Armenian Language Facts
Armenian Language Facts
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Linguists theorize that 5,000-7,000 years ago the Proto-Indo-European language splintered into dialects, one of which was Armenian, a separate branch of the Indo-European language family. As Indo-European speakers spread throughout Eurasia from Iceland to India, many languages such as French and Spanish developed from a common intermediate source, like Latin, whereas the Armenian language evolved directly from its Proto-Indo-European roots.
Before creating an Armenian alphabet, Armenians used Aramaic and Greek characters. Foreign language schools existed from the 2nd century BC on. Early Armenian churchmen sought knowledge and wisdom mainly in Assyrian and Greek. When Armenia became the first country to adopt Christianity as its state religion, the need of an indigenous language arose in order to translate the Bible. A devoted scholar and monk, Mesrop Mashtots, created a distinctly Armenian alphabet after traveling all over Armenia to gather the sounds of Armenian speech. In 405 AD he introduced the thirty six unique characters that make up the basis of the Armenian alphabet. During the Middle Ages, two additional characters were added to write words borrowed from foreign languages. St. Mesrop Mashtots went on to build schools across Armenia to teach the alphabet. He later developed the alphabets of neighboring nations. His contribution to Armenian culture was immense since the invention of the Armenian alphabet paved the way for the first Golden Age of Armenia. Armenian writers, philosophers, mathematicians, and scientists have achieved world acclaim, building on the seminal work of St. Mesrop Mashtots.
Over the centuries, the Armenian language underwent grammatical and phonological changes.
At least three different forms of the Armenian language are in use today – Classical Armenian, or Grabar, the scholarly form of the language used to this day by the Armenian Church; Western Armenian, commonly found in American, European and Middle Eastern Diaspora communities; and Eastern Armenian, the official language of the Republic of Armenia and the spoken language of Armenians in Iran and Russia. Russian is widely known in Armenia as well, and English is increasingly gaining prominence, followed by French, German and several oriental languages.