|Hayeren (Հայերէն) written in Armenian script|
|Spoken in|| Armenia |
(not recognized internationally)
|Total speakers||6.7 million |
|Writing system||Armenian alphabet|
|Official language in|| Armenia|
(not recognized internationally)
|Regulated by||National Academy of Sciences of Armenia|
|ISO 639-2||arm (B)||hye (T)|
hye – Modern Armenian
xcl – Classical Armenian
axm – Middle Armenian
|Note: This page may contain IPA phonetic symbols in Unicode.|
The Armenian language (հայերէն in TAO or հայերեն in RAO, —hayeren) is an Indo-European language spoken by the Armenian people. It is the official language of the Republic of Armenia as well as in the region of Nagorno-Karabakh. The language is also widely spoken by Armenian communities in the Armenian diaspora. It has its own script, the Armenian alphabet, and is of interest to linguists for its distinctive phonological developments within Indo-European.
Linguists classify Armenian as an independent branch of the Indo-European language family. Armenian shares a number of major innovations with Greek, and some linguists group these two languages together with Phrygian and the Indo-Iranian family into a higher-level subgroup of Indo-European which is defined by such shared innovations as the augment. More recently, others have proposed a Balkan grouping including Greek, Armenian, Phrygian and Albanian.
Armenian has a long literary history, with a fifth-century Bible translation as its oldest surviving text. Its vocabulary has been heavily influenced by Western Middle Iranian languages, particularly Parthian, and to a lesser extent by Greek, Latin, Old French, Persian, Arabic, Turkish, and other languages throughout its history. There are two standardized modern literary forms, Eastern Armenian and Western Armenian, with which most contemporary dialects are mutually intelligible. The divergent and almost extinct Lomavren language is a Romani-influenced dialect with an Armenian grammar and a largely Romani-derived vocabulary, including Romani numbers.
|Indo-European languages (list)|
|Albanian · Armenian · Baltic|
Celtic · Germanic · Greek
Indo-Iranian (Indo-Aryan, Iranian)
Italic · Slavic extinct: Anatolian · Paleo-Balkan (Dacian,
Phrygian, Thracian) · Tocharian
|Vocabulary · Phonology · Sound laws · Ablaut · Root · Noun · Verb|
|Indo-European language-speaking peoples|
|Europe: Balts · Slavs · Albanians · Italics · Celts · Germanic peoples · Greeks · Paleo-Balkans (Illyrians · Thracians · Dacians) · Asia: Anatolians (Hittites, Luwians) · Armenians · Indo-Iranians (Iranians · Indo-Aryans) · Tocharians|
|Homeland · Society · Religion|
While the Armenians were known to history much earlier (Xenophon mentions them in his 4th century BC history, The Anabasis), the oldest surviving Armenian language text is the 5th century AD Bible translation of Mesrob Mashtots.
The large percentage of loans from Iranian languages initially led linguists to erroneously classify Armenian as an Iranian language. The distinctness of Armenian was only recognized when Hübschmann (1875) used the comparative method to distinguish two layers of Iranian loans from the true Armenian vocabulary.
W. M. Austin in 1942 concluded that there was an early contact between Armenian and Anatolian languages, based on what he considered common archaisms, such as the lack of a feminine and the absence of inherited long vowels. But, unlike shared innovations (or synapomorphies) the common retention of archaisms (or symplesiomorphy) is not necessarily considered evidence of a period of common isolated development. (For example, the fact that birds and turtles have scales is not evidence of any special closeness, some mammals retain scales too, and scales date back to our common ancestors, the fish.)
In his paper, "Hurro-Urartian Borrowings in Old Armenian", Soviet linguist Igor Mikhailovich Diakonov notes the presence in Old Armenian of what he calls a Caucasian substratum, identified by earlier scholars, consisting of loans from the Kartvelian and Northeast Caucasian languages such as Udi. Noting that the Hurro-Urartian peoples inhabited the Armenian homeland in the second millennium BC, Diakonov identifies in Armenian a Hurro-Urartian substratum of social, cultural, and zoological and biological terms such as ałaxin ('slavegirl') and xnjor ('apple(tree)') . Some of the terms he gives admittedly have an Akkadian or Sumerian provenance, but he suggests they were borrowed through Hurrian or Urartu. Given that these borrowings do not sound changes characteristic of the development of Armenian from Proto-Indo-European, he dates their borrowing to a time before the written record but after the Proto-Armenian language stage.
The hypothesis that Greek is Armenian's closest living relative originates with Pedersen (1924), who noted that the number of Greek-Armenian lexical cognates is greater than that of agreements between Armenian and any other Indo-European language. Meillet (1925, 1927) further investigated morphological and phonological agreement, postulating that the parent languages of Greek and Armenian were dialects in immediate geographical proximity in the parent language. Meillet's hypothesis became popular in the wake of his Esquisse (1936). Solta (1960) does not go as far as postulating a Proto-Graeco-Armenian stage, but he concludes that considering both the lexicon and morphology, Greek is clearly the dialect most closely related to Armenian. Hamp (1976:91) supports the Graeco-Armenian thesis, anticipating even a time "when we should speak of Helleno-Armenian" (meaning the postulate of a Graeco-Armenian proto-language). Armenian shares the augment, a negator derived from the set phrase *ne hoiu kwid ("not ever at all"), the representation of word-initial laryngeals by prothetic vowels, and other phonological and morphological peculiarities with Greek. The closeness of the relationship between Armenian and Greek sheds light on the paraphyletic nature of the Centum-Satem isogloss. Nevertheless, linguists including Fortson (2004) comment "by the time we reach our earliest Armenian records in the 5th century A.D., the evidence of any such early kinship has been reduced to a few tantalizing pieces."