Zan languages

Zan languages
South Caucasus, Anatolia
Linguistic classification: Kartvelian
  • Karto-Zan
    • Zan

The Zan languages, or Zanuri, are a branch of the Kartvelian languages constituted by the Mingrelian and Laz languages. Some[who?] linguists consider both to be members dialects of the same, Zan, language. However, Mingrelian and Laz are not completely mutually intelligible, though speakers of one language can recognize many words of the other.

The Proto-Zan language was spoken in ancient Colchis, a Bronze Age kingdom on the southeast shore of the Black Sea. For this reason, linguist A. Shanidze proposed the name Colchian for the united language. The term Zan comes from the Graeco-Roman name of one of the chief Colchian tribes, which is almost identical to the name given to the Mingrelians by the Svans (a northwestern Kartvelian group).


The Zan languages had split from the proto-Kartvelian language by the 8th century BC,[citation needed] and was spoken by a continuous community stretching along the Black Sea coast, from modern day Trabzon, Turkey into western Georgia.

In the mid-7th century AD, Zan speakers were split by intrusions of Georgian-speaking peoples from Iberia (eastern Georgia), driven by the Arabs, who took over the regions of Imereti, Guria, and Adjara.

Separated by geography, and later by politics and religion, northern and southern Zan eventually diverged into Mingrelian and Laz. Since the differentiation was basically complete by early modern times, it is not customary to speak of a unified Zan language today. Presently, Laz is spoken by the Laz people in Turkey (and in a small portion of Adjara, southwestern Georgia), while Mingrelian is spoken by the Mingrelians primarily in Mingrelia (northwest Georgia) and Abkhazia.


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