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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 zžołovurdsn el i leaṙn: ew ibrew nstaw and` matean aṙ na ašakertkʿ nora

  • ew -- conjunction; <ew> and; even, also, too -- And
  • teseal -- verb; past participle nominative singular of <tesanem> I see -- seeing
  • zžołovurdsn -- direct object marker <z‘>... + noun; accusative plural of <žołovurd> 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
  • leaṙn -- noun; accusative singular of <leaṙn> 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 <matčʿim> I approach -- came
  • aṙ -- preposition; <aṙ> to, toward (a person); beside; in the time of; in addition to -- unto
  • na -- pronoun; accusative singular of <na> he, she, it -- him
  • ašakertkʿ -- noun; nominative plural of <ašakert> student, disciple -- disciples
  • nora -- pronoun; genitive singular of <na> he, she, it -- his

2 - Ew bacʿeal zberan iwr usucʿanēr znosa ew asēr:

  • ew -- conjunction; <ew> and; even, also, too -- And
  • bacʿeal -- 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
  • usucʿanēr -- verb; 3rd singular imperfect of <usucʿanem> 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
  • asēr -- verb; 3rd singular imperfect of <asem> I say -- saying

3 - erani ałkʿatacʿ hogwov, zi nocʿa ē arkʿayutʿiwn erknicʿ :

  • erani -- adjective; nominative singular of <erani> happy -- Blessed (are) # used as interjection with accompanying dative
  • ałkʿatacʿ -- adjective used as substantive; dative plural of <ałkʿat> poor -- (the) poor
  • hogwov -- noun; instrumental singular of <hogi> soul, spirit -- in spirit
  • zi -- conjunction; <zi> for; that; because -- for
  • nocʿa -- pronoun; dative plural of <na> he, she, it -- theirs
  • ē -- verb; 3rd singular present of <em> I am -- is
  • arkʿayutʿiwn -- noun; nominative singular of <arkʿayutʿiwn> kingdom -- the kingdom
  • erknicʿ -- noun; genitive plural of <erkin> heaven -- of heaven

4 - Erani sgaworacʿ, zi nokʿa mxitʿarescʿin :

  • erani -- adjective; nominative singular of <erani> happy -- Blessed (are)
  • sgaworacʿ -- adjective used as substantive; dative plural of <sgawor> sorrowful -- they that mourn
  • zi -- conjunction; <zi> for; that; because -- for
  • nokʿa -- pronoun; nominative plural of <na> he, she, it -- they
  • mxitʿarescʿin -- verb; 3rd plural aorist subjunctive mediopassive of <mxitʿarem> I comfort -- shall be comforted

5 - Erani hezocʿ, zi nokʿa žaṙangescʿen zerkir :

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

6 - Erani or kʿałcʿeal carawi icʿen ardarutʿean, zi nokʿa yagescʿin

  • erani -- adjective; nominative singular of <erani> happy -- Blessed (are)
  • or -- relative pronoun; nominative plural of <or> who, what, which -- they which
  • kʿałcʿeal -- verb; past participle undeclined form of <kʿałcʿnum> I hunger -- hunger
  • carawi -- adjective; undeclined form of <carawi> thirsting, thirsty -- (and) thirst
  • icʿen -- verb; 3rd plural present subjunctive of <em> I am -- do
  • ardarutʿean -- noun; genitive singular of <ardarutʿiwn> righteousness -- after righteousness # or dative case
  • zi -- conjunction; <zi> for; that; because -- for
  • nokʿa -- pronoun; nominative plural of <na> he, she, it -- they
  • yagescʿin -- verb; 3rd plural aorist subjunctive mediopassive of <yagim> I am satisfied, filled, fulfilled -- shall be filled

7 - Erani ołormacacʿ, zi nokʿa ołormutʿiwn gtcʿen

  • erani -- adjective; nominative singular of <erani> happy -- Blessed (are)
  • ołormacacʿ -- adjective used as substantive; dative plural of <ołormac> merciful -- the merciful
  • zi -- conjunction; <zi> for; that; because -- for
  • nokʿa -- pronoun; nominative plural of <na> he, she, it -- they
  • ołormutʿiwn -- noun; accusative singular of <ołormutʿiwn> mercy -- mercy
  • gtcʿen -- verb; 3rd plural aorist subjunctive of <gtanem> I find, get, obtain -- shall obtain

8 - Erani aynocʿik` or surb en srtiwkʿ, zi nokʿa zAstuac tescʿen :

  • erani -- adjective; nominative singular of <erani> happy -- Blessed
  • aynocʿik -- 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
  • srtiwkʿ -- noun; instrumental plural of <sirt> heart -- in heart
  • zi -- conjunction; <zi> for; that; because -- for
  • nokʿa -- pronoun; nominative plural of <na> he, she, it -- they
  • zAstuac -- direct object marker <z‘>... + proper noun; accusative singular of <Astuac> God -- God
  • tescʿen -- verb; 3rd plural aorist subjunctive of <tesanem> I see -- shall see

9 - Erani xałałararacʿ, zi nokʿa ordikʿ Astucoy kočʿescʿin :

  • erani -- adjective; nominative singular of <erani> happy -- Blessed (are)
  • xałałararacʿ -- adjective used as substantive; dative plural of <xałał arar> peacemaker -- the peacemakers
  • zi -- conjunction; <zi> for; that; because -- for
  • nokʿa -- pronoun; nominative plural of <na> he, she, it -- they
  • ordikʿ -- noun; nominative plural of <ordi> son -- the children
  • Astucoy -- proper noun; genitive singular of <Astuac> God -- of God
  • kočʿescʿin -- verb; 3rd plural aorist subjunctive mediopassive of <kočʿem> I call, name -- shall be called

10 - Erani or halaceal icʿen vasn ardarutʿean, zi nocʿa ē arkʿayutʿiwn erknicʿ :

  • erani -- adjective; nominative singular of <erani> happy -- Blessed (are)
  • or -- relative pronoun; nominative singular of <or> who, what, which -- they which
  • halaceal -- verb; past participle undeclined form of <halacem> I persecute -- persecuted
  • icʿen -- 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
  • ardarutʿean -- noun; genitive singular of <ardarutʿiwn> righteousness -- righteousness'
  • zi -- conjunction; <zi> for; that; because -- for
  • nocʿa -- pronoun; dative plural of <na> he, she, it -- theirs
  • ē -- verb; 3rd singular present of <em> I am -- is
  • arkʿayutʿiwn -- noun; nominative singular of <arkʿayutʿiwn> kingdom -- the kingdom
  • erknicʿ -- noun; genitive plural of <erkin> heaven -- of heaven

11 - Erani ē jez` yoržam naxaticʿen zjez ew halacescʿen, ew asicʿen zamenayn ban čʿar zjēnǰ sut vasn im :

  • erani -- adjective; nominative singular of <erani> happy -- Blessed
  • ē -- verb; 3rd singular present of <em> I am -- are
  • jez -- pronoun; dative plural of <du> thou -- ye
  • yoržam -- adverb; <yoržam> when -- when
  • naxaticʿen -- verb; 3rd plural present subjunctive of <naxatem> I insult -- (men) shall revile
  • zjez -- direct object marker <z‘>... + pronoun; accusative plural of <du> thou -- you
  • ew -- conjunction; <ew> and; even, also, too -- and
  • halacescʿen -- verb; 3rd plural aorist subjunctive of <halacem> I persecute -- persecute (you)
  • ew -- conjunction; <ew> and; even, also, too -- and
  • asicʿen -- 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 -- ...
  • čʿar -- adjective; accusative singular of <čʿar> bad, evil -- evil
  • zjēnǰ -- 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 - Cʿncacʿēkʿ ew urax lerukʿ, zi varjkʿ jer bazum en yerkins: zi ayspēs halacecʿin zmargarēsn or yaṙaǰ kʿan zjez ēin :

  • cʿncacʿēkʿ -- verb; 2nd plural aorist imperative of <cʿncam> I rejoice -- Rejoice
  • ew -- conjunction; <ew> and; even, also, too -- and
  • urax -- adjective; undeclined form <urax> happy -- (exceeding) glad
  • lerukʿ -- verb; 2nd plural present imperative of <linim> I am, exist -- be
  • zi -- conjunction; <zi> for; that; because -- for
  • varjkʿ -- noun; nominative plural of <varj> reward -- reward
  • jer -- 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
  • ayspēs -- adverb; <ayspēs> so, thus, in this manner -- so
  • halacecʿin -- verb; 3rd plural aorist <halacem> I persecute -- they persecuted
  • zmargarēsn -- direct object marker <z‘>... + noun; accusative plural of <margarē> prophet + demonstrative suffix <‘n> that, that over there, the -- the prophets
  • or -- relative pronoun; nominative plural of <or> who, what, which -- which
  • yaṙaǰ -- adverb; <yaṙaǰ> before, earlier -- before
  • kʿan -- conjunction; <kʿan> than -- ...
  • zjez -- direct object marker <z‘>... + pronoun; accusative plural of <du> thou -- you
  • ēin -- verb; 3rd plural imperfect of <em> I am -- were

13 - Dukʿ ēkʿ ał erkri: apa tʿē ałn anhami i⁰w yałicʿi: očʿ imikʿ azdicʿē aynuhetew, baycʿ etʿē ənkenul artakʿs, ew koxan linel i mardkanē :

  • dukʿ -- pronoun; nominative plural of <du> thou -- Ye
  • ēkʿ -- verb; 2nd plural present of <em> I am -- are
  • -- noun; nominative singular of <> salt -- the salt
  • erkri -- noun; genitive singular of <erkir> earth -- of the earth
  • apa -- conjunction; <apa> but; then, afterwards, later -- but
  • tʿē -- conjunction; <etʿe> that; if; or -- if
  • ałn -- noun; nominative singular of <> 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
  • i⁰w -- interrogative adverb; <i⁰w> how -- wherewith
  • yałicʿi -- verb; 3rd singular present subjunctive mediopassive of <yałem> I salt -- shall it be salted
  • očʿ -- adverb; <očʿ> no, not -- no-
  • imikʿ -- indefinite pronoun; dative singular of <*ikʿ> something, anything -- for...-thing
  • azdicʿē -- verb; 3rd singular present subjunctive of <azdem> I am efficacious, I affect -- it is... good
  • aynuhetew -- adverb; <aynuhetew> thenceforth -- thenceforth
  • baycʿ -- conjunction; <baycʿ> but -- but
  • etʿē -- conjunction; <etʿe> that; if; or -- ...
  • ənkenul -- verb; infinitive of <ənkenum> I throw -- to be cast
  • artakʿs -- adverb; <artakʿs> 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)
  • mardkanē -- noun; ablative singular of <mardik> mankind, people -- men

14 - Dukʿ ēkʿ loys aškarhi, očʿ karē kʿałakʿ tʿakʿčʿel` or i veray lerin kaycʿē

  • dukʿ -- pronoun; nominative plural of <du> thou -- Ye
  • ēkʿ -- verb; 2nd plural present of <em> I am -- are
  • loys -- noun; nominative singular of <loys> light -- the light
  • aškarhi -- noun; genitive singular of <aškarh> earth -- of the world
  • očʿ -- adverb; <očʿ> no, not -- not
  • karē -- verb; 3rd singular present of <karem> I can, am able -- can-
  • kʿałakʿ -- noun; nominative singular of <kʿałakʿ> city -- A city
  • tʿakʿčʿel -- verb; infinitive used as complement <tʿakʿčʿem> 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 <leaṙn> mountain -- a hill
  • kaycʿē -- verb; 3rd singular present subjunctive of <kam> I am, exist -- is set

15 - Ew očʿ lucʿanen črag ew dnen ənd gruanaw, ayl i veray aštanaki, ew loys tay amenecʿun or i tann icʿen

  • ew -- conjunction; <ew> and; even, also, too -- either
  • očʿ -- adverb; <očʿ> no, not -- N-
  • lucʿanen -- verb; 3rd plural present of <lucanem> I light -- do (men) light
  • črag -- noun; accusative singular of <črag> candle -- a candle
  • ew -- conjunction; <ew> and; even, also, too -- and
  • dnen -- verb; 3rd plural present of <dnem> I put, place -- put (it)
  • ənd -- preposition; <ənd> 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
  • aštanaki -- noun; genitive singular of <aštanak> 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
  • amenecʿun -- 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
  • icʿen -- verb; 3rd plural present subjunctive of <em> I am -- are

16 - Aynpēs lusaworescʿē loys jer aṙaǰi mardkan, orpēs zi tescʿen zgorcs jer baris, ew pʿaṙaworescʿen zhayr jer or yerkins ē :

  • aynpēs -- conjunction; <aynpēs> likewise -- ...
  • lusaworescʿē -- verb; 3rd singular aorist subjunctive of <lusaworem> I shine -- let... shine
  • loys -- noun; nominative singular of <loys> light -- light
  • jer -- pronoun; genitive plural of <du> thou -- your
  • aṙaǰi -- preposition; <aṙaǰi> before, in front of -- before
  • mardkan -- noun; genitive singular of <mardik> mankind, people -- man
  • orpēs zi -- compound conjunction <orpēs zi> so that -- so... that
  • tescʿen -- verb; 3rd plural aorist subjunctive of <tesanem> I see -- they may see
  • zgorcs -- direct object marker <z‘>... + noun; accusative plural of <gorc> work, deed -- works
  • jer -- pronoun; genitive plural of <du> thou -- your
  • baris -- adjective; accusative plural of <bari> good -- good
  • ew -- conjunction; <ew> and; even, also, too -- and
  • pʿaṙaworescʿen -- verb; 3rd plural aorist subjunctive of <paṙaworem> I glorify -- glorify
  • zhayr -- direct object marker <z‘>... + noun; accusative singular of <hayr> father -- Father
  • jer -- 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
  • ē -- verb; 3rd singular present of <em> I am -- is

Lesson Text

1 Ew teseal zžołovurdsn el i leaṙn: ew ibrew nstaw and` matean aṙ na ašakertkʿ nora 2 Ew bacʿeal zberan iwr usucʿanēr znosa ew asēr: 3 erani ałkʿatacʿ hogwov, zi nocʿa ē arkʿayutʿiwn erknicʿ : 4 Erani sgaworacʿ, zi nokʿa mxitʿarescʿin : 5 Erani hezocʿ, zi nokʿa žaṙangescʿen zerkir : 6 Erani or kʿałcʿeal carawi icʿen ardarutʿean, zi nokʿa yagescʿin 7 Erani ołormacacʿ, zi nokʿa ołormutʿiwn gtcʿen 8 Erani aynocʿik` or surb en srtiwkʿ, zi nokʿa zAstuac tescʿen : 9 Erani xałałararacʿ, zi nokʿa ordikʿ Astucoy kočʿescʿin : 10 Erani or halaceal icʿen vasn ardarutʿean, zi nocʿa ē arkʿayutʿiwn erknicʿ : 11 Erani ē jez` yoržam naxaticʿen zjez ew halacescʿen, ew asicʿen zamenayn ban čʿar zjēnǰ sut vasn im : 12 Cʿncacʿēkʿ ew urax lerukʿ, zi varjkʿ jer bazum en yerkins: zi ayspēs halacecʿin zmargarēsn or yaṙaǰ kʿan zjez ēin : 13 Dukʿ ēkʿ ał erkri: apa tʿē ałn anhami i⁰w yałicʿi: očʿ imikʿ azdicʿē aynuhetew, baycʿ etʿē ənkenul artakʿs, ew koxan linel i mardkanē : 14 Dukʿ ēkʿ loys aškarhi, očʿ karē kʿałakʿ tʿakʿčʿel` or i veray lerin kaycʿē 15 Ew očʿ lucʿanen črag ew dnen ənd gruanaw, ayl i veray aštanaki, ew loys tay amenecʿun or i tann icʿen 16 Aynpēs lusaworescʿē loys jer aṙaǰi mardkan, orpēs zi tescʿen zgorcs jer baris, ew pʿaṙaworescʿen zhayr jer or yerkins ē :

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     ečʿ   5   e as in 'bet', initially ye as in 'yes'
    Z z     za   6   z as in 'zebra'
    Ē ē     ē   7   ei as in 'eight'
    Ə ə     etʿ   8   u as in 'but'
    Tʿ tʿ     tʿo   9   t, aspirated, as in 'top'
    Ž ž     žē   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'
    C c     ca   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'
    J j     ja   80   ds as in 'heads'
    Ł ł     łat   90   ll as in 'ball', or ch as in Scots English 'loch', but voiced
    Č č     čē   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'
    Š š     ša   500   sh as in 'ship'
    O o     o   600   oa as in 'boat', initially vo as in 'vote'
    Čʿ čʿ     čʿa   700   tch, aspirated, as in 'match'
    P p       800   p, unaspirated, as in 'spot'
    J̌ ǰ     ǰē   900   j as in 'jump'
    Ṙ ṙ     ṙa   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'
    Cʿ cʿ     cʿo   6000   ts, aspirated, as in 'hats'
    W w     hiwn   7000   w as in 'wet'
    Pʿ pʿ     pʿiwr   8000   p, aspirated, as in 'pot'
    Kʿ kʿ     kʿē   9000   k, aspirated, as in 'kit'

As mentioned above, the digraph u represents the single vowel sound u. The schwa ə 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   pʿ   b
Dental   t   tʿ   d
Velar   k   kʿ   g
             
Affricates   Unaspirated   Aspirated    
Dental   c   cʿ   j
Palatal   č   čʿ   ǰ
             
Fricatives   Voiceless       Voiced
Labial           v
Dental   s       z
Palatal   š       ž
Velar   x        
Glottal   h        
             
Nasals           Voiced
Labial           m
Dental           n
             
Liquids            
Central   r      
Lateral   l   ł    
             
Semivowels            
Palatal   y        
Velar   w        

Conventional pronunciation renders ł 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 gaył 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 titłos < Gk. titlos and Pawłos < 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   ē   ə    
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 Erosałēm, 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 [sərti]
    amis 'month'   G amsoy [amso]
    tʿiw 'number'   G tʿuoy [tʿəwo]
    elikʿ 'he reads'   1 sg. lkʿi [ləkʿi]
         
u / zero   kʿun 'sleep'   G kʿnoy [kʿəno]
    hur 'fire'   G hroy [həro]
    ump 'he entered'   1 sg. mti [məti]
         
ē / i   vēm 'stone'   G vimi [vimi]
    ēǰ 'side'   G iǰi [iǰi]
    ēǰ 'he descended'   1 sg. iǰi [iǰi]
         
oy / u   loys 'light'   G lusoy [luso]
    koys 'virgin'   G kusi [kusi]
    ecʿoycʿ 'he showed'   1 sg. cʿucʿi [cʿucʿi]
         
ea / e   matean 'house'   G mateni [mateni]
    seneak 'room'   G seneki [seneki]
    sireacʿ 'he loved'   1 sg. sirecʿi [sirecʿi]
         
ew / iw   ewł 'oil'   G iwłoy [iwło]

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 / -- r often changes to r before n, e.g. leaṙn 'mountain', G lerin, Ab leṙnē (< *lerinē); aṙnem '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, ł; as w after the vowels a, i; and as v after o. Examples are matamb from matn 'finger', astełb from astł 'star', kayserb from kaysr 'Caesar', azgaw from asg 'nation', bayiw from bay 'word', getov from geto 'river'.
  • cʿ / s -- before cʿ and ǰ, cʿ dissimilates to s, e.g. 1 sg. sirecʿicʿ 'I shall love', 2 sg. sirescʿes (< *sirecʿcʿes < *sirecʿicʿes), 2 pl. siresǰikʿ (< *sirecʿǰikʿ < *sirecʿiǰikʿ).
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', cov 'sea', and beran 'mouth' illustrate the declension.

Singular

    a   i   u   o
Nom.   am   ban   cov   beran
Acc.   am   ban   cov   beran
Gen.   ami   bani   covu   beranoy
Dat.   ami   bani   covu   beranoy
Loc.   ami   bani   covu   beran
Abl.   amē   banē   covē   beranoy
Inst.   amaw   baniw   covu   beranov

Plural

    a   i   u   o
Nom.   amkʿ   bankʿ   covkʿ   berankʿ
Acc.   ams   bans   covs   berans
Gen.   amacʿ   banicʿ   covucʿ   beranocʿ
Dat.   amacʿ   banicʿ   covucʿ   beranocʿ
Loc.   ams   bans   covs   berans
Abl.   amacʿ   banicʿ   covucʿ   beranocʿ
Inst.   amawkʿ   baniwkʿ   covukʿ   beranovkʿ

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

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

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

  • i mēǰ Accusative or Locative;
  • i mēǰoy Ablative;
  • i miǰi 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 - and Ablative ending -oǰē. The nouns hogi 'spirit, soul' and tełi 'place' illustrate the o- and a-declensions, respectively.

Singular

    o   a
Nom.   hogi   tełi
Acc.   hogi   tełi
Gen.   hogwoy   tełwoy
Dat.   hogwoy   tełwoy
Loc.   hogi   tełwoǰ
Abl.   hogwoy   tełwoy, tełwoǰē
Inst.   hogwov   tełeaw

Plural

    o   a
Nom.   hogikʿ   tełikʿ
Acc.   hogis   tełis
Gen.   hogwocʿ   tełeacʿ
Dat.   hogwocʿ   tełeacʿ
Loc.   hogis   tełis
Abl.   hogwocʿ   tełeacʿ
Inst.   hogwovkʿ   tełeawkʿ

Adjectives derived from place names by means of the suffix -acʿi follow the declension of hogi, with G plural in -wocʿ, e.g. Atʿenacʿi 'Athenian, one from Athens', G pl. Atʿenacʿwocʿ. On the other hand, nouns with the suffix -acʿi which are not derived from place names follow the declension of tełi, e.g. dracʿi, G pl. dracʿeacʿ 'neighbor' derived from durkʿ '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   emkʿ
2nd   es   ēkʿ
3rd   ē   en

Note that e + y > ē, so that the endings are -m, -s, -y, -mkʿ, -ykʿ, -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', hełum 'I pour', and gom 'I exist' illustrate the paradigms.

    e   i   a   u   o
1 sg.   sirem   sirim   lam   hełum   *gom
2 sg.   sires   siris   las   hełus   *gos
3 sg.   sirē   siri   lay   hełu   goy
1 pl.   siremkʿ   sirimkʿ   lamkʿ   hełumkʿ   *gomkʿ
2 pl.   sirēkʿ   sirikʿ   laykʿ   hełukʿ   *goykʿ
3 pl.   siren   sirin   lan   hełun   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', hełul 'to pour', gol 'to exist'. The infinitive is declined as an o-type singular noun:

    -el   -al   -ul   -ol
Nom.   sirel   lal   hełul   gol
Acc.   sirel   lal   hełul   gol
Gen.   sireloy   laloy   hełloy   goloy
Dat.   sireloy   laloy   hełloy   goloy
Loc.   sirel   lal   hełul   gol
Abl.   sireloy   laloy   hełloy   goloy
Inst.   sirelov   lalov   hełlov   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   hełui   -
2 sg.   sireir   layir   hełuir   -
3 sg.   sirēr   layr   hełoyr   goyr
1 pl.   sireakʿ   layakʿ   hełuakʿ   -
2 pl.   sireikʿ   layikʿ   hełuikʿ   -
3 pl.   sirein   layin   hełuin   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: sirēr '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 -icʿ 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 + icʿ + em > siricʿem, sirim forms siri + icʿ + im > siricʿim. Verbs with present indicative in -am take present subjunctive endings in -em, so that lam forms la + icʿ + em > laycʿem. But hełum forms hełu + icʿ + um > hełucʿum.

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 ałam 'I grind' distinguishes the active ałaycʿem from the passive ałaycʿim.

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

    e   i   a   u   o
1 sg.   siricʿem   siricʿim   laycʿem   hełucʿum    
2 sg.   siricʿes   siricʿis   laycʿes   hełucʿus    
3 sg.   siricʿē   siricʿi   laycʿē   hełucʿu   gucʿē (< *goycʿē)
1 pl.   siricʿemkʿ   siricʿimkʿ   laycʿemkʿ   hełucʿumkʿ    
2 pl.   siricʿēkʿ   siricʿikʿ   laycʿēkʿ   hełucʿukʿ    
3 pl.   siricʿen   siricʿin   laycʿen   hełucʿun    

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

    Singular   Plural
1st   icʿem   icʿemkʿ
2nd   icʿes   icʿēkʿ
3rd   icʿē   icʿen

In the second person one also finds forms adopted from the aorist: second person singular -ijir and plural -ijikʿ. 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. sirijir 'be thou loved' and sirijikʿ '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 hełur

The imperative of 'to be' is used only in the expression słj er 'be thou well, greetings', translating the Greek chaire. The second person plural, of course, is słj ēkʿ '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 gorcs baris. Here, bazum is the uninflected N/Ac singular form of the adjective bazum, -acʿ 'much, many'; gorcs is the inflected Ac plural form of the noun gorc, -ocʿ 'work, deed'; baris is the inflected Ac plural of the adjective bari, -eacʿ '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 Haykʿ 'The Armenians are free', but vardapetkʿ en imastumkʿ '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
aṙ   Acc.   to, toward (motion toward a person)
    Loc.   beside, Fr. chez
    Inst.   beside, in the time of (with person's name), in addition to
         
ənd   Acc.   through, along, by way of, against, during
    Gen.   instead of, in exchange for
    Loc.   with, in the company of
    Inst.   under
         
əst   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)
         
cʿ   Acc.   to, up to

The prepositions z and cʿ 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
    aṙaǰi   in front of, before (of time)
    artakʿoy   outside
    nerkʿoy   inside, under
    čʿurǰ   around
    vasn, ałazaw   concerning, because of
    het   with, after (of time)
    yet, zkni   after, following
    aṙancʿ   without
    pʿoxanak   instead of, for, on behalf of

The word handerc 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 mēǰ 'amidst'. They take the genitive case, which may be placed between the two components, e.g. i hroy mēǰ 'in the fire, in the midst of the fire'.