Western Armenian

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Western Armenian
արեւմտահայերէն arevmdahayerên
Native to Armenian Highlands, Cilicia, Turkey, Lebanon, Syria
Native speakers
unknown (undated figure of 880,000)[1]
Armenian alphabet (virtually always in the Classical Armenian orthography)
Language codes
ISO 639-3
Glottolog west2348[2]
Linguasphere 57-AAA-aca to 57-AAA-act
Armenian dialects, Adjarian 1909.png
Map of the Armenian dialects in early 20th century: -gë dialects, corresponding to Western Armenian, are in yellow.
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

Western Armenian (Classical spelling: արեւմտահայերէն, arevmdahayerên)[3] is one of the two standardized forms of Modern Armenian, the other being Eastern Armenian. Until the early 20th century, various Western Armenian dialects were spoken in the Ottoman Empire, especially in the eastern regions historically populated by Armenians known as Western Armenia. Following the extermination of the indigenous Armenian population during the Armenian Genocide of 1915 Western Armenian is now spoken, almost exclusively, in the Armenian diaspora communities around the world. As a diasporic language, and as a language that is not an official language of any state, Western Armenian faces extinction as its native speakers lose fluency in Western Armenian amid pressures to assimilate into their host countries. Estimates place the number of fluent speakers of Western Armenian at less than one million.

Distinguishing the two forms of Armenian

Eastern Armenian and Western Armenian are easily mutually intelligible.[citation needed] They share the same ISO 639-1 code hy. The ISO 639-3 code for both is hye. The Armenian Wikipedia is coded hy and is largely Eastern Armenian.


Western Armenian is an Indo-European language spoken by the Armenian diaspora, mainly in North America and South America, Europe, Australia, and most of the Middle East except for Iran. It is spoken by only a small percentage of Armenians in Turkey as a first language, with 18 percent among the community in general and 8 percent among younger people.[4] Western Armenian was at one point the dominant Armenian dialect. After the genocide, Western Armenia was wiped clean of Western Armenians. Those who fled to Eastern Armenia today speak Eastern Armenian. The only Western Armenian dialect still spoken in Western Armenia is the Homshetsi dialect, as the people who speak it did not fall victim to the Armenian Genocide due to being Muslim.

On 21 February 2009 International Mother Language Day has been marked with the publication of a new edition of the "Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger" by UNESCO where the Western Armenian language in Turkey is defined as a definitely endangered language.[5][6]




Western Armenian has eight monophthong vowel sounds.

Front Central Back
Unrounded Rounded Unrounded Rounded
Close i  ⟨ի⟩ ʏ  ⟨իւ⟩     u  ⟨ու⟩
Mid ɛ  ⟨է, ե⟩ [7] œ  ⟨էօ⟩ ə  ⟨ը⟩   o  ⟨ո, օ⟩[7]
Open       ɑ  ⟨ա⟩  
Monophthongs examples
IPA Example (IPA) Example (Written) Meaning Notes
ɑ [ɑɾɛv] արեւ "sun" Similar to the English vowel in the word car.
ɛ [ɛtʃ] էջ "page" Similar to the English vowel in the word bed.
i [im] իմ "my" Similar to the English vowel in the word eat.
o [tʃoɾ] չոր "dry" Similar to the English vowel in bore.
u [uɾ] ուր "where" Similar to the English vowel in the word shoot.
ə [əsɛl] ըսել "to say" Similar to the English vowel in the word the.
ʏ [hʏɾ] հիւր "guest" Similar to the German vowel in the word schützen.
œ [œʒɛni] Էօժենի a female name This vowel sound is rare in Armenian, and is used in foreign words.


The Western Armenian language has nine diphthong sounds.

IPA Example (IPA) Example (Written) Meaning Notes
sɛnjɑɡ սենեակ "room" Similar to English yard.
jɛɾɑz երազ "dream" Similar to English yell.
ji mɑjis Մայիս "May" Similar to English year.
jo jotə եօթը "seven" Similar to English your.
ju ɡɑjun կայուն "firm" Similar to English you.
aj majɾ մայր "mother" Similar to English my.
ej tej թէյ "tea" Similar to English day.
iənɑl իյնալ "to fall" Similar to English near.
uj kujr քոյր "sister" Similar to French grenouille (frog)


This is the Western Armenian Consonantal System using letters from the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA), followed by the corresponding Armenian letter in brackets.

  Bilabial Labio-
Alveolar Post-
Palatal Velar Uvular Glottal
Nasal m   ⟨մ⟩   n   ⟨ն⟩          
Plosive voiceless    ⟨բ, փ⟩[8]      ⟨դ, թ⟩[8]        ⟨գ, ք⟩[8]    
voiced b   ⟨պ⟩[9]   d   ⟨տ⟩[9]     ɡ   ⟨կ⟩[9]    
Affricate voiceless     tsʰ   ⟨ձ, ց⟩[8] tʃʰ   ⟨չ, ջ⟩[8]        
voiced     dz   ⟨ծ⟩[9]    ⟨ճ⟩[9]        
Fricative voiceless   f   ⟨ֆ⟩ s   ⟨ս⟩ ʃ   ⟨շ⟩     χ   ⟨խ⟩ h   ⟨հ, յ⟩[7]
voiced   v   ⟨վ, ւ, ու, ո⟩[7] z   ⟨զ⟩ ʒ   ⟨ժ⟩     ʁ   ⟨ղ⟩  
Approximant     l   ⟨լ⟩   j   ⟨յ, ե, ի, է⟩[7]      
Flap     ɾ   ⟨ռ, ր⟩ [10]          

Differences in phonology from Classical Armenian

The differences in phonology between Western Armenian and Classical Armenian phonology include the distinction of stops and affricates.

First, while Classical Armenian has a three-way distinction of stops and affricates: one voiced and two voiceless — a plain version and an aspirated one — Western Armenian has kept only a two-way distinction — one voiced and one aspirated. For example, Classical has three bilabial stops: /b/ ⟨բ⟩, /p/ ⟨պ⟩, and /pʰ/ ⟨փ⟩; Western Armenian, two bilabial stops: /b/ ⟨պ⟩ and /pʰ/ ⟨բ⟩/⟨փ⟩.

Second, Western Armenian has shifted the Classical Armenian voiced stops and voiced affricates into aspirated stops and aspirated affricates, and replaced the plain stops and plain affricates with voiced ones.

Specifically, the following are the changes from Classical Armenian to Western Armenian:

  1. Bilabial stops:
    1. merging of Classical Armenian /b/ ⟨բ⟩ and /pʰ/ ⟨փ⟩ as /pʰ/
    2. voicing of Classical /p/ ⟨պ⟩ to /b/
  2. Alveolar stops:
    1. merging of Classical Armenian /d/ ⟨դ⟩ and /tʰ/ ⟨թ⟩ as /tʰ/
    2. voicing of Classical /t/ ⟨տ⟩ to /d/
  3. Velar stops:
    1. merging of Classical Armenian /ɡ/ ⟨գ⟩ and /kʰ/ ⟨ք⟩ as /kʰ/
    2. voicing of Classical /k/ ⟨կ⟩ to /ɡ/
  4. Alveolar affricates:
    1. merging of Classical Armenian /dz/ ⟨ձ⟩ and /tsʰ/ ⟨ց⟩ as /tsʰ/
    2. voicing of Classical /ts/ ⟨ծ⟩ to /dz/
  5. Post-alveolar affricates:
    1. merging of Classical Armenian /dʒ/ ⟨ջ⟩ and /tʃʰ/ ⟨չ⟩ as /tʃʰ/
    2. voicing of Classical /tʃ/ ⟨ճ⟩ to /dʒ/

As a result, a word like [dʒuɹ] 'water' (spelled ⟨ջուր⟩ in Classical Armenian) is cognate with Western Armenian [tʃʰuɹ] (also spelled ⟨ջուր⟩). However, [tʰoɹ] 'grandson' and [kʰaɹ] 'stone' are pronounced similarly in Classical and Western Armenian.


Western Armenian uses traditional Armenian orthography, also known as classical orthography or Mashdotsian orthography. Reformed Armenian orthography (introduced in Soviet Armenia and still used by most Eastern Armenian speakers from the Republic of Armenia) has not been adopted in Western Armenian nor by Eastern Armenian speakers in the Diaspora.



Western Armenian nouns have six cases: nominative (subject), accusative (direct object), genitive (possession), dative (indirect object), ablative (origin) and instrumental (means). Of the six cases, the nominative and accusative are the same, except for personal pronouns, and the genitive and dative are the same, meaning that nouns have four distinct forms for case. Nouns in Armenian also decline for number (singular and plural), but do not decline for gender (i.e. masculine or feminine).

Declension in Armenian is based on how the genitive is formed. There are several declensions, but one is dominant (genitive in i), while half a dozen other forms are in gradual decline, and are being replaced by the i, which has virtually attained the status of a regular form:

  դաշտ / tashd (field) կով / gov (cow)
singular plural singular plural
Nom-Acc (Ուղղական-Հայցական) դաշտ / tashd դաշտեր / tashder կով / gov կովեր / gover
Gen-Dat (Սեռական-Տրական) դաշտի / tashdi դաշտերու / tashderu կովու / govu կովերու / goveru
Abl (Բացառական) դաշտէ / tashde դաշտերէ / tashdere կովէ / gove կովերէ / govere
Instr (Գործիական) դաշտով / tashdov դաշտերով / tashderov կովով / govov կովերով / goverov
  գարուն / karun (Spring) օր / or (day) Քոյր / kuyr (sister)
singular plural singular plural singular plural
Nom-Acc (Ուղղական-Հայցական) գարուն գարուններ օր օրեր քոյր քոյրեր
Gen-Dat (Սեռական-Տրական) գարնան գարուններու օրուայ օրերու քրոջ քոյրերու
Abl (Բացառական) գարունէ գարուններէ օրուընէ օրերէ քրոջմէ քոյրերէ
Instr (Գործիական) գարունով գարուններով օրով օրերով քրոջմով քոյրերով
  հայր / hayr (father) Աստուած / Asdvadz (God)
singular plural singular plural
Nom-Acc (Ուղղական-Հայցական) հայր հայրեր Աստուած n.a.
Gen-Dat (Սեռական-Տրական) հօր հայրերու Աստուծոյ n.a.
Abl (Բացառական) հօրմէ հայրերէ Աստուծմէ n.a.
Instr (Գործիական) հօրմով հայրերով Աստուծմով n.a.


Like English and some other languages, Armenian has definite and indefinite articles. The indefinite article in Western Armenian is /mə/, which follows the noun:

mart mə ('a man', Nom.sg), martu mə ('of a man', Gen.sg)

The definite article is a suffix attached to the noun, and is one of two forms, either or -n, depending on whether the final sound is a vowel or a consonant, and whether a following word begins with a vowel or consonant:

martə ('the man', Nom.sg)
karin ('the barley' Nom.sg)


Sa martn e ('This is the man')
Sa karin e ('This is the barley')

The indefinite article becomes mən under the same circumstance as becomes -n:

mart mə ('a man', Nom.sg)


Sa mart mən e ('This is a man')


Adjectives in Armenian do not decline for case or number, and precede the noun:

agheg martə ('the good man', Nom.sg)
agheg martun ('to the good man', Gen.sg)


Verbs in Armenian are based on two basic series of forms, a "present" form and a "imperfect" form. From this, all other tenses and moods are formed with various particles and constructions. There is a third form, the preterite, which in Armenian is tense in its own right, and takes no other particles or constructions.

The "present" tense in Western Armenian is based on three conjugations (a, e, i):

(to love)
(to speak)
(to read)
yes (I) sirem khôsim gartam
tun (you.sg) sires khôsis gartas
an (he/she/it) sirê khôsi garta
menk′ (we) sirenk′ khôsink′ gartank′
tuk′ (you.pl) sirêk′ khôsik′ gartak′
anonk′ (they) siren khôsin gartan

The present tense (as we know it in English) is made by adding the particle before the "present" form, except yem (I am), unim (I have), kidem (I know) and gərnam (I can), while the future is made by adding bidi:

Yes kirk′ə gə gartam (I am reading the book or I read the book, Pres)
Yes kirk′ə bidi gartam (I will read the book, Fut).

For the exceptions: bidi əllam, unenam, kidnam, garenam (I shall be, have, know, be able). In vernacular language, the particle "gor" is added after the verb to indicate present progressive tense, apparently borrowed from Turkish -yor-: cf. seviyorum: gə sirem gor (I love). The distinction is not made in literary Armenian.

Yes kirk′ə gə gartam gor (I am reading the book)[11]

The verb without any particles constitutes the subjunctive mood, such as "if I eat, should I eat, that I eat, I wish I eat":

Sing. Pl.
1st Udem
(if I eat etc)
(if we eat)
2nd Udes
(if you eat)
(if you all eat)
3rd Udê
(if it eats)
(if they eat)


Personal Genitive Accusative Dative Ablative Instrumental
Ես Իմ Զիս Ինծի Ինձմէ / ինծմէ Ինձմով / ինծմով
Դուն Քու Քեզ Քեզի Քեզմէ Քեզմով
Ինք Իր Զինք Իրեն Իրմէ Իրմով
Ան Անոր Զայն Անոր Անկէ Անով
Մենք Մեր Մեզ Մեզի Մեզմէ Մեզմով
Դուք Ձեր Ձեզ Ձեզի Ձեզմէ Ձեզմով
Իրենք Իրենց Զիրենք Իրենց Իրենցմէ Իրենցմով
Անոնք Անոնց Զանոնք Անոնց Անոնցմէ Անոնցմով

See also


  1. Armenian (Lebanon) at Ethnologue (10th ed., 1984). Note: Data may come from the 9th edition (1978).
  2. Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Western Armenian". Glottolog. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Pronounced arevmtahayeren in Eastern Armenian and spelled արևմտահայերեն in the reformed orthography.
  4. “Review of Istanbul’s Armenian community history”
  5. UNESCO Culture Sector, UNESCO Interactive Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger, 2009
  6. UNESCO: 15 Languages Endangered in Turkey, by T. Korkut, 2009
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 The choice of Armenian symbol depends on the vowel's context in the word. See the Orthography section below for details. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "context_sensitive" defined multiple times with different content
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 8.4 These letters represent the same consonant due to a sound shift in Western Armenian from Classical Armenian. See the Differences in Phonology from Classical and Eastern Armenian section below for details.
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 9.4 This letter has undergone a sound shift from Classical Armenian to Western Armenian. See the Differences in Phonology from Classical and Eastern Armenian section below for details.
  10. Although Western Armenians are taught to pronounce two different rhotics (written ⟨ր⟩ and ⟨ռ⟩), the two have merged in many dialects into a flap.
  11. In vernacular language, the particle gor is added after the verb to indicate present progressive tense. The distinction is not made in literary Armenian.


  • Melkonian, Zareh (1990). Գործնական Քերականութիւն - Արդի Հայերէն Լեզուի (Միջին եւ Բարձրագոյն Դասընթացք) (in Armenian) (Fourth ed.). Los Angeles. Unknown parameter |trans_title= ignored (help)CS1 maint: unrecognized language (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Sakayan, Dora (2000). Modern Western Armenian For the English-speaking World: A Contrastive Approach. Montreal: Arod Books. ISBN 0-9699879-2-7.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Samuelian, Thomas J. (1989). A Course in Modern Western Armenian: Dictionary and Linguistic Notes. New York City, New York: Armenian National Education Committee. ISBN 0-9617933-2-5.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links

Western Armenian Online Dictionaries