Classical Armenian

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Classical Armenian
Region Armenian Highlands
Era developed into Middle Armenian
  • Classical Armenian
Early form
Armenian alphabet (Classical Armenian orthography)
Language codes
ISO 639-3 xcl
Linguist list
Glottolog clas1249[1]
Linguasphere 57-AAA-aa
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters.
Armenian manuscripts.jpg
History of the Armenian language
Armenian alphabet
Romanization of Armenian
Epitaph in Classical Armenian for Jakub and Marianna Minasowicz at St. Hyacinth's Church in Warsaw

Classical Armenian (Armenian: գրաբար, grabar, Western Armenian krapar, meaning "literary [language]"; also Old Armenian or Liturgical Armenian) is the oldest attested form of the Armenian language. It was first written down at the beginning of the 5th century, and all Armenian literature from then through the 18th century is in Classical Armenian. Many ancient manuscripts originally written in Ancient Greek, Persian, Hebrew, Syriac and Latin survive only in Armenian translation.

Classical Armenian continues to be the liturgical language of the Armenian Apostolic Church and is often learned by Biblical, Intertestamental, and Patristic scholars dedicated to textual studies. Classical Armenian is also important for the reconstruction of the Proto-Indo-European language.



There are seven monophthongs:

  • /a/ (ա), /i/ (ի), /ə/ or schwa (ը), /ɛ/ or open e (ե), /e/ or closed e (է), /o/ (ո), and /u/ (ու) (transcribed as a, i, ə, e, ē, o, and u respectively). The vowel transcribed u is spelled using the Armenian letters for ow (ու) but it is not actually a diphthong.

There are also traditionally six diphthongs:

  • ay (այ), aw (աւ, later օ), ea (եա), ew (եւ), iw (իւ), oy (ոյ).


In the following table is the Classical Armenian consonantal system. The stops and affricate consonants have, in addition to the more common voiced and unvoiced series, also a separate aspirated series, transcribed with the notation used for Ancient Greek rough breathing after the letter: p῾, t῾, c῾, č῾, k῾. Each phoneme has three symbols in the table. The leftmost indicates the pronunciation in International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA); in the middle is the corresponding symbol in the Armenian alphabet and the rightmost is its transliteration in the Latin alphabet (following the 1996 ISO 9985 standard).

  Labial Alveolar Palato-alveolar
/ Palatal
Velar /
Nasals /m/   մ   m /n/   ն   n      
Stops voiced /b/   բ   b /d/   դ   d   /ɡ/   գ   g  
unvoiced /p/   պ   p /t/   տ   t   /k/   կ   k  
aspirated /pʰ/   փ   p’ /tʰ/   թ   t’   /kʰ/   ք   k’  
Affricates voiced   /dz/   ձ   j /dʒ/   ջ   ǰ    
unvoiced   /ts/   ծ   ç /tʃ/   ճ   č̣    
aspirated   /tsʰ/   ց   c’ /tʃʰ/   չ   č    
Fricatives voiced /v/   վ   v /z/   զ   z /ʒ/   ժ   ž /ɫ/   ղ   ł  
unvoiced /f/   ֆ   f /s/   ս   s /ʃ/   շ   š /χ/   խ   x /h/   հ   h
Approximants lateral   /l/   լ   l      
central   /ɹ/   ր   r /j/   յ   y    
Trill   /r/   ռ        

The letter f (or ֆ) was introduced in the Medieval Period to represent the foreign sound /f/, the voiceless labiodental fricative; it was not originally a letter in the alphabet.[citation needed]

See also[edit]

Reference books[edit]


  1. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Classical Armenian". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History. 

External links[edit]