Georgian is an inflected language. The language distinguishes eight nominal cases (nominative, ergative, accusative/dative, genitive, instrumental, adverbial, ablative, and locative) in one declension, and marks singular and plural by a suffix on nouns preceding the case marker. There is no grammatical gender. Pronouns are declined and display number and case for subject, direct object, indirect object, and possessive forms. Verbs can show agreement with the subject, object, and indirect object. The verbal system is very complex; the language makes two distinctions, between stative or action verbs and transitive or intransitive verbs. Tense/aspect divides into three series (present-future, aorist, and perfect), and the form of subject, object, and indirect object agreement marked on the verb varies by series.
Word order is relatively free; Subject-Verb-Object, Subject-Object-Verb and Object-Subject-Verb all occur.
Georgian has five vowels and a consonant inventory of twenty-nine phonemes, including ejectives. (Ejectives are sounds made with the air pushed out by the vocal cords instead of the lungs.) Consonants can occur in clusters of up to six sounds, for example in the word mcvrtneli 'trainer'.
For fifteen centuries, Georgian has been the only written language within the South Caucasian family. The most ancient inscriptions of the language date back to the fifth century AD. Its rich literary tradition has remained uninterrupted from then to the present. It is also the liturgical language for all members of the Georgian Orthodox church. The conventional view dates the start of modern Georgian to about 1700.
Georgian language development may be divided into three main periods. The Old Georgian period, which extends from its beginning in the fifth century to about the twelfth century, was rich in literary material, mainly religious works. The Medieval Georgian period, which began during the eleventh century and continued to the eighteenth century produced notable epic works. The Modern Georgian period started in the eighteenth century with a renaissance of Georgian culture. At the time, attempts were made to salvage historical materials that had survived the Mongol conquest.
The first printing press was established in Tbilisi. The 1860s saw a revitalization of the literary language led by three important writers: Prince Ilia Chavchavadze, Akaki Tsereteli, and Vazha Pshavela. Archaic literary standards were replaced by a more vivid and realistic style.