მარგალური ნინა margaluri nina
Native toGeorgia
Native speakers
345,000 (2015)[1]
Georgian script
Language codes
ISO 639-3xmf
Mingrelian is classified as Definitely Endangered by the UNESCO Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger

Mingrelian, or Megrelian (მარგალური ნინა, margaluri nina) is a Kartvelian language spoken in Western Georgia (regions of Mingrelia and Abkhazia), primarily by the Mingrelians. 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

Mingrelian-speaking population.

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 Mingrelia (or Samegrelo and formerly Odishi) region of Georgia, which comprises the Odishi Hills and the Colchis 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 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 mutually intelligible only with Laz.

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, journal Skani, Mingrelian wikipedia, 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 Alveolar Palatal Velar Uvular Glottal
Nasal m [m] n [n]
Plosive voiced b [b] d [d] g [ɡ]
aspirated p [] t [] k []
ejective [] ţ [] ǩ [] [] 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 l [l] y [j]

Phonetic processes

Vowel reduction

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

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

Pre-consonant change of velar g

Before consonants, gr.

Positional change of uvular q' sound

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

Regressive assimilation of consonants

The common types are:

Progressive dissimilation

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

In a stem with voiceless affricates or voiceless sibilants, a later ǯ is deaffricated to d, e.g. orcxondji dj orcxondi "comb", ç̌andji dj ç̌andi "fly (insect)", isindji dj isindi "arrow", etc.

The transformation of l

Intervocalic deletion of v

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

Phonetic augmentation n

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

Mingrelian Alphabet

Mingrelian is written in the Mkhedruli script Latin script Cyrillic script.

Mkhedruli Mingrelian Latin Mingrelian Cyrillic IPA transcription
a а ɑ
b б b
g г ɡ
d д d
e е ɛ
v в v
z з z
t t
i і i
ǩ к
l л l
m м m
n н n
y ј j
o о ɔ
zh ж ʒ
r р r
s с s
u у u
ƨ ѵ ə
p ҧ p
k ӄ k
ǧ ҕ ɣ
q k
ɣ ɣ ʔ
ş / sh ш ʃ
ç / ch ч t͡ʃ
ts ц t͡s
dz ӡ d͡z
ʒ / tz ҵ t͡sʼ
ç̌ t͡ʃʼ
x х x
dj џ d͡ʒ
h һ h


Main article: Mingrelian grammar


The main dialects and subdialects of Mingrelian are:

Famous speakers


  1. ^ Mingrelian at Ethnologue (19th ed., 2016) Closed access icon
  2. ^ "UNESCO Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger". UNESCO. 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. ^ Schulze, Wolfgang (2009). "Languages in the Caucasus" (PDF).
  5. ^ "K2olxuri Ena (Colchian Language)". Archived from the original (DOC) on March 1, 2012.
  6. ^ "იეჰოვაშ მოწმეეფიშ გიშაშკუმალირი ბიბლიური წიგნეფი დო ჟურნალეფი". jw.org. Retrieved 4 April 2018.
  7. ^ Dzhindzhikhashvili, Misha (8 July 2010). "Georgia Claims it Has World's Oldest Person, 130". Yahoo! News. Associated Press. Archived from the original on 2010-07-12.

Further reading