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The Fundamental Truth about Georgian Alphabet

I recently visited a literature festival in the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, and Ukraine. The annual festival is called “Author Reading Month” and Georgia is this year’s guest of honor. Accordingly, meetings with Georgian authors are taking place all throughout the month.

There were many things at the festival that touched the heart, but I was gladdened most of all by the "euro-liberalization" of the Georgian alphabet – informational messages for the festival and Georgian inscriptions made themselves well known on trams and buses, flyers and placards, and in cafes and clubs in the cozy European cities. The written forms of the some of the letters or words were specially singled out by the organizers and turned into festival symbols. So when audience members or readers found me after the meetings to ask for an autograph, I also traced out my Latin name and Greek surname in the Georgian mkhedruli script with special responsibility. Through this, I repeated the eternal ritual of drawing out the Georgian letters, which began during a long-forgotten age and to this day surprises us with new discoveries.

Yet when and how was the Georgian alphabet created? No other theme is as popular in Georgian scientific circles as the Georgian alphabet. Plus, there are more interesting theories about the Georgian alphabet than about any other topic. Who hasn't played a part in this business – the Sumerians, the Semitic peoples or the Greeks, the Phoenicians or the Arameans, Parnavaz or even others – those who did or didn’t know the language.

Every theory has a foundation for existence. Some of them even have solid argumentation, whether it be historical, cultural, or linguistic, but the main story regarding the origin of the Georgian alphabet still lays ahead. Recent discoveries – such as the inscriptions found at the Grakliani archaeological dig site – remind us daily that great discoveries are still to be expected.

The Georgian alphabet is created with a sequence similar to the known scripts, with great linguistic knowledge and phonetic regularity as the foundation – sonants gathered together (l, m, n), phonemes arranged in sequence (b, g, d), or specific consonants characteristic of the language.

With regard to the graphical aspect of the language, three stages of aspiration towards development and practicality are provided here as well – the oldest type is represented by the asomtavruli or majuscule alphabet. Epigraphic and manuscript texts were written in this alphabet during the 5th through the 9th centuries. The angular nuskhuri script is encountered alongside the majuscule script from the 10th century onward. The majuscule letters were replaced with the angular letters due to the development of manuscripts, the art of calligraphy, and the necessity of writing quickly. Starting from the 10th -11th century, the mkhedruli (military) alphabet began to develop alongside these two alphabets. It was called mkhedruli because it was primarily used to write non-religious manuscripts.

What is the first thing that comes to mind when I think of the role and function of the Georgian alphabet? Of course, the most brilliant thing that can characterize the alphabet – it completely reflects the phonetic potential of the language. Even more so, when the colloquial Georgian language lost the function of some of its phonemes, the alphabet was quite soon freed from excessive letters by the reform (spearheaded by Ilia Chavchavadze), and thus the main principle was preserved for the Georgian script to be simple to use and to fulfill a primary, practical purpose - “to be written as it sounds.”

#წერექართულად (write in Georgian) is one of TBC Bank's most successful cultural education projects. It started in 2015 and it is currently in its second year. The project is gradually and effectively making us change our habits of modern speech and electronic correspondence saturated with slang, and it makes us once again realize the full beauty of the Georgian language.

#წერექართულად – the aim of this already quite popular message is for even more people to purposefully use a Georgian keyboard during online and telephone correspondence, to download printed, cursive, or futuristic Georgian fonts from the corresponding website, and thus to praise the authors of winning fonts.

#წერექართულად is an idea belonging to Mamuka Khazaradze, the company’s founder. Main aim was to encourage each representative of TBC to change the language and forms of their daily business communications. Later on, however, a multitude of useful electronic resources appeared for developing the Georgian alphabet and for promoting its widespread use in society.

The present project offered by the English-language version of Indigo along with TBC Bank is for people who are now studying the Georgian alphabet and are trying to enter into Georgia’s unique linguistic realm; It is for them to find additional inspiration to fall in love with the Georgian script and become convinced as to why we must write in Georgian.


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