I'm currently studying the Georgian language and it has quite a few interesting properties not common in more well known languages.

One property of the verb is called "version", "version markers" or "versioners". And it is used to describe the role of a vowel in the agglutinative verb template which relates to how polypersonalism works.

From the Wikipedia article Georgian verb paradigm:

Versions. The versioners in Georgian establish the language's polypersonalism.

The sister languages of Georgian (Laz, Mingrelian, and Svan) also use the version concept.

But what I'm wondering with this question is whether the concept of version is also used in any other languages. Kartvelian isn't known to be related to any other language families, but it is in a Sprachbund with other Caucasian languages and often terms in linguistics and grammar are borrowed by people describing other languages, especially ones in a neighbouring area or studied by the same people.

  • Examples would be nice for people who have no clue about the answer, but are interested in the concept. – dainichi May 31 '12 at 3:39
  • @dainichi: Actually I haven't got so far in my Georgian studies that I could make an example without copying directly from a textbook or website. I'm just far enough in that I'd like to learn about "version" cross-linguistically as well as specifically in Georgian's case, if it exists. Also if it's more general I know I can make a tag for "version" but if it's restricted to Kartvelian I better not (-: – hippietrail May 31 '12 at 4:07
  • I'm not quite clear what you're asking. Do you want to know if the term "version" is used in the study of other languages families than Kartvelian? Or are you asking if a similar feature is found in other languages/families (than Kartvelian)? The answer to the first question is probably 'no'. Either way, I don't think the "versions" are relevant to "polypersonalism" (another new term to me). – Gaston Ümlaut May 31 '12 at 6:23
  • @GastonÜmlaut: Actually I was only thinking if the term is used for similar concepts in other languages and didn't consider the possibility of similar concepts with different names in other languages, but that would also be interesting. As for whether they are relevant to polypersonalism, I added a snippet from another Wikipedia article that I thought I'd already linked to but hadn't. – hippietrail May 31 '12 at 6:35
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    @Anixx: "Many academics specializing in historical linguistics via the comparative method are skeptical of the conclusions of the paper (by Pagel et al), and critical of its assumptions and methodology." en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eurasiatic_languages#Pagel_et_al. – hippietrail Sep 12 '14 at 3:21
up vote 9 down vote accepted

The Georgian verb has a complex templatic structure which includes a slot that may optionally be occupied by one of a set of morphemes known (within Kartvelian studies) as "versions". These "versions" consist of a single vowel and serve primarily to indicate valence or grammatical voice. Their precise function and syntactic scope results from their interaction with the larger syntactic and semantic context within which they are used. On many verbs the version morphemes are merely agreement markers. In some cases their effect is lexically specific (ie idiosyncratic to that verb). It should be noted that other parts of the Georgian verb may also affect verb valency.

These "version" morphemes are found, in very similar form, in other languages of the Kartvelian family. Similar morphology, also described as version systems, is also found in some Turkic languages of Siberia, in the isolate Burushaski, and in South Munda Gorum, an Austroasiatic language of India; these systems are functionally similar to version but formally very different. It has been suggested that the focus systems of Austronesian languages, and the viewpoint aspect systems found in some Trans-New Guinea languages have similar functions to version.

While the term "version" originated in Kartvelian studies (being a translation of the Georgian term kceva, lit. `change') some authors are using it to describe similar systems occuring in other languages.

The structure and functions of the Georgian "versions" are described in "Steal Me an Apple: Version in Georgian". The PhD thesis by Tuite, (1998) "Kartvelian Morphosyntax" provides a description of versions (amongst many other things) across the Kartvelian languages generally.

  • Great work Gaston! Who knew there would be such an excellent answer. And I was only talking about Burushaski fifteen minutes ago (-: – hippietrail May 31 '12 at 15:08
  • @hippietrail Thanks Hip, <blush>! – Gaston Ümlaut May 31 '12 at 22:45

The Amerindian Na-dene languages have something similar, called classifier prefixes, placed at the exactly same place, and having a similar function, namely valence-alternation, but in these languages the prefixes are consonants.

  • Can you give a little detail or provide a link? Without more these sound a bit like Georgian's "preverbs". – hippietrail Sep 29 '13 at 20:35

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