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.

  • 2
    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, 2011 at 15:47
  • 1
    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, 2011 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. Dec 12, 2011 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, 2011 at 20:59
  • 1
    I know this is old, but I'm glad it's not just me. I keep seeing, "Let's learn the alphabet... ვ vuh...", and then hear "...თქვენ = tkwen", with their mouths clearly in the 'w' position. The only recent exception to this that I've stumbled across, is in the LingQ app, where they say, although with no explanation, "...ვ - 'van, well'...", with both pronunciations given.
    – LOlliffe
    Dec 5, 2023 at 21:02

2 Answers 2


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, 2016 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.

  • 1
    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? Dec 28, 2013 at 7:28

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