On Megrelian-Georgian Interferences

Language contact as the most important aspect of intercultural relations has rather long tradition of study though it should be mentioned that the results obtained in linguistics and related sciences in this respect are mainly reflected in Indo-European languages and again and again less is known in socio- and psycholinguisticsof other regions of the world.

The language contact implies contact between various language groups. Hence generally it is the sphere in which comparison of linguistic, sociological, psychological, political pedagogical aspects occurs. Thus, linguistic study of this or that language cannot be limited by the study of a language as a closed system.

In the first place it is necessary to clear up those criteria according to which this or that phenomenon will be revealed and certain place will be given to it. In the book "Sprachen in Kontakt" issued in 1977, Weinreichdifferentiates the phenomena originated as a result of  a contact, on the one hand, spoken speechand on the other, in the language as Lange [Weinreich, 1977:27-28].Claus Zimmermann offered the following methods of differentiation:

1)      The difference between short-term and long-term phenomena;

2)      The differences between the phenomena when they deal with social side of a language, on the one hand, and on the other, its structure. In case of short-term phenomena which covers structural side of language, Zimmeremann singles out two factors:

a)      the mixtureas a lower step of which he regards interference, the so-called code switching (change of speech code - transfer from one to another and vice versa) and transference;

b)      simplification (Vereinfachung). It is the strategy through which communication is reached even during the existence of language barrier. The so-called "foreigner talk" represents simplified form of a language which is used by an individual speaking this language with a foreigner for communication [1][Zimmermann, 1992:50]. The language learned by this way is called a "broken language", as a rule [Ferguson, DeBose, 1977:108].

In the line with long-term phenomena in Zimmermann we can find lexical borrowings. There is no country in the world where interlanguage contacts have not been fixed. Even where there is no bilingual society the contact between the languages is being fixed in different ways (trade, diplomacy, tourism). The first Lingua franca was established as a result of brisk trade in the Mediterranean. There also exist data on Russian-Norwegian mixed language which is used by the fishers. The best examples of origination of languages as a result of language contacts are Pidgin and Creole [2].

Frequent mass movements, colonialization, and permanentfluidity of bordershas established bilingualism or multilingualism in many countries. There exist the countries where several languages equal in rights are functioning side by side with official status (Switzerland, Luxemburg, Belgium, India, Canada, etc.) Hence, the society in thee courtiers is bilingual or multilingual.

Of interest are language contacts inside one society when part of the society is bilingual and another part is not. Such obstacle has place when one language is dominant which is spoken by all members of the society and hence, communication operates in this language. At the same time one part of the society speaks additionally the other language which represents for it L1[3]. Such facts take place on the example of Kartvelian languages or we have a dominant language - Georgian which is spoken by each individual residing in Georgia and belonging to Kartvelian group. At the same time the Svans and Megrelians speak other languages too, namely, Svans Svan language and Megrelians the Megrelian language.

When we mentioned the language contacts inside one society, we mean social groups being in close relation historically and genetically which are considered as one ethnos, share one culture and traditions which is reflected in every day life and activity of these peoples.

It is obvious even where bilingual society is absent (in the narrow sense of word), bilingualism has place to a certain degree. We mean the subsystems of a language:

a)      dialects;

b)      sociolects;

c)      language variations conditioned by time (language of one generation or epoch).


Proceeding from this a man speaking at least only one language appears to be bilingual or multilingual due to the fact that nobody speaks always in a similar way. In every language there exist dialects and sociolects. Therefore, it is quite natural that a Kakhetian for example, speaks Kakhetian dialect, Imeretian in Imeretian dialect etc. It is clear that different generations speaks differently. From socio- and psycholinguistic viewpoint of special interest is transference or ability of an individual, to change speech code in accordance with the given social and cultural background.

This time our aim is to present the issues of interference on the example of two related languages which are in close relation to each other: Georgian and Megrelian. As initial will be contact of Megrelian language with Gerogian western dialects: Kvemo Imeretinian and Gurian. The fact is that certain Zanizms of certain kind are fixed in this dialects namely which has its logical explanation -permanent contact between languagesconditioned geographically. From this viewpoint much has been written in Kartvelology and we do not touch upon the facts which have already been regarded many times //borrowings in vocabulary, as well as ergative constructions such as for example, katsma movida, katma mokvda) and only pay attention to several concrete morpho-synthatic interference.

In the speech of the people speaking Georgian with western dialects such verb forms are often occurred as: minavala, naketeba, nakona etc.,that for literary Georgian is incorrect and unacceptable. The thing is that production of such form of a verb is characteristic to Megrelian language, namely these are the forms of the fourth series[4]. There is no fourth series in literary Georgian and equivalent forms of the above mentioned verbs are produced analytically: midioda turme, aketebda turme, konda turme. It is also noteworthy that Megrelian is characterized with conjugation of auxiliary verbs, for example, tasundas iuzapu [tesavdes ikneba]; chkumundas iuzapu[chamdes ikneba]. Such production of a verb is alien for Georgian. Literary language forms such cases as: albat(da) tesavs; albat(she)jams, etc. And the forms in Georgian from Megrelian such as: tesavdes ikneba; chamdes ikneba represent  the calquefrom the Megrelian; or as we see there where Megrelian uses the forms  of Subjunctive mood,  in Georgian there is Indicative (the indicative mood) and indicative forms are used. Generally, if we scrutinize closely, conjuncture(the conjunctive mood) and indicative forms are used in different aspect in Georgian and Megrelian. Before we give concrete examples, we remind that the most significant function of the conjunctive mood is the expression of the modality. It is in this way in universally numerous languages[5]. Conjunctivemood is used for expression of real, possible or non real action. Hence, there exist following kind of conjuncture: of real, potential, irreal. Frequently this mood expresses action which indicates desire, wish. Here we already deal with optative or voluntatis function of the conjuncture. The use of conjunctive mood in this aspect is not alien for Kartvelian languages either. In subjunctive sentences the indicativemood is mostly used. For example, neta movides, neta cavides, neta gaaketos, etc. The similar picture is also shown in Megerelian: note kumordas, note midartas, note gaaketas. We see that in both cases (in Georgian as well as Megrellian) the second indicative is used. Generally the forms of conjuncture are built on morphological base of the relevant series. For instance, the indicative of the present is built on the basis of the constant(aketebdes - akedebdas), that of future - xolmeobiti (gaaketebdes - gaaketebdas), the subjunctive II - interruption (gaaketos -gaaketas), etc. Against the background of all this semantic differences still take place while using this or that form in Georgian and Megrelian. As an example we present the following sentence from the Megrelian: fira komuchasu-ni, kochi ipek. Georgian equivalent of this sentence is: puli rom momca, kaci viknebi. In both cases in subordinate clauses we have one and the same verb "mocema" (Megr. "mochama"). The difference between the verb forms themselves is in the sentences. In Megrelian the condition is expressed in subjunctive II and in Georgian - with broken.  If we fit Gerogian sentence to Megrelian pattern we will have the following: puli rom momces, kaci viknebi, that by itself has different loading, and it is not a semantic equivalent to Megrelian. If we proceed from the semantics of the verb itself, "mocema" is a transitive verb that required active subject and direct and indirect object. In case of our examples the semantic roles of a verb are reduced, i.e. there actually doe not exist active subject that realizes the act of "micema".  Neither Megrelian komuchasu-ni, nor Georgian momca do not imply the third person that gives something to the first person. Semantically these forms are equivalent to the verb "kona", i.e the periphrase of the same is possible as: puli rom mkondes, kaci viknebi (fara komighudasu-ni, kochi ipek). There is one more interesting detail - as soon as we introduce lexically marked active subject in Megrelian subordinate clause, the content of the sentence will change: tok fara komuchasu-ni, kochi ipek. Hence, the equivalent of this sentence is: man fuli rom momces, kaci viknebi. Thus, as is seen, if for Georgian sentence the existence of lexically marked subject is irrelevant, in Megrelian the correct understanding of the sentence is based just on this.

For typological comparison we presented such an example in which during the use of analogical forms semantic difference had place between these languages. The observations show that for Megrelian the above construction is not the only one. For it Georgian pattern is also admissible: puli rom momca, kaci viknebi - fara komuchu-ni, kochi ipek. Generally, when the language knows several means of expressing something, one of them, naturally, is preferred. In Megrelian we deal just with such case -both constructions are right, but in oral speech the first is used more often, i.e. derived from conjunctive form[6]. Hence, naturally, it is the first form that dominates in Megrelian over the second one and the speaker of this language can construct Georgian sentences that frequently cause semantic misunderstanding. Here we deal only with syntactic interference.

In case of bilinguals within one society Zimmerman singles out two aspects: collective and adscriptive bilingualism. Collective bilingualism implies that the main part of the society is equally bilingual and during the use of this or that language depends on social group, i.e.,  there exists group A that mainly utilizes on language and group B who is in favor of another language [Zimmerman, 1992:57]. This means that in the majority of cases the orientation to one language occurs consciously by socium in spite of the fact that it has competence in another language. Here we already deal with such phenomenon as linguistic identification. Generally, identification is one of the most important aspects in case of language contacts (between cultures). In special literature we deal with various levels of identification: ethnic identification, social identification, personal identification, etc. naturally, the notion of language identification is in connection with all above mentioned levels and moreover, it is very often identified with the notion of ethnic identification. In the first place, it is obligatory to make out as to what phenomena we are dealing with, whether it is inter-ethnic or intra-ethnic constellation. Clearly, that inside language variations too the moment of identification is also fixed and it is natural. To speak in a different way for an individual is a symbol according to which the identification of this person occurs in various aspects (ethnical, social, etc.).


Of above mentioned constellations (inter-ethnic or intra-ethnic) we emphasize the intra-ethnic constellation because in case of language contact inside one society the latter plays decisive role. At the same time, attention should be also paid to paralinguistic/prosodic level of the language and consider concrete suprasegmental element in the aspect of Megrel-Georgian language contact. This element is "ra" which in Megrelian fulfills the role of subordinating conjunction. In Georgian it has the function of coordinate conjunction. Yet, the element is "ra" is often found in Gerogian and Megrelian as a particle when the question is followed by repeated asking. For example, ra minda?Raminda da - sheni kargad yopna. In Megrellian: mure da, mudga rdas (ra aris da, rac ginda ikos). The linguist Iza Chantladze considers that from the onset "ra" represented a particle-conjunction in all Kartvelian languages and served prosodic requirements. It is interesting to note that repeated asking in the Svan is always formed by "i" conjunction. Hence, it is identical to Georgian "ra" particle-conjunction because at the same time the "i" element in Svan fulfills the function of "da" conjunction [Chantladze, 1998:214].

In Megrelian proper, the element "da" has also other prosodic loading, namely, it is often used in a sentence which contains request, plead and has an expressive character. Its Georgian equivalent in this case will be "ra" particle.For example, მოლართიდა, გოხვეწÊÊ(camodi, ra, gexvecebi); ქიმერთიდა, ქოუწ(nidi, ra, utxari). The embellishment of Georgian sentence with "da" element is frequently found in Megrelian speech. The expressive nuance of this particle is so strong that even during the change of speech code (when stitching from Megrelian to Gerogian happens) the speaker preserves it in most cases. That is why such sentence are often found while speaking Georgian: momitane, da; camodi da , etc., Similar cases are especially frequent in children's speech: deda, gamikete da sachmeli; momitane da puri,etc.

In connection with the change of speech code the speech of passive bilinguals is interesting to note as to when and in which situation the use of this or that form occurs. In case of Megrel-Georgian a passive bilingual we would term an individual for whom L1 is Georgian and Megrelian L2. According to observations the change of speech code happens rather quickly and the speech is counted on situation. For instance, the citizen of Tbilisi (with Megrelian backgrounds) who arrives to Samegrelo can easily includes in his Georgian speech the peculiarities typical for Megrelian speech especially prosodic elements, including the above regarded "da". In this case, what we are dealing with? Can the similar thing considered the change of individual's identification? Identification as a rule, and, thus, the notion "change of identification" appears contradiction. On this other hand, it is obvious that by changing the code it is at the prosodic level of the language that coding of individual's identification occurs. Generally, the notion of identification in socio- and psycholinguistics has not been yet studied in full. Thus, making conclusions is rather difficult. One-sided approach would be incorrect. Each speaker, in spite of belongness to a certain socium is individual and, hence, the research of speech ultimately leads us to separate individual. It should be also taken into account the fact that a speech subordinate not only grammatical rules but it is at the same time is behavior. Hence, when it concerns the identification of an individual at prosodic level we should treat it in the aspect of the same behavior. As far as in such cases we deal not with transfer from one language proper to another but with concrete interference at prosodic level of the language, when the change of speech code does not occur in a narrow linguistic understanding (lexica and morpho-syntax do not change), in similar case it can be regarded at the level of diglossia that was published in 1959 in the journal Word. The author tries to describe special form of social multilingual where language variation H (high) opposes one or more variants L(low), or there exists one standard literary language and several language variations opposed to it. The mastering of H occurs through the artificial way (ordered) whereas L is a variation studied in a natural way. Ferguson offeres the following interpretation of diglossia in the above mentioned work: "Diglossia is relatively stable language situation in which, in addition to the primary dialects of the language (which may include a standard or regional standards), there is a very divergent, highly codified (often gramaticallly more complex) superposed variety, the vahicle of a large and respected body of written literature, either of an earlier period or in another speech community, which is learned largely by formal education and is used for most written and formal spoken purposes but is not used by any sector of the community for ordinary conversation" [Ferguson, 1959: 336].

According to Ferguson the most significant feature of diglossia is the redistribution of the functions for H and L. In some situations the use of only H happens in other situations L is paramount and it is natural. The speaker depending on situation chooses this or that language form by himself and the choice in the majority of cases is linked with symbolic meaning of the language. It is known that various languages vs variations or language forms have symbolic meaning loaded with different doses. In multilingual societies different language groups are found that are arranged with individuals speaking these languages and depending on what language carrier is an individual he belongness to this or that group occurs. Naturally, even inside of one language group the bilinguals are also found. In such case there occurs the construction of such pattern in their speech in which every language has functionally its own place. It is just such pattern that is found in case of Megrelian speaking individuals, i.e. actually we have one society and one communicative, dominant language (Georgian) spoken by all members of the society. At the same time there exist bilinguals as Megrelians and Svans. The above mentioned language pattern is constructed in their speech and both languages Gerogian and Megrelian vs Georgian and Svan have their own functional loading. If in case of Gerogian and Megrelian we use Ferguson's definitions, the literary Georgian appears the so-called H variant, and Megrelian is L variant because here it concerns functional levels of the languages in the aspect of sociolinguistics, and Megrelian actually has the function of a dialect in sociolinguistic aspect.

Obviously the above listed facts and events fail to reflect in full those peculiarities which manifest themselves as a result of permanent contact of these two languages. This paper is based on linguistic observations of bilingual author. Our purpose is to show at least partially these peculiarities and continue the work from this aspect in future that may solve many linguistic problems unsolved before.


[1]This term was used before Zimmerman by Ferguson and de Bose [Ferguson, de Bose, 1977:103].

2Pidgin - the languages originated during colonial expansion mainly in the continents of  Africa and America (on the basis of English, French, Spanish and Portuguese languages). Creol -developed stage of pijin - functionally formed language.

[3]Engl. Language 1(so-called primary language).

[4]The fourth series also in the Svan and this probably explains the spread of similar forms in Rachian and Lechkhumian dialects of Georgian language

[5]In some languages, for example in German this dialect has different function too. It is used for rendering of other's words.

[6]In some languages, for example in German this dialect has different function too. It is used for rendering of other's words.


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