Western Armenian Language
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Western Armenian Language

Western Armenian
Native toArmenian Highlands, Lebanon, Turkey, Syria
Native speakers
1.4 million (2001-2016)[1]
Armenian alphabet (virtually always in the Classical Armenian orthography)
Language codes
Linguasphere57-AAA-aca to 57-AAA-act
Armenian dialects, Adjarian 1909.png
Map of the Armenian dialects in early 20th century: -gë dialects, corresponding to Western Armenian, are in yellow.
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters. For an introductory guide on IPA symbols, see Help:IPA.

Western Armenian (Classical spelling: , arevmdahayer?n)[2] is one of the two standardized[] forms of Modern Armenian, the other being Eastern Armenian. It is based mainly on the Istanbul Armenian dialect contrary to Eastern Armenian which is mainly based on the Yerevan Armenian dialect.

Until the early 20th century, various Western Armenian dialects were also spoken in the Ottoman Empire, especially in the eastern regions historically populated by Armenians known as Western Armenia. The spoken or dialectal varieties of Western Armenian currently in use include Homshetsi, spoken by the Hemshin peoples;[3] the dialects of Armenians of Kessab, Latakia and Jisr al-Shughur of Syria, Anjar of Lebanon, and Istanbul and Vak?fl?, of Turkey (part of the "Sueidia" dialect). Sasun and Mush dialect is also spoken in modern day Armenia villages such as Bazmaberd and Sasnashen.

Forms of the Karin dialect of Western Armenian are spoken by several hundred thousand people in Northern Armenia, mostly in Gyumri, Artik, Akhuryan, and around 130 villages in the Shirak province,[4] and by Armenians in Samtskhe-Javakheti province of Georgia (Akhalkalaki, Akhaltsikhe).[5]

As mostly a diasporic language, and as a language that is not an official language of any state, Western Armenian faces extinction as its native speakers lose fluency in Western Armenian amid pressures to assimilate into their host countries. Estimates place the number of fluent speakers of Western Armenian outside Armenia and Georgia at less than one million.


Western Armenian is an Indo-European language and belongs to the Armenic branch of the family, along with Eastern and Classical Armenian. According to Glottolog Antioch, Artial, Asia Minor, Bolu, Hamshenic, Kilikien, Mush-Tigranakert, Stanoz, Vanic and Yozgat are the main dialects of Western Armenian.[6]

Eastern Armenian and Western Armenian are, for the most part, mutually intelligible for educated or literate users of the other, while illiterate or semi literate users of lower registers of each one may have difficulty understanding the other variant. One phonological difference is that voiced stops in Eastern Armenian are voiceless in Western Armenian.[7]


Western Armenian is spoken by Armenians of most of the Middle East except for Iran, and Rostov-on-Don in Russia. It is spoken by only a small percentage of Armenians in Turkey as a first language, with 18 percent among the community in general and 8 percent among younger people.[8] Western Armenian used to be the dominant Armenian variety, but after the Armenian genocide, Western Armenia was wiped clean of Western Armenians. Those who fled to Eastern Armenia now speak either Eastern Armenian or have a diglossic situation between Western Armenian dialects in informal usage and an Eastern Armenian standard. The only Western Armenian dialect still spoken in Western Armenia is the Homshetsi dialect, the Hemshin peoples, who speak it, did not fall victim to the Armenian Genocide since they were Muslim converts.

On 21 February 2009, International Mother Language Day has been marked with the publication of a new edition of the Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger by UNESCO in which the Western Armenian language in Turkey is defined as a definitely endangered language.[9][10]




Western Armenian has eight monophthongs.

Front Central Back
Unrounded Rounded Unrounded Rounded
Close i  ⟨?⟩ ?  ⟨⟩     u  ⟨⟩
Mid ?  ⟨?, ?⟩[11] oe  ⟨⟩ ?  ⟨?⟩   o  ⟨?, ?⟩[11]
Open       ?  ⟨?⟩  
IPA Example (IPA) Example (written) Meaning Notes
? [v] ? "sun" Similar to the English vowel in the word car.
? [?t?] ?? "page" Similar to the English vowel in the word bed.
i [im] ?? "my" Similar to the English vowel in the word eat.
o [t?o?] ??? "dry" Similar to the English vowel in bore.
u [u?] ? "where" Similar to the English vowel in the word shoot.
? [?s?l] ? "to say" Similar to the English vowel in the word about.
? [h] ?? "guest" Similar to French "u" or the German vowel in the word schützen.
oe [oeni] ? a female name This vowel sound is rare in Armenian, and is used in foreign words.


Western Armenian has ten environments in which two vowels in the orthography appear next to each other, called diphthongs. By definition, they appear in the same syllable. For those unfamiliar with IPA symbols, /j/ represents the English "y" sound. The Armenian letter "?" is often used in combinations such as /ja/ (ya) and /jo/ (yo). If used at the beginning of a word, "?" alone is sufficient to represent /j?/ (as in yes). The Armenian letter "?" is used for the glide after vowels. The IPA /?j/ (like English long i) and /uj/ diphthongs are common, while /ej/ (English long a), /ij,i?/ (a stretched-out long e), and /oj/ (oy) are rare. The following examples are sometimes across syllable and morpheme boundaries, and gliding is then expected:

IPA Example (IPA) Example (written) Meaning Notes
j? s?nj ? "room" Similar to English yard.
j? jz ? "dream" Similar to English yell.
ji m?jis ? "May" Similar to English year.
jo jot? "seven" Similar to English yogurt.
ju jun ? "firm" Similar to English you.
aj maj? ?? "mother" Similar to English my or mine.
ej tej ? "tea" Similar to English day.
i? i?n?l "to fall" Similar to English near, in non-rhotic dialects.
oj ?oj ? "ram" Similar to English toy.
uj kujr ?? "sister" Similar to English buoy, in some American dialects.


This is the Western Armenian Consonantal System using letters from the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA), followed by the corresponding Armenian letter in brackets.

  Bilabial Labiodental Alveolar Palato-alveolar Palatal Velar Uvular Glottal
Nasal m   ⟨?⟩   n   ⟨?⟩          
Stop aspirated p?   ⟨?, ?⟩[12]   t?   ⟨?, ?⟩[12]     k?   ⟨?, ?⟩[12]    
voiced b   ⟨?⟩[13]   d   ⟨?⟩[13]     ?   ⟨?⟩[13]    
Affricate aspirated     ts?   ⟨?, ?⟩[12] t   ⟨?, ?⟩[12]        
voiced     dz   ⟨?⟩[13] d?   ⟨?⟩[13]        
Fricative unvoiced   f   ⟨?⟩ s   ⟨?⟩ ?   ⟨?⟩     ?   ⟨?⟩ h   ⟨?, ?⟩[11]
voiced   v   ⟨?, ?, , ?⟩[11] z   ⟨?⟩ ?   ⟨?⟩     ?   ⟨?⟩  
Approximant     l   ⟨?⟩   j   ⟨?, ?, ?⟩[11]      
Flap     ?   ⟨?, ?⟩[14]          

The /f/ in Armenian is rare; the letter "?" was added to the alphabet much later. The /w/ glide is not used except for foreign proper nouns, like Washington (by utilizing the "u" vowel, Armenian "").

Differences from Classical Armenian

Differences in phonology between Western Armenian and Classical Armenian include the distinction of stops and affricates.

Firstly, while Classical Armenian has a three-way distinction of stops and affricates (one voiced and two voiceless: one plain and one aspirated, Western Armenian has kept only a two-way distinction (one voiced and one aspirated). For example, Classical Armenian has three bilabial stops (/b/ ⟨?⟩, /p/ ⟨?⟩, and /p?/ ⟨?⟩), but Western Armenian has only two bilabial stops (/b/ ⟨?⟩ and /p?/ ⟨?⟩/⟨?⟩).

Secondly, Western Armenian has both changed the Classical Armenian voiced stops and voiced affricates to aspirated stops and aspirated affricates and replaced the plain stops and affricates with voiced consonants.

Specifically, here are the shifts from Classical Armenian to Western Armenian:

  1. Bilabial stops:
    1. merging of Classical Armenian /b/ ⟨?⟩ and /p?/ ⟨?⟩ as /p?/
    2. voicing of Classical /p/ ⟨?⟩ to /b/
  2. Alveolar stops:
    1. merging of Classical Armenian /d/ ⟨?⟩ and /t?/ ⟨?⟩ as /t?/
    2. voicing of Classical /t/ ⟨?⟩ to /d/
  3. Velar stops:
    1. merging of Classical Armenian /?/ ⟨?⟩ and /k?/ ⟨?⟩ as /k?/
    2. voicing of Classical /k/ ⟨?⟩ to /?/
  4. Alveolar affricates:
    1. merging of Classical Armenian /dz/ ⟨?⟩ and /ts?/ ⟨?⟩ as /ts?/
    2. voicing of Classical /ts/ ⟨?⟩ to /dz/
  5. Post-alveolar affricates:
    1. merging of Classical Armenian /d?/ ⟨?⟩ and /t/ ⟨?⟩ as /t/
    2. voicing of Classical /t?/ ⟨?⟩ to /d?/

As a result, a word like [d?u?] 'water' (spelled ⟨?⟩ in Classical Armenian) is cognate with Western Armenian [tu?] (also spelled ⟨?⟩). However, [t?o?] 'grandson' and [k?a?] 'stone' are pronounced similarly in both Classical and Western Armenian.


Western Armenian uses Classical Armenian orthography, also commonly known as traditional Mashtotsian orthography. The Armenian orthography reform introduced in the Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic and still used by most Eastern Armenian speakers from modern Armenia and commonly known as the Abeghian orthography has not been adopted by Eastern Armenian speakers of Iran and their diaspora, and by Western Armenian, with the exception of periodical publications published in Romania and Bulgaria while under Communist regimes.



Western Armenian nouns have four grammatical cases: nominative-accusative (subject / direct object), genitive-dative (possession / indirect object), ablative (origin) and instrumental (means). Of the six cases, the nominative and accusative are the same, except for personal pronouns, and the genitive and dative are the same, meaning that nouns have four distinct forms for case. Nouns in Armenian also decline for number (singular and plural), but do not decline for gender (i.e. masculine or feminine).

Declension in Armenian is based on how the genitive is formed. There are several declensions, but one is dominant (the genitive in i) while a half-dozen other forms are in gradual decline and are being replaced by the i-form, which has virtually attained the status of a regular form:

  ? / ta?d (field) / gov (cow)
singular plural singular plural
Nom-Acc (-) ? / ta?d / ta?der / gov / gover
Gen-Dat (?-) ?? / ta?di / ta?deru / govu / goveru
Abl () ?? / ta?de ? / ta?dere ? / gove ? / govere
Instr () ? / ta?dov / ta?derov / govov / goverov
  / karun (Spring) / or (day) ? / kuyr (sister)
singular plural singular plural singular plural
Nom-Acc (-) ? ?
Gen-Dat (?-) ??? ? ?
Abl () ? ? ?? ? ?
Instr () ?
  ? / mayr (mother) ? / Asdvadz (God) / kidutiun (science)
singular plural singular plural
Nom-Acc (-) ? ? ?
Gen-Dat (?-) ??? ? /


Abl () ??? ? ?? ?
Instr () ??? ? ?/


Like English and some other languages, Armenian has definite and indefinite articles. The indefinite article in Western Armenian is /m?/, which follows the noun:

ator m? ('a chair', Nom.sg), atori m? ('of a chair', Gen.sg)

The definite article is a suffix attached to the noun, and is one of two forms, either -n (when the final sound is a vowel) or -? (when the final sound is a consonant). When the word is followed by al ( = also, too), the conjunction u (), or the present or imperfect conjugated forms of the verb em (to be); however, it will always take -n:

kirk? ('the book', Nom.sg)
karin ('the barley' Nom.sg)


Sa kirkn e ('This is the book')
Parin u char? ('The good and the bad')
Inkn al ('S/he too')

The indefinite article becomes m?n when it is followed by al ( = also, too) or the Present or imperfect conjugated forms of the verb em (to be):

kirk m? ('a book', Nom.sg)


Sa kirk m?n e ('This is a book')
Kirk m?n al ('A book as well')


Adjectives in Armenian do not decline for case or number, and precede the noun:

agheg mart? ('the good man', Nom.sg)
agheg martun ('to the good man', Gen.sg)


Verbs in Armenian are based on two basic series of forms, a "present" form and an "imperfect" form. From this, all other tenses and moods are formed with various particles and constructions. There is a third form, the preterite, which in Armenian is a tense in its own right, and takes no other particles or constructions.

The "present" tense in Western Armenian is based on three conjugations (a, e, i):

(to love)
(to speak)
(to read)
yes (I) sirem x?sim gartam
tun (you.sg) sires x?sis gartas
an (she/she/it) sir? x?si garta
menk (we) sirenk x?sink gartank
tuk (you.pl) sir?k x?sik gartak
anonk (they) siren x?sin gartan

The present tense (as we know it in English) is made by adding the particle g? before the "present" form, except the defective verbs em (I am), gam (I exist, I'm there), unim (I have), kidem (I know) and g?rnam (I can), while the future is made by adding bidi:

Yes kirk g? gartam (I am reading the book or I read the book, Pres)
Yes kirk bidi gartam (I will read the book, Fut).

For the exceptions: bidi ?llam, unenam, kidnam, garenam (I shall be, have, know, be able). In vernacular language, the particle "gor" is added after the verb to indicate present progressive tense. The distinction is not made in literary Armenian.

Yes kirk g? gartam gor (I am reading the book)[15]

The verb without any particles constitutes the subjunctive mood, such as "if I eat, should I eat, that I eat, I wish I eat":

Sing. Pl.
1st Udem
(if I eat etc)
(if we eat)
2nd Udes
(if you eat)
(if you all eat)
3rd Ud?
(if it eats)
(if they eat)

Personal pronouns

Nominative Accusative Genitive Dative Ablative Instrumental
'I' ? / /
? 'you' ?
'she/he/it' ? ? ?
'she/he/it' ? ? ? ? ?
? 'we' ?
? 'you' ?
'they' ?
'they' ?

Demonstrative pronouns

Proximal Medial Distal
Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural
Genitive ? ? ?
Dative ? ? ?
Ablative ? ? ? ? ? ?
Instrumental ? ? ?

Relative pronouns

Singular Plural
Accusative / ?
Genitive ?(?)
Ablative ? ?
Instrumental (?)

See also


  1. ^ Western Armenian at Ethnologue (21st ed., 2018)
  2. ^ Pronounced arevmtahayeren in Eastern Armenian and spelled ? in the reformed orthography.
  3. ^ Victor A. Friedman (2009). "Sociolinguistics in the Caucasus". In Ball, Martin J. (ed.). The Routledge Handbook of Sociolinguistics Around the World: A Handbook. Routledge. p. 128. ISBN 978-0415422789.
  4. ^ Baghdassarian-Thapaltsian, S. H. (1970). ? ? . Bulletin of Social Sciences (in Armenian) (6): 51-60. Retrieved 2013.
  5. ^ Hovannisian, Richard, ed. (2003). Armenian Karin/Erzerum. Costa Mesa, California: Mazda Publ. p. 48. ISBN 9781568591513. Thus, even today the Erzerum dialect is widely spoken in the northernmost districts of the Armenian republic as well as in the Akhalkalak (Javakheti; Javakhk) and Akhaltskha (Akhaltsikh) districts of southern Georgia
  6. ^ "Glottolog 4.3 - Western Armenian". glottolog.org. Retrieved 2021.
  7. ^ "Armenian alphabet, language and pronunciation". Omniglot.com. Retrieved 2017.
  8. ^ LLC, Helix Consulting. "Turkologist Ruben Melkonyan publishes book "Review of Istanbul's Armenian community history"". Panorama.am. Retrieved 2017.
  9. ^ UNESCO Culture Sector, UNESCO Interactive Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger, 2009
  10. ^ "UNESCO: 15 Languages Endangered in Turkey, by T. Korkut, 2009". Bianet.org. Retrieved 2017.
  11. ^ a b c d e The choice of Armenian symbol depends on the vowel's context in the word. See the Orthography section below for details.
  12. ^ a b c d e These letters represent the same consonant due to a sound shift in Western Armenian from Classical Armenian. See the Differences in Phonology from Classical and Eastern Armenian section below for details.
  13. ^ a b c d e This letter has undergone a sound shift from Classical Armenian to Western Armenian. See #Differences in Phonology from Classical and Eastern Armenian for details.
  14. ^ Although Western Armenians are taught to pronounce two different rhotics (written ⟨?⟩ and ⟨?⟩), the two have merged in many dialects into a flap.
  15. ^ In vernacular language, the particle gor is added after the verb to indicate present progressive tense. The distinction is not made in literary Armenian.


External links

Western Armenian Online Dictionaries

  • Nayiri.com (Library of Armenian dictionaries):
    • ? ? by Rev. Antranig Granian (about 18,000 terms; published in 1998 in Beirut). Great dictionary for students.
    • ? published in two volumes in Beirut in 1992 (about 56,000 headwords). Arguably the best Western Armenian dictionary currently available.
    • ? ? ? by Stepan Malkhasiants (about 130,000 entries). One of the definitive Armenian dictionaries. (Definitions are in Eastern Armenian, but include Western Armenian meanings of headwords.)
    • ? ? by Hrachia Acharian (5,062 word roots). The definitive study of the history and origins of word roots in Armenian. Also includes explanations of each word root as it is used today. (Explanations are in Eastern Armenian, but root words span the entire Armenian language, including Western Armenian.)
    • Armenian-English dictionary (about 70,000 entries).
    • English-Armenian dictionary (about 96,000 entries).
    • Armenian-French dictionary (about 18,000 entries).
    • French-Armenian dictionary (about 20,000 entries).

  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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