Armenien - ArmeniaArmenian Language Armenien - Armenia Armenien - Armenia

Armenian is a complex and beautiful language. Except for a transition into middle Armenian during the 10th-12th centuries and into a modern form in the 19th century, it has been continuously used for more than 1500 years as it was first created, borrowing traces of words and expressions from Hindu, Persian, Arabic, Greek and Latin along the way. In its current form in the Republic, it uses a lively and vibrant incorporation of words from Russian, French, English and other countries. It is a language alive.

Armenien - ArmeniaUseful Phrases and Words

Armenian has its own unique alphabet, devised between 401-406 c.e. by Mesrop Mashtots (361-440 c.e.) under the patronage of King Vramshapuh and Catolicos Sahak Partev. Until that time, most written versions of Armenian were in Greek. During the turbulent years of the 4th century c.e., the new alphabet was treated as a divine gift from God, a weapon of intellect over the dark forces of fanaticism. The first sentence written in Armenian was "To know wisdom and gain instruction; to discern the words of understanding…" Armenians were quick to use the new alphabet, translating Greek, Roman, Persian, Arabic, Egyptian, even Chinese treatises into Armenian. The Matenadaran in Yerevan contains more than 25,000 manuscripts dating to the 5th century. Many of these are Armenian translations of philosophical, scientific, historical and religious writings going back as far as the Hellenistic Greece. Some are the only existing versions of the originals.
It has been said that no more important tool was given to Armenians then their alphabet, for it has preserved their identity during invasions, and allowed them to avoid assimilation. If Russian was the international tongue of the Soviet Union, then Armenian is the International tongue that binds almost 9 million Armenians around the world.


Today, five to six million people speak Armenian (Grimes 1992), although the total population of the Republic of Armenia is only 3.5 million (ninety three percent of whom are ethnic Armenian). Thus, nearly half of Armenian speakers today live outside their historic homeland, primarily in Iran (370,000), Syria (299,000), Lebanon (235,000), Egypt (100,000), and the United States (175,000). Smaller communities, under 40,000, are found in Canada, Cyprus, Greece, India, Israel, and Jordan. Somewhat larger communities, between 40,000 and 70,000 speakers, live in Turkey, France, and Iraq. Enclaves of speakers also reside in Georgia and Azerbaijan, especially the Nagorno Karabakh region (CIA 1992). Haieren and Ashkhari are Armenian terms for the language, although the latter is somewhat erudite.

The term Armenian can be used to refer to at least three different languages, each with its own dialects. It can refer to Classical Armenian (the older form of the language); Modern Western Armenian (developed in those regions of Armenia that are now Turkey and the variety spoken in the diaspora); and Modern Eastern Armenian (the language of the Republic of Armenia).

First printed documents appeared in Armenia in early 16th century. A century later, in 1662, an Armenian cleric, Father Voskan was sent to Amsterdam by Catholicos Hakop, to prepare printing of the Bible in Armenian. For years later, the job, which consisted of casting Armenian letter types, producing wooden carvings for the illustrations, etc. was completed, and the first Bible in the Armenian language was printed in Amsterdam in 1662.


Armenian forms an independent branch of the Indo-European language family (Comrie, 1981). Armenian is most closely related to Greek, but has many borrowed words from such Indo-Iranian languages as Pushto and Persian. In fact, during the very early periods of its classification, Armenian was erroneously considered an Iranian language because of its large number of Iranian loan words.

Armenien - Armenia  LANGUAGE VARIATION

Two standard dialects exist. Eastern Armenian is used in Armenia and in enclaves in Azerbaijan and Iran. Western Armenian is used by Armenians in Istanbul, Lebanon, Egypt, other parts of the diaspora, and formerly in eastern Turkey. Eastern Armenian has been influenced by two sets of Russian reforms and differs orthographically from Western Armenian; there are also phonological differences. Many regional dialect variations exist, e.g., Yerevan, Tbilisi, Karabagh, Istanbul (Djahukian 1986). Some local dialects are so different from both standard forms of the language that speakers of the standard forms have difficulty in understanding local dialects (Greppin and Khachaturian 1986). Otherwise, dialect differences are no greater than dialect differences within American English.

Armenien - Armenia  ORTHOGRAPHY

Armenian Alphabet The Armenian alphabet was derived primarily from the Greek alphabet in the fifth century and consists of thirty eight (originally thirty six) letters. Although foreign influences have greatly changed the Armenian language (so much so that it has at times been thought of as a Persian dialect), Armenian's script is easily distinguished from Persian and Arabic writing. Soviet influence on the language also changed Armenian orthography and several letters characteristic of Classical Armenian (and the West Armenian dialect) are not used in East Armenian. Several transliteration schemes into English exist, (Greppin 1992) one is by the Library of Congress (Greppin 1977). The language can give tongue fits to an English-speaking tourist, as it contains several sounds for which there are no English equivalents. There is more than one pronunciation of the consonants ‘p’ ‘k’ and ‘t’, for example, and it take a refined ear to discern the differences. Armenians usually place the subject of their sentence in front of the verb or action, so that the sentence, "I want coffee," is said in Armenian grammar, "I coffee want" (There is a subtle respect for the object of the sentence implied in this grammar. For example, in Armenian "I love you" is expressed, "I YOU love," placing the amorous object before the action). Armenians also use the double negative, so that "Nobody wants it," comes out ‘Nobody not wants it.’ In English the double negative would create a positive statement. Not in Armenian.

Armenien - Armenia  LINGUISTIC SKETCH

The sound system of Armenian is atypical of Indo-European languages in that it has ejective sounds. Ejectives are sounds made by using the vocal cords instead of the lungs to push out air. It is probable that these sounds were borrowed from neighboring Caucasian languages. Words are normally assigned word final stress.

Armenian has seven nominal cases. The language distinguishes two numbers, singular and plural, but there is no grammatical gender. The position of the indefinite article varies between Eastern and Western Armenian. In the Eastern variety, it precedes the noun, in the Western, it follows the noun. Every verb stem has two forms, called bases. One is used for the simple past tense and past participle; the other is used for all other tenses, moods, and participles. Word order in Armenian is subject-verb-object.

Armenien - Armenia  ROLE IN SOCIETY

Armenian is the official language in Armenia and is used in schools and by the media. Armenians of the diaspora have gained renewed interest in their homeland as a result of the Armenian revolution and the establishment of the Republic of Armenia. Although many Armenians of the diaspora do not intend to return to their Armenian homeland, they consider continued use of the language of critical importance to the maintenance of a unified Armenian sense of history and identity. Because many second generation Armenian immigrants in the United States have lost proficiency in their native language, attempts are being made to preserve their cultural heritage. Thus, the Armenian community in the United States has recently published many books that are intended to re-introduce Armenians to their mother tongue, generally the West Armenian dialect. In addition to textbooks, Armenian language newspapers are printed in Boston, Fresno, and New York. Thus the Armenian language learner in the United States has a rich diversity of language materials and cultural resources to draw from.

Armenia has a long literary tradition, with publishing centers in Yerevan, Istanbul, and Cairo. A fifth century classical form of the language, Grabar, is maintained by the Armenian church.

And so the rules (and exceptions) continue. But do not despair. The rules are not that difficult to learn, and for the tourist it is not necessary to learn a complete vocabulary and grammar in order to communicate. There are a few key words and phrases which--like all languages-- once learned, open the world before you. So do not let the new sounds and rules stop you from learning some of the phrases contained in this guide or attempting to speak Armenian. Armenians love any attempt to speak their language, and it is a sure ice-breaker in an uncertain moment, winning admirers and instant friends.

Armenien - Armenia  Armenian Alphabet

Originally there were 36 letters in the Armenian alphabet. Three letters were added in the 10th-12th cc, for a total of 39 letters.

The original 36 letters of the alphabet were arranged in 4 rows of 9 letters. Before Armenia adopted the Arabic numeral system, each letter represented a number. The first row of letters were (in sequence) for the numbers 1-9, the second row for 10’s-90’s, the third row 100’s-900’s, and the fourth for 1000’s-9,000.

Hence the letters in old Armenian represent 1996. You will find this number system inscribed on old monuments in Armenia, as well as on a few modern ones (the Matenadaran for example).

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