russian is also widely spoken in the former Soviet Republics and in the former Warsaw Pact countries of Eastern and Central Europe, where many people learn Russian as a second language in schools. In addition, Russian is one of the official languages of the United Nations (along with English, Spanish, French, Chinese and Arabic).
Russian belongs to the East Slavic branch of the Slavic subfamily of Indo-European languages. Other languages in this group include Belorussian and Ukrainian.
Linguists believe that the Slavic languages have retained the features of the original Proto-Indo-European language to a much greater extent than have the Germanic and Romance languages. The spoken Slavic languages show a great deal of similarity to each other, although some are written in the Cyrillic alphabet and others in the Latin alphabet.
Russian is written in the Cyrillic alphabet, which is believed to have been introduced by the Greek missionaries Cyril and Methodius in the 9th century. The Cyrillic alphabet is based on the Greek alphabet, with the addition of several letters borrowed from Hebrew to represent sounds that do not exist in Greek.
The original written language in those early times was called Old Church Slavonic. The first documents written in Russian, rather than Old Church Slavonic, date back to the 11th century. By the 13th century, there were noticeable differences between Russian and Ukrainian; and by the 16th century, Belorussian appears as a separate language.
Many Russian vocabulary words have entered the English language– politburo, vodka, borshcht, tsar, steppe, and tundra, to name just a few.
As you are learning Russian vocabulary, you will notice some words that bear a resemblance to English. But be on your guard against false resemblances! For example, the Russian word replica means “report” or “stage cue”. The word is actually means “from” in Russian! And the Russian word sam is pronounced just like the English word “some”, but means “by himself”.
Formal and Informal Address in the Russian Language:
There are two forms of address in the Russian language, the polite second person plural vy and the familiar second person singular ty. It is considered rude to use the familiar form when first meeting someone, unless the person you are addressing is a small child. Always use the polite form of address until you are invited to switch to the familiar. An invitation to do so is a sign that your friendship has reached a warmer, more intimate level.
Many people who are learning to speak Russian agree that one of the most difficult aspects of Russian to master is the correct placement of stress within words. The stress is mobile, and does not follow strict rules. In the Russian language, nouns (as well as adjectives, and most pronouns) decline in six cases. Because Russian is so highly inflected, the word order in Russian sentences is fluid (unlike in English). The declined endings of Russian nouns identify the subject and the direct and indirect objects, as well as other meanings.
Russian verbs possess a feature called “aspect”. The aspect can be perspective or imperfection, showing perpetual action and action that is completed. A variety of prefixes that help create perspective verbs can let a single Russian verb convey shades of meaning that frequently require several words in English, or defy translation altogether.