Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Language Profile: Armenian

This week we're taking a brief look at Armenian, a fascinating member of the Indo-European language family. In fact, Armenian is itself an independent branch of the Indo-European language family, and is of particular interest to linguists due to its distinctive phonological developments that differ from other branches of the family. In recent years, some similarities with Greek have been discovered, leading linguists to believe that the Greek language is its closest related living relative.

The National Gallery of Armenia in Yerevan, the capital.
Armenian is the official language of Armenia, and is also used as an official minority language in the Mediterranean island nation of Cyprus. There are two standardized literary forms of the language: Eastern and Western Armenian, which are mutually intelligible. Eastern Armenian is used in Armenia by the government, education, and media, while Western Armenian is primarily used outside of the country. The differences between the two forms are mainly phonological in nature.

In terms of its lexicon, Armenian shows some influence from other languages. These linguistic influences include Greek, Latin, Old French, Persian, Arabic, and Turkish.

The Armenian language is written using the Armenian alphabet, invented in the early 5th century by Mesrop Mashtots, a theologian and linguist. The oldest surviving text written in Armenian was also written by Mesrop Mashtots, and is a Bible translation from the 5th century.