Armenian Language: Origin, Phrases, Alphabet
Throughout the ages, the unique Armenian language gave rise to poetry, prose and songs still read and performed today. One of the more difficult languages to learn, it has a habit of changing each word into numerous different forms to fit into a sentence, has its own alphabet, which also has to be learned, and differs from any other language in a few ways.
Where did the Armenian language come from?
Around 7 million people speak Armenian around the world. An Indo-European language, it occupies its own branch within the linguistic family, the sole language in the Armenian branch. Though it is credited as 2600 years old, there was no written record of the language before the early 5th century AD, when the Bible was translated into Armenian for local worshippers. Previous to this Armenian holy book, Greek and Aramaic/Syriac Bibles were used from the 8th century BC, though the Armenian language itself was mentioned in the 6th century BC in Persian texts, and Greek texts dated shortly after.
What language do Armenians speak now?
According to the Constitution of Armenia, Armenian is the official language of the country, though it is also the most popular language spoken amongst the general population. Russian is also widely spoken, due to Armenia’s history with Cold War era-Russia, and English is steadily rising in popularity with the spread of both the internet and western media into the country. Yazidi, Assyrian and Greek are also spoken by relative members of minority communities.
Which language is most closely related to Armenian?
Unlike languages such as French, Italian and Spanish, while Armenian is part of the Indo-European language family, it forms its own branch on the language tree, thus having no close relations to any other language. Armenian was formed in a very isolated community of people living in what is now modern-day Armenia, leading to a formation of its own unique style.
In spite of this, there are some interesting theories about the formation of Armenian alongside Greek or other Indo-Iranian languages, but these are generally not widely accepted.
When was the Armenian alphabet created?
Mesrop Mashtots created the Armenian alphabet in an attempt to capture the spoken sounds of the language. Due to there being no written form of Armenian when Christianity was adopted as the national religion in 301AD, the Bible was not translated into the local language at the time. When Mesrop created the Armenian alphabet 100 years after the adoption of the religion, it was to create a local version of the Bible, for the local masses to consume.
What does the Armenian alphabet look like?
The Armenian alphabet consists of 36 letters, with 3 more added in the 11th century in an attempt to emulate foreign words. Those added letters were “և(yev); օ(o); ֆ(f)”; however, “և” translates as “and” in English, meaning that though it is a letter as written, just like ‘a’ or ‘I’ in English, it’s also a word. The modern language consists of 38 letters – 31 constantans and 7 vowels.
What makes the Armenian language so unique?
The Armenian language consists of a lot of long words. In some cases, Armenian words are formed similarly to Germanic words, by connecting two or more roots together.
Armenian has two standard forms, which differ in the grammar within the language, and usage of metaphorical phrases and expressions.
- Eastern Armenian is spoken in Armenia, Nagorno-Karabakh, Russia, Georgia, and Iran
- Western Armenia is spoken among the Armenian diaspora, who settled amongst countries such as the USA, France, Syria, Lebanon, etc.
Is it hard to learn Armenia?
Armenian is a difficult language to learn – one of the most difficult, if not the most difficult. There are useful websites that can be used to learn Armenian, either for free or for a small fee. E.g., Armenian Language Lessons by Armeniapedia, AGBU Armenian Virtual College, Armenian Language Classes by Birthright Armenia.
Useful phrases for first-time visitors to Armenia
It’s a good idea to learn some small and frequently-necessary Armenian phrases when travelling to Armenia, as English is not as prevalent as some countries such as France or Germany. If you learn these essential phrases, you can interact with locals, or simply impress them with your knowledge.
Bar’ev – Hello
Shnorakaloot’yoon – Thank You
Inch’pes eq? – How are you?
Kne’req – Sorry
Lav – Good
Haye’ren chem kho’soom – I don’t speak Armenian
See also: Our Armenian Phrases and Words blog post for more examples.