The Svan language of Georgia

Svan is a language that is mainly spoken in the northwestern part of Georgia. Speakers can also be found in the Republic of Abkhazia, in the Kododri Valley. Abkhazia is a politically disputed region, which is considered part of Georgia by the Georgian government but it considers itself an independent country. Svan has no official recognition in Georgia. Svan is an unwritten language. There is no standard form of writing it. When written, a version of the Georgian alphabet is used. The Latin and Cyrillic alphabets are also used. There have been attempts to develop a written form of the language since the 19th century.

Svan is a Caucasian language. It falls under the Kartvelian family of languages. Other languages in this language family include Georgian, Laz and Megrellian. Georgian authorities regard the three languages as dialects of the Georgian language. However, linguists emphasize that the 3 languages have 3 distinct histories and classify them as separate languages. Svan is spoken by approximately 30,000 people. It can also be written as Svanuri in English. Linguists are of the opinion that the Svan language has 5 dialects. This includes the Upper Svan dialects, which are the Upper and Lower Bal dialects and the Lower Svan dialects, which consist of Lentekhian, Cholurian and Lashkh. There are considerable differences in the morphology and syntax of the dialects.

There has been a steady decline in the number of Svan speakers. All Svan speakers are bilingual, as they also speak Georgian. Georgian is mainly used in formal settings, as the main means of communication, especially in administrative issues and in schools. Svan is used in informal situations. There is a possibility that Svan linguistic communities will completely disappear in the future. This is mainly as a result of the migration of Svan speakers from the mountainous regions to other regions, which are much safer to live in. Most people preferred to leave the Svanetia region and migrated to other regions, when their houses were completely destroyed by avalanches or other natural calamities. The low prestige of the Svan language and the lack of support from the government are other factors that resulted in the increasing decline of the language.

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