Prof. George Hewitt

Review of Kevin Tuite Svan

Review of Kevin Tuite Svan (Lincom Europa, 1997), in BSOAS

Svan is the most archaic of the four  Kartvelian (South Caucasian) languages. Within the family it has the smallest number of native speakers (40-50 thousand), concentrated in the high valleys of N.W. Georgia, where, thanks to Soviet education-policy, all are bilingual in Georgian, which (along with Russian) they use for literary purposes. Svan is the most challenging member of the family thanks to both its variety of declensional patterns and, more especially, the complex nature of its verbal morphophonemics. The picture is further complicated by the  existence of at least four dialects (Upper and Lower Bal in Upper Svanetia, Lashx and Lent’ex in Lower Svanetia),  plus sub-dialectal particularities characterising seemingly  every village-settlement, with varying vowel-systems and verbal patternings -- in 1982 I myself attempted to formalise some of the preradical morphophonemic rules in the  Svan verbal complex. There being no common or standard Svan, descriptions have to ecompass the  spread of dialectal variation, and this short introduction is  no exception. Tuite manages to pack into 45 pages an admirably full survey of the basic grammar, closing with the analysis and translation of a short Upper Bal text, a list of abbreviations and  bibliography. Tuite's knowledge of, and accessibility to, Svan, added to his fluency in Georgian, leads one to hope that he might someday produce the first comprehensive  grammar of this endangered language to  complement the late Maksime Kaldani's unforgivably long delayed  Svan-Georgian dictionary, the appearance of which in two volumes is now reported to be scheduled in Tbilisi for late 1998.

The full text in PDF can be downloaded by clicking here

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