Ar­men­ian is an Indo-European language with about 5–7 million speakers. It is a pluricentric language with two standard forms: Eastern Ar­men­ian, which is spoken in the modern country of Ar­men­ia itself and among Ar­men­ian populations in neighbouring countries to the east, and Western Ar­men­ian, which is mostly spoken in the diaspora. Historically one of the reasons for the split is that the land where Ar­men­ians were living was split between two Great Powers: the Russian Empire, to the east, and the Ottoman Empire to the west. Eastern Ar­men­ian is based on Yerevan dialect, while Western Ar­men­ian is based on the Istanbul dialect. The dialects are mutually intelligible to educated, literate speakers, but not necessarily to, say, heritage speakers whose main exposure to Ar­men­ian is the domestic register of their family’s dialect spoken verbally in the home. (Given history, Western Ar­men­ian in particular has a lot of those.)

Ar­men­ian’s closest relative among the Indo-European languages appears to be Greek, although there is dispute over whether it makes sense to talk about a “Proto-Graeco-Ar­men­ian” stage ever having existed. At any rate, Ar­men­ian is attested from the 5th century CE onwards. For that entire time, it’s primarily been written in the Ar­men­ian alphabet, which was developed around 405 CE. Classical Ar­men­ian was the literary standard from the 5th century up until the 19th (and a spoken language until the 11th); Middle Ar­men­ian is attested between the 12th and 18th centuries, apparently in a number of books. Modern Ar­men­ian seems to have been spoken from the 18th century onwards, and became codified and used as the two literary standards mentioned in the last paragraph in the 19th century. Part of Ar­men­ian’s evolution has concerned its morphological typology: Classical Ar­men­ian, like most other Indo-European languages, was highly inflected and fusional, while over time the language has become increasingly analytic (that is, word order has become more important than inflection).

Ar­men­ian has lost grammatical gender; not even Classical Ar­men­ian had it, although it did have a suffix to make a noun feminine (on par with the English suffix -ess); no other grammatical changes (like changing articles or adjectives) were required if this suffix was used, though. Ar­men­ian, then and now, also does not distinguish between masculine and feminine pronouns.

Historically, Ar­men­ian had seven grammatical cases, but after a couple of mergers it now has five:

  1. nominative/accusative
  2. dative/genitive
  3. ablative
  4. instrumental
  5. locative

However: direct objects take different cases bepending on their animacy; animate objects take the dative case, while inanimate objects take the nominative/accusative case. Also, animate nouns can never take the locative case.

Ar­men­ian verb inflections are very simplified compared to the earliest stages of the language. Verbs conjugate for person and number, with two sets of endings depending on whether the tense is a “present” tense or a “past” tense. In the indicative mood, there are four tenses: present, future, pret­er­ite, imperfect. There are also four other moods: the subjunctive/optative, the necessitative, the conditional and the imperative; all but the imperative have present and past-tense forms.

In Eastern Ar­men­ian, an irregular auxiliary verb (լինել linel “to be”) is used to “carry” the inflection in most indicative tenses, and that’s combined with a participle of the “content” verb. (Think like in English: am eating, are eating, is eating, was eating, were eating.) The exception is the preterite tense, where instead a tense-marking suffix is added to the end of the verb stem, and then a second suffix for person/number added to the end of that.

In Western Ar­men­ian, it’s the “content” verb that carries the inflection in every tense. In the present and imperfect tenses, the conjugated verb is preceded by the particle կը ; in the future tense, it’s preceded by the particle պիտի bidi. The Western Ar­men­ian preterite tense is constructed the same way as in Eastern Ar­men­ian.

The Ar­men­ian subjunctive/optative is the same in both dialects. The present subjunctive is just the conjugated present-tense verb, and the past subjunctive is just the same as the conjugated imperfect-tense verb (i.e. like the Western Ar­men­ian forms, but without on the front of it).

Ar­men­ian has two conditional tenses, a present one and a past one, parallel to English would and would have. In Eastern Ar­men­ian, they are formed by adding the letter կ- (k-) to the front of the subjunctive/optative verb forms for present and past, respectively. (Where this կ- goes in front of another consonant, it’s pronounced [kə].) Western Ar­men­ian has the same, but has a second way of constructing the past conditional, which is the same as the future tense except the conjugated verb is conjugated with the past-tense endings instead.

Both dialects conjugate the imperative mood the same way, with separate forms for singular and plural, and positive and negative, versions of the verb. Basically these consist of a verb stem + a conjugation suffix, and for the negative form there’s a separate word մի՛ mi in front.

The necessitative mood, also found in Turkish, is used for expressing a plea, a command, a desire, an insistence, self-encouragement, a purpose, etc. The Eastern necessitative is formed by adding պիտի piti in fmront of the optative/subjunctive verb form. The Western necessitative is formed by conjugating լինել linel “to be” and placing that after the future participle of the “content” verb.

Ar­men­ian verbs also have two voices: active and passive. To make verbs passive, you just add the letter վ (v) in front of the verb’s suffix.

See Also / References