Western Armenian

Western Armenian (Classical spelling: արեւմտահայերէն, arevmdahayerēn)[3] is one of the two standardized forms of Modern Armenian, the other being Eastern Armenian. It is based mainly on the Istanbul Armenian dialect contrary to Eastern Armenian which is mainly based on the Yerevan Armenian dialect.

Until the early 20th century, various Western Armenian dialects were also spoken in the Ottoman Empire, especially in the eastern regions historically populated by Armenians known as Western Armenia. The spoken or dialectal varieties of Western Armenian currently in use include Homshetsi, spoken by the Hemshin peoples;[4] the dialects of Armenians of Kessab, Latakia and Jisr al-Shughur of Syria, Anjar of Lebanon, and Vakıflı, of Turkey (part of the "Sueidia" dialect.

Forms of the Karin dialect of Western Armenian are spoken by several hundred thousand people in Northern Armenia, mostly in Gyumri, Artik, Akhuryan, and around 130 villages in the Shirak province,[5] and by Armenians in Samtskhe–Javakheti province of Georgia (Akhalkalaki, Akhaltsikhe).[6]

As mostly 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 outside Armenia and Georgia at less than one million.

Eastern Armenian and Western Armenian are, for the most part, mutually intelligible for educated or literate users of the other, while illiterate or semi literate users of lower registers of each one may have difficulty understanding the other variant. An example of differences in phonology, the "b" in Eastern Armenian is pronounced "p" in Western Armenian, similarly with "g" in Eastern Armenian that is pronounced "k" in Western Armenian.[7] Same goes for "d" in Eastern Armenian that is pronounced "t" in Western Armenian and "dj" in Eastern Armenian that is pronounced "tch" in Western Armenian.

Western Armenian is an Indo-European language spoken by Armenians of most of the Middle East except for Iran, and Rostov-on-Don in Russia. 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.[8] Western Armenian was at one point the dominant Armenian variety. After the Armenian Genocide, Western Armenia was wiped clean of Western Armenians. Those who fled to Eastern Armenia today speak either Eastern Armenian, or have a diglossic situation between Western Armenian dialects in informal usage and an Eastern Armenian standard. The only Western Armenian dialect still spoken in Western Armenia is the Homshetsi dialect, as the Hemshin peoples 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.[9][10]

The Western Armenian language has nine environments where two vowels in the orthography appear next to each other. Some result in what is accepted as a diphthong. By definition diphthongs appear in the same syllable. The following examples are sometimes across syllable and morpheme boundaries, where gliding is expected.

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

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:

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 Classical Armenian orthography, also commonly known as traditional Mashtotsian orthography. The Armenian orthography reform introduced in the Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic and still used by most Eastern Armenian speakers from modern Armenia and commonly known as the Abeghian orthography has not been adopted by Eastern Armenian speakers of Iran and their diaspora, and by Western Armenian, with the exception of periodical publications published in Romania and Bulgaria while under Communist regimes.

Western Armenian nouns have six grammatical 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 (the genitive in i) while a half-dozen other forms are in gradual decline and are being replaced by the i-form, which has virtually attained the status of a regular form:

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

The definite article is a suffix attached to the noun, and is one of two forms, either -n (when the final sound is a vowel) or (when the final sound is a consonant). When the word is followed by al (ալ = also, too), the conjunction u (ու), or the present or imperfect conjugated forms of the verb em (to be); however, it will always take -n:

The indefinite article becomes mən when it is followed by al (ալ = also, too) or the Present or imperfect conjugated forms of the verb em (to be):

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

Verbs in Armenian are based on two basic series of forms, a "present" form and an "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 a 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):

The present tense (as we know it in English) is made by adding the particle before the "present" form, except the defective verbs em (I am), gam (I exist, I'm there), unim (I have), kidem (I know) and gərnam (I can), while the future is made by adding bidi:

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. The distinction is not made in literary Armenian.

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