Classical Armenian orthography

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The classical Armenian orthography (Armenian: Հայերէնի դասական ուղղագրութիւն (in classical) and Հայերենի դասական ուղղագրություն in reformed, Hayereni dasakan ughagrutyun; also known as traditional orthography and Mashtotsian orthography) is the orthography developed during the early 19th century for the Armenian language. 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 in Soviet Armenia in the 1920s. The Armenian diaspora, some linguists and politicians allege political motives behind the reform.

Writing System[edit]

The classical Armenian orthography uses the 36 original letters of the Armenian alphabet:

Majuscule Ա Բ Գ Դ Ե Զ Է Ը Թ Ժ Ի Լ Խ Ծ Կ Հ Ձ Ղ Ճ Մ Յ Ն Շ Ո Չ Պ Ջ Ռ Ս Վ Տ Ր Ց Ւ Փ Ք
Minuscule ա բ գ դ ե զ է ը թ ժ ի լ խ ծ կ հ ձ ղ ճ մ յ ն շ ո չ պ ջ ռ ս վ տ ր ց ւ փ ք

...and the 2 letters added to the Armenian alphabet in the 13th century:

Majuscule Օ Ֆ
Minuscule օ ֆ

Spelling[edit]

Vowels[edit]

Monophthongs[edit]

The Armenian language has eight monophthong vowel sounds — ɑ, ɛ, i, o, u, ə, ʏ, œ — and ten symbols to represent them — ա, ե, է, ը, ի, ո, օ, ու, իւ, էօ.

Front Central Back
Unrounded Rounded Unrounded Rounded
Close i  (ի) ʏ  (իւ) u  (ու)
Mid ɛ  (է, ե) œ  (էօ) ə  (ը) ɔ  (ո, օ)
Open ɑ  (ա)
/ɑ/ — ա, այ[edit]
  1. The vowel ɑ is written using the letter <ա>. For example, [ɑɾɛv] ("sun") is written արեւ.
  2. Polysyllabic words ending in /ɑ/ are written with <այ>. For example, [dzɑɾɑ] ("slave") is written ծառայ; [ɡətoʁɑ] ("s/he shivers") is written կը դողայ. Exceptions to this rule are:
    1. Certain words, for example, հիմա, ահա, հապա, ապա, ասիկա, սա, ատիկա, անիկա, մամա, պապա.
    2. Proper nouns are also exceptions. For example, Արա, Էլենա, Ասիա.
    3. The singular imperative form of type III verbs. For example, կարդալ → կարդա՛; լուալ — լուա՛.
    4. Foreign words ending in /ɑ/. For example, Նորա (Nora), սոտա (soda), աղա (/ɑʁɑ/ in Turkish), etc.
/ɛ/ — է, ե[edit]
  1. At the end of a word, /ɛ/ is always written <է> (and never <ե>). For example, Մարգարէ, Վահէ, կը վազէ.
  2. At the beginning of a word, /ɛ/ is written <է>. For example, էջ, էակ.
  3. In the middle of a word when followed by a vowel, /ɛ/ is written <է>. For example, գիտէիր, գործունէութիւն.
  4. When followed by two consonants within a root word, /ɛ/ is written <ե>. For example, ներկ, ուղերձ, խենդ, փեղկ.
  5. When making a noun plural, <եր> or <ներ> is added to the end of the noun. For example, տուփ → տուփեր, դրամ → դրամներ.
  6. When followed by an <լ>, <հ>, <ղ>, <մ>, or <ռ>, /ɛ/ is written <ե> (and not <է>). The following are exceptions: դէմ, վէմ, and also foreign proper nouns (e.g. Երուսաղէմ, Դանիէլ).
/i/ — ի[edit]

/i/ is always written <ի>. For example, [iɾ] ("his"/"her") is written իր.

/ɔ/ — օ, ո, ոյ[edit]
  1. At the start of a word, /ɔ/ is written <օ>, except when the second sound is [v], in which case <ո>. For example, [ɔɾɛŋk] ("rule") is written օրէնք, and [ɔvɑsis] ("oasis") is written ովասիս.
  2. In the middle of a root word, when followed by two consonants, /ɔ/ is written <ո> (and not <օ>). For example, [koɾk] ("rug") is written գորգ, [hoɾt] ("calf") is written հորթ, and [poʁɡ] ("radish") is written բողկ.
  3. /ɔ/ at the end of a word is written <ոյ>. For example, [jɛɾɛɡɔ] ("evening") is written երեկոյ, [hɛdɔ] ("later") is written յետոյ. The following are exceptions to this rule:
    1. The words այո' ("yes"), pronounced [ɑjɔ]; and ծօ' ("you" in slang), pronounced [dzɔ].
    2. Proper nouns. For example, Պետօ ("Bedo"), Քոնկօ ("Congo").
    3. Foreign words. For example, օթօ ("auto" from German), սոլօ ("solo"), զերօ ("zero"), մեթրօ ("metro").
  4. When a vowel is added to a word ending in <օ>, the <օ> is changed to <ոյ>. For example, Պետօ ([bɛdɔ]) → Պետոյին ([bɛdɔjin], "Bedo" in genitive-dative case), Քոնկօ ([kɔŋɡɔ]) → Քոնկոյէն ([kɔŋɡɔjɛn], "Congo" in ablative case).
/u/ — ու[edit]

/u/ is always written ու. For example, [dun] ("house") is written տուն.

/ə/ — ը, epenthetical[edit]

The [ə] vowel is usually not written. For example, we say [məˈdɑdzum] ("thought"), but write մտածում (not մըտածում); we say [əskɑntʃɛli] ("marvelous") but write սքանչելի (not ըսքանչելի).
<ը> is written in the following situations:

  1. At the start of a word, when the second sound is a [n] (<ն>) or [m] (<մ>). For example, [əndɾɛl] ("to choose") is written ընտրել, [əŋɡɛɾ] ("friend") is written ընկեր, [əmposd] ("defiant") is written ըմբոստ, [əmpəɾnɛl] ("to comprehend") is written ըմբռնել.
  2. At the start of a word, when the [ə] vowel stems from the [i] or [u] sound. For example, [əʁtsʰɑl] ("to desire") is written ըղձալ, because it stems from the noun [iʁtsʰ] ("desire," իղձ): իղձ–ալ. And [əmbɛl] ("to drink") is written ըմպել, because it stems from the noun [umb] ("mouthful," ումպ): ումպ–ել.
  3. At the start or middle of a monosyllabic word whose only vowel is [ə]. For example, [əsd] ("according to") is written ըստ, and [mən] ("a" or "an," indefinite article) is written մըն.
  4. Within derivative and compound words when the word's second part starts with [ə]. For example, [ɑnəntunɛli] ("inadmissible") is written անընդունելի, because it is a derivative word formed from the prefix [ɑn] ("un-," ան-) and the root [əŋɡɛɾ] ("friend," ընկեր): ան–ընկեր. And [ɑɾɑkəntɑtsʰ] ("swift") is written արագընթաց, because it is a compound word formed from the root words արագ ("quick") and ընթացք ("gait"): արագ–ընթաց.
  5. Within a word after the letters <ու>, when <ու> is not followed by a vowel and we want the <ու> to represent [v]. For example, պահուըտիլ ([bɑhvədil], "to hide") and վաղուընէ ([vɑʁvənɛ], "from tomorrow").
  6. During line breaking. For example, վնաս ([vənɑs], "harm") becomes վը–նաս, and զգալ (əzkɑl, "to feel") becomes ըզ–գալ.
  7. At the end of words (to specify the article "the"). For example, լոյսը ([lujsə], "the light") is formed by adding ը to the end of լոյս; And արձանները ([ɑɾtsʰɑnˈnɛɾə], "the statues").
/ʏ/ — իւ[edit]

/ʏ/ is always written <իւ>. For example, [kʏʁ] ("village") is written գիւղ.

/œ/ — էօ[edit]

/œ/ is a rare sound in Armenian that's used to write foreign words. It is always written <էօ>. For example, the female name [œʒɛni] is written Էօժենի.

Diphthongs[edit]

The Armenian language has nine diphthong sounds: /jɑ/, /jɛ/, /ji/, /jɔ/, /ju/, /ɑj/, /ej/, /ij/, /uj/.

/jɑ/ — եա, եայ, յա; occurs in էա, իա[edit]

/jɑ/ is written differently depending on its context.

  1. [jɑ] at the start of a word is written <եա>. For example, [jɑnikjɑn] ("Yanikian," a family name) is written Եանիքեան.
  2. When [jɑ] is preceded by a consonant it is written <եա>. For example, [sɛnjɑɡ] ("room") is written սենեակ. However, at the end of a word, <եա> is written <եայ>. For example, [ɑɾɔɾja] ("daily) is written առօրեայ.
  3. When [jɑ] is preceded by a vowel other than [i] or [ɛ] it is written <յա>. For example, ɡɑ.jɑn ("station") is written կայան.
  4. A disyllabic sequence of a monophthong ([i]) and a diphthong ([jɑ]) is written <իա> (or <իայ> when at the end of a word). For example, [mijɑsin] ("together") is written միասին.
  5. A disyllabic sequence of a monophthong ([ɛ]) and a diphthong ([jɑ]) is written <էա> (or <էայ> when at the end of a word). For example, [ɛjɑɡ] ("being," the noun) is written էակ.
/jɛ/ — ե, յե, յէ[edit]

/jɛ/ is written differently depending on its context.

  1. At the start of a word, /jɛ/ is written <ե>. For example, [jɛɾɑz] ("dream") is written երազ. Note that <ե> between two consonants represents /ɛ/ (see the Monophthongs section above for details).
  2. In the middle of a word, /jɛ/ is written <յե>. For example, [hɑjɛli] ("mirror") is written հայելի. Note that <յե> at the start of a word represent [hɛ] (see the Consonants section below for details).
  3. At the end of a word, /jɛ/ is written <յէ> (and never <յե>). For example, [nɑjɛ] ("look!") is written նայէ՛.
/ji/ — յի; occurs in էի[edit]

/ji/ only occurs in the middle or at the end of a word in Armenian. It is written differently depending on its context:

  1. A disyllabic sequence of a monophthong ([ɛ]) and a diphthong ([ji]) is written <էի>. For example, [ɛji] ("I was") is written <էի>, and [ɡuzɛjin] ("they wanted") is written կ'ուզէին.
  2. Otherwise, /ji/ is written <յի>. For example, [mɑjis] ("May") is written Մայիս. Note that <յի> at the start of a word represents [hi] (see the Consonants section below for details).
/jɔ/ — եօ[edit]

/jɔ/ is written <եօ>. For example, [jɔtə] ("seven") is written եօթը.

/ju/ — յու, իւ; occurs in իու, էու[edit]

/ju/ is written differently depending on its context:

  1. At the start of a word, /ju/ is written <իւ>. For example, [juʁ] ("oil") is written իւղ.
  2. When preceded by a vowel other than [i] or [ɛ], it is written <յու>. For example, [ɡɑjun] ("firm") is written կայուն. Note that <յու> at the start of a word denotes [hu] (see the Consonants section below for an example.)
  3. The disyllabic sequence of the monophthong [i] and the diphthong [ju] is written <իու>. For example, [mijutjun] ("union") is written միութիւն.
  4. The disyllabic sequence of the monophthong [ɛ] and the diphthong [ju] is written <էու>. For example, [ɛjutjun] ("essence") is written էութիւն.
  5. To write the suffix [tjun]: թիւն. For example, [kidutjun] ("knowledge") is written գիտութիւն.
/ɑj/ — այ[edit]

In Armenian, /ɑj/ occurs at the start and middle of a word; it can occur at the end of a word only for monosyllabic words. It is written <այ>. For example, [ɑjki] ("field") is written այգի; [mɑjɾ] ("mother") is written մայր; and [pʰɑj] ("verb") is written բայ. Note that a polysyllabic word ending in <այ> is pronounced /ɑ/ (the <յ> becomes silent) (see the Monophthongs section above for an example).

/ej/ — էյ[edit]

/ej/ is written <էյ>. For example, [tej] ("tea") is written թէյ.

/ij/ — իյ[edit]

/ij/ is written <իյ>. For example, [ijnɑl] ("to fall") is written իյնալ.

/uj/ — ոյ[edit]

In Armenian, /uj/ usually occurs in the middle of a word, and is written <ոյ>. For example, [kujr] ("sister") is written քոյր.

Consonants[edit]

This is the Armenian Consonantal System using symbols from the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA), followed by the corresponding Armenian letter in parentheses. Compare the three way distinction of stops and affricates in Classical Armenian and Eastern Armenian to the two way distinction in Western Armenian. Note the presence of ejective stops and affricates in Eastern Armenian. Also, note the sound shifts of stops and affricates in Western Armenian.

  Bilabial Labio-
dental
Alveolar Post-
alveolar
Palatal Velar Uvular Glottal
CA EA WA CA EA WA CA EA WA CA EA WA
Nasal m   (մ)   n   (ն)          
Plosive VL plain p   (պ)       t   (տ)         k   (կ)        
EJ      (պ)          (տ)            (կ)      
AS    (փ)    (բ, փ)      (թ)    (դ, թ)        (ք)    (գ, ք)    
VD b   (բ) b   (պ)   d   (դ) d   (տ)     ɡ   (գ) ɡ   (կ)    
Fricative VL   f   (ֆ) s   (ս) ʃ   (շ)     χ   (խ) h   (հ, յ)[1]
VD   v   (վ,[2] ւ,[3] ու,[4] ո [5]) z   (զ) ʒ   (ժ)     ʁ   (ղ)  
Approximant     ɹ   (ր)[6]     j   (յ,[7] ե,[8] ի[9])      
Flap     ɾ   (ռ)[10] ɾ   (ռ, ր) [11]          
Lateral approximant     l   (լ)          
Affricate VL plain     ts   (ծ)        (ճ)            
EJ       tsʼ   (ծ)     tʃʼ   (ճ)          
AS     tsʰ   (ց) tsʰ   (ձ, ց) tʃʰ   (չ) tʃʰ   (չ, ջ)        
VD     dz   (ձ) dz   (ծ) d͡ʒ   (ջ) d͡ʒ   (ճ)        

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ i.<յ> appearing at the start of a word represents [h]. For example, յատակ ("bottom") is pronounced [hɑ.dɑɡ].
    ii. Words starting with the sound [həʁ] are written with <յղ>; otherwise, words starting with the sound [hə] and any other consonant are written using <հ>. For example, [həʁ.ɡɛl] ("to polish") is written յղկել, and [həʁɑnɑl] ("to conceive") is written յղանալ; but [hərɛʃdɑɡ] ("angel") is written հրեշտակ, and [həsɡɑ] ("huge") is written հսկայ. An exception to this rule is the word [həsdɑɡ] ("clear") which is written յստակ.
  2. ^ When occurring at the beginning of a word, the [v] sound is written <վ>. For example, [vɑɾuŋk] ("cucumber") is written վարունգ.
  3. ^ i. There is no word starting with the letter <ւ>.
    ii. The letter <ւ> is written in the middle of a word and at its end. For example, [ɑvɑz] ("sand") is written աւազ, and [ɡɑv] ("clay") is written կաւ. In the following exceptions, <վ> is written instead of <ւ> to represent the [v] sound:
       a. after the letter <ո>. For example, որովհետեւ ("because") and ապահով ("safe").
       b. When the word is a derivative or a compound word and its second part starts with the letter <վ>. For example, the derivative անվախ (ան-վախ) and the compound word նաւավար (նաւ-ա-վար).
  4. ^ <ու> represents [v] when it is preceded by a consonant and followed by a vowel. For example, նուէր ("gift") is pronounced [nəvɛɾ].
  5. ^ When appearing at the start of a word, the sound [vɔ] is written with <ո>, and not <վո>. For example, [vod.k] ("foot") is written ոտք. An exception to this rule is the word վոհմակ ("pack" of animals).
  6. ^ In practice, only Iranian-Armenians say [ɹ]; Eastern Armenians from the Republic of Armenia have shifted the Classical Armenian [ɹ] (ր) to [ɾ].
  7. ^ <յ> appearing in the middle of a word represents a palatal approximant. For example, այս ("this") is pronounced [ɑjs].
  8. ^ <ե> represents a palatal approximant when appearing at the start of a word and when followed by <ա>; otherwise, it denotes the vowel [e].
  9. ^ i. The letter <ի> represents [j] when followed by <ա>, denoting [i.jɑ], a disyllabic sequence of a monophthong ([i]) and a diphthong ([jɑ]). (See the Diphthongs section above for examples.)
    ii. When preceded by the letter <է>, <ի> represents [ji]. (See the Diphthongs section above for examples.)
  10. ^ Eastern Armenians from the Republic of Armenia also use <ր> for this sound, due to a sound shift from Classical Armenian [ɹ] (ր) to [ɾ].
  11. ^ Although Western Armenians are taught to pronounce two different rhotics (represented by <ր> and <ռ>), the two have merged in many dialects to a flap consonant.

Punctuation[edit]

Diacritical marks[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  • Melkonian, Zareh (1990). Գործնական Քերականութիւն - Արդի Հայերէն Լեզուի (Միջին եւ Բարձրագոյն Դասընթացք) (in Armenian) (Fourth ed.). Los Angeles. 

External links[edit]

Armenian Orthography converters

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