|Born||20 March [O.S. 8 March] 1876|
|Died||16 April 1953 (aged 77)|
Yerevan, Armenian SSR, Soviet Union
|Education||University of Paris|
University of Strasbourg
An Istanbul Armenian, Acharian studied at local Armenian schools and at Sorbonne, under Antoine Meillet, and at University of Strasbourg, under Heinrich Hübschmann. He then taught at various Armenian communities in the Russian Empire and Iran before settling in Soviet Armenia in 1923, where taught at Yerevan State University until his death.
A distinguished polyglot, Acharian compiled several major dictionaries, including the monumental Armenian Etymological Dictionary, extensively studied Armenian dialects, compiled catalogs of Armenian manuscripts, and authored comprehensive studies on the history of Armenian language and alphabet. Acharian is considered the father of Armenian linguistics.
Acharian was born in Istanbul (Constantinople) on 8 March 1876 to Armenian parents. Acharian was blinded in one eye at an early age. His father, Hakob, was a shoemaker. He received initial education at the Aramian and Sahagian Schools in Samatya, then at the Getronagan (1889-93), where he learned French, Turkish, and Persian. Upon graduation, he began teaching in Kadıköy, Constantinople, but in 1894 he moved to teach at the Sanasarian College in Erzurum. In 1895 he was accepted to the University of Paris (Sorbonne), where he studied under, among others, Antoine Meillet. In 1897 he became a member of Société de Linguistique de Paris (Linguistic Society of Paris), where he presented a study on the Laz language. He then met Heinrich Hübschmann and transferred to the University of Strasbourg in 1898.
Acharian moved to Russian (Eastern) Armenia and began a teaching career in at the Gevorgian Seminary in Ejmiatsin (1898-1902). He thereafter moved to Shushi (1902-04), Nor Bayazet (1906-07), Nor Nakhichevan (1907-19), and then to Iran: Tehran (1919-20) and Tabriz (1920-1923). He taught Armenian, French, Turkish, Armenian history literature, and accounting. Apart from teaching, he studied Armenian dialects wherever he resided.
Acharian moved to Soviet Armenia in 1923. He was one of the most prominent Armenian scholars who moved to Soviet Armenia from the diaspora. He was arrested on 29 September 1937, at the height of the Stalinist purges, on espionage charges. He was accused in being a spy for numerous foreign countries (Britain, Turkey) and being a member of a counter-revolutionary group of professors. He was released on 19 December 1939 due to lack of evidence.
Acharian became a founding member of the Armenian Academy of Sciences when it was established in 1943. He was a Corresponding Member of the Czechoslovak Oriental Institute since 1937. Acharian taught at the Yerevan State University from 1923 until his death in 1953. He taught Persian and Arabic. In 1940 he initiated the establishment of the Department of Oriental Philology/Oriental Languages and Literature.
Acharian knew numerous languages: Armenian (both modern and classical), French, English, Greek, Persian, Arabic, Turkish, Hebrew, Russian, German, Italian, Latin, Kurdish, Sanskrit, Chaldean Neo-Aramaic, Avestan, Laz, Georgian, Middle Persian (Pahlavi).
On Armenian dialects
In 1909 Acharian's first ever comprehensive study of Armenian dialects—Classification des dialectes arméniens ("Classification of Armenian Dialects")—was published in French in Paris. The publication was praised by Antoine Meillet. The Armenian edition (Հայ Բարբառագիտութիւն, "Armenian Dialectal Studies") was published in 1911 with a map of the dialects. Acharian proposed a classification based on the present and imperfect indicative particles: -owm/-um (-ում) dialects, -kə/-gə (-կը) dialects, and -el (-ել) dialects.
In 1913 the Lazarev Institute published his Armenian Dialectal Dictionary (Հայերէն գաւառական բառարան). It includes some 30,000 words used in Armenian dialects. His studies on various Armenian dialects have also been published in separate books. These include publications on the dialects of Nor Nakhichevan (1925), Maragha (1926-30), Agulis (1935), Nor Jugha (1940), Constantinople (1941), Hamshen (1940), Van (1952), and Ardeal/Transylvania (1953).
In 1902 he published the first ever study of Turkish loan words in Armenian.
Armenian Etymological Dictionary
Acharian's most cited work is the Armenian Etymological Dictionary (Հայերէն Արմատական Բառարան). It was first published in Yerevan in seven volumes between 1926 and 1935 and includes some 11,000 entries on root words and 5,095 entries on the roots. The latter entries include early Armenian references, definitions, some 30 dialectal forms, and the borrowing of the word by other languages. Its second edition was published 1971-79 in four volumes.
It is widely considered a monumental work, that continues to be used as a reference work. Antoine Meillet opined that no such perfect etymological dictionary exists in any other language. John A. C. Greppin has described it as "surely the most complete ever prepared for any language."
Dictionary of Armenian Proper Names
Acharian authored a Dictionary of Armenian Proper Names (Հայոց անձնանունների բառարան), which was published in five volumes from 1942 to 1962. It includes all names mentioned in Armenian literature from the 5th to the 15th centuries with brief biographies and proper names common among Armenians thereafter.
Complete Grammar of the Armenian Language
Another monumental work by Acharian is the Complete Grammar of the Armenian Language, in Comparison with 562 Languages (Լիակատար քերականություն հայոց լեզվի՝ համեմատությամբ 562 լեզուների), published in six volumes from 1952 to 1971. A seventh volume was published in 2005.
Acharian authored several major works on history and historical linguistics. The History of the Armenian Language was published in two volumes in 1940 and 1951. It examines the origin and development of Armenian.
He also authored the most comprehensive study on the invention of the Armenian alphabet. Its first part, examining the historical sources, was published in 1907. The third part was published in Handes Amsorya in Vienna from 1910 to 1921 and then in a separate book in 1928. The first two parts, examining the historical sources and the life of Mesrop Mashtots were published in Eastern Armenian in 1968. The complete work was first published in 1984.
Acharian wrote a History of Modern Armenian Literature (Պատմություն հայոց նոր գրականության, 1906–12), History of the Turkish Armenian Question (Տաճկահայոց հարցի պատմությունը, 1915) covering the period from 1870 to 1915, The Role of the Armenians in the Ottoman Empire (1999), and the History of Armenian Diaspora (2002). He wrote memoirs on Yervand Shahaziz (1917) and Srpouhi Dussap (1951).
Acharian compiled catalogs of Armenian manuscripts kept at different locations. His catalog of the manuscripts at the Sanasarian College in Erzurum/Karin was published in Handes Amsorya in 1896-97. He later cataloged the Armenian manuscripts in Tabriz (1910), Nor Bayazet (1924), and Tehran (1936).
Acharian has been recognized as the father of Armenian linguistics by modern scholars, such as Dora Sakayan, and the greatest Armenian linguist by Samvel Antosian. By the 1940s Acharian had an international reputation greater than Nicholas Marr and Ivan Meshchaninov. Some authors have called him an "undisputed authority." Rouben Paul Adalian noted that he "single-handedly prepared the central scientific reference works on the Armenian language and, in so doing, vastly expanded modern knowledge and understanding of Armenian civilization through its entire course of development." Jos Weitenberg described him as the "most outstanding personality in Armenian linguistic research."
The Institute of Language of the National Academy of Sciences of Armenia is named after Acharian. His bronze bust stands at the central campus of the Yerevan State University. Hrachya Acharian University operated from 1991 to 2012. It was one of post-Soviet Armenia's earliest private universities. A bust of Acharian was unveiled in Yerevan's Avan District in 2015.
- Also spelled Ajarian, Adjarian or Atcharian.
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Acharyan's four-volume etymological dictionary of Armenian, a monument of humanistic scholarship.
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