Armenian orthography reform

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An orthography reform of the Armenian alphabet was conducted between 1922 and 1924 in Soviet Armenia. It was rejected by Armenian diaspora communities, which for the most part speak Western Armenian, including the Armenian communities in Iran who also speak Eastern Armenian, and continue to use the Classical Armenian orthography. Although it is barely used by Armenians outside of Armenia and the Post-Soviet states (namely Georgia and Russia), it is the official orthography of the Republic of Armenia.


Classical spelling Reformed spelling
հայերէն հայերեն
Յակոբ Հակոբ
բացուել բացվել
քոյր քույր
Սարգսեան Սարգսյան
եօթ յոթ
ազատութիւն ազատություն
տէր տեր
Արմէն Արմեն
Արմինէ Արմինե
խօսել խոսել
Սարօ Սարո
թիւ թիվ
Եւրոպա Եվրոպա

One of the most significant and successfully achieved policies of the former Soviet Union was the rise in the overall population's literacy which began in the early 1920s and, most probably, this urgent need was one of the reasons for reforming Armenian spelling. This and a variety of other educational reforms resulted in almost 90% literacy throughout the country by the early 1950s. Although the orthography of the Armenian language was changed by this reform, it is hardly plausible to assess this change as a simplification. In fact, some other nations of the former USSR changed their entire scripts from Arabic (Central Asian nations) and Latin (Moldova) to Cyrillic. However, it was a rather progressive step in the spirit of these historical developments in that it did not hinder the ability of all of the former Soviet nations to develop literature, education, research and science. The original orthography is known today as the classical orthography (Armenian: դասական ուղղագրութիւն dasakan uġġagrut'yun), and sometimes referred to as Mashtotsian orthography (մաշտոցյան ուղղագրություն), named after Mesrop Mashtots, the inventor of the Armenian alphabet in 405 AD.

Social and political issues[edit]

Since the establishment of the third Republic of Armenia in 1991, there has been a fringe movement in some Armenian academic circles to reinstate the Classical spelling as official policy in Armenia.[1] Some members of the Armenian church in Armenia also support the use of the Classical spelling.[2] However, neither the official circles nor general population or pedagogical and scientific communities in Armenia see either the expediency or the rationale of turning back the reform and restituting the old orthographic rules [3]

Regulations of Reformed Spelling[edit]

In the cases where pronunciation has changed in the course of time, one should, today, write as one would speak. This issue concerns the letter pairs յ/հ, ու/վ and diphthongs ոյ/ույ, եա/յա, եօ/յո, իւ/յու.

The following, more complex changes are also made:

  • The digraph ու /u/ becomes a full, independent letter in the 34th place of the alphabet.
  • The letters "է" and "օ" were deleted from the alphabet, but reinstated in 1940.[4] Since then, they are written only at the beginning of a word and in compound words. ե or ո are used respectively in their places. The only exceptions are ով /ov/ "who" and ովքեր /ovkhɛɾ/ "those (people)" and the present tense of "to be": եմ /em/ "I am", ես /es/ "you are (sing.)", ենք /enkh/ "we are", եք /ekh/ "you are (pl.)", են /en/ "they are".
  • The letter "ւ" is no longer an independent letter and appears only as a component of "ու". In its place, "վ" is written.
  • The ligature "և" was initially abolished, but in 1940 it became a full, independent letter in the 37th place of the alphabet. Some words originally written with "եվ" are now written with this letter.
  • In the conjugation of verbs (both indicative and conditional modes), "կ" is added directly (without an apostrophe before vowels or "ը" before consonants).

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Khacherian, L. G. (1999). History of Armenian Orthography (V - XX cc.). Los Angeles: Yerevan Press. 
  2. ^ Fr. Mesrop Aramian (October 14, 2006). "Restoring the Orthography of the Armenian Nation: A Task for Our Generation". Vem. Retrieved 2009-11-25. 
  3. ^ ORTHOGRAPHY, STATE & DIASPORA: A Political Analyst's View on Unified Spelling Problem by Haroutiun Khachatrian
  4. ^ (Russian)

External links[edit]

Armenian Orthography converters