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Classical Armenian

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Title: Classical Armenian  
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Subject: Armenian language, Western Armenian, Proto-Armenian language, Early medieval literature, Eastern Armenian
Collection: Armenian Languages, Classical Languages, Liturgical Languages, Medieval Languages, Ritual Languages
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Classical 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.



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
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