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Introduction to Middle Georgian – Hélène Gérardin (Inalco, SeDyL)
Middle Georgian (glottocode unassigned) is the most recently attested ancestor of Modern Georgian, the official language of Georgia belonging to the Kartvelian (or South Caucasian) family. It represents the language state spoken between the eighth century (following Old Georgian) and the nineteenth century (Modern Georgian).
Even though it is the same language, the three periods of Georgian (Old, Middle and Modern) distinguish themselves significantly in terms of linguistic features (different alphabets, changes in morphological type, substantial variations in word order, preverbs, tenses/aspects/moods, etc.), influences received (Old Iranian, later Turco-Mongolian, followed by Persian, and finally Russian) and types of texts (Bible and hagiographies, historical chronicles, and modern literature).
Middle Georgian distinguishes itself Georgian associated with other periods through its characteristic texts such as the foundational epic The Knight in the Panther’s Skin by Shota Rustaveli, as well as the historical chronicles The Life of Kartli. It is also during this period that the coexistence of the three historical Georgian alphabets emerged. On a grammatical level, Middle Georgian underwent a complete overhaul of its declension and postpositional systems, the disappearance of tmesis and the reorganisation of subjunctives and future forms. Geographically, it was strongly influenced by Persian, owing to the dominance of the Persian Empire.
Lastly, it is from Middle Georgian that the Ingilo and Fereydan dialects, still spoken today by descendants of populations deported by Shah Abbas in the seventeenth century, emerged.