Jump to content

Western Armenian

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
(Redirected from Western Armenian language)

Western Armenian
Արեւմտահայերէն (Arevmdahayerēn)
Native toTurkey (Armenian Highlands), Armenia, Cyprus, Lebanon, Syria
Native speakers
1.6 million (2019)[1]
Armenian alphabet (virtually always in the Classical Armenian orthography)
Language codes
ISO 639-3hyw
Map of the Armenian dialects in early 20th century: -gë dialects, corresponding to Western Armenian, are in yellow.
Western Armenian is classified as Vulnerable by the UNESCO Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger[2]
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters. For an introductory guide on IPA symbols, see Help:IPA.

Western Armenian (Western Armenian: Արեւմտահայերէն, romanized: Arevmdahayeren [ɑɾɛvmədɑhɑjɛˈɾɛn])[a] is one of the two standardized[3] forms of Modern Armenian, the other being Eastern Armenian. It is based mainly on the Istanbul Armenian dialect, as opposed to Eastern Armenian, which is mainly based on the Yerevan Armenian dialect.

Until the early 20th century, various Western Armenian dialects were also spoken in the Ottoman Empire, especially in the eastern regions historically populated by Armenians known as Western Armenia. The spoken or dialectal varieties of Western Armenian currently in use include Homshetsi, spoken by the Hemshin peoples;[4] the dialects of Armenians of Kessab, Latakia and Jisr al-Shughur of Syria, Anjar of Lebanon, and Istanbul and Vakıflı, of Turkey (part of the "Sueidia" dialect). Sasun and Mush dialect is also spoken in modern-day Armenia villages such as Bazmaberd and Sasnashen. The Cilician dialect is also spoken in Cyprus, where it is taught in Armenian schools (Nareg), and is the first language of about 3,000 people of Armenian descent.

Forms of the Karin dialect of Western Armenian are spoken by several hundred thousand people in Northern Armenia, mostly in Gyumri, Artik, Akhuryan, and around 130 villages in the Shirak province,[5] and by Armenians in Samtskhe–Javakheti province of Georgia (Akhalkalaki, Akhaltsikhe).[6]

A mostly diasporic language and one that is not an official language of any state, Western Armenian faces extinction as its native speakers lose fluency in Western Armenian amid pressures to assimilate into their host countries. According to Ethnologue, there are 1.58 million native speakers of Western Armenian, primarily in Turkey, Armenia, Georgia, Lebanon, and Iraq. The language is classified as 6b (i.e., threatened, with interruptions in intergenerational transmission).[7]


Western Armenian is an Indo-European language and belongs to the Armenic branch of the family, along with Eastern and Classical Armenian. According to Glottolog Antioch, Artial, Asia Minor, Bolu, Hamshenic, Kilikien, Mush-Tigranakert, Stanoz, Vanic and Yozgat are the main dialects of Western Armenian.[8]

Eastern Armenian and Western Armenian are, for the most part, mutually intelligible for educated or literate users of the other, while illiterate or semiliterate users of lower registers of each one may have difficulty understanding the other variant. One phonological difference is that voiced stops in Eastern Armenian are voiceless in Western Armenian.[9]


Western Armenian is spoken by Armenians of most of the Southeastern Europe and Middle East except for Iran, and Rostov-on-Don in Russia. It is a moribund language spoken by only a small percentage of Armenians in Turkey (especially in Istanbul) as a first language, with 18 percent among the community in general and 8 percent among younger people.[10] There are notable diaspora L2 Western Armenian speakers in Lebanon (Beirut), Syria (Aleppo, Damascus), California (Fresno, Los Angeles), and France (Marseilles).[11]

Western Armenian used to be the dominant Armenian variety, but as a result of the Armenian genocide, the speakers of Western Armenian were mostly murdered or exiled. Those who fled to Eastern Armenia now speak either Eastern Armenian or have a diglossic situation between Western Armenian dialects in informal usage and an Eastern Armenian standard. The only Western Armenian dialect still spoken in Western Armenia is the Homshetsi dialect, since the Hemshin peoples, who were Muslim converts, did not fall victim to the Armenian genocide.[citation needed]

Western Armenian isn't just predominant for Armenian's in the Middle East, the Armenians living in Southeastern Europe/Balkans, mostly Bulgaria, Romania, Greece, and Turkey (Istanbul) are Western Armenian speakers, who immigrated of the Armenian Genocide. Historically there was presence of Western Armenians (Cilicians) in Moldova.

On 21 February 2009, International Mother Language Day, a new edition of the Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger was released by UNESCO in which the Western Armenian language in Turkey was defined as a definitely endangered language.[12][13]

Modern Day speakers[edit]

In modern day Armenia, there is a municipality called Gyumri, the city took host to large numbers of Armenian refugees fleeing the Ottoman Empire from the Armenian Genocide. Many of these people spoke the Karin dialect of Armenian, which is spoken in Gyumri but overtime many Eastern Armenian and Russian words have been borrowed into the dialect. There was also a wave of Armenians coming from the Middle East who were Western Armenian, who moved to the Soviet Union, mostly in Soviet Armenia. Many have assimilated into the Eastern Armenian dialect.

Endangerment and controversy[edit]

With Western Armenian being declared an endangered language, there has been recent pushback on reviving the language in Los Angeles,[14] which is home to the largest concentration of Western Armenians.

Shushan Karapetian, in her evaluation of both the Eastern and Western dialects of Armenian, concludes that heritage languages, in the face of an English dominant society, rapidly die out within no more than 2 generations, calling America a "linguistic graveyard."[15] In US census data, the number of people who speak Western Armenian at home has rapidly declined, down from 25% in 1980 to 16% in 2000.[15]




Western Armenian has eight monophthongs.

Front Central Back
Unrounded Rounded Unrounded Rounded
Close i  ⟨ի⟩ ʏ  ⟨իւ⟩     u  ⟨ու⟩
Mid ɛ  ⟨է, ե⟩[16] œ  ⟨էօ⟩ ə  ⟨ը⟩   o  ⟨ո, օ⟩[16]
Open       ɑ  ⟨ա⟩  
IPA Example (IPA) Example (written) Meaning Notes
ɑ [ɑɾɛv] արեւ "sun" Similar to the English vowel in the word car.
ɛ [ɛtʃ] էջ "page" Similar to the English vowel in the word bed.
i [im] իմ "my" Similar to the English vowel in the word eat.
o [tʃoɾ] չոր "dry" Similar to the English vowel in bore.
u [uɾ] ուր "where" Similar to the English vowel in the word shoot.
ə [əsɛl] ըսել "to say" Similar to the English vowel in the word about.
ʏ [hʏɾ] հիւր "guest" Similar to French "u" or the German vowel in the word schützen.
œ [œʒɛni] Էօժենի a female name This vowel sound is rare in Armenian, and is used in foreign words.


Western Armenian has ten environments in which two vowels in the orthography appear next to each other, called diphthongs. By definition, they appear in the same syllable. For those unfamiliar with IPA symbols, /j/ represents the English "y" sound. The Armenian letter "ե" is often used in combinations such as /ja/ (ya) and /jo/ (yo). If used at the beginning of a word, "ե" alone is sufficient to represent // (as in yes). The Armenian letter "յ" is used for the glide after vowels. The IPA /ɑj/ (like English long i) and /uj/ diphthongs are common, while /ej/ (English long a), /ij, / (a stretched-out long e), and /oj/ (oy) are rare. The following examples are sometimes across syllable and morpheme boundaries, and gliding is then expected:

IPA Example (IPA) Example (written) Meaning Notes
sɛnjɑɡ սենեակ "room" Similar to English yard.
jɛɾɑz երազ "dream" Similar to English yell.
ji mɑjis Մայիս "May" Similar to English year.
jo jotə եօթը "seven" Similar to English yogurt.
ju ɡɑjun կայուն "firm" Similar to English you.
aj majɾ մայր "mother" Similar to English my or mine.
ej tej թէյ "tea" Similar to English day.
iənɑl իյնալ "to fall" Similar to English near, in non-rhotic dialects.
oj χoj խոյ "ram" Similar to English toy.
uj kujr քոյր "sister" Similar to English buoy, in some American dialects.


This is the Western Armenian Consonantal System using letters from the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA), followed by the corresponding Armenian letter in brackets.

  Labial Alveolar Palato -(alveolar) Velar Uvular Glottal
Nasal m   ⟨մ⟩ n   ⟨ն⟩        
Stop aspirated    ⟨բ, փ⟩[17]    ⟨դ, թ⟩[17]      ⟨գ, ք⟩[17]    
voiced b   ⟨պ⟩[18] d   ⟨տ⟩[18]   ɡ   ⟨կ⟩[18]    
Affricate aspirated   tsʰ   ⟨ձ, ց⟩[17] tʃʰ   ⟨չ, ջ⟩[17]      
voiced   dz   ⟨ծ⟩[18]    ⟨ճ⟩[18]      
Fricative unvoiced f   ⟨ֆ⟩ s   ⟨ս⟩ ʃ   ⟨շ⟩   χ   ⟨խ⟩ h   ⟨հ, յ⟩[16]
voiced v   ⟨վ, ւ, ու, ո⟩[16] z   ⟨զ⟩ ʒ   ⟨ժ⟩   ʁ   ⟨ղ⟩  
Approximant   l   ⟨լ⟩ j   ⟨յ, ե, ի⟩[16]      
Flap   ɾ   ⟨ռ, ր⟩[19]        

The /f/ in Armenian is rare; the letter "ֆ" was added to the alphabet much later. The /w/ glide is not used except for foreign proper nouns, like Washington (by utilizing the "u" vowel, Armenian "ու").

Differences from Classical Armenian[edit]

Differences in phonology between Western Armenian and Classical Armenian include the distinction of stops and affricates.

Firstly, while Classical Armenian has a three-way distinction of stops and affricates (one voiced and two voiceless: one plain and one aspirated), Western Armenian has kept only a two-way distinction (one voiced and one aspirated). For example, Classical Armenian has three bilabial stops (/b/ ⟨բ⟩, /p/ ⟨պ⟩, and /pʰ/ ⟨փ⟩), but Western Armenian has only two bilabial stops (/b/ ⟨պ⟩ and /pʰ/ ⟨բ⟩/⟨փ⟩).

Secondly, Western Armenian has both changed the Classical Armenian voiced stops and voiced affricates to aspirated stops and aspirated affricates and replaced the plain stops and affricates with voiced consonants.

Specifically, here are the shifts from Classical Armenian to Western Armenian:

  1. Bilabial stops:
    1. merging of Classical Armenian /b/ ⟨բ⟩ and /pʰ/ ⟨փ⟩ as /pʰ/
    2. voicing of Classical /p/ ⟨պ⟩ to /b/
  2. Alveolar stops:
    1. merging of Classical Armenian /d/ ⟨դ⟩ and /tʰ/ ⟨թ⟩ as /tʰ/
    2. voicing of Classical /t/ ⟨տ⟩ to /d/
  3. Velar stops:
    1. merging of Classical Armenian /ɡ/ ⟨գ⟩ and /kʰ/ ⟨ք⟩ as /kʰ/
    2. voicing of Classical /k/ ⟨կ⟩ to /ɡ/
  4. Alveolar affricates:
    1. merging of Classical Armenian /dz/ ⟨ձ⟩ and /tsʰ/ ⟨ց⟩ as /tsʰ/
    2. voicing of Classical /ts/ ⟨ծ⟩ to /dz/
  5. Post-alveolar affricates:
    1. merging of Classical Armenian /dʒ/ ⟨ջ⟩ and /tʃʰ/ ⟨չ⟩ as /tʃʰ/
    2. voicing of Classical /tʃ/ ⟨ճ⟩ to /dʒ/

As a result, a word like [dʒuɹ] 'water' (spelled ⟨ջուր⟩ in Classical Armenian) is cognate with Western Armenian [tʃʰuɹ] (also spelled ⟨ջուր⟩). However, [tʰoɹ] 'grandson' and [kʰaɹ] 'stone' are pronounced similarly in both Classical and Western Armenian.


Western Armenian uses Classical Armenian orthography, also known as traditional Mashtotsian orthography. The Armenian orthography reform, commonly known as the Abeghian orthography, was introduced in the Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic and is still used by most Eastern Armenian speakers from modern Armenia. However, it has not been adopted by Eastern Armenian speakers of Iran and their diaspora or by speakers of Western Armenian, with the exception of periodical publications published in Romania and Bulgaria while under Communist regimes.



Western Armenian nouns have four grammatical cases: nominative-accusative (subject / direct object), genitive-dative (possession / indirect object), ablative (origin) and instrumental (means). Of the six cases, the nominative and accusative are the same, except for personal pronouns, and the genitive and dative are the same, meaning that nouns have four distinct forms for case. Nouns in Armenian also decline for number (singular and plural).

Declension in Armenian is based on how the genitive is formed. There are several declensions, but one is dominant (the genitive in i) while a half-dozen other forms are in gradual decline and are being replaced by the i-form, which has virtually attained the status of a regular form:

  դաշտ / tašd (field) կով / gov (cow)
singular plural singular plural
Nom-Acc (Ուղղական-Հայցական) դաշտ / tašd դաշտեր / tašder կով / gov կովեր / gover
Gen-Dat (Սեռական-Տրական) դաշտի / tašdi դաշտերու / tašderu կովու / govu կովերու / goveru
Abl (Բացառական) դաշտէ / tašde դաշտերէ / tašdere կովէ / gove կովերէ / govere
Instr (Գործիական) դաշտով / tašdov դաշտերով / tašderov կովով / govov կովերով / goverov
  գարուն / karun (Spring) օր / or (day) Քոյր / kuyr (sister)
singular plural singular plural singular plural
Nom-Acc (Ուղղական-Հայցական) գարուն գարուններ օր օրեր քոյր քոյրեր
Gen-Dat (Սեռական-Տրական) գարնան գարուններու օրուայ օրերու քրոջ քոյրերու
Abl (Բացառական) գարունէ գարուններէ օրուընէ օրերէ քրոջմէ քոյրերէ
Instr (Գործիական) գարունով գարուններով օրով օրերով քրոջմով քոյրերով
  մայր / mayr (mother) Աստուած / Asdvadz (God) գիտութիւն / kidutiun (science)
singular plural singular plural
Nom-Acc (Ուղղական-Հայցական) մայր մայրեր Աստուած աստուածներ գիտութիւն գիտութիւններ
Gen-Dat (Սեռական-Տրական) մօր մայրերու Աստուծոյ աստուածներու գիտութեան գիտութիւններու/


Abl (Բացառական) մօրմէ մայրերէ Աստուծմէ աստուածներէ գիտութենէ գիտութիւններէ
Instr (Գործիական) մօրմով մայրերով Աստուծմով աստուածներով գիտութեամբ/




Like English and some other languages, Armenian has definite and indefinite articles. The indefinite article in Western Armenian is /mə/, which follows the noun:

ator mə ('a chair', Nom.sg), atori mə ('of a chair', Gen.sg)

The definite article is a suffix attached to the noun, and is one of two forms, either -n (when the final sound is a vowel) or (when the final sound is a consonant). When the word is followed by al (ալ = also, too), the conjunction u (ու), or the present or imperfect conjugated forms of the verb em (to be); however, it will always take -n:

kirkə ('the book', Nom.sg)
karin ('the barley' Nom.sg)


As kirkn e ('This is the book')
Parin u charə ('The good and the bad')
Inkn al ('S/he too')

The indefinite article becomes mən when it is followed by al (ալ = also, too) or the Present or imperfect conjugated forms of the verb em (to be):

kirk mə ('a book', Nom.sg)


As kirk mən e ('This is a book')
Kirk mən al ('A book as well')


Adjectives in Armenian do not decline for case or number, and precede the noun:

agheg martə ('the good man', Nom.sg)
agheg martun ('to the good man', Gen.sg)


Verbs in Armenian are based on two basic series of forms, a "present" form and an "imperfect" form. From this, all other tenses and moods are formed with various particles and constructions. There is a third form, the preterite, which in Armenian is a tense in its own right, and takes no other particles or constructions.

The "present" tense in Western Armenian is based on three conjugations (a, e, i):

(to love)
(to speak)
(to read)
yes (I) sirem xōsim gartam
tun (you.sg) sires xōsis gartas
an (she/she/it) sirē xōsi garta
menk (we) sirenk xōsink gartank
tuk (you.pl) sirēk xōsik gartak
anonk (they) siren xōsin gartan

The present tense (as we know it in English) is made by adding the particle before the "present" form, except the defective verbs em (I am), gam (I exist, I'm there), unim (I have), kidem (I know) and gərnam (I can), while the future is made by adding bidi:

Yes kirk′ə gə gartam (I am reading the book or I read the book, Pres)
Yes kirk′ə bidi gartam (I will read the book, Fut).

For the exceptions: bidi əllam, unenam, kidnam, garenam (I shall be, have, know, be able). In vernacular language, the particle "gor" is added after the verb to indicate present progressive tense. The distinction is not made in literary Armenian.

Yes kirk′ə gə gartam gor (I am reading the book)[20]

The verb without any particles constitutes the subjunctive mood, such as "if I eat, should I eat, that I eat, I wish I eat":

Sing. Pl.
1st Udem
(if I eat etc)
(if we eat)
2nd Udes
(if you eat)
(if you all eat)
3rd Udē
(if it eats)
(if they eat)

Personal pronouns[edit]

Nominative Accusative Genitive Dative Ablative Instrumental
ես 'I' զիս իմ ինծի ինձմէ / ինծմէ ինձմով / ինծմով
դուն 'you' քեզ քու քեզի քեզմէ քեզմով
ինք 'she/he/it' զինք իր իրեն իրմէ իրմով
ան 'she/he/it' զայն անոր անոր անկէ անով
մենք 'we' մեզ մեր մեզի մեզմէ մեզմով
դուք 'you' ձեզ ձեր ձեզի ձեզմէ ձեզմով
իրենք 'they' զիրենք իրենց իրենց իրենցմէ իրենցմով
անոնք 'they' զանոնք անոնց անոնց անոնցմէ անոնցմով

Demonstrative pronouns[edit]

Proximal Medial Distal
Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural
Nominative ասիկա ասոնք ատիկա ատոնք անիկա անոնք
Accusative ասիկա ասոնք ատիկա ատոնք անիկա անոնք
Genitive ասոր ասոնց ատոր ատոնց անոր անոնց
Dative ասոր ասոնց ատոր ատոնց անոր անոնց
Ablative ասկէ ասոնցմէ ատկէ ատոնցմէ անկէ անոնցմէ
Instrumental ասով ասոնցմով ատով ատոնցմով անով անոնցմով

Relative pronouns[edit]

Singular Plural
Nominative որ որոնք
Accusative զոր զորոնք / զորս
Genitive որու(ն) որոնց
Dative որուն որոնց
Ablative որմէ որոնցմէ
Instrumental որ(մ)ով որոնցմով

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Pronounced Arevmtahayeren [ɑɾɛvmətɑhɑjɛˈɾɛn] in Eastern Armenian and spelled արևմտահայերեն in reformed orthography.


  1. ^ Western Armenian at Ethnologue (27th ed., 2024) Closed access icon
  2. ^ "UNESCO Atlas of the World's Languages in danger". www.unesco.org. Archived from the original on 2 August 2018. Retrieved 3 March 2021.
  3. ^ Chahinian, Talar; Bakalian, Anny (1 January 2016). "Language in Armenian American communities: Western Armenian and efforts for preservation". International Journal of the Sociology of Language (237): 37–57. doi:10.1515/ijsl-2015-0034. ISSN 1613-3668. S2CID 147596230.
  4. ^ Victor A. Friedman (2009). "Sociolinguistics in the Caucasus". In Ball, Martin J. (ed.). The Routledge Handbook of Sociolinguistics Around the World: A Handbook. Routledge. p. 128. ISBN 978-0415422789.
  5. ^ Baghdassarian-Thapaltsian, S. H. (1970). Շիրակի դաշտավայրի բարբառային նկարագիրը. Bulletin of Social Sciences (in Armenian) (6): 51–60. Archived from the original on 15 September 2019. Retrieved 24 March 2013.
  6. ^ Hovannisian, Richard, ed. (2003). Armenian Karin/Erzerum. Costa Mesa, California: Mazda Publ. p. 48. ISBN 9781568591513. Thus, even today the Erzerum dialect is widely spoken in the northernmost districts of the Armenian republic as well as in the Akhalkalak (Javakheti; Javakhk) and Akhaltskha (Akhaltsikh) districts of southern Georgia
  7. ^ "Armenian, Western | Ethnologue Free". Ethnologue (Free All). Retrieved 25 December 2023.
  8. ^ "Glottolog 4.3 – Western Armenian". glottolog.org. Retrieved 11 May 2021.
  9. ^ "Armenian alphabet, language and pronunciation". Omniglot.com. Retrieved 30 December 2017.
  10. ^ LLC, Helix Consulting. "Turkologist Ruben Melkonyan publishes book "Review of Istanbul's Armenian community history"". Panorama.am. Retrieved 30 December 2017.
  11. ^ Seyfarth, Scott; Dolatian, Hossep; Guekguezian, Peter; Kelly, Niamh; Toparlak, Tabita (9 October 2023). "Armenian (Yerevan Eastern Armenian and Beirut Western Armenian)". Journal of the International Phonetic Association: 1–34. doi:10.1017/S0025100323000130. ISSN 0025-1003.
  12. ^ UNESCO Culture Sector, UNESCO Interactive Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger, 2009
  13. ^ "UNESCO: 15 Languages Endangered in Turkey, by T. Korkut, 2009". Bianet.org. Archived from the original on 31 March 2009. Retrieved 30 December 2017.
  14. ^ https://laist.com/people/liz-ohanesian (20 April 2023). "Western Armenian Is An Endangered Language. A New Generation in LA Is Learning It". LAist. Retrieved 29 May 2023. {{cite web}}: External link in |last= (help)
  15. ^ a b Karapetian, Shushan (2014). ""How Do I Teach My Kids My Broken Armenian?": A Study of Eastern Armenian Heritage Language Speakers in Los Angeles" (PDF).
  16. ^ a b c d e The choice of Armenian symbol depends on the vowel's context in the word. See the Orthography section below for details.
  17. ^ a b c d e These letters represent the same consonant due to a sound shift in Western Armenian from Classical Armenian. See the Differences in Phonology from Classical and Eastern Armenian section below for details.
  18. ^ a b c d e This letter has undergone a sound shift from Classical Armenian to Western Armenian. See #Differences from Classical Armenian for details.
  19. ^ Although Western Armenians are taught to pronounce two different rhotics (written ⟨ր⟩ and ⟨ռ⟩), the two have merged in many dialects into a flap.
  20. ^ In vernacular language, the particle gor is added after the verb to indicate present progressive tense. The distinction is not made in literary Armenian.


External links[edit]

Western Armenian Online Dictionaries