Essentials of Georgian grammar

Essentials of Georgian grammar: With conjugation tables of 250 most commonly used verbs. By Shorena Kurtsikidze. (LINCOM student grammars 02.) Munich: LINCOM Europa, 2006. Pp. xiii, 443. ISBN 9783895869976. $123.62.

Reviewed by Wolfgang Schulze, University of Munich

Designed to be used both in Georgian language classes and for self-study, this volume offers a grammar of Georgian, a South Caucasian (Kartvelian) language spoken by roughly four million people. The material has been tested in Georgian language classes taught by the author, Shorena Kurtsikidze, at the University of California, Berkeley.

The book consists of three parts: Part 1 (4–194) includes fifty lessons; Part 2 (195–208) consists of Georgian texts with English translations; and nearly half of the book is contained in Part 3, (209–439), which provides conjugation tables for the inflectional paradigms of 250 common Georgian verbs. These verbs often cause difficulty for learners of Georgian. Whereas case marking is rather straightforward, verbs are marked with interacting and frequently lexicalized morphological forms, including locational preverbs, personal prefixes, and so-called version vowels (which indicate transitivity gradience) as well as derivational suffixes and tense, aspect, and mood morphemes. Although the tables can be helpful when analyzing written Georgian texts, students may not be willing to memorize the paradigms. Therefore, the tables should be considered checklists rather than tools for language production. Students may have profited from a more structural—historically and typologically oriented—presentation of Georgian verbs.

From the very beginning, K introduces the Modern Georgian script, Mkhedruli. All examples are provided in Mkhedruli and lack a transliteration. Although this convention forces students to learn the Georgian script, it makes the volume less accessible to researchers.

The grammar uses a theory-neutral approach and standard, in parts even school-grammar, terminology. Although this will fit the needs of nonlinguist learners of the language, linguists may occasionally question the adequacy of a given term or analysis. Each of the fifty lessons is accompanied by exercises and readings that frequently refer to a specific text genre (e.g. recipes). The vocabulary is not enlarged lesson by lesson but rather is summarized less systematically in some of the lessons according to thematic fields, such as sports, body, family, and time.

As is common with many grammars of this type, the lessons begin with a presentation of the nominal domain, including pronouns. Here, the formation of case and number is followed by sections on adjectives, numerals, postpositions, pronouns, particles, conjunctions, and interjections. Lessons also address the formation of Georgian verbs, starting with the tense and aspect system before turning to the complex world of passives and medio-passives. Notably, this grammar lacks a section on Georgian syntax. The relevant data are incorporated in the sections on morphology and are thus less accessible to the reader. Syntactic features are also obscured by the fact that K rarely provides interlinear glosses with the sample sentences.

This volume may be a helpful tool for nonlinguist students who want to learn Georgian in a traditional way.