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Language

Language is the roadmap of a culture.
It tells you where its people came from and where they are going.

Rita Mae Brown

The Armenian language is generally classified as an independent branch of the Indo-European language family, and differs from its neighbors in appearance and grammatical structure. Some scholars see a connection between it and the ancient Hurrian and Urartian languages of Anatolia. Whatever its origins, it is fair to say that Armenian is a unique and sophisticated language that has been a source of cultural pride for the Armenian people.

It has its own unique alphabet created in ad405, originally with 36 letters, three more being added later. It is a synthetic language -the construction of one word with declensions and various endings gives as much information as a whole phrase in English. There are two forms of Armenian, eastern Armenian (as spoken in Armenia) and western Armenian (as formerly spoken in Anatolia and still spoken by the diaspora). Although different the two are mutually intelligible.

The hero of the language is Mesrob Mashtots, the fifth-century scholar and monk, later elevated to sainthood, who invented the Armenian alphabet (previously, Greek, Persian, and Syriac symbols had been used, none of which adequately represented the complex sounds). After he had conceived the original thirty-six characters, an unprecedented educational movement began in Armenia. Students were recruited to learn the new letters, and then to teach them to others. Further groups of scholars were sent to other countries to study and retrieve copies of the works of non-Armenian authors that could be translated into Armenian. This began with religious writings, but grew to include books on mathematics, medicine, science, and astronomy. Ultimately, this concentration on language and literature inspired a golden age for literature and the arts in Armenia.

The official language of the Republic of Armenia is Eastern Armenian, also spoken by Armenians in Iran. With the movement of Armenians to the West in the nineteenth century came another version of the language, known as Western Armenian. Based upon the Armenian dialect of Anatolia prior to the genocide, and now mostly spoken by the Diaspora, this version of the language differs in some pronunciation and even some letters. Surprisingly, however, the Armenian spoken in the homeland remains remarkably intact since the time of Mashtots, in both characteristics and grammatical structure.

The second language is Russian, which is spoken virtually everywhere. English is becoming more common but can only be relied upon in places popular with tourists such as the hotels in Yerevan and some shops. Outside Yerevan it is common to find that no English is spoken. Other European languages are even less well known although of course interpreters can be employed. Independent travellers can hire an English-speaking guide and an increasing number of drivers of hired cars also speak some English. Learning the Armenian alphabet and a few common words certainly enhances a visit to Armenia and Armenians are delighted if a foreigner makes even a small effort with their language.

Thanks to the nation's education system, almost all Armenians can read and write their native language. Diasporan Armenians often require their children to learn their mother tongue. However, for the foreigner unfamiliar with Armenian pronunciation the language can be very difficult to learn. Several letters sound very similar, and there are a few consonants that have no similarity to sounds in other languages.


If you have any questions about travel to Armenia (visa, hotels, guide services, transportation), please feel free to contact us at any time and we will gladly answer your questions.


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