Megrelian or Mingrelian (margaluri nina, in Megrelian; megruli ena, in Georgian)
is a language spoken in northwest Georgia. The language was also called Iverian (Georgian iveriuli ena) in
the early 20th century. It is spoken by the Mingrelians, a regional subgroup of the Georgian people.
Megrelian is one of the South Caucasian or Kartvelian languages. It is closely related to Laz, from which it has
differentiated mostly in the last 500 years, after the northern (Megrelian) and southern (Laz) communities were separated
by Turkic invasions. It is somewhat less closely related to Georgian (the two branches having separated in the first
millennium BC or earlier) and even more distantly related to Svan (which is believed to have branched off in the 2nd
millennium BC or earlier).
Megrelian is not mutually intelligible with any of those other languages, although it is
said that its speakers can recognize many Laz words. Some linguists refer to Mingrelian and Laz as dialects of a
single Zan language. Zan had already split into Mingrelian and Laz variants by early modern times, however,
and it is not customary to speak of a unified Zan language today. No reliable figures for the number of Mingrelian-speakers
exist, but it is thought to be in the region of between 100,000 and 400,000.
Megrelian has been studied by Georgian and foreign linguists since the 19th century. Standard sources include a phonetic
analysis by Aleksandre Tsagareli (1880), and grammars by Ioseb Kipshidze (1914) and Shalva Beridze (1920).
The oldest surviving texts in Megrelian date from the 19th century and are mainly ethnographical literature. From 1930
to 1938 several newspapers were published in Megrelian, such as Kazaxishi Gazeti, Komuna, Samargalosh
Chai Narazenish Chai, and Samargalosh Tutumi. More recently, there has been some revival of the language,
with the publication of dictionaries — Megrelian-Georgian by Otar Kajaia, and Megrelian-German by Otar Kajaia and H. Fänrich
— and poetry books by Lasha Gaxaria, Guri Otobaia, Giorgi Sichinava, Jumber Kukava, and Vaxtang Xarchilava.
The main dialects and sub-dialects of Megrelian are:
- Zugdidi-Samurzakano or Northwest dialect
- Senaki or Southeast dialect