ABOUT THE ARMENIAN ALPHABET

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Gospel, 1262 Scribe, Artist- miniaturist: Toros Roslin W.539 Walters collection
Gospel, 1262 Scribe, Artist- miniaturist: Toros Roslin W.539 Walters collection

The alphabet is one of the most useful and convenient writing systems (along with pictographs, ideograms, logos, syllabics, featurals, consonants, etc.). Letters in the alphabet represent both vowels and consonants (unlike consonant-only writing systems) so it is possible to express any number of words with a limited number of letters. Many nations do not have their own writing system so they use a writing system from another nation. Sometimes, this has nothing in common with their language genetic relationship. Language families are another way to classify 2-4 thousand ethnos (tribes, clans, peoples, nations).

Armenians are proud of their alphabet, which is a national value. There are times when that pride reaches catastrophic proportions. This catastrophic extreme is presented to the public as a scientific phenomenon and embeds into the scientific field.

The superiority of the native language and alphabet over other languages and their writing systems is characteristic of people regardless of their nationality. There are researchers everywhere who stubbornly, but superficially, work to establish and disseminate the hypothesis (or absolute truth) that their language is divine and is the proto-language of humanity. The phenomenon exists in countries such as Russia, Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan, and most of the post-Soviet countries.

Such pro-scientific, pseudo-scientific approaches have always existed and will continue to exist. They make life interesting, varied and fun, but sometimes they really hurt the same nation. The way to avoid such consequences is to strengthen science.

There are very common phenomena like folk etymology, folk/amateur linguistics. These are the main guides for the researchers mentioned above. As long as the truth stays out of their way and doesn’t destroy their baseless, but beautiful stories, everything will go smoothly for them.

They say that postmodernism introduced the concept of the absence of truth, according to which truth is not hard to reach or unreachable but does not exist at all: there are only private opinions. It is unfortunate that this deconstructive novelty, which was meant to break down stereotypes and achieve new freedom, is taken literally and primitively.

Since 405 A.N.D., the Armenian alphabet has not changed, this means it is almost perfect, very convenient for the Armenian language. Although, if we consider the insertion of three letters և, օ, ֆ (yev, o, f) during the 11th and 12th centuries as a change, it has partially changed.

The Armenian alphabet also has a numerical value. Many cultures around the world use Indian numerals, better known as Arabic numerals. Nevertheless, before the Arabs, people counted, as well as created and studied mathematics. The letters were used for that purpose. So, from the beginning, the alphabets had a numerical value․ Super-patriots, however, see the Armenian alphabet’s value as having divine meaning․

Modern Eastern Armenian society does not commonly use the names of letters, excluding some: Ech [jɛtʃʰ], Wo, Hyun / Vyun. Armenian letters are merely a reflection and reproduction of the language’s sound system․ In case a sound is heard as i, we write it with one letter, instead of saying the name of the letter Ini, just say i. That sound cannot be represented by another letter or letters.

Only a narrow circle of professionals uses letter names. In Armenian medieval studies, it is very common, for example, to date centuries with Armenian letters, and not with Indo-Arabic or Roman numerals. As a matter of fact, the so-called Roman numerals are Latin letters. As you may have seen above, I dated centuries with Indo-Arabic numerals, and if I wrote an article about Armenian medieval studies for any professional journal I would write ԺԱ instead of the 11th, which we would read in the eleventh century and not “zհa”․

Many academic papers discuss alphabetical order. In pseudo-scientific “discoveries,” every letter of the alphabet represents the first letter of any divine word or phrase. But it also has a very simple explanation. In ancient Armenian literature, acrostic poetry was very common.

Mesrop Vardapet (Archimandrite) created the Armenian alphabet according to the principle that one letter corresponded to one sound. This principle still holds true today almost without exception, making the Armenian alphabet invincible.

Naira Tamamyan-Dabe՛

PhD (Philologist)

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