The sixth letter of the Georgian alphabet is and all the resources I have describe it as being like English v or IPA [v].

But especially in the common word ნახვამდის (goodbye) the sounds a lot more like an English w than an English v.

So what's happening here? I can't seem to find anything mentioning approximants or semivowels in Georgian at all.

  • Does the sound depend on adjacent sounds?
  • Does it vary regionally?
  • Does it vary from individual speaker to speaker?

Also what it does sound like w is it an IPA [w] or something different like a bilabial? To me it sounds a bit different to English w but I'm not a real linguist so I can't decide what it is.

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    One common thing that happens is for one phoneme, especially a labial one, to display a lot of individual, or dialectal, variation from simple lip rounding [w] through [ʋ] to [v], if there are no other contrasts in that area. In other words, they may be simply allophones. – jlawler Dec 12 '11 at 15:47
  • Disclaimer: I'm a real linguist, but I deal with syntax and semantics rather than phonetics and phonology. And I'm sure I know less Georgian than you do. But this is a fairly common phenomenon, on a number of levels. English speakers understand what Germans are saying when they occasionally (or even continually) substitute [v] for [w], for instance. – jlawler Dec 12 '11 at 15:50
  • Yes I'm pretty sure they are allophones, I guess I want to know the how and why, the phonological rules, about the allophones in that case. Neither Wikipedia nor my two textbooks seem to mention anything. – hippietrail Dec 12 '11 at 16:47
  • It's quite possible it's a dialectal feature of the village or clan that the speakers(' ancestors) came from, preserved in migration. Any language spoken in mountainous territory is going to have lots of regional variation. – jlawler Dec 12 '11 at 20:59

The grammar/references you've been looking at are perhaps giving a more archaic pronunciation for the word, or a regional/prestigious pronunciation. This happens in Russian, where most grammars give [ɕt͡ɕ] (or the English approximation: fre shch eese) instead of [ɕː] for <щ>, even though the latter is more common now.

What I was able to find: "Orthographic (i.e. <ვ>) stands for the bilabial glide [w], especially after consonants, and for the labiodental fricative [v] elsewhere."


Georgian Harmonic Clusters: Phonetic Cues to Phonological Representation Ioana Chitoran Phonology, Vol. 15, No. 2 (1998), pp. 121-141 Published by: Cambridge University Press

  • "where most grammars give [ɕt͡ɕ]" - where? I have never seen such a thing. – Anixx Jun 16 '16 at 20:53

I think it is more of a socioeconomic class (and perception of) differentiation. the people i have encountered who pronounce it as w also do not pronounce the r sound the same as more well spoken people. the instance of formality seems to come into play also.

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    I tried and failed to detect it spread this way when I was in Georgia, but not convincingly so. What variation did you find with "r" exactly? – hippietrail Dec 28 '13 at 7:28

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