Armenian: ԲարևՁեզ!

So, if you listened to my first World in Words interview, part of me was a little excited to start Armenian. But I’ve never really known why. I was always a little curious about this language, so radically different from its Indo-European cousins. I was eager to learn more about its expansive (and at some points dark) history along with a culture that has persevered for centuries.

REGIONAL HISTORY: Armenia goes way, way back, with a kingdom appearing in 600 BC. The region is known as the first Christian nation in the world, embracing Christianity in 301 AD. The 5th century AD marked the end of the Armenian kingdom, but not before one of the biggest innovations in the language was to appear. St. Mesrop invented the Armenian alphabet in 405, which is still used today (although a couple of extra letters would be added later).  Soon the Kingdom became part of the Arabian Empire, until the 800s, when Armenia regained autonomy for a brief period.

Armenia’s history from the 1000s to 1700s is pretty tumultuous, as it includes lots of conquer and invasions by nearby regions. First, it was recaptured by the Byzantine Empire and later Turks, before becoming part of the Mongol Empire in the 1200s. More invasions from Central Asian countries took place and soon the Ottoman Empire took hold of Armenia in the 15th century. Later Russia would take the Eastern parts in the 1800s.

We get to some really somber parts in Armenia’s history. In the late 1800s, Armenians, who were persecuted under Turkish rule, began to push for more rights. Sultan Hamid, ruler at the time, ordered for thousands of Armenians to be killed, known as the Hamidian Massacres.

WWI broke out and Russia and the Ottoman Empire battled it out for control of Armenia. At the same time, Armenians living in the Ottoman areas still wanted independence  and many were seen as spies by the ruling Turks. There was a diaspora of Armenians living in Russia and some sided with the Russians, in hopes of gaining autonomy. This led to an expulsion of Armenians to the Syrian desert in 1915, in which thousands died and were brutalized by escorting officers. The issue of whether or not this and other events should be recognized as the Armenian Genocide remains a hot subject, although studies have estimated millions of Armenians died during this time.

Armenia became part of the USSR in the 1920s and saw some stability and growth. It gained independence in the 1990s with its neighbor republics and has tried to move on from its recent troubled past.

WRITING SYSTEM: The later sequence of events in the country’s history led to Armenians congregating in Constantinople (Istanbul) and modern-day Georgia, which in turn led to, not surprisingly, a Western and Eastern dialect of Armenian. There are some differences between the two, but they use the same alphabet, a script which is nothing like any of the other Indo-European languages.

I was kind of torn on this, but I decided to focus on Eastern Armenian, as that variant is used more in Armenia. The Western pronunciations are in parentheses:

Ա ա –  a as in father
Բ բ – b (p in Western)
Գ գ – g (k in Western)
Դ դ – d (t in Western)
Ե ե – y
Զ զ – z
Է է – e
Ը ը – schwa “uh” sound
Թ թ – t as in t-shirt
Ժ ժ – zu as in pleasure
Ի ի – ee as in meet
Լ լ – l
Խ խ – a “kuh” throaty sound
Ծ ծ – ts as in tsar
Կ կ – k (g in Western)
Հ հ – h
Ձ ձ – dz as in kudzu (ts in Western)
Ղ ղ – a “guh” throaty sound
Ճ ճ – ch (j in Western)
Մ մ – m
Յ յ – y (h in Western)
Ն ն – n
Շ շ – sh as in shy
Ո ո – o as in oval, vo as in vocal
Չ չ – ch as in check
Պ պ – p (b in Western)
Ջ ջ – j (ch in Western)
Ռ ռ – rr (like the rolled Spanish rr)
Ս ս – s
Վ վ – v
Տ տ – t (d in Western)
Ր ր – r
Ց ց – ts as in tsar
Ւ ւ – oo  as in moo (v in Western)
Փ փ – p
Ք ք – qu as in queen
և ևվ – yev, ev
Օ օ – o as in done
Ֆ ֆ – f

FIRST IMPRESSIONS: I’m not quite sure how to describe Armenian, to be honest. Apparently its closest relative is Greek, but it sounds like a weird potpourri of Azeri and Arabic? And then it has Persian influences? Well. But the alphabet seems pretty basic as well. I also noticed that Armenian doesn’t have grammatical gender.

Looks like this guy is trying to study it too (along with several other languages — just like me! Who knew?). He’s speaking in Western Armenian, though:

SOURCES USED IN THIS POST:
Armenian Alphabet

Armenipedia’s page on the Armenian Alphabet
Lonely Planet’s page on Armenia’s History
Wikipedia (Armenia, Armenian Language, Armenian Genocide)

So, part of me was a little excited to start Armenian. I’m not really sure why, but I was always a little curious about this language, so radically different from its Indo-European cousins, especially from listening to it and learning about Armenia’s history. How could a region retain so much of its historyREGIONAL HISTORY: Armenia goes way, way back, with a kingdom appearing in 600 BC. The region is known as the first Christian nation in the world, embracing Christianity in 301 AD. The 5th century AD marked the end of the Armenian kingdom, but not before one of the biggest innovations in the language was to appear. St. Mesrop invented the Armenian alphabet in 406, which is still used today. Later, the Kingdom became part of the Arabian Empire, until the 800s, which Armenia regained autonomy.

Armenia’s history from 1000s-1700s is pretty tumultious, as it includes lots of conquer and invasions by nearby regions. First, it was recaptured by the Byzantine Empire and later Turks, before becoming part of the Mongol Empire in the 1200s. More invasions from Central Asian countries took place and soon the Ottoman Empire took hold of Armenia in the 15th century. Later Russia would take the Eastern parts in the 1800s.

We get to some reallty dark parts in Armenia’s history. In the late 1800s, Armenians, who were persecuted under Turkish rule, began to push for more rights. Sultan Hamid, ruler at the time, ordered for thousands of Armenians to be killed, known as the Hamidian Massacres.

WWI broke out and Russia and the Ottoman Empire battled it out for control of Armenia. At the same time, Armenians living in the area still wanted independence  and many were seen as spies by the ruling Turks. There was a diaspora of Armenians living in Russia and some sided with them, in hopes of gaining autonomy. This led to an explusion of Armenians to the Syrian desert in 1915, in which thousands died, and brutalized by escorting officers. The issue of whether or not this and other events should be recognized as the Armenian Genocide remains a hot subject, although studies have estimated millions of Armenians died during this time.

Soon Armenia became part of the USSR in the 1920s and saw some stability and growth. It gained independence in the 1990s with its neighbor republics and has tried to move on from its recent troubled past.

WRITING SYSTEM: The earlier sequence of events in the country’s history led to Armenians congregating in Constantinople and modern-day Georgia, which led to, not surprisingly, a Western and Eastern variant of Armenian. There are some differences between the two, but they use the same alphabet, a script which is nothing like any of the other Indo-European languages.

I decided to focus on Eastern Armenian, as that variant is used more in Armenia. The Western variations are in parantheses:

Ա ա –  a as in father
Բ բ – b (p in Western)
Գ գ – g (k in Western)
Դ դ – d (t in Western)
Ե ե – y
Զ զ – z
Է է – e
Ը ը – schwa “uh” sound
Թ թ – t as in t-shirt
Ժ ժ – zu as in pleasure
Ի ի – ee as in meet
Լ լ – l
Խ խ – a “kuh” throaty sound
Ծ ծ – ts as in tsar
Կ կ – k (g in Western)
Հ հ – h
Ձ ձ – dz as in kudzu (ts in Western)
Ղ ղ – a “guh” throaty sound
Ճ ճ – ch (j in Western)
Մ մ – m
Յ յ – y (h in Western)
Ն ն – n
Շ շ – sh as in shy
Ո ո – o as in oval, vo as in vocal
Չ չ – ch as in check
Պ պ – p (b in Western)
Ջ ջ – j (ch in Western)
Ռ ռ – rr (like the rolled Spanish rr)
Ս ս – s
Վ վ – v
Տ տ – t (d in Western)
Ր ր – r
Ց ց – ts as in tsar
Ւ ւ – oo  as in moo (v in Western)
Փ փ – p
Ք ք – qu as in queen
և ևվ – yev, ev
Օ օ – o as in done
Ֆ ֆ – f

FIRST IMPRESSIONS:

One thought on “Armenian: ԲարևՁեզ!

  1. Parov yegar Hayots lezuin! I love the video you posted! I can’t stop giggling! I can’t wait for you to post your own video as well. So, you decided to go with Eastern… just as I predicted you would way in the beginning. Looking forward to your impressions! Let me know if I can be of help.

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