I’m a little bit late (more so than usual) with this post, but I have a good reason.
Armenian was kind of confusing! And not in the “I can’t understand a lick of this, it makes no sense to me” kind of way, but rather, it was really difficult for me to get a full picture of the language. I spent some time this week to discuss the language with my colleague Sara, who is fluent in (Eastern) Armenian and it helped. But I’m not sure the excitement I had before is still there.
SUMMARY: Armenian has major Persian roots, stretching back to the days of the Armenian kingdom in the first millennium AD. Classical Armenian borrowed a lot from Old Persian, Greek and other languages at the time. In 405 AD, St. Mesrop Mashtots invented an alphabet, which to this day, is practically the one used for Modern Armenian. The modern variant is divided between two main dialects: Western and Eastern, with the later being spoken more widely in modern-day Armenia. This is attributed to the history of the country being divided by Ottoman and Russian powers, as Western and Eastern Armenian reflect these influences, respectively. The language is Indo-European and comprises its own branch — and rightly so.
FINAL IMPRESSION: I spent a great deal of time trying to figure out what this language sounded like. At first I thought it sounded like Arabic and then I dismissed it because Armenian apparently has very few Arabic influences. And then I wondered about how Greek it sounded as that language was cited as being a major relative. It’s not at all Greek to me, pun intended. Maybe part of the problem was trying to categorize Armenian in the first place, instead of recognizing it as a language of its own, a tongue that has bits and pieces of others but is so distinctive it really can’t be compared.
Some of the words, as my colleague alluded, are polysyllabic. Eastern Armenian, the dialect I focused on the most, has a quite a few noun cases, but some of them are the same and genitive (possessive) case seems to be the most complicated. Verbs don’t seem to be as difficult either, as there are -a and -e verbs, as the word endings for conjugating them look like this:
Me/I – am
You Singular – as
He/She/It – a
We – ank
You Plural – ak
They – an
Me/I – em
You Singular – es
He/She/It – i
We – enk
You Plural – ek
They – en
I don’t know about you, but Armenian definitely shows its Indo-European roots here; it kind of reminds me of Spanish.
Armenian, however, does not have grammatical gender like its Romance cousins. The definite article is also tacked on the end of nouns.
My colleague mentioned that the hardest part about Armenian is the pronunciation. There are a lot of consonant clusters that could throw English speakers for a loop (try saying Shnorhakalutyun, which means “thank you”). She also said that when she lived in Armenia she noticed many other dialects beyond the main Eastern and Western one. Hmm.
All in all, I’m really impressed by how it sounds and flows, but my head is still in the clouds about this one.
Don’t be sad, though. I still plan on listening to Armenian music! (Thank you to Patricia Constantinian-Voskeridjian for the clip!)
COMING UP: Korean