Armenian Language: Etymology and Use

Once considered just a dialect of the Persian, the language spoken in Iran, the Armenian is actually a separate language that belongs in the Indo-European language family, forming its own branch of the large language family tree.

As far as the age of the language goes, spoken Armenian is considered to date much earlier, but the first recorded written Armenian was in 405 AD. The Monk St. Mesrop Mashtots is considered to have set the foundation of the Armenian alphabet which he partly based it on the Greek alphabet. Back then it consisted of 36 signs and later on, 2 more were added. Before his creation of the alphabet, the Armenian was written with ‘cuneiform’ scripts, however, the Armenian church considered these unfit for their religious works, thus the work of the monk.

Armenian Language Uses

Statistics in the 21st century showed that this language is used by approximately 6.7 million people across the globe. Most of the speakers of Armenian live in Armenia, with the rest of the population living in Georgia, Iran, Turkey, Russia, Lebanon, Egypt, Azerbaijan, and Iraq. In the United States according to Census figures, there are approximately 300,000 Americans speaking the Armenian language actively.

From the beginning of the 18th century until the late 1950s official documents during the Ottoman period were in Armenian scripts. Also, about 2000 books were published in Turkish written in the Armenian alphabet. In the period from 1921-1928, this alphabet was also the official written language for the Kurdish people in Soviet Armenia.

In more recent times, until the 1990s to be precise, all the schools in Armenia taught in Armenian or Russian language. Then, with the collapse of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), Armenia made the Armenian language once again the official language of communication, and the schools where Russian was taught were closed. Now, in 2010 Russian language education began to be slowly reintroduced in Armenia.

Other Varieties of the Language

There are two varieties when it comes to the modern written Armenian – the Western Armenian or Arewmtahayerên and the Eastern Armenian Arewelahayerên. Also, the spoken language itself has several varieties such as Old Armenian (Grabar), Middle Armenian (Miǰin hayerên), and Modern Armenian (Ašxarhabar). More than 50 dialects were recorded back in 1915, however, due to the modernization of the language as well as the relocation of the people throughout the world, many of those are now long forgotten.

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