I'm interested in the kinds of ambiguities which can be encountered when attempting to analyse the agglutinative verbs of Georgian into their component "slots".

Georgian verbs may have an optional "version vowel" or "pre-radical vowel" in the position immediately preceding the verb stem. Of Georgian's five vowels only "ა" (a), "ე" (e), "ი" (i), and "უ" (u) are possible in this position. The vowel "ო" is never used in this function.

I'm struggling with learning Georgian verbs. Different dictionaries use different forms as the citation form. The version vowel is sometimes used for things such as polypersonal agreement but textbooks tell you that you must learn each verb's version vowel when you learn a verb and they seem to be usually included in the citation forms used as dictionary headwords.

So what I'm wondering is if there are also Georgian verbs whose stem begins with one of these same letters, which would necessitate extra care when reading new verb forms to allow for a vowel to be either a version marker or just part of the stem. Conversely you need to know these parts of a verb just to decide where in a dictionary to look them up.

Are there Georgian verb stems starting with ა- / ე- / ი- / უ- ?


There are indeed Georgian verbs that have a root starting with ა, ე, ი or უ. Here is an example for each vowel: არსებობს/იარსებებს (X exists/will exist), ელავს/იელ(ვ)ებს (there is/will be lightning), აიარაღებს/შეაიარაღებს (X arms/will arm Y), აუმჯობესებს/გააუმჯობესებს (X improves/will improve Y).

Interestingly enough though, it is my impression that most verbal roots starting with a vowel are actually derived from nouns, adjectives or adverbs that happen to start with vowels. Here are examples for two of the most typical processes of denominal derivation: ინტერესი (interest) > აინტერებს/დააინტერებს (X interests/will interest Y) and ექიმი (doctor) > ექიმობს/იექიმებს (X works/will work as a doctor).

I hope this helps!

  • Wow I really expected the answer to be no. Thank you! Now I am very interested to know if there are such verbs which also take either or both of: 1) version vowels 2) the preverb ა- – hippietrail Jul 2 '13 at 14:14
  • In fact it looks like some of your examples are using the preverb ა- but clarification would be appreciated, and the interaction with version vowels intrigues me. – hippietrail Jul 2 '13 at 14:47
  • This is pure speculation, but given the fact that it seems (to me at least) that most of the verb roots that begin with vowels are derived from nouns, adjectives or adverbs, I suspect that there might be some kind of (weak? inherited?) constraint on bona fide verbal roots beginning with vowels. It would be interesting to know what the situation was like in Old Georgian... – A Parmar Jul 3 '13 at 8:36
  • None of my examples have the preverb ა=, but some of them do have -ა- as a version vowel (remember that the preverb is not used in the present tense), so to parse the future forms in the format [preverb=version vowel-root...]: შე=ა-იარაღ-ებ-ს, გა=ა-უმჯობეს-ებ-ს, და=ა-ინტერებს. – A Parmar Jul 3 '13 at 8:57
  • Although I can't think of any examples with a verb beginning with a vowel, it is certainly possible to have preverb ა= and version vowel -ა- together: ა=ა-შენებს (X will build). As sequences of three identical vowels can occur at morpheme boundaries [for example, და=ა-არსებს (X will establish Y - the causative of არსებობს)] it is probably theoretically possible to have derived verbs that pattern ა=ა-ა...ებს. – A Parmar Jul 3 '13 at 9:18

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