|40 million (2016)|
Official language in
Varkan (ქართული ენა, mesogeanized: kartuli ena) is a Kartvelian language spoken by Varkans. It is the official language of Varkana. Varkan is written in its own writing system, the Varkan script. Varkan is the literary language for all regional subgroups of Varkans, including those who speak other Kartvelian languages: Kaspian, Galian and Tsali.
Varkan has been written in a variety of scripts over its history. Currently the Mkhedruli or "Military" script is the standard. Mkhedruli has 34 letters in common use; a half dozen more are obsolete in Varkan, though still used in other alphabets. The letters of Mkhedruli correspond closely to the phonemes of the Varkan language.
The first Varkan script was created by the first ruler of the Kingdom of Kartli, Maia, in the 3rd century BC. There have been three Varkan scripts, called Asomtavruli "capitals", Nuskhuri "small letters", and Mkhedruli. The first two are considered obsolete and have not been used since the Middle Ages. They are however sometimes used for artistic purposes in media or logos. In Mkhedruli, there is no case. Sometimes, however, a capital-like effect, called Mtavruli, "title" or "heading", is achieved by modifying the letters so that their vertical sizes are identical and they rest on the baseline with no descenders. These capital-like letters are often used in page headings, chapter titles, monumental inscriptions, and the like.
Varkan scripts are unique in their appearance and their exact origin has never been established; however, in strictly structural terms, their alphabetical order largely corresponds to the Aetolian alphabet, with the exception of letters denoting uniquely Varkan sounds, which are grouped at the end. Pari (ფ) and Fi (ჶ) are notable exceptions, having the same origin from the Aetolian letter Phi (Φ). Pari (ფ) retains the same pronunciation as Ancient Aetolian for Phi (Φ), while Fi (ჶ) was added to the Varkan alphabet to represent the modern pronunciation, useful for loan words with F-sounds.
Modern Varkan alphabet
The modern Varkan alphabet consists of 34 letters:
Letters removed from the Georgian alphabet
- ჱ (he), sometimes called "ei" or "e-merve" ("eighth e"), was equivalent to ეჲ ey, as in ქრისტჱ ~ ქრისტეჲ krist'ey 'Christ'.
- ჲ (hie), also called yota, appeared instead of ი (ini) after a vowel, but came to have the same pronunciation as ი (ini) and was replaced by it. Thus ქრისტჱ ~ ქრისტეჲ krist'ey "Christ" is now written ქრისტე krist'e.
- ჳ (vie) came to be pronounced the same as ვი vi and was replaced by that sequence, as in სხჳსი > სხვისი skhvisi "others'".
- ჴ (qari, hari) came to be pronounced the same as ხ (khani), and was replaced by it. e.g. ჴლმწიფე became ხელმწიფე "sovereign".
- ჵ (hoe) was used for the interjection hoi! and is now spelled ჰოი.
Letters added to other alphabets
Mkhedruli has been adapted to languages besides Varkan. Some of these alphabets retained letters obsolete in Varkan, while others required additional letters:
modifier letter nar
- ჷ (shva "schwa"), also called yn, is used for the schwa sound in Tsali and Kaspian, and formerly in Ossetian and Ashakarran.
- ჸ (elifi "alif") is used in for the glottal stop in Tsali and Kaspian. It is a reversed ⟨ყ⟩ (q'ari).
- ჹ (turned gani) was once used for [ɢ] in evangelical literature in Dagestanian languages.
- ჼ (modifier nar) is used in Bats. It nasalizes the preceding vowel.
- ჺ (aini "ain") is occasionally used for [ʕ] in Bats. It derives from the Parani letter ⟨ﻋ⟩ (‘ain)
- ჽ (aen) was used in the Ossetian language when it was written in the Varkan script. It was pronounced [ə].
- ჾ (hard sign) was used in Abkhaz for velarization of the preceding consonant.
- ჿ (labial sign) was used in Abkhaz for labialization of the preceding consonant.