Laz language

From Academic Kids

The Laz language (Lazuri in Laz, Chanuri in Georgian) is spoken by an ethnic group of the same name on the Southeast shore of the Black Sea. It is estimated that there are more than 500,000 native speakers of Laz in Turkey in a strip of land extending from Melyat to the Georgian border and about 30,000 in Georgia (in Ajaria). The region in Turkey was officially called Lazistan until 1925.


History of the language

Laz is one of the four South Caucasian languages, closely related to Megrelian and somewhat less closely to Georgian. The Laz and Megrelian communities were separated by politics and religion around 500 years ago, and the languages are no longer mutually intelligible. The Laz-Megrelian branch apparently split from Georgian in the 1st millennium BC. Lazs are one of the ethnographic groups of Georgian people.

The ancient kingdom of Colchis was located in the same region the Laz speakers are found in today, and its inhabitants probably spoke an ancestral version of the language. Colchis was the setting for the famous Greek legend of Jason and the Argonauts.

Laz has no official status in either Turkey or Georgia, and no written standard. It is presently used only for familiar and casual interaction; for literary, business, and other purposes, Laz speakers use their country's official language (Turkish or Georgian). Occasional publications in Laz are written using the corresponding alphabets. Laz speakers seem to be decreasing in number, and the language is in danger of extinction.

Language features

Familial features

Like many languages of the Caucasus, Laz has a rich consonantal system (in fact, the richest among the South Caucasian family) but only five vowels (a,e,i,o,u). The nouns are inflected with agglutinative suffixes to indicate grammatical function (4 to 7 cases, depending on the dialect) and number (singular or plural), but not by gender.

The Laz verb is inflected with suffixes according to person and number, and also for tense, aspect, mood, and (in some dialects) evidentiality. Up to 50 verbal prefixes are used to indicate spatial orientation/direction. Person and number suffixes provided for the subject as well as for one or two objects involved in the action, e.g. gimpulam = "I hide it from you".

Distinguishing features

Some distinctive features of Laz among its family are:

  • Two additional consonants, /f/ and /h/;
  • All nouns end with a vowel.
  • More extensive verb inflection, using directional prefixes.
  • Substantial lexical borrowings from Greek and from Turkic languages.


Laz has five major dialects:

  • Hopan, spoken in Hopa;
  • Vitse-Arkabian, spoken in Arhavi and Fındıklı
  • Chkhalan, spoken in Dzky;
  • Atinan, spoken in Pazar;
  • Ardeshenian, spoken in Ardeşen.

The last two are often treated as a single Atinan dialect. Speakers of different Laz dialects have trouble understanding each other, and often prefer to communicate in the official language.

See also

External links

ja:ラズ語 nl:Lazisch


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