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Appendix 3 The Alphabet

The Armenian Alphabet

Character, its Position in Pronunciation Keyword Lesson


Alphabet & Name Introduced
Old Armenian EA WA

1. a a a 1

2. * b b p 7

3. * g g k 8

4. * d d t 4

5. * e ye, e ye, e, y 2

6. z z z 7

7. * e e 1

8. , , , 2

9. t t t 10

10. zh zh zh 11

11. i i i 2

12. l l l 4

13. kh kh kh 8

14. * ts ts dz 10

15. * k k g 2

16. h h h 7

17. * dz dz ts 11

18. * gh gh 8

19. * ch ch j 12

20. m m m 2

21. * y y h, y, 5

22. n n n 1

Gayan Hagopian 338 Armenian for Everyone


Appendix 3 The Alphabet

23. sh sh sh 7

24. * o vo, o vo, o 4

* u u u, v 2

25. ch ch ch 5

26. p p b 5

27. * j j ch 12

28. 10

29. s s s 1

30. v v v 8

31. * t t d 1

32. r r r 1

33. ts ts ts 10

34. * w v v, w , 2

35. p p p 11

36. k k k 4

* ew yew, ew yew, ew 11

37. * o o , 5

38. * f f f 12

1. The first column presents the character position in the alphabet. All characters which have undergone a
sound change in WA and EA have an asterisk in this column. The original Mesropian alphabet from the 5th
century has 36 letters. The digraphs and have no value of a letter in it although they are used in writing.
In standard Middle Armenian, since 12th c. the letters and were added. The modern WA alphabet presents
these 38 letters. The digraphs and were included into the RO alphabet and was eliminated and as the 34th
character. In all other alphabetical lists, like dictionaries, follows with no position of its own in the
alphabet save the publications in RO. Recently, the status of changed anew; it is called a writing symbol
() and the alphabet both in Armenia and Diaspora has 38 characters.
2-3. The second column presents the characters, and the third, their alphabetical names. In WA and Iranian
EA schooling, they are employed in the alphabet recitation (ayp, pen, kim, ta, yech, za, or ayb ben gim da,
etc.), whereas in RO schooling the sound values of characters are used (a, b, g, d, ye, z, etc.).
4-5-6. The next three columns present the pronunciation of characters in Old, Eastern and Western Armenian.
Three characters are represented with two sets of symbols, one for transcription: , e, o and another,
transliteration: , , . The sound changes are marked with bold characters. Obviously, there are no

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Appendix 3 The Alphabet

audio-records from Old Armenian. Linguists recover the original sounds and their changes by examining 1)
errors of scribes, 2) borrowings from other languages and 3) modern dialectal sounds. For example, the letter
originally sounded [o], otherwise the Greek ocean (spelled with an initial ) would not be transcribed into
in Old Armenian. This old pronunciation remains in the word in standard WA and EA and in
several dialects, e.g., is [oski] and is [ochkhar] in Karin dialect and its Giumri branch. Likewise,
is still simple [e] in some dialects, e.g., is [etal] in Yerevan colloquial speech (dialect of Ararat valley
and others). For modern Armenian, the symbols [ ] and [] transliterate and , that is, they show the way
words are spelled. In transcription which shows their pronunciation, they are identical with [e] and [o]
save initial positions, where the latter sound [ye] and [vo]. Foreign borrowings containing the sound [l] in Old
Armenian were transcribed with [gh], e.g., from Greek Lukas. These four sound changes > [e],
> [ye], > [vo] and [l] > , are characteristic to both modern standards of Armenian. There are three more
common sound changes which have been obscured by RO: [y] > [h], [u] > [v] before vowels, and [w] >
[v] except in diphthongs. And finally, again around Middle Armenian, we learn about the consonant shift both
from scribes errors and from the transcription of borrowed words, e.g., the French baron is written
which means that the voiceless consonants sound as voiced, like in modern WA; there is linguistic and
historic evidence that the consonant shift precedes the era of Middle Armenian. Evidently, around 5th c. when
Mesrop created the alphabet, the standard Old Armenian was based on a group of dialects that later would be
referred as Eastern, whereas the standard Middle Armenian is based on dialects later referred as Western.
7. Keywords in lessons and in appendices 1, 2 and 3 are often different. In lesson-chapters, we tend to use
keywords we could write with already introduced letters. The variation in appendices pursues to present
common words used in both modern versions and allows you to choose your favorite to associate it with a
letter in your learning process.
8. In the last column, the Lesson numbers refer you to the details of pronunciation and spelling.
The chart below presents the Armenian alphabet in different fonts to assist you to perceive and observe the
permissible variations in character shapes.
The Armenian Alphabet in Different Fonts with the Original Pronunciation

Letter Name, Position & Original Characters in Different Fonts Italics


Pronunciation
1. [a]
2. [b]
3. [g]
4. [d]
5. [e]
6. [z]
7. []
8. []
9. [t]
10. [zh]
11. [i]
12. [l]
13. [kh]

Gayan Hagopian 340 Armenian for Everyone


Appendix 3 The Alphabet

14. [ts]
15. [k]
16. [h]
17. [dz]
18. []
19. [ch]
20. [m]
21. [y] [h]
22. [n]
23. [sh]
24. [o]
[u] *
25. [ch]
26. [p]
27. [j]
28. []
29. [s]
30. [v]
31. [t]
32. [r]
33. [ts]
34. [w]
35. [p]
36. [k]
[ev] *
37. [] **
38. [f] **

Gayan Hagopian 341 Armenian for Everyone