• Asomtavtuli Georgian inscriptions on the walls of the Doliskana church (9-10c.) in Turkey
  • Mkhedruli inscription on the outer wall of the Svetitskhoveli cathedral in Mtskheta
  • Asomtavruli inscription on the outer wall of the Svetitskhoveli cathedral in Mtskheta

Georgian Alphabet

The modern Georgian alphabet, called "Mkhedruli" (mkhedari -- knight), has been in use since the 11th century A.D. It derives from the "Nuskha-Khutsuri" (nuskha -- cursive hand, khutsesi -- priest, monk), the ecclesiastic script, which itself comes from the "Asomtavruli" (capital script found in the monasteries of thVachika. Chaburi by G. Gagarine 4th-5th centuries).Painting from a Georgian medieval fresco by G. Gagarin

The modern Georgian alphabet consists of 33 letters: 5 Vowels and 28 Consonants. There are no upper or lower case letters. Some consonants distinguish the voiced, voiceless aspirated, and glottalized stops.

The pronunciation of the letters is as follows (from top to bottom in the right column); transliteration is given in English letters; glottalized consonants are marked with the apostrophe): a (as in arm), b (as in ball), g (as in goal), d (as in doll), e (as in nest), v (as in vase), z (as in zebra), t (as in table), i (as in in), k' (glottalized), l (as lamp), m (as man), n (as norm), o (as in olive), p' (glottalized), zh (as in illusion), r (as in road), s (as in salt), t' (glottalized), u (as in mood), p (as in pair), k (as in cat), gh (voiced), q' (glottalized), sh (as in shin), ch (as in chin), ts (as in gutsy), dz (as in adze ) , ts' (glottalized), tch' (glottalized), kh (as in yacht), j (as in jam), h (as in harp).

The most ancient Georgian inscriptions date back to at least 4th-5th centuries, but the evidences prove that the written Georgian alphabet (considered derivation from the Ancient Greek and Aramaic alphabets) existed long time before. Georgian historical sources date the invention of the alphabet back to the pre-Christian period. The invention of the Georgian alphabet is connected with the name of king Parnavaz (3rd century B.C.), the descendant of Kartlos, the great ancestor of Georgian Pattern from Svetitskhovelior Kartvelian nation, after whom the name of the country Sakartvelo (Georgia) derives.

According to the ninth century Georgian historian Leonti Mroveli (the author of Kartlis Tskhovreba -- The Life of Georgia), King Parnavaz created Georgian script and then extended the Georgian language throughout the territories of Georgia. According to Leonti Mroveli, Parnavaz descended from Uplos, son of Mtskhetos, son of Kartlos, who was one of the powerful and famous eight brothers, who from their part were descendants of Targamos, son of Tarsi, the grandson of Japheth, son of the Bible Noah.