The Complex Negative Nominal Lexemes in Georgian: Structure and Principles of the Functional Distribution

At various stages of development of the literary Georgian language, we can observe com­plex nominal lexemes of negative semantics. The analysis of these lexemes embraces the fol­lowing: a. structure; b. chronology; c. principles of functional distribution. The structure of the co­m­­plex negative nominal lexemes under analysis consists of two components:[1] (I) ara-ʒali "po­wer­less", ara-žami "untimely", ara-γirsi "worthless", ara-samartliani "unfair", ar-gagonili "unheard of", ar-na­­xu­li "unseen"... ; (II) vai-mecnieri "pseudo-scientist", vai-aṭrioṭi "pseudo-patriot", vai-ḳriṭiḳosi "pse­u­do-critic"... ; (III) cru-gmiri "pseudo-hero", cru-mecniereba "pseudo-science"...; (IV) ani-gmiri "antihe­ro",  ani-andaa "anti-proverb", anṭi-saxelmipoebrivi "anti-state"... . Ac­cor­ding to its ori­g­in, the first component of nominal lexemes is: a negative particle (ara-/­ar- "no/not" ), an inter­jection (vai- "alas!; woe, trouble"), an adjective (cru- "false"), a prefix (anṭi- "anti"). In the scholarly li­te­ra­ture, the particles ara-/­ar- "no/not"  used as deri­va­ti­onal morphemes are termed as morphemoids [Jor­be­nadze...19­88­:­43­44]. Other language units that have turned into derivational elements may also be qualified as morphemoids (vai-, cru-, ani-). Thus, the above-mentioned complex ne­ga­tive nominal lexemes (I – IV) may be viewed as having the same struc­ture: morphemoid + the nominal element.

It is interesting to analyze the relation between the complex nominal lexemes of the above-mentioned structure from the chronological and semantic viewpoints. The oldest formation is the one with the particles ara-/ar- "no/not", which is found in Old Georgian.  The chronology of this particle and its correspondence with the nominal element is thoroughly analyzed in the article by L. Gelenidze [Gelenidze, 1984:167-174]. It should be mentioned that the author brings examples of Old Georgian from I. Abuladze’s dictionary [Ab­u­ladze, 1973]. In the paper, the examples are taken from Z. Sarjveladze’s dictionary [Sarjveladze, 1995]. It is worth mentioning that in these two dictionaries there are different lexical units. Hence, they are complementary. Thus, the statistical data of negative nominal units with the particles ara-/ar- "no/not"   show their increase in the Old Georgian period.

Ara "no" + Nominal element

(1) ara-gansavluli "uneducated", (2) ara-dammalveli ­"non-concealing”, (3) ara-damcveli "non-conforming”, (4) ara-mdidartagani "not belonging to the rich", (5) ara-mqonebeli "non-possessive"­, (6) ara-mk­wi­š­­ro­vani "non-sandy"­, (7) ara-saeueli "undoubtable", (8) ara-konebaj "non-pos­se­ssion"­, (9) ara-konebuli "unpossessed"­, (10) ara-šemnanebeli "non-repenting"­, (11) ara-ševanebaj "not en­te­r­ing", (12) ara-šeӡrulad "motionless", (13) ara-cebnaj "ignorance", (14) ara-ӡi­e­baj "not inves­ti­gating", (15) ara-ӡlebulobaj ­ "powerlessness", (16) ara-midatagani  "not belonging to the sacred", (17) ara-midaj  "impure", (18) ara-midebaj „impureness“, (19) ara-ǯerovnebaj "unmatching" [Sar­jve­ladze, 1995 : 3-4].

The particle ar "not"  was produced as a result of shortening of the particle  ara [2], alt­ho­ugh these particles existed in one and the same period and the particle ar "not"  was found in complex nominal structures  in the Old Georgian:  

ar "not" + Nominal element

(20) ar-damlṭvari "not wet", (21) ar-tanamkcevi "unsympathysing”, (22) ar-mindobaj  "distrust", (23) ar-mnebeblobaj "unwillingness", (24) ar-moqsenebuli "unmentioned", (25) ar-mopobaj  "in­existence", (26) ar-mqumeveli  "unusing", (27) ar-šeginebuli  "immaculate”, (28) ar-ševanebaj "not entering", (29) ar-codnaj "ignorance"­, (30) ar-ӡlebulobaj "powerlessness" [Sarjveladze, 19­95:4].

It should be noted that the nominal elements with the particle ara- "no" are more prevalent than those with the particle ar-"not". As L. Gelenidze mentioned: „In Ilia Abuladze’s dictionary the elements with the particle ara- "no" are more abundant[Gelenidze, 19­84­: 169]. Our research has proved that the particles ara- "no"  and ar- "not"  are not usually combined with the same root, although there are certain exceptions:

ara "no" + nominal element : ar "not" + the nominal element

(31) ara-ӡlebulobaj : ar-ӡlebulobaj "powerlessness", (32) ara-odes : ar-odes  "never" [Sarjveladze, 1995:3-4].

The complex lexemes of the above-mentioned groups II, III, IV appeared in contemporary Georgian. They are less productive, as they are added only to a certain amount of nominal stems.

Thus, the complex negative nominal lexemes under study are chronologically diverse, but they have the same structure. As for their semantics, they may be viewed as belonging to the same semantic field of the negative connotation. Despite their semantic similarity, the language reveals a certain formal and conceptual diversity. This is well revealed if we compare the negative nominal elements with elements ara- "no"  and vai-. Despite similar semantics, the particles re­ve­al different meanings when combined with certain stems: Old Georgian: (33) mecnieri  = "knower" ‒ ara-mecnieri/­ar-mecnieri [Abuladze, 1973] = "ignorant, unknowing". New Georgian: (34) mecnieri = "scientist, scholar" [KEGL-i, V, 1958]; vai-mecnieri = "pseudo-scientist". Acc­or­ding to the Explanatory Dictionary of the Georgian Language, in the New Georgian the meaning of the word mecnieri "knower"  has been restricted, denoting a scientist working in a particular field. In order to denote a person who pretends to be a scientist, the language has introduced a new morphemoid (vai-), thus creating a new lexical unit: vai-mecnieri "pseudo-scientist". ara-mecnieri/ar-mecnieri "non-scientist"  is not found in New Georgian, there is only a lexeme ara-me­c­nieruli "non-scientific”  [KEGL-i, I, 1950].

In the Kartvelian languages, there are common affixes of absence: *u‒ar, *u‒el, *u‒o, *u‒ur [Fenrich... 2000:449-451]. Thus, in all Kartvelian languages there are lexemes of absence, the ma­in semantic feature of which is a negative connotation. Comparison of lexemes with particles ara-/ar- "no/not" and lexemes of absence yield an interesting picture. It is worth mentioning that „in Old Georgian negativity was expressed both analytically and synthetically“ [Sukhishvili, 1984:176]. The an­a­lytical formation of negation in Old Georgian was based on prepositions tvinier “except” and gareše "without". This function of the above prepositions was thoroughly discussed by A. Martirosov [Martirosov, 1946:239, 244].

In various editions of the Gospels, both analytical and synthetic formations are found. They can be divided into three groups, each consisting of parallel forms:

a. The analytical formation and the synthetic formation by means of u- . . . -o  circumfix:

(35) tvinier igavisa aras etoda mat "he did not say anything to them without using a parable" (Matthew, 13,34 DE)[3], cf.:

(36) u-igav-o-d aras etoda mat "he did not say anything to them without using a parable" (C )[4];

b. The analytical formation with diverse prepositions:

(37) …rametu ver egebis inaarmetueli garna[5] ierusalejms armedad "It wouldn't do for a prophet of God to be killed except in Jerusalem!" ((Luke, 13, 33, C),[6] cf:

(38) …rametu ver egebis inaarmetueli gareše[7] ierusalejmis armedad "It wouldn't do for a prophet of God to be killed except in Jerusalem!" (DE);

c. The synthetic formation with the particle ara-, prefix u- and suffix -ur:

(39) da ganhḳurnebda… ara-ӡlebata erisata "healing every disease and sickness among the people" (Mathew, 4, 28 C)[8] cf:

(40) da ganhḳurnebda… u-ӡl-ur-ebata erisata "healing every disease and sickness among the people" (DE).

As we see, in Old Georgian all  three types of formations are synonymous. The later deve­lopment shows that the analytical formation was lost, whereas the lexemes with the negative particle and the lexemes of absence became semantically different. This led to their coexistence: „a parallel formation of negative lexemes does not always yield synonyms: . . .  u-tanasor-o"unequal" ‒ ara-ta­nas­o­ri "nonequal" [Jorbenadze, 1984:148-149]. Examples of this type are: (41) u-ḳac-o "without man"­ ‒ ara-ḳaci "bad man", (42) u-msgavsi/u-msgavs-o " indecent" ‒ ara-msgavsi "unsimilar", (43) u-γirsi­ _ "unworthy" ‒ ara-γirsi­  "not worthy" [KEGL-i, I, 1950; KEGL-i, VI, 1960].

The activation of the nominal elements with the particles ara-/ar- "no/not" was due to several factors, namely, participation of the particles ara/ar "no/not" in the formation of antonyms: zusṭi  “precise”  – ara-zusṭi  "imprecise", sṭabiluri “stable”  – ara­-sṭa­bi­lu­ri “unstable”, gamṭani "enduring" – ar-­gam­ṭani "unenduring", kona "have" – ar-kona "not to have"  etc. „The particles ar/ara "not/no" are us­ed to obtain negative antonyms from the positive lexemes“ [Jorbenadze, 1984:146]. In the literary Georgian, the antonymous lexemes with the particles  ara/ar "no/not"  (chiefly those with the particle ara- "no") have formed scientific terms. The nominal lexemes with the negative particles, together with the positive antonym, create a scientific term, for instance: (44) dreḳadi “resilient”  – ara-dre­ḳa­di “non-resilient”, (45) mdgradi  “stable” – ara-mdgradi “unstable”, (46) tavsebadi  “compatible” – ara-ta­­v­­sebadi “incompatible”, (47) arsebiti “essential” – ara-arsebiti “non-essential”, (48) gamṭari “con­du­ctive” – ara-gamṭari “non-con­duc­ti­ve”, (49) eḳonomiuri “economical” – ara-eḳonomiuri  “un­e­cono­mical”, (50) legaluri “legal” – ara-legaluri “illegal” and so on. The scientific literature men­ti­ons the creation of terms as one of the reasons for the activation of the above-mentioned forms [Jor­be­nadze 1984, Gelenidze 1984, Tchumburidze... 2018].

Derivation with negative particles is also widespread in the dialects of the Georgian lan­guage. It is especially productive in a live speech. However, at this stage it is not our aim to ana­lyze the entire material (according to types of derivation). We will restrict ourselves to ana­lyzing the peculiar forms created by means of the negative particles ara-/ar- "no/not" and the prefix of absence u-. Analysis of these examples will reveal human cognitive abilities as well as a language capacity. Besides, attention should be focused on the process of creation of these forms, reasons for their formation and their role in the expression and transmission of information.


Dialectal forms

a. with the particles ara-"no" and ar-"not":


(51) ara-esi (IntsNeg-rule) io, ekvsi eladi… xma ar gamicia  "It was against the rules, not to have spoken to him for six years" (not to speak with someone, the dialect of Samtskhe-Javakheti; recorded in Saro, Aspindza, Georgia; 1991; the speaker: Marusa Totadze-Beridze, recorded and published by Marina Beridze, „Direct Reports from the Past“)[9];

(52) nina ar-tvali (IntsNeg-eye) [10] kalia "Nina is not a pretty woman" (village Upper Sakara); coṭa ar-tvali (IntsNeg-eye) ǯobia kali "It is better when a woman is not too pretty" (village Boriti) [Dzo­tsenidze, 1974: 30];

(53) ar-tvali [11] (IntsNeg-eye) ḳaci midioda misḳen "an ugly man was walking towards him/her) [Ghlonti,  1974: 39];

(54) loman hakimma… ar-maaḳdomel (IntsNeg-dying) amal icodnina//icodina "Lokman Hakim knew an undying medicine" (Lokman Hakim, Ingilo Dialect; recorded in Mosuli, Saingilo, Azer­baijan; 1945; the speaker: Nasib Burjalof Rostom Ogli; recorded and published by Grigol Imnaishviil; "Peculiaritiers of the Ingilo Dialect of the Georgian Language"; the authors of corpus publication: Marina Beridze, Maia Barikhashvili);

(55) ar-danamušav (IntsNeg-cultivated) mias gutnit qnön... "An uncultivated land is ploughed by me­ans of a plow" (Georgian Dialect Corpus - Ingilo Dictionary, compiled by Marina Beridze, Ma­ia Barikhashvili, Elene Napireli, Diana Amphimiadi; the source: Dictionary of the Ingilo Dialect of the Georgian Language compiled by Rogneda Ghambashidze).


b. with the  prefix u-:


(56) …u-gaveili (IntsNeg-ceased)  viar "I will walk incessantly" (story of Muhajir, Muhajir-upper Acharian; recorded in Tupekchi Konak, Inegol Province, Turkey; 1989; the speaker: Muntaha Baikozogli-Tavdgiridze; recorded and published by Shushana Putkaradze. “The Speech of the Ge­orgians Living in Turkey”; the author of corpus edition: Nargiza Surmava);

(57) u-gaetebuli (IntsNeg-done)is ari, rome ar gamiḳetebia... "Undone means that I have not done it" (Village Life, Muhajir-upper Acharian; recorded in Tupekchi Konak, Inegol Province, Turkey; 1989; the speaker: Mehmed Ozbeg (Tavdgiridze); recorded and published by Shushana Put­ka­radze. "The Speech of Georgians Living in Turkey"; the author of corpus edition: Nargiza Sur­mava);

(58) gziebi kaia, u-gakanebuli (IntsNeg-shattered)mival čem sopelši "The roads are good, I will arrive in my village unshattered" (converasation, Muhajir-upper Acharian; recorded in Tup­ek­chi Konak, Inegol Province, Turkey; 1989; the speaker: Emine Chibuk (Gogitidze); recorded and pub­­lished by Shushana Putkaradze. "The Speech of Georgians Living in Turkey"; the author of cor­pus edition: Nargiza Surmava).


c. double prefix u-:


(59) ...u-mo-w[12]-itxela(IntsNeg-PRV-Neg-asked for)  mismes rames nu miscem! "…do not give anything to anyone unless asked for" (Bahlul and the Poor man, Aliabat, Ingilo dialect; recorded in Mosuil, Saingilo, Azerbaijan; 1945; the speaker: Ismail Ismailov Asadughala Ogli; recorded and pub­lished by Grigol Imnaishvili. Peculiarities of the Ingilo Dialect of the Georgian language; the authors of the corpus edition: Marina Beridze, Maia Barikhashvili).

(60) ... u-mo-u-pikrevela (IntsNeg-PRV-Neg-thought) isxnis danas… "…picks his knife tho­ug­h­tlessly…" (The Hunting of Arsen and Vasil, Ingilo Dialect; recorded in Kakhi, Saingilo, Azerbaijan; 1946; the speaker: Archil Chiritashvili, recorded and published by Rogneda Ghambashidze. Ingilo Texts. The author of the corpus edition: Rogneda Ghambashidze);

 (61) ...u-da-w-levela(IntsNeg-PRV-Neg-drunk) plav-xorag šehamen? "Will they eat without drinking?" (Old Times, Ingilo dialect; recorded in Alatemur, Kakhi, Saingilo, Azerbaijan; 1982; speaker: Besarion Okrojanashvili; recorded and published by Vasil Abashvili (Kuzibabashvili), The Ingilo Dialect of the Georgian Language; the authors of the corpus edition: Marina Beridze, Maia Barikhashvili);

(62) me… ir u-da-w-naxela (IntsNeg-PRV-Neg-seen) ar aval! "I will not go unseen" (One Soldier, Ingilo Dialect; recorded in Samtatskaro, Dedoplistskaro, Kakheti, Georgia; 1945; the speaker: Mose Papiashvili; recorded and published by Grigol Imnaishvili. Peculiarities of the Ingilo Dialect of the Georgian language; the authors of the corpus edition: Marina Beridze, Maia Barikhashvili).


Examples from Georgian live speech[13]:


  1. With particles ara-, ar- "no/not":

(63) sazogadoeba ara-dadebitad (IntsNeg-positive) laaraḳobs masze "The society does not eva­lu­ate him/her positively";

(64) ara-dadebiti (IntsNeg-positive) muxṭi modis misgan "No positive vibration comes from him/her";

(65) tavi unda agrӡnobino ara-dačagrulad (IntsNeg-oppressed) "You should not make him/her feel oppressed";

(66) amis ponze ganagrӡo ara-aiosani (IntsNeg-honest) sakme "For this reason, he/she con­tinued being dishonest";

(67) es moiṭana ara-omuniaciam (IntsNeg-communication) "This was due to mis­com­mu­nica­tion";

(68) inṭeresebis ar-dacva (IntsNeg-protection) ar eaṭieba "Non-protection of interests is un­for­givable";

(69) mucalis mḳlavis ar-morit (IntsNeg-cutting) tems gamoucxada roṭesṭi "He protested against the community by refusing to cut Mutsal’s arm";

(70) am sakmis ar-gaetebis (IntsNeg-do) šemtxvevaši ḳai dγe ar daadgeboda "He would be pun­is­h­ed for refusing to do this";

(71) sasǯelis ar-moxdis (IntsNeg-convict) šemtxvevaši oǯaxs motxovdnen asuxs  "If he were not convicted, the family would have to bear the responsibility".


  1. With prefix u-:

(72) sakme adamianis u-ineresobašia (IntsNeg-interest) "The problem is the lack of interest";

(73) u-omporod (IntsNeg-comfort) grӡnobs tavs "He/she feels devoid of comfort" (cf: ara-ḳomporṭulad  "uncomfortable")


  1. With particle ara- and prefix u-:

(74) globaluri roblemaa, tumca ara-aγmo-u-pxvreli (IntsNeg-PRV-Neg-eradicate) "It is a global problem, yet, it is possible to eradicate it";

(75) maaṭie, ara-u-mizezo(IntsNeg-Neg-reason) vermosvla! "Sorry for not having arrived, but I didn’t do it without a reason".


Based on the analysis of the empirical material, we can conclude that, alongside with their primary function,  the particles ara-/ar- "no/not" tend to develop additional functions. This is revealed in the formation of negative nominal lexemes (primary function) and their actualization/intensity (additional function). In the dialects, the primary and additional functions are performed by both -  the prefix u- and the particles ara-/ar- "no/not", whereas in a live standard speech, mostly the particles ara-/ar- "no/not" are widespread. The comparison of lexemes with the prefix u- and those with the particles ara-/ar- "no/not" shows that the prefix u- sometimes fails to perform both functions simultaneously, especially if it stands after the preverb. In this case, either another prefix u- appears in the initial position, performing the function of the actualizer (see examples (59), (60), (61), (62)), or the existing u- changes places with the preverb and stands before the latter (see examples (56), (57), (58)), or, the lexeme with the prefix u-  adds particle ara- "no" in the initial position (see examples (74), (75)). As for the particles ara-/ar- "no/not", they are capable of performing both functions simultaneously, due to the following reasons: 1. position (which is always initial) [Omiadze 2016], (in structuring of information a great importance is attached to the initial position of the focused member), 2. semantics (in the nominal lexemes, the particles ara-/ar- "no/not" always express categorical negation. A negative nominal lexeme formed by the morphemoids ara-/ar- "no/not" (resp. antonymous lexeme) is the sho­r­test and the most flexible way of the transmission of the ample information.


[1] For the illustrative purposes, all examples below are represented with a hyphen.

[2] We do not place the lexemes with the particles ara- "no"  and those with the particle ar- "not"  into separate groups, due to their common origin.


[3] DE – The Gospels of Jruchi (936) and Parkhali (973).

[4] C -The Gospels of Adishi (897).

[5] In this context,  garna is used as the preposition meaning “except”.


[7] In this context,  gareše is used as the preposition meaning “outside”.


[9] A; the dialectal examples, with the exception of 52 and 53, are taken from The Dialectal Corpus of the Georgian Language: http://www.corpora,co/#/, the rules of reference are observed.

[10] artvali (Imer.) -  not pretty, ugly.

[11] artvali  (Imer., Lechkh.) – an ugly person, unpleasant to look at.

[12] w< u

[13] Examples are taken from everyday speech and social networks.


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