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Classical Armenian Online

Lesson 1

Todd B. Krause, John A.C. Greppin, and Jonathan Slocum

The Urartuan Period

The kingdom of Urartu (ca. 870 - 590 B.C.) was the first kingdom we know to have been centered in the region of what is now greater Armenia. The earliest mention of this kingdom comes from the campaign records of the Assyrian king Ashur-nasirpal (ca. 884 - 859 B.C.). The history of Urartu is one of constant struggle with the neighboring Assyrian state. For a brief period the Assyrian kingdom fell into decline, and this allowed Urartu to gain a strong foothold in the region, spreading from the western Euphrates to the eastern Caspian lowlands, and extending from Lake Urmia in the south to the Caucasus in the north. This region became a center for vineyards and grain production; its stores of copper and iron ensured it became a hub of trade in bronze and iron weaponry. Remnants of metal tools, weapons, and pottery have been found and preserved in museums in Armenia. Urartuan cauldrons and decorative shields have been found in both Greek-speaking and Transcaucasian regions.

Arame is the first Urartuan king to be mentioned, his name recorded by the Assyrian king Shalmaneser III (ca. 860 - 825 B.C.). This Arame may have been the historical figure on whom is based Ara the Handsome, the legendary founder of the Armenian people described by Moses of Khoren more than a thousand years later. The Assyrian king Shammur-amat (ca. 810 - 805) is supposed by some to have lent his name to Queen Semiramis, the alluring rival in Moses of Khoren's story, who eventually led to Ara to his downfall.

The historical kingdom of Urartu itself eventually came to a period of decline. The kings Tiglath-pileser III (ca. 745 - 727 B.C.) and Sargon II (ca. 722 - 705 B.C.) reversed the decline of their Assyrian kingdom and began a long campaign against the Urartuans. The Assyrian records indicate that Urartu was at this time under attack by the Cimmerians from the north, and it seems that the two-front war was more than Urartu could sustain. Urartu was overrun and the Cimmerians poured through to attack Assyria itself. Soon thereafter, Urartu joined forces with Assyria, which was not only embroiled in conflict with the Cimmerians and the newly arrived Scythians in the north, but also with the Babylonian state to the south.

The subsequent history of Urartu falls into greater and greater obscurity. Urartu and Assyria both fell into great decline, opening up a power vacuum in the region which was filled by the Medes, Babylonians, and Egyptians. The Babylonians and Medes divided the Assyrian empire between them, but Urartu seems to have fallen solely under Median control by ca. 605-585 B.C.

Reading and Textual Analysis

The oldest Armenian text is the Bible, translated from Greek in the early fifth century. (The beginning and completion dates cannot be determined with precision, but late texts which refer to the Bible provide us with a date ante quem.) Though some have argued that the Armenians referred to the Hebrew Old Testament, there is little evidence to support this. It is likely that the New Testament was translated before the Old Testament, and here it is possible that there was Syriac influence, though the matter has not been carefully studied. This reading comes from Matthew 5:1-16.

1 - Ew teseal zzhol'ovurdsn el i learrn. ew ibrew nstaw and` matean arr na ashakertk' nora

  • ew -- conjunction; <ew> and; even, also, too -- And
  • teseal -- verb; past participle nominative singular of <tesanem> I see -- seeing
  • zzhol'ovurdsn -- direct object marker <z->... + noun; accusative plural of <zhol'ovurd> multitude + demonstrative suffix <-n> that, that over there, the -- the multitudes
  • el -- verb; 3rd singular aorist of <elanem> I come, go up -- he went up
  • i -- preposition; <i> to, in(to), upon; at, under; from, out of, away from; from among; by, through the agency of -- onto
  • learrn -- noun; accusative singular of <learrn> mountain -- a mountain
  • ew -- conjunction; <ew> and; even, also, too -- and
  • ibrew -- conjunction; <ibrew> when -- when
  • nstaw -- verb; 3rd singular aorist mediopassive of <nstim> I sit -- he was set
  • and -- adverb; <and> there -- ...
  • matean -- verb; 3rd plural aorist mediopassive of <match'im> I approach -- came
  • arr -- preposition; <arr> to, toward (a person); beside; in the time of; in addition to -- unto
  • na -- pronoun; accusative singular of <na> he, she, it -- him
  • ashakertk' -- noun; nominative plural of <ashakert> student, disciple -- disciples
  • nora -- pronoun; genitive singular of <na> he, she, it -- his

2 - Ew bats'eal zberan iwr usuts'anér znosa ew asér.

  • ew -- conjunction; <ew> and; even, also, too -- And
  • bats'eal -- verb; past participle nominative singular of <banam> I open -- he opened
  • zberan -- direct object marker <z->... + noun; accusative singular of <beran> mouth -- mouth
  • iwr -- reflexive pronoun; genitive singular of <iwr> him-, her-, it-self -- his
  • usuts'anér -- verb; 3rd singular imperfect of <usuts'anem> I teach -- taught
  • znosa -- direct object marker <z->... + pronoun; accusative plural of <na> he, she, it -- them
  • ew -- conjunction; <ew> and; even, also, too -- and
  • asér -- verb; 3rd singular imperfect of <asem> I say -- saying

3 - erani al'k'atats' hogwov, zi nots'a é ark'ayut'iwn erknits' :

  • erani -- adjective; nominative singular of <erani> happy -- Blessed (are) # used as interjection with accompanying dative
  • al'k'atats' -- adjective used as substantive; dative plural of <al'k'at> poor -- (the) poor
  • hogwov -- noun; instrumental singular of <hogi> soul, spirit -- in spirit
  • zi -- conjunction; <zi> for; that; because -- for
  • nots'a -- pronoun; dative plural of <na> he, she, it -- theirs
  • é -- verb; 3rd singular present of <em> I am -- is
  • ark'ayut'iwn -- noun; nominative singular of <ark'ayut'iwn> kingdom -- the kingdom
  • erknits' -- noun; genitive plural of <erkin> heaven -- of heaven

4 - Erani sgaworats', zi nok'a mxit'arests'in :

  • erani -- adjective; nominative singular of <erani> happy -- Blessed (are)
  • sgaworats' -- adjective used as substantive; dative plural of <sgawor> sorrowful -- they that mourn
  • zi -- conjunction; <zi> for; that; because -- for
  • nok'a -- pronoun; nominative plural of <na> he, she, it -- they
  • mxit'arests'in -- verb; 3rd plural aorist subjunctive mediopassive of <mxit'arem> I comfort -- shall be comforted

5 - Erani hezots', zi nok'a zharrangests'en zerkir :

  • erani -- adjective; nominative singular of <erani> happy -- Blessed (are)
  • hezots' -- adjective used as substantive; dative plural of <hez> meek -- the meek
  • zi -- conjunction; <zi> for; that; because -- for
  • nok'a -- pronoun; nominative plural of <na> he, she, it -- they
  • zharrangests'en -- verb; 3rd plural aorist subjunctive of <zharrangem> I inherit -- shall inherit
  • zerkir -- direct object marker <z->... + noun; accusative singular of <erkir> earth -- the earth

6 - Erani or k'al'ts'eal tsarawi its'en ardarut'ean, zi nok'a yagests'in

  • erani -- adjective; nominative singular of <erani> happy -- Blessed (are)
  • or -- relative pronoun; nominative plural of <or> who, what, which -- they which
  • k'al'ts'eal -- verb; past participle undeclined form of <k'al'ts'num> I hunger -- hunger
  • tsarawi -- adjective; undeclined form of <tsarawi> thirsting, thirsty -- (and) thirst
  • its'en -- verb; 3rd plural present subjunctive of <em> I am -- do
  • ardarut'ean -- noun; genitive singular of <ardarut'iwn> righteousness -- after righteousness # or dative case
  • zi -- conjunction; <zi> for; that; because -- for
  • nok'a -- pronoun; nominative plural of <na> he, she, it -- they
  • yagests'in -- verb; 3rd plural aorist subjunctive mediopassive of <yagim> I am satisfied, filled, fulfilled -- shall be filled

7 - Erani ol'ormatsats', zi nok'a ol'ormut'iwn gtts'en

  • erani -- adjective; nominative singular of <erani> happy -- Blessed (are)
  • ol'ormatsats' -- adjective used as substantive; dative plural of <ol'ormats> merciful -- the merciful
  • zi -- conjunction; <zi> for; that; because -- for
  • nok'a -- pronoun; nominative plural of <na> he, she, it -- they
  • ol'ormut'iwn -- noun; accusative singular of <ol'ormut'iwn> mercy -- mercy
  • gtts'en -- verb; 3rd plural aorist subjunctive of <gtanem> I find, get, obtain -- shall obtain

8 - Erani aynots'ik` or surb en srtiwk', zi nok'a zAstuats tests'en :

  • erani -- adjective; nominative singular of <erani> happy -- Blessed
  • aynots'ik -- emphatic pronoun; dative plural of <ayn> he, she, it -- ...
  • or -- relative pronoun; nominative plural of <or> who, what, which -- ...
  • surb -- adjective; undeclined form <surb> holy, blessed -- the pure
  • en -- verb; 3rd plural present of <em> I am -- are
  • srtiwk' -- noun; instrumental plural of <sirt> heart -- in heart
  • zi -- conjunction; <zi> for; that; because -- for
  • nok'a -- pronoun; nominative plural of <na> he, she, it -- they
  • zAstuats -- direct object marker <z->... + proper noun; accusative singular of <Astuats> God -- God
  • tests'en -- verb; 3rd plural aorist subjunctive of <tesanem> I see -- shall see

9 - Erani xal'al'ararats', zi nok'a ordik' Astutsoy koch'ests'in :

  • erani -- adjective; nominative singular of <erani> happy -- Blessed (are)
  • xal'al'ararats' -- adjective used as substantive; dative plural of <xal'al' arar> peacemaker -- the peacemakers
  • zi -- conjunction; <zi> for; that; because -- for
  • nok'a -- pronoun; nominative plural of <na> he, she, it -- they
  • ordik' -- noun; nominative plural of <ordi> son -- the children
  • Astutsoy -- proper noun; genitive singular of <Astuats> God -- of God
  • koch'ests'in -- verb; 3rd plural aorist subjunctive mediopassive of <koch'em> I call, name -- shall be called

10 - Erani or halatseal its'en vasn ardarut'ean, zi nots'a é ark'ayut'iwn erknits' :

  • erani -- adjective; nominative singular of <erani> happy -- Blessed (are)
  • or -- relative pronoun; nominative singular of <or> who, what, which -- they which
  • halatseal -- verb; past participle undeclined form of <halatsem> I persecute -- persecuted
  • its'en -- verb; 3rd plural present subjunctive of <em> I am -- they will be
  • vasn -- preposition; <vasn> because of, on account of, for the sake of -- for... sake
  • ardarut'ean -- noun; genitive singular of <ardarut'iwn> righteousness -- righteousness'
  • zi -- conjunction; <zi> for; that; because -- for
  • nots'a -- pronoun; dative plural of <na> he, she, it -- theirs
  • é -- verb; 3rd singular present of <em> I am -- is
  • ark'ayut'iwn -- noun; nominative singular of <ark'ayut'iwn> kingdom -- the kingdom
  • erknits' -- noun; genitive plural of <erkin> heaven -- of heaven

11 - Erani é dzez` yorzham naxatits'en zdzez ew halatsests'en, ew asits'en zamenayn ban ch'ar zdzénj sut vasn im :

  • erani -- adjective; nominative singular of <erani> happy -- Blessed
  • é -- verb; 3rd singular present of <em> I am -- are
  • dzez -- pronoun; dative plural of <du> thou -- ye
  • yorzham -- adverb; <yorzham> when -- when
  • naxatits'en -- verb; 3rd plural present subjunctive of <naxatem> I insult -- (men) shall revile
  • zdzez -- direct object marker <z->... + pronoun; accusative plural of <du> thou -- you
  • ew -- conjunction; <ew> and; even, also, too -- and
  • halatsests'en -- verb; 3rd plural aorist subjunctive of <halatsem> I persecute -- persecute (you)
  • ew -- conjunction; <ew> and; even, also, too -- and
  • asits'en -- verb; 3rd plural present subjunctive of <asem> I say -- shall say
  • zamenayn -- direct object marker <z->... + adjective; undeclined form <amenayn> all, every -- all manner of
  • ban -- noun; accusative singular of <ban> speech, word -- ...
  • ch'ar -- adjective; accusative singular of <ch'ar> bad, evil -- evil
  • zdzénj -- preposition; <z-> during; for; concerning; around, about + pronoun; ablative plural of <du> thou -- against you
  • sut -- adverb; <sut> falsely -- falsely
  • vasn -- preposition; <vasn> because of, on account of, for the sake of -- for... sake
  • im -- pronoun; genitive singular of <es> I -- my

12 - TS'ntsats'ék' ew urax leruk', zi vardzk' dzer bazum en yerkins. zi ayspés halatsets'in zmargarésn or yarraj k'an zdzez éin :

  • ts'ntsats'ék' -- verb; 2nd plural aorist imperative of <ts'ntsam> I rejoice -- Rejoice
  • ew -- conjunction; <ew> and; even, also, too -- and
  • urax -- adjective; undeclined form <urax> happy -- (exceeding) glad
  • leruk' -- verb; 2nd plural present imperative of <linim> I am, exist -- be
  • zi -- conjunction; <zi> for; that; because -- for
  • vardzk' -- noun; nominative plural of <vardz> reward -- reward
  • dzer -- pronoun; genitive plural of <du> thou -- your # or dative
  • bazum -- adjective; undeclined form of <bazum> much, many -- great
  • en -- verb; 3rd plural present of <em> I am -- is
  • yerkins -- preposition; <i> to, in(to), upon; at, under; from, out of, away from; from among; by, through the agency of + noun; locative plural of <erkin> heaven -- in heaven
  • zi -- conjunction; <zi> for; that; because -- for
  • ayspés -- adverb; <ayspés> so, thus, in this manner -- so
  • halatsets'in -- verb; 3rd plural aorist <halatsem> I persecute -- they persecuted
  • zmargarésn -- direct object marker <z->... + noun; accusative plural of <margaré> prophet + demonstrative suffix <-n> that, that over there, the -- the prophets
  • or -- relative pronoun; nominative plural of <or> who, what, which -- which
  • yarraj -- adverb; <yarraj> before, earlier -- before
  • k'an -- conjunction; <k'an> than -- ...
  • zdzez -- direct object marker <z->... + pronoun; accusative plural of <du> thou -- you
  • éin -- verb; 3rd plural imperfect of <em> I am -- were

13 - Duk' ék' al' erkri. apa t'é al'n anhami i?w yal'its'i. och' imik' azdits'é aynuhetew, bayts' et'é e'nkenul artak's, ew koxan linel i mardkané :

  • duk' -- pronoun; nominative plural of <du> thou -- Ye
  • ék' -- verb; 2nd plural present of <em> I am -- are
  • al' -- noun; nominative singular of <al'> salt -- the salt
  • erkri -- noun; genitive singular of <erkir> earth -- of the earth
  • apa -- conjunction; <apa> but; then, afterwards, later -- but
  • t'é -- conjunction; <et'e> that; if; or -- if
  • al'n -- noun; nominative singular of <al'> salt + demonstrative suffix <-n> that, that over there, the -- the salt
  • anhami -- verb; 3rd singular present of <anhamim> I am un-tasteful -- has lost (its) savour
  • i?w -- interrogative adverb; <i?w> how -- wherewith
  • yal'its'i -- verb; 3rd singular present subjunctive mediopassive of <yal'em> I salt -- shall it be salted
  • och' -- adverb; <och'> no, not -- no-
  • imik' -- indefinite pronoun; dative singular of <*ik'> something, anything -- for...-thing
  • azdits'é -- verb; 3rd singular present subjunctive of <azdem> I am efficacious, I affect -- it is... good
  • aynuhetew -- adverb; <aynuhetew> thenceforth -- thenceforth
  • bayts' -- conjunction; <bayts'> but -- but
  • et'é -- conjunction; <et'e> that; if; or -- ...
  • e'nkenul -- verb; infinitive of <e'nkenum> I throw -- to be cast
  • artak's -- adverb; <artak's> out -- out
  • ew -- conjunction; <ew> and; even, also, too -- and
  • koxan -- adjective; undeclined form <koxan> trampled -- trodden
  • linel -- verb; infinitive of <linim> I am, exist -- to be
  • i -- preposition; <i> to, in(to), upon; at, under; from, out of, away from; from among; by, through the agency of -- under (foot of)
  • mardkané -- noun; ablative singular of <mardik> mankind, people -- men

14 - Duk' ék' loys ashkarhi, och' karé k'al'ak' t'ak'ch'el` or i veray lerin kayts'é

  • duk' -- pronoun; nominative plural of <du> thou -- Ye
  • ék' -- verb; 2nd plural present of <em> I am -- are
  • loys -- noun; nominative singular of <loys> light -- the light
  • ashkarhi -- noun; genitive singular of <ashkarh> earth -- of the world
  • och' -- adverb; <och'> no, not -- not
  • karé -- verb; 3rd singular present of <karem> I can, am able -- can-
  • k'al'ak' -- noun; nominative singular of <k'al'ak'> city -- A city
  • t'ak'ch'el -- verb; infinitive used as complement <t'ak'ch'em> I hide -- be hid
  • or -- relative pronoun; nominative singular of <or> who, what, which -- that
  • i veray -- compound preposition; <i veray> upon, over -- on
  • lerin -- noun; genitive singular of <learrn> mountain -- a hill
  • kayts'é -- verb; 3rd singular present subjunctive of <kam> I am, exist -- is set

15 - Ew och' luts'anen chrag ew dnen e'nd gruanaw, ayl i veray ashtanaki, ew loys tay amenets'un or i tann its'en

  • ew -- conjunction; <ew> and; even, also, too -- either
  • och' -- adverb; <och'> no, not -- N-
  • luts'anen -- verb; 3rd plural present of <lutsanem> I light -- do (men) light
  • chrag -- noun; accusative singular of <chrag> candle -- a candle
  • ew -- conjunction; <ew> and; even, also, too -- and
  • dnen -- verb; 3rd plural present of <dnem> I put, place -- put (it)
  • e'nd -- preposition; <e'nd> through, along, by way of; against; during; instead of, in exchange for; with, in the company of; under -- under
  • gruanaw -- noun; instrumental singular of <gruan> bushel -- a bushel
  • ayl -- conjunction; <ayl> but -- but
  • i veray -- compound preposition; <i veray> upon, over -- on
  • ashtanaki -- noun; genitive singular of <ashtanak> candle stick -- a candlestick
  • ew -- conjunction; <ew> and; even, also, too -- and
  • loys -- noun; accusative singular of <loys> light -- light
  • tay -- verb; 3rd singular present of <tam> I give; permit, let -- it giveth
  • amenets'un -- noun; dative singular of <amenayn> everyone -- unto all
  • or -- relative pronoun; nominative plural of <or> who, what, which -- that
  • i -- preposition; <i> to, in(to), upon; at, under; from, out of, away from; from among; by, through the agency of -- in
  • tann -- noun; locative singular of <tun> house + demonstrative suffix <-n> that, that over there, the -- the house
  • its'en -- verb; 3rd plural present subjunctive of <em> I am -- are

16 - Aynpés lusaworests'é loys dzer arraji mardkan, orpés zi tests'en zgortss dzer baris, ew p'arraworests'en zhayr dzer or yerkins é :

  • aynpés -- conjunction; <aynpés> likewise -- ...
  • lusaworests'é -- verb; 3rd singular aorist subjunctive of <lusaworem> I shine -- let... shine
  • loys -- noun; nominative singular of <loys> light -- light
  • dzer -- pronoun; genitive plural of <du> thou -- your
  • arraji -- preposition; <arraji> before, in front of -- before
  • mardkan -- noun; genitive singular of <mardik> mankind, people -- man
  • orpés zi -- compound conjunction <orpés zi> so that -- so... that
  • tests'en -- verb; 3rd plural aorist subjunctive of <tesanem> I see -- they may see
  • zgortss -- direct object marker <z->... + noun; accusative plural of <gorts> work, deed -- works
  • dzer -- pronoun; genitive plural of <du> thou -- your
  • baris -- adjective; accusative plural of <bari> good -- good
  • ew -- conjunction; <ew> and; even, also, too -- and
  • p'arraworests'en -- verb; 3rd plural aorist subjunctive of <parraworem> I glorify -- glorify
  • zhayr -- direct object marker <z->... + noun; accusative singular of <hayr> father -- Father
  • dzer -- pronoun; genitive plural of <du> thou -- your
  • or -- relative pronoun; nominative singular of <or> who, what, which -- which
  • yerkins -- preposition; <i> to, in(to), upon; at, under; from, out of, away from; from among; by, through the agency of + noun; locative plural of <erkin> heaven -- in heaven
  • é -- verb; 3rd singular present of <em> I am -- is

Lesson Text

1 Ew teseal zzhol'ovurdsn el i learrn. ew ibrew nstaw and` matean arr na ashakertk' nora 2 Ew bats'eal zberan iwr usuts'anér znosa ew asér. 3 erani al'k'atats' hogwov, zi nots'a é ark'ayut'iwn erknits' : 4 Erani sgaworats', zi nok'a mxit'arests'in : 5 Erani hezots', zi nok'a zharrangests'en zerkir : 6 Erani or k'al'ts'eal tsarawi its'en ardarut'ean, zi nok'a yagests'in 7 Erani ol'ormatsats', zi nok'a ol'ormut'iwn gtts'en 8 Erani aynots'ik` or surb en srtiwk', zi nok'a zAstuats tests'en : 9 Erani xal'al'ararats', zi nok'a ordik' Astutsoy koch'ests'in : 10 Erani or halatseal its'en vasn ardarut'ean, zi nots'a é ark'ayut'iwn erknits' : 11 Erani é dzez` yorzham naxatits'en zdzez ew halatsests'en, ew asits'en zamenayn ban ch'ar zdzénj sut vasn im : 12 TS'ntsats'ék' ew urax leruk', zi vardzk' dzer bazum en yerkins. zi ayspés halatsets'in zmargarésn or yarraj k'an zdzez éin : 13 Duk' ék' al' erkri. apa t'é al'n anhami i?w yal'its'i. och' imik' azdits'é aynuhetew, bayts' et'é e'nkenul artak's, ew koxan linel i mardkané : 14 Duk' ék' loys ashkarhi, och' karé k'al'ak' t'ak'ch'el` or i veray lerin kayts'é 15 Ew och' luts'anen chrag ew dnen e'nd gruanaw, ayl i veray ashtanaki, ew loys tay amenets'un or i tann its'en 16 Aynpés lusaworests'é loys dzer arraji mardkan, orpés zi tests'en zgortss dzer baris, ew p'arraworests'en zhayr dzer or yerkins é :

Translation

1 And seeing the multitudes, he went up onto a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him: 2 And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying, 3 Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 4 Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted. 5 Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth. 6 Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled. 7 Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. 8 Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God. 9 Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God. 10 Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteouness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. 12 Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you. 13 Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt has lost its savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men. 14 Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid. 15 Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. 16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

Grammar

1. The Alphabet and Sound System
1.1. The Alphabet

The Armenian alphabet was created in roughly 406 AD by a cleric named Mesrop Mastoc, initially as a vehicle for translation of the Bible. The most likely source of the alphabet is the Greek alphabet: like Greek, Armenian is read left to right; vowels are represented by separate characters, unlike nearby Semitic scripts; certain letters of the Armenian alphabet are reminiscent of the Greek, in particular the use of a digraph u to represent the sound u as in the Greek; and the use of letters to represent numerals follows the Greek method. Below is a list of the letters of the Armenian alphabet, together with their names, numerical values, and a guide to their pronunciation.

    Letter     Name   Number   Pronunciation
    A a     ayb   1   a as in 'father'
    B b     ben   2   b as in 'boy'
    G g     gim   3   g as in 'good'
    D d     da   4   d as in 'dog'
    E e     ech'   5   e as in 'bet', initially ye as in 'yes'
    Z z     za   6   z as in 'zebra'
    É é     é   7   ei as in 'eight'
    E' e'     et'   8   u as in 'but'
    T' t'     t'o   9   t, aspirated, as in 'top'
    ZH zh     zhé   10   g as in 'rouge'
    I i     ini   20   ee as in 'queen'
    L l     liwn   30   l as in 'lamb'
    X x       40   ch as in (German pronunciation of) 'Bach'
    TS ts     tsa   50   t's as in 'what's up?'
    K k     ken   60   k, unaspirated, as in 'skip'
    H h     ho   70   h as in 'hope'
    DZ dz     dza   80   ds as in 'heads'
    L' l'     l'at   90   ll as in 'ball', or ch as in Scots English 'loch', but voiced
    CH ch     ché   100   tch, unaspirated, as in 'matchbox'
    M m     men   200   m as in 'map'
    Y y     yi   300   y as in 'yes', also as in 'boy'
    N n     nu   400   n as in 'now'
    SH sh     sha   500   sh as in 'ship'
    O o     o   600   oa as in 'boat', initially vo as in 'vote'
    CH' ch'     ch'a   700   tch, aspirated, as in 'match'
    P p       800   p, unaspirated, as in 'spot'
    J j       900   j as in 'jump'
    RR rr     rra   1000   r as in 'run', but trilled
    S s       2000   s as in 'sip'
    V v     vew   3000   v as in 'vat'
    T t     tiwn   4000   t, unaspirated, as in 'stop'
    R r       5000   r as in 'run'
    TS' ts'     ts'o   6000   ts, aspirated, as in 'hats'
    W w     hiwn   7000   w as in 'wet'
    P' p'     p'iwr   8000   p, aspirated, as in 'pot'
    K' k'     k'é   9000   k, aspirated, as in 'kit'

As mentioned above, the digraph u represents the single vowel sound u. The schwa e' is written only in initial position for monosyllabic words and for words derived from these by nominal composition. In modern printed texts it is written in polysyllabic words when hyphenated.

Beginning in the twelfth century, the letter O/o is used where one would usually find the diphthong aw. The letter F/f was introduced to represent the corresponding foreign sound, as in the f of English 'father'. Greek omega was usually represented by ov.

1.2. The Sound System

The phonological system of Classical Armenian consists of 29 consonants and 7 simple vowels. The consonants may be organized according to articulation as in the following chart.

    Voiceless       Voiced
Plosives   Unaspirated   Aspirated    
Labial   p   p'   b
Dental   t   t'   d
Velar   k   k'   g
             
Affricates   Unaspirated   Aspirated    
Dental   ts   ts'   dz
Palatal   ch   ch'   j
             
Fricatives   Voiceless       Voiced
Labial           v
Dental   s       z
Palatal   sh       zh
Velar   x        
Glottal   h        
             
Nasals           Voiced
Labial           m
Dental           n
             
Liquids            
Central   r   rr    
Lateral   l   l'    
             
Semivowels            
Palatal   y        
Velar   w        

Conventional pronunciation renders l' as the voiced counterpart of x , thereby lending it a fricative quality. The evidence from the classical period, however, seems to point to a heavy lateral articulation, as in Modern English 'ball'. The spelling gayl' for the usual gayl shows that the distinction was not absolute within the language itself. It was also used to render the Greek lambda, as in titl'os < Gk. titlos and Pawl'os < Gk. Paulos.

v and w are conventionally pronounced differently, as their English counterparts. In the classical period, however, they do not seem to have been distinct phonemes, but rather allographs: v was used initially, initially in the second element of compounds, and after o with w w used elsewhere.

The vowels may be similarly organized, as in the following chart:

Vowels   Front   Central   Back
High   i       u
High-Mid   é   e'    
Mid   e       o
Low       a    

There is no evidence for a distinction of vowel quantities in Classical Armenian.

Modern convention pronounces initial e as ye; the evidence for such pronunciation extending back to the classical period is unclear, since archaic texts often transcribe with initial e Greek names beginning with epsilon or the alpha-iota diphthong. The word for Jerusalem, which however would have had an initial glide, is written simply as Erosal'ém, indicating that e was preceded by the glide y at least in some instances. Similarly, the pronunciation of initial o as vo seems to be post-classical.

Below is a list of the diphthongs of Classical Armenian. In some instances the conventional pronunciation diverges from the classical rendering.

  • ay -- conventionally pronounced as a in final position, and as uy otherwise;
  • oy -- conventionally pronounced as o in final position, and as uy otherwise;
  • aw -- conventionally pronounced as av before vowels and finally; later pronounced as o o and so rendered in written documents;
  • ew -- conventionally pronounced as ev before vowels and finally; often written alternately as eaw;
  • iw -- conventionally pronounced as iv before vowels and finally; often used to represent Greek upsilon;
  • ea -- conventionally pronounced as ya.
1.3. Vocalic and Consonantal Alternation

In many instances the stress of a word shifts due to addition of a morpheme. This shift may cause the originally stressed vowel to change or drop altogether. The general rules for such alternation are listed below with a few illustrative examples.

Stressed V /   Full Form   Reduced Form
Unstressed V        
         
i / zero   sirt 'heart'   G srti [se'rti]
    amis 'month'   G amsoy [amso]
    t'iw 'number'   G t'uoy [t'e'wo]
    elik' 'he reads'   1 sg. lk'i [le'k'i]
         
u / zero   k'un 'sleep'   G k'noy [k'e'no]
    hur 'fire'   G hroy [he'ro]
    ump 'he entered'   1 sg. mti [me'ti]
         
é / i   vém 'stone'   G vimi [vimi]
    éj 'side'   G iji [iji]
    éj 'he descended'   1 sg. iji [iji]
         
oy / u   loys 'light'   G lusoy [luso]
    koys 'virgin'   G kusi [kusi]
    ets'oyts' 'he showed'   1 sg. ts'uts'i [ts'uts'i]
         
ea / e   matean 'house'   G mateni [mateni]
    seneak 'room'   G seneki [seneki]
    sireats' 'he loved'   1 sg. sirets'i [sirets'i]
         
ew / iw   ewl' 'oil'   G iwl'oy [iwl'o]

There are some exceptions to these rules. Other vowels undergo no change under change of stress.

There are also some general tendencies of alternation between consonants in certain environments.

  • r / rr -- r often changes to r before n, e.g. learrn 'mountain', G lerin, Ab lerrné (< *leriné); arrnem 'I do', Aor. arari.
  • h / zero -- initial h is lost in combination, e.g. hat-anem 'I cut', but lezu-at (< *lezu-hat) 'with cut tongue'.
  • w / v / b -- /v/ is realized as b after the consonants m, r, l'; as w after the vowels a, i; and as v after o. Examples are matamb from matn 'finger', astel'b from astl' 'star', kayserb from kaysr 'Caesar', azgaw from asg 'nation', bayiw from bay 'word', getov from geto 'river'.
  • ts' / s -- before ts' and j, ts' dissimilates to s, e.g. 1 sg. sirets'its' 'I shall love', 2 sg. sirests'es (< *sirets'ts'es < *sirets'its'es), 2 pl. siresjik' (< *sirets'jik' < *sirets'ijik').
2. Nominal Declension

Classical Armenian nouns and adjectives display two numbers, singular and plural, and seven cases: Nominative, Accusative, Genitive, Dative, Locative, Ablative, and Instrumental. There is no purely grammatical gender of the sort found in languages such as Latin. There are several declension paradigms, which broadly fall into two categories: those with variable stems and those with invariable stems. One should note that stem variation is a phenomenon distinct from vocalic alternation. Vowel alternation occurs automatically whenever there is a change of stress due to the addition of a morpheme, and it therefore bears no relation to patterns of declension.

2.1. Nouns with Invariable Stems Ending in a Consonant

Nouns with invariable stems may be divided into two groups: those ending in a vowel, and those ending in a consonant. Of those ending in a consonant, there are four declensions, categorized according to the vowel found in the genitive plural: a, i, u, o. The nouns am 'year', ban 'word', tsov 'sea', and beran 'mouth' illustrate the declension.

Singular

    a   i   u   o
Nom.   am   ban   tsov   beran
Acc.   am   ban   tsov   beran
Gen.   ami   bani   tsovu   beranoy
Dat.   ami   bani   tsovu   beranoy
Loc.   ami   bani   tsovu   beran
Abl.   amé   bané   tsové   beranoy
Inst.   amaw   baniw   tsovu   beranov

Plural

    a   i   u   o
Nom.   amk'   bank'   tsovk'   berank'
Acc.   ams   bans   tsovs   berans
Gen.   amats'   banits'   tsovuts'   beranots'
Dat.   amats'   banits'   tsovuts'   beranots'
Loc.   ams   bans   tsovs   berans
Abl.   amats'   banits'   tsovuts'   beranots'
Inst.   amawk'   baniwk'   tsovuk'   beranovk'

Nouns ending in -eay follow the i-declension, e.g. hreay 'Jew', G sg. hrei; N pl. hreayk', G pl. hreits', etc.

Some nouns of the u-declension have an ablative singular ending in -, e.g. spas 'service', G sg. spasu, Ab sg. spasué.

Some nouns of the o-declension optionally have the ending -i in the Locative case, for example méj 'middle':

  • i méj Accusative or Locative;
  • i méjoy Ablative;
  • i miji Locative.

Proper nouns of the a-declension are characterized by the ending -ay in the genitive, dative, locative, and ablative singular. Tigran provides an example:

    a-decl.
Nom.   Tigran
Acc.   Tigran
Gen.   Tigranay
Dat.   Tigranay
Loc.   Tigranay
Abl.   Tigranay
Inst.   Tigranaw
2.2. Substantives with Invariable Stems Ending in a Vowel

A large number of nouns and adjectives have invariable stems ending in the vowel -i. These fall into two declensions, the o-declension and the a-declension. The a-declension has a special Locative ending -oj and Ablative ending -ojé. The nouns hogi 'spirit, soul' and tel'i 'place' illustrate the o- and a-declensions, respectively.

Singular

    o   a
Nom.   hogi   tel'i
Acc.   hogi   tel'i
Gen.   hogwoy   tel'woy
Dat.   hogwoy   tel'woy
Loc.   hogi   tel'woj
Abl.   hogwoy   tel'woy, tel'wojé
Inst.   hogwov   tel'eaw

Plural

    o   a
Nom.   hogik'   tel'ik'
Acc.   hogis   tel'is
Gen.   hogwots'   tel'eats'
Dat.   hogwots'   tel'eats'
Loc.   hogis   tel'is
Abl.   hogwots'   tel'eats'
Inst.   hogwovk'   tel'eawk'

Adjectives derived from place names by means of the suffix -ats'i follow the declension of hogi, with G plural in -wots', e.g. At'enats'i 'Athenian, one from Athens', G pl. At'enats'wots'. On the other hand, nouns with the suffix -ats'i which are not derived from place names follow the declension of tel'i, e.g. drats'i, G pl. drats'eats' 'neighbor' derived from durk' 'door'.

3. The Present System of Verbs

Verbal forms in Classical Armenian are built from two stems, the present and the aorist. One or both of these stems may contain a suffix inserted between the root and the inflectional vowel (in the present), or between root and ending (in the aorist). The present stem is the base for an indicative mood, subjunctive and (negative) imperative. The indicative mood separates into two tenses: present and imperfect. Nominal forms may arise from the present stem, namely an infinitive and participle. Inasmuch as verbal aspect is distinguished in Classical Armenian, the present system forms denote a developing or continuous action, while the aorist forms refer to an action's completion.

3.1. Present Indicative of 'to be'

The present indicative of the verb 'to be' illustrates the endings of the present indicative of all verbs. The forms are as follows.

    Singular   Plural
1st   em   emk'
2nd   es   ék'
3rd   é   en

Note that e + y > é, so that the endings are -m, -s, -y, -mk', -yk', -n.

3.2. The Present Indicative of All Verbs

The forms of the present indicative are comprised of a stem, characteristic vowel, and the present indicative endings. There are five possible characteristic vowels: e, i, a, u, o. The endings are the same as those listed above for the verb 'to be'. sirem 'I love', sirim 'I am loved', lam 'I weep', hel'um 'I pour', and gom 'I exist' illustrate the paradigms.

    e   i   a   u   o
1 sg.   sirem   sirim   lam   hel'um   *gom
2 sg.   sires   siris   las   hel'us   *gos
3 sg.   siré   siri   lay   hel'u   goy
1 pl.   siremk'   sirimk'   lamk'   hel'umk'   *gomk'
2 pl.   sirék'   sirik'   layk'   hel'uk'   *goyk'
3 pl.   siren   sirin   lan   hel'un   gon

*gom is the sole verb of the o-class. It is only recorded in third person forms.

3.3. The Present Infinitive

The present infinitive is built from the present stem by addition of a characteristic vowel and the suffix -l. The characteristic vowel exhibited by a given verb is the same as that found in the present indicative forms, with the exception that verbs in -em and -im both exhibit the vowel e in the infinitive. Thus the verbs above form the infinitives sirel 'to love', lal 'to weep', hel'ul 'to pour', gol 'to exist'. The infinitive is declined as an o-type singular noun:

    -el   -al   -ul   -ol
Nom.   sirel   lal   hel'ul   gol
Acc.   sirel   lal   hel'ul   gol
Gen.   sireloy   laloy   hel'loy   goloy
Dat.   sireloy   laloy   hel'loy   goloy
Loc.   sirel   lal   hel'ul   gol
Abl.   sireloy   laloy   hel'loy   goloy
Inst.   sirelov   lalov   hel'lov   golov

In the post-classical era infinitives in -il appear in order to distinguish verbs in -im.

3.4. The Imperfect Tense of All verbs

The imperfect indicative is built from the same stem as the present indicative, but makes no distinction between verbal stems ending in -e or -i. Therefore verbal pairs such as sirem 'I love' and sirim 'I am loved' lose their distinction in the imperfect. The conjugation is as follows.

    -e/-i   -a   -u   -o
1 sg.   sirei   layi   hel'ui   -
2 sg.   sireir   layir   hel'uir   -
3 sg.   sirér   layr   hel'oyr   goyr
1 pl.   sireak'   layak'   hel'uak'   -
2 pl.   sireik'   layik'   hel'uik'   -
3 pl.   sirein   layin   hel'uin   goyin

The third person singular is one syllable shorter than the other forms.

In the post-classical period -em and -im verbs were distinguished in the third person singular by means of an innovative ending -iwr: sirér 'he loved', siriwr 'he was loved'.

3.5. The Present Subjunctive

The present subjunctive is formed from the present tense stem with its characteristic vowel, to which the suffix -its' is added, and to this the usual present indicative endings. With the endings, however, only forms in -em, -im and -um are distinguished. For example, sirem forms sire + its' + em > sirits'em, sirim forms siri + its' + im > sirits'im. Verbs with present indicative in -am take present subjunctive endings in -em, so that lam forms la + its' + em > layts'em. But hel'um forms hel'u + its' + um > hel'uts'um.

Although formation of the passive will be treated more fully, later, it is important to point out here that verbs in -am make in the subjunctive a distinction between active and passive which is not found in the indicative. In the same fashion that allows sirem 'I love' to be opposed to sirim 'I am loved', so in the subjunctive al'am 'I grind' distinguishes the active al'ayts'em from the passive al'ayts'im.

Conjugation follows the pattern of the indicative, as the paradigms below illustrate:

    e   i   a   u   o
1 sg.   sirits'em   sirits'im   layts'em   hel'uts'um    
2 sg.   sirits'es   sirits'is   layts'es   hel'uts'us    
3 sg.   sirits'é   sirits'i   layts'é   hel'uts'u   guts'é (< *goyts'é)
1 pl.   sirits'emk'   sirits'imk'   layts'emk'   hel'uts'umk'    
2 pl.   sirits'ék'   sirits'ik'   layts'ék'   hel'uts'uk'    
3 pl.   sirits'en   sirits'in   layts'en   hel'uts'un    

The form guts'é is often used in the adverbial sense of 'perhaps'. The verb 'to be' has the following present subjunctive forms:

    Singular   Plural
1st   its'em   its'emk'
2nd   its'es   its'ék'
3rd   its'é   its'en

In the second person one also finds forms adopted from the aorist: second person singular -idzir and plural -idzik'. These forms are typically employed in the role of futures or imperatives. The singular form is generally, and the plural form occasionally, used in a passive sense, e.g. siridzir 'be thou loved' and siridzik' 'be ye loved'.

3.6. The Present Imperative

The present imperative is used only in prohibitive statements, accompanied by the negative particle mi. Only the second person singular present imperative has distinct forms, the others being the same as the present indicative. Formation is based on the present stem with characteristic vowel, to which is added the ending -r. Thus

    -em   -im   -am   -um
2 sg.   mi sirer   mi sirir   mi lar   mi hel'ur

The imperative of 'to be' is used only in the expression sl'dz er 'be thou well, greetings', translating the Greek chaire. The second person plural, of course, is sl'dz ék' 'be ye well, greetings' (Gk. chairete).

4. Word Order and Congruence

Word order in Classical Armenian is free, with words placed toward the beginning of an utterance gaining prominence. In Biblical translations, the word order often follows that of the Greek text.

Word order may affect the congruence between an adjective an the word it modifies. Attributive adjectives are undeclined when they precede a noun, declined when they follow the noun. For example, in John 10.32 one finds bazum gortss baris. Here, bazum is the uninflected N/Ac singular form of the adjective bazum, -ats' 'much, many'; gortss is the inflected Ac plural form of the noun gorts, -ots' 'work, deed'; baris is the inflected Ac plural of the adjective bari, -eats' 'good'. In predicate sentences, the predicated adjective is in the Nominative case and singular, even if the subject is plural, unless the adjective follows the copula directly. Thus one might have azat en Hayk' 'The Armenians are free', but vardapetk' en imastumk' 'Teachers are wise.'

The verb agrees with its subject in person and number. Coordinated subjects require a plural verb. Singular subjects with collective meaning may have either singular or plural verb forms.

5. Prepositions

Armenian has a wealth of words functioning as prepositions. Many of these, however, are adverbs or collocations of a simple preposition and a noun, which in turn govern a noun in the genitive. Prepositions generally precede the noun they govern, but some follow the noun as a postposition. There are six basic prepositions, listed in the chart below with the cases they govern and their meaning appropriate to each case.

Prep.   Case   Associated Meaning
arr   Acc.   to, toward (motion toward a person)
    Loc.   beside, Fr. chez
    Inst.   beside, in the time of (with person's name), in addition to
         
e'nd   Acc.   through, along, by way of, against, during
    Gen.   instead of, in exchange for
    Loc.   with, in the company of
    Inst.   under
         
e'st   Acc.   on, onto
    Dat.   according to
    Loc.   according to
    Abl.   one after another (e.g. year by year)
         
z   Acc.   during, for
    Abl.   concerning
    Inst.   around, about
         
i   Acc.   to, into, upon
    Loc.   in, at, under
    Abl.   from, out of, away from; out of (in partitive sense); by (agent in passive sentence)
         
ts'   Acc.   to, up to

The prepositions z and ts' are inseparable from the following noun; similarly i, which becomes y before vowels.

Below are listed some of the more frequent adverbs used as prepositions. They all govern the genitive case.

    Adverb   Meaning with Genitive
    arraji   in front of, before (of time)
    artak'oy   outside
    nerk'oy   inside, under
    ch'urj   around
    vasn, al'azaw   concerning, because of
    het   with, after (of time)
    yet, zkni   after, following
    arrants'   without
    p'oxanak   instead of, for, on behalf of

The word handerts may govern the Instrumental case in the sense 'with, in the company of'. It may come either before or after the noun it governs.

Common compound prepositions are i veray 'above' and i méj 'amidst'. They take the genitive case, which may be placed between the two components, e.g. i hroy méj 'in the fire, in the midst of the fire'.