1902 Encyclopedia > Armenian Language

Armenian Language




ARMENIAN LANGUAGE. The Armenian or Haikan language is an offshoot of the Iranian branch of the Indo-Germanic family of languages. Its earliest stage is probably represented in the cuneiform inscriptions of Van, on which see Hincks, in Jour. E. Asiatic Soc, vol. ix. (1848), and Mordtmann, in Zeitschrift d. deutschenmorgenl. Gesellschaft, vol. xxvi. (1872). The existing literature of the Armenians dates from the 4th century, and is essentially and exclusively Christian. The translation of the Old Testament by Sahag Bartevatsi, and of the New by Miesrob, are among its oldest monuments. The dialect in which this version is written, and in which it is still publicly read in their churches, is called the old Armenian. The modern Armenian not only departs from the elder form by dialectic changes in the native elements of the language itself, but also by the great intermixture of Persian and Turkish words, which has resulted from the conquest and subjection of the country, and by the character of inversion in the structure of its sentences. Of its two principal dialects,—the Western, spoken in Constantinople and Asia Minor, and the Eastern, spoken by the Armenians scattered over Tartary, Persia, and India,—the latter approaches more nearly to the idiom of the ancient language. Accord-ing to Philostratus ( Vita Apollonii, ii. 2), the Armenians had an alphabet of their own in the 2d century A.D., of which, however, no traces remain. The invention of the present alphabet is ascribed to Miesrob at the beginning of the 5th century; it is probably an amplification of the previous one upon the Greek system of arrangement, and consists of thirty-eight letters, the two last of which, Ô and f, were added after the 12th century. The order of writing is from left to right. The capital letters are used in inscriptions, and at the beginning of sentences and proper names. As to its phonetic elements, the Armenian language is rough and consonantal, with the accent on the last syllable. It possesses no grammatical gender, except that a masculine is sometimes made feminine by the addition of uhi, and that the words for man and woman may be prefixed to nouns to express their natural gender ; there is no dual. The declension is divided into vowel and consonantal declensions, each again being subdivided into strong and weak There are seven cases, including an instrumental The nine demonstrative pronouns are regu-lated by the demonstrative letters s, t, n, the first of which expresses proximity, the second lesser, and the last greater distance. The verb has four conjugations, according to the class vowels, e, a, u, i, and four tenses,—present, imperfect, aorist, and future, the last two having two forms. In its syntactical structure the old Armenian resembles most nearly the classical Greek.





The best and most recent Grammars are by H. Petermann (Berlin, 1872), and M. Lauer (Vienna, 1869) ; Dictionaries by Aucher and Brand (2 vols., Venice, 1821), and by A. Calfa (Paris, 1861), which comprises also the modern dialects. A good Grammar of the modern Armenian (Western dialect) is that of E. Biggs (Constantinople, 1856). There is an essay on the dialect of Tiflis, by H. Petermann, in Abhandlungen der K. Académie der Wissenschaften, Berlin, 1867, The best recent surveys of Armenian literature are by H. G. O. Dwight (Jour. Amer. Or. Soc, iii.) and M. Patcanian (Mélanges Asiatiques, iv.) See also, by the last-mentioned writer, " Recherches sur la formation de la langue Arménienne," in Journal Asiatique, August and September 1870.







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