Classical Armenian Orthography
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Classical Armenian Orthography

Classical Armenian orthography, traditional orthography or Mashtotsian orthography ( ? ? in classical orthography and ? in reformed orthography, Hayereni tasagan ughakrutyun), is the orthography that was developed by Mesrop Mashtots in the 5th century for writing Armenian and reformed during the early 19th century. Today, it is used primarily by the Armenian diaspora, including all Western Armenian speakers and Eastern Armenian speakers in Iran, which has rejected the Armenian orthography reform of Soviet Armenia during the 1920s. In the Armenian diaspora, some linguists and politicians allege political motives behind the reform of the Armenian alphabet.

Classical Armenian orthography uses 38 letters: the original 36 letters of the Armenian alphabet invented by Mesrop Mashtots during the 5th century, and the 2 additional letters included later in the Armenian alphabet during the Middle Ages.

Majuscule ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?
Minuscule ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?

It uses also 2 letters that were added to the Armenian alphabet in the 13th century:

Vowels

Monophthongs

Armenian has eight monophthongs (?, ?, i, o, u, ?, ?, oe) and ten symbols to represent them (⟨?, ?, ?, ?, ?, ?, ?, , , ⟩). They will be shown here with International Phonetic Alphabet:

Front Central Back
Unrounded Rounded Unrounded Rounded
Close i  ⟨?⟩ ?  ⟨⟩ u  ⟨⟩
Mid ?  ⟨?~?⟩ oe  ⟨⟩ ?  ⟨?⟩ ?  ⟨?~?⟩
Open ?  ⟨?⟩

/?/ -- ⟨?⟩, ⟨⟩

  1. The vowel ? is written ⟨?⟩. For example: [?'v] ("sun") is written ?.
  2. Polysyllabic words ending in /?/ are written with ⟨⟩. For example: [d?z?'r?] ("slave") is written ; [ t?o'] ("s/he shivers") is written . There are exceptions:
    1. Certain words like ?, , ?, , , , , , ?, ?.
    2. Proper nouns like , , ?.
    3. The singular imperative form of type III verbs. For example: -> ; -- .
    4. Foreign words ending in /?/. For example: ? (Nora), ? (soda), (agha //), etc.

/?/ -- ⟨?⟩, ⟨?⟩

  1. At the end of a word, /?/ is always written ⟨?⟩ (never ⟨?⟩). For example: ?, ?, ?.
  2. At the beginning of a word, /?/ is written ⟨?⟩. For example: , .
  3. In the middle of a word before a vowel, /?/ is written ⟨?⟩. For example: , .
  4. When followed by two consonants within a root word, /?/ is written ⟨?⟩. For example: ?, , ?, ?.
  5. When making a noun plural, ⟨⟩ or ⟨⟩ is added to the end of the noun. For example: ? -> , ? -> ?.
  6. When followed by ⟨?⟩, ⟨?⟩, ⟨?⟩, ⟨?⟩, or ⟨?⟩, /?/ is written ⟨?⟩ (and not ⟨?⟩). The following are exceptions: , and foreign proper nouns: , .

/i/ -- ⟨?⟩

/i/ is always written ⟨?⟩. For example: [i?] ("his"/"her") is written .

/?/ -- ⟨?⟩, ⟨?⟩, ⟨⟩

  1. At the start of a word, /?/ is written ⟨?⟩ unless the following sound is [v], when ⟨?⟩ is written. For example: ['k?] ("rule") is written , and [?v?'sis] ("oasis") is written .
  2. In the middle of a rootword followed by two consonants, /?/ is written ⟨?⟩ (not ⟨?⟩). For example: [kk?] ("rug") is written ?, [ht?] ("calf") is written ? and [p?] ("radish") is written ?.
  3. /?/ at the end of a word is written ⟨⟩. For example: [j'] ("evening") is written , and [h?'d?] ("later") is written . There are exceptions:
    1. The words ? ("yes"), pronounced [?'j?], and ("you" in slang), pronounced [d?z?].
    2. Proper nouns. For example: ? ("Bedo"), ("Congo").
    3. Foreign words. For example: ("auto"), ? ("solo"), ? ("zero"), ("metro").
  4. When a vowel is added to a word ending in ⟨?⟩, the latter is changed to ⟨⟩. For example: ? ([b?'d?]) -> ? ([b?d?'jin], "of/to Bedo"), ([k']) -> ([k'j?n], "from Congo").

/u/ -- ⟨⟩

/u/ is always written ⟨⟩. For example: [dun] ("house") is written ?.

/?/ -- ⟨?⟩, epenthetical

The [?] vowel is usually not written. For example: [m?d?'d?zum] ("thought") is written ? (not ??), and [?sknt?'li] ("marvelous") is written (not ?).

⟨?⟩ is written in the following cases:

  1. At the start of a word if the following sound is a [n] (⟨?⟩) or [m] (⟨?⟩). For example: [?nd'l] ("to choose") is written , ['] ("friend") is written , [?m'psd] ("defiant") is written and [?mpr'n?l] ("to comprehend") is written ?.
  2. At the start of a word if the [?] vowel stems from the [i] or [u] sound. For example: ['t?sl] ("to desire") is written because it stems from the noun [i?t?s?] ("desire", ). Also, [?m'b?l] ("to drink") is written because it stems from the noun [umb] ("mouthful", ?).
  3. At the start or the middle of a monosyllabic word whose only vowel is [?]. For example: [?sd] ("according to") is written , and [m?n] ("a" or "an", indefinite article) is written .
  4. In derivative and compound words if their second part starts with [?]. For example: [?n?nt?un?'li] ("inadmissible") is written because it is a derivative word that is formed from the prefix [?n] ("un-", -) and the root [] ("friend", ). Also, [kntt?s?] ("swift") is written because it is a compound word that is formed from the root words ? ("quick") and ("gait").
  5. Within a word after the letters ⟨⟩, if they are not followed by a vowel they represent [v]. For example: ? ([b?hv?'dil] "to hide") and ? ([vv?'n?] "from tomorrow").
  6. In line-breaking. For example: ? ([v?'n?s], "harm") becomes -, and ? (?z'kl, "to feel") becomes -.
  7. At the end of words, to specify the article "the". For example: (['lujs?], "the light") is formed by adding ⟨?⟩ to the end of ?. Also, ([t?sn'n], "the statues") does the same.

/?/ -- ⟨⟩

/?/ is always written ⟨⟩. For example: [k] ("village") is written ?.

/oe/ -- ⟨⟩

/oe/ is a rare sound to write foreign words and is always written ⟨⟩. For example: the female name [oe'ni] ("Eugenie") is written , a transcription of letters.

Diphthongs

Armenian has nine diphthongs: /j?/, /j?/, /ji/, /j?/, /ju/, /?j/, /ej/, /ij/, /uj/.

/j?/ -- ⟨⟩, ⟨⟩, ⟨⟩; occurs in ⟨⟩, ⟨⟩

/j?/ is written differently depending on its context.

  1. [j?] at the start of a word is written ⟨⟩. For example: [j?ni'k?j?n] ("Yanikian", a family name) is written .
  2. Preceded by a consonant, it is written ⟨⟩. For example: [s?'nj] ("room") is written . However, at the end of a word, ⟨⟩ is written ⟨⟩. For example: [?r?'?ja] ("daily") is written ?.
  3. When [j?] is preceded by a vowel other than [i] or [?], it is written ⟨⟩. For example: ['j?n] ("station") is written .
  4. Besides that, [j?] presents in the endings of Classical Armenian surnames -, for example in ?.
  5. A disyllabic sequence of a monophthong ([i]) and a diphthong ([j?]) is written ⟨⟩ (⟨⟩ when at the end of a word). For example: [mij?'sin] ("together") is written .
  6. A disyllabic sequence of a monophthong ([?]) and a diphthong ([j?]) is written ⟨⟩ (or ⟨⟩ at the end of a word). For example: [?'j] ("being", the noun) is written .

/j?/ -- ⟨?⟩, ⟨⟩, ⟨⟩

/j?/ is written differently depending on its context.

  1. At the start of a word, it is written ⟨?⟩. For example: [j?'z] ("dream") is written ?. ⟨?⟩ between two consonants represents /?/ (see above for details).
  2. In the middle of a word, /j?/ is written ⟨⟩. For example: [h?j?'li] ("mirror") is written . ⟨⟩ at the start of a word represents [h?] (see below for details).
  3. At the end of a word, /j?/ is written ⟨⟩ (never ⟨⟩). For example: [n?'j?] ("look!") is written .

/ji/ -- ⟨⟩; occurs in ⟨⟩

/ji/ is never at the start of a word and is written differently depending on its context:

  1. A disyllabic sequence of a monophthong ([?]) and a diphthong ([ji]) is written ⟨⟩. For example: [?'ji] ("I was") is written , and [uz?'jin] ("they wanted") is written ?'.
  2. Otherwise, /ji/ is written ⟨⟩. For example: [m?'jis] ("May") is written . ⟨⟩ at the start of a word represents [hi] (see below for details).

/j?/ -- ⟨⟩

/j?/ is always written ⟨⟩. For example: ['j?t] ("seven") is written ?.

/ju/ -- ⟨⟩, ⟨⟩; occurs in ⟨⟩, ⟨⟩

/ju/ is written differently depending on its context:

  1. At the start of a word, /ju/ is written ⟨⟩. For example: [ju?] ("oil") is written .
  2. After a vowel other than [i] or [?], it is written ⟨⟩. For example: [k?'jun] ("firm") is written . ⟨⟩ at the start of a word represents [hu] (see below for an example).
  3. The disyllabic sequence of the monophthong [i] and the diphthong [ju] is written ⟨⟩. For example: [miju't?jun] ("union") is written {lang|hy|}}.
  4. The disyllabic sequence of the monophthong [?] and the diphthong [ju] is written ⟨⟩. For example: [?ju't?jun] ("essence") is written ?.
  5. To write the suffix ['t?jun], -? is used. For example: [?itu't?jun] ("knowledge") is written .

/?j/ -- ⟨⟩

/?j/ can occur at the end of a word only for monosyllabic words. It is written ⟨⟩. For example: [?j'?i] ("field") is written ?, [m?j?] ("mother") is written ? and [pj] ("verb") is written . A polysyllabic word ending in ⟨⟩ is pronounced /?/, the ⟨?⟩ becoming silent (see above for an example).

/ej/ -- ⟨⟩

/ej/ is written ⟨⟩. For example: [t?ej] ("tea") is written .

/ij/ -- ⟨⟩

/ij/ is written ⟨⟩. For example: [ij'n?l] ("to fall") is written .

/uj/ -- ⟨⟩

/uj/ usually occurs in the middle of a word, and is written ⟨⟩. For example: [kujr] ("sister") is written ?.

Consonants

The International Phonetic Alphabet shows the consonants, by the corresponding Armenian letter in parentheses. Both Classical And Eastern Armenian maintain a three-way distinction between voiced, voiceless, and aspirated stops and affricates. In Western Armenian, voiced and aspirated stops and affricates have undergone a merger, and voiceless stops and affricates have become voiced.

  Bilabial Labio-
dental
Alveolar Post-
alveolar
Palatal Velar Uvular Glottal
CA EA WA CA EA WA CA EA WA CA EA WA
Nasal m   ⟨?⟩   n   ⟨?⟩          
Plosive VL plain p   ⟨?⟩     t   ⟨?⟩       k   ⟨?⟩      
AS p?   ⟨?⟩ p?   ⟨?~?⟩   t?   ⟨?⟩ t?   ⟨?~?⟩     k?   ⟨?⟩ k?   ⟨?~?⟩    
VD b   ⟨?⟩ b   ⟨?⟩   d   ⟨?⟩ d   ⟨?⟩     ?   ⟨?⟩ ?   ⟨?⟩    
Fricative VL   f   ⟨?⟩ s   ⟨?⟩ ?   ⟨?⟩   x ~ ?   ⟨?⟩[1] h   ⟨?~?⟩[2]
VD   v   ⟨?[3]~?[4]~[5]~?[6] z   ⟨?⟩ ?   ⟨?⟩     ? ~ ?   ⟨?⟩[1]  
Approximant     ?   ⟨?⟩[7][8]     j   ⟨?[9]~?[10]~?[11]      
Tap/Trill     r   ⟨?⟩ ?   ⟨?~?⟩[12]          
Lateral approximant     l   ⟨?⟩     ?   ⟨?⟩[13]      
Affricate VL plain     t?s   ⟨?⟩   t   ⟨?⟩            
AS     t?s?   ⟨?⟩ t?s?   ⟨?~?⟩ t   ⟨?⟩ t   ⟨?~?⟩        
VD     d?z   ⟨?⟩ d?z   ⟨?⟩ d   ⟨?⟩ d   ⟨?⟩        

Notes

  1. ^ a b Whether this sound is velar or uvular is unclear. It may possibly be a retracted velar, [x?] or []
  2. ^ i.? at the start of a word represents [h]. For example: ("bottom") is pronounced [h?'d].
    ii. Words starting with [h] are written with ⟨⟩; otherwise, words starting with [h?] and any other consonant are written using ⟨?⟩. For example: [h'l] ("to polish") is written , and [h'n?l] ("to conceive") is written ; but [h?'d] ("angel") is written ?, and [h?s'] ("huge") is written . An exception is [h?s'd] ("clear"), which is written .
  3. ^ At the beginning of a word, [v] is written ⟨?⟩. For example: [v?'?u?k?] ("cucumber") is written ?.
  4. ^ i. There is no word starting with the letter ⟨?⟩.
    ii. The letter ⟨?⟩ is written in the middle or the end of a word. For example: [?'v?z] ("sand") is written ?, and [v] ("clay") is written . In the following exceptions, ⟨?⟩ is written instead of ⟨?⟩ to represent the [v] sound:
       a. after the letter ⟨?⟩. For example: ("because") and ("safe").
       b. When the word is a derivative or a compound word and its second part starts with the letter ⟨?⟩. For example: the derivative (-) and the compound word ? (-?-).
  5. ^ ⟨⟩ represents [v] when it is preceded by a consonant and followed by a vowel. For example: ("gift") is pronounced [n?'v].
  6. ^ At the start of a word, the sound [v?] is written with ⟨?⟩, and not ⟨⟩. For example: [vodk?] ("foot") is written . An exception is the word ("pack" of animals).
  7. ^ In practice, mostly Armenians in Iran say [?]; Many Eastern Armenians have shifted the Classical Armenian [?] (?) to [?].
  8. ^ This sound technically exists in Western Armenian, but in practice, many people don't distinguish it from ⟨?⟩.
  9. ^ ⟨?⟩ in the middle of a word represents a palatal approximant [j]. For example: ("this") is pronounced [?js].
  10. ^ ⟨?⟩ represents a palatal approximant at the start of a word or if followed by ⟨?⟩; otherwise, it denotes the vowel [?].
  11. ^ i. The letter ⟨?⟩ represents [j] when followed by ⟨?⟩, denoting [ij?], a disyllabic sequence of a monophthong ([i]) and a diphthong ([j?]). (See above for examples.)
    ii. When preceded by the letter ⟨?⟩, ⟨?⟩ represents [ji]. (See above for examples.)
  12. ^ Although Western Armenians are taught to pronounce two different rhotics [?] and [r] (represented by ⟨?⟩ and ⟨?⟩, respectively), the two have merged in most dialects to a flap consonant.
  13. ^ Best hypothesis of the old pronunciation, based on foreign borrowings such as ? for "Lucas" and ??? for "Catholic".

References

  • Melkonian, Zareh (1990). ? -- ? ? ( ? ) (in Armenian) (Fourth ed.). Los Angeles.

External links

Armenian Orthography converters

  • Nayiri.com (integrated orthography converter: reformed to traditional)

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.

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