Classical Armenian

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Classical Armenian
Region Armenian Highlands
Era developed into Middle Armenian
  • Classical Armenian
Early forms
  • Classical Armenian
Armenian alphabet (Classical orthography)
Language codes
ISO 639-3 xcl
Linguist list
Glottolog clas1249[1]
Linguasphere 57-AAA-aa
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters.
Armenian manuscripts.jpg
History of the Armenian language
Armenian alphabet
Romanization of Armenian
Epitaph in Classical Armenian for Jakub and Marianna Minasowicz at St. Hyacinth's Church in Warsaw

Classical Armenian (Armenian: գրաբար, grabar; krapar in Western Armenian, meaning "literary [language]"; also Old Armenian or Liturgical Armenian) is the oldest attested form of the Armenian language. It was first written down at the beginning of the 5th century, and all Armenian literature from then through the 18th century is in the Grabar Armenian language. Many ancient Greek, Persian, Hebrew, Syriac, and Latin manuscripts survive only in their Armenian translation. Classical Armenian continues to be the liturgical language of the Armenian Apostolic Church and is often learned by Biblical, Intertestamental, and Patristic scholars dedicated to textual studies. Classical Armenian is also important for the reconstruction of the Proto-Indo-European language, since it preserves many archaic features.[citation needed]



Classical Armenian has seven monophthong vowels:

  • /a/ (ա), /i/ (ի), /ə/ or schwa (ը), /ɛ/ or open e (ե), /e/ or closed e (է), /o/ (ո), and /u/ (ու)(transcribed as a, i, ə, e, ē, o, and u respectively). The vowel transcribed u is spelled using the Armenian letters for ow (ու), but is not actually a diphthong.

There are also traditionally six diphthongs:

  • ay (այ), aw (աւ, later օ), ea (եա), ew (եւ), iw (իւ), oy (ոյ).


In the following table there is listed the Classical Armenian consonantal system. The occlusives and affricates have in addition to the more common voiced and unvoiced series also a separate aspirated series (transcribed with a spiritus asper after the letter): p῾, t῾, c῾, č῾, k῾. For each phoneme there are three symbols in the table. The leftmost indicates the pronunciation in International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA); in the middle there is the corresponding symbol in the Armenian alphabet; and the rightmost is its transliteration in Latin alphabet (following ISO 9985).

  Labial Alveolar Post-

/ Palatal
Velar /
Nasals /m/   մ   m /n/   ն   n      
Plosives voiced /b/   բ   b /d/   դ   d   /ɡ/   գ   g  
unvoiced /p/   պ   p /t/   տ   t   /k/   կ   k  
aspirated /pʰ/   փ   p’ /tʰ/   թ   t’   /kʰ/   ք   k’  
Affricates voiced   /dz/   ձ   j /dʒ/   ջ   ǰ    
unvoiced   /ts/   ծ   ç /tʃ/   ճ   č̣    
aspirated   /tsʰ/   ց   c’ /tʃʰ/   չ   č    
Fricatives voiced /v/   վ   v /z/   զ   z /ʒ/   ժ   ž /ɫ/   ղ   ł  
unvoiced /f/   ֆ   f /s/   ս   s /ʃ/   շ   š /χ/   խ   x /h/   հ   h
Approximants lateral   /l/   լ   l      
central   /ɹ/   ր   r /j/   յ   y    
Trill   /r/   ռ        

The letter f (or ֆ) was introduced in the Medieval Period to represent the foreign sound /f/, or the voiceless labiodental fricative, and was not originally a letter in the Armenian Alphabet.[citation needed]

See also

Reference books


  1. Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Classical Armenian". Glottolog. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links