Western Armenian (Classical spelling: արեւմտահայերէն, arevmdahayerên)[2] is one of the two standardized forms of Modern Armenian, the other being Eastern Armenian. Until the early 20th century, various Western Armenian dialects were spoken in the Ottoman Empire, especially in the eastern regions historically populated by Armenians known as Western Armenia. Following the extermination of the Armenian population during the Armenian Genocide of 1915 Western Armenian is now spoken, almost exclusively, in the Armenian diaspora communities around the world.

Western Armenian varieties currently in use include Homshetsi, spoken by the Hemshin people;[3] the dialects of Armenians of Kessab (Քեսապի բարբառ), Latakia and Jisr al-Shughur (Syria), Anjar, Lebanon, and Vakıflı, Samandağ (Turkey), part of the "Sueidia" dialect (Սուէտիայի բարբառ).

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,[4] and by Armenians in Samtskhe-Javakheti province of Georgia (Akhalkalaki, Akhaltsikhe).[5]

Nakhichevan-on-Don Armenians speak another Western Armenian variety based on the dialect of Armenians in Crimea, where they came from in order to establish the town and surrounding villages in 1779 (Նոր Նախիջեւանի բարբառ).

Western Armenian dialects are currently spoken also in Gavar (formerly Nor Bayazet and Kamo, on the west of Lake Sevan), Aparan, and Talin in Armenia (Mush dialect), and by the large Armenian population residing in Abkhazia, where they are considered to be the first or second ethnic minority, or even equal in number to the local Abkhaz population[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.

Distinguishing forms of Armenian

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's" in Eastern Armenian are "p's" in Western Armenian, similarly with "g's" in Eastern Armenian that are pronounced "k's" in Western Armenian. [7]


Western Armenian is an Indo-European language spoken by part of the population of Armenia in dialectal forms, Armenians of Abkhazia, most Armenians in Georgia, and the Armenian diaspora, mainly in North America and South America, Europe, Australia, 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 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 people 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]




Western Armenian has eight monophthong vowel sounds.

Front Central Back
Unrounded Rounded Unrounded Rounded
Close i  ⟨ի⟩ ʏ  ⟨իւ⟩     u  ⟨ու⟩
Mid ɛ  ⟨է, ե⟩ [11] œ  ⟨էօ⟩ ə  ⟨ը⟩   o  ⟨ո, օ⟩[11]
Open       ɑ  ⟨ա⟩  
Monophthongs examples
IPA Example (IPA) Example (Written) Meaning Notes
ɑ [ɑɾɛv] արեւ "sun" Similar to the English vowel in the word car.
ɛ [ɛtʃ] էջ "page" Similar to the English vowel in the word bed.
i [im] իմ "my" Similar to the English vowel in the word eat.
o [tʃoɾ] չոր "dry" Similar to the English vowel in bore.
u [uɾ] ուր "where" Similar to the English vowel in the word shoot.
ə [əsɛl] ըսել "to say" Similar to the English vowel in the word about.
ʏ [hʏɾ] հիւր "guest" Similar to the German vowel in the word schützen.
œ [œʒɛni] Էօժենի a female name This vowel sound is rare in Armenian, and is used in foreign words.


The Western Armenian language has nine diphthong sounds.

IPA Example (IPA) Example (Written) Meaning Notes
sɛnjɑɡ սենեակ "room" Similar to English yard.
jɛɾɑz երազ "dream" Similar to English yell.
hɑjə հայը "armenian" (definite form, nominative) Similar to English fire /faɪə(ɹ)/.
ji mɑjis Մայիս "May" Similar to English year.
jo jotə եօթը "seven" Similar to English your.
ju ɡɑjun կայուն "firm" Similar to English you.
aj majɾ մայր "mother" Similar to English my.
ej tej թէյ "tea" Similar to English day.
iənɑl իյնալ "to fall" Similar to English near.
uj kujr քոյր "sister" Similar to French grenouille (frog)


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

  Bilabial Labiodental Alveolar Palato-alveolar Palatal Velar Uvular Glottal
Nasal m   ⟨մ⟩   n   ⟨ն⟩          
Stop aspirated    ⟨բ, փ⟩[12]      ⟨դ, թ⟩[12]        ⟨գ, ք⟩[12]    
voiced b   ⟨պ⟩[13]   d   ⟨տ⟩[13]     ɡ   ⟨կ⟩[13]    
Affricate aspirated     tsʰ   ⟨ձ, ց⟩[12] tʃʰ   ⟨չ, ջ⟩[12]        
voiced     dz   ⟨ծ⟩[13]    ⟨ճ⟩[13]        
Fricative unvoiced   f   ⟨ֆ⟩ s   ⟨ս⟩ ʃ   ⟨շ⟩     χ   ⟨խ⟩ h   ⟨հ, յ⟩[11]
voiced   v   ⟨վ, ւ, ու, ո⟩[11] z   ⟨զ⟩ ʒ   ⟨ժ⟩     ʁ   ⟨ղ⟩  
Approximant     l   ⟨լ⟩   j   ⟨յ, ե, ի, է⟩[11]      
Flap     ɾ   ⟨ռ, ր⟩ [14]          

Differences in phonology from Classical Armenian

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:

  1. Bilabial stops:
    1. merging of Classical Armenian /b/ ⟨բ⟩ and /pʰ/ ⟨փ⟩ as /pʰ/
    2. voicing of Classical /p/ ⟨պ⟩ to /b/
  2. Alveolar stops:
    1. merging of Classical Armenian /d/ ⟨դ⟩ and /tʰ/ ⟨թ⟩ as /tʰ/
    2. voicing of Classical /t/ ⟨տ⟩ to /d/
  3. Velar stops:
    1. merging of Classical Armenian /ɡ/ ⟨գ⟩ and /kʰ/ ⟨ք⟩ as /kʰ/
    2. voicing of Classical /k/ ⟨կ⟩ to /ɡ/
  4. Alveolar affricates:
    1. merging of Classical Armenian /dz/ ⟨ձ⟩ and /tsʰ/ ⟨ց⟩ as /tsʰ/
    2. voicing of Classical /ts/ ⟨ծ⟩ to /dz/
  5. Post-alveolar affricates:
    1. merging of Classical Armenian /dʒ/ ⟨ջ⟩ and /tʃʰ/ ⟨չ⟩ as /tʃʰ/
    2. voicing of Classical /tʃ/ ⟨ճ⟩ to /dʒ/

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 known as the traditional or Mashtotsian orthography. The Armenian orthography reform introduced in the Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic and still used by most Eastern Armenian speakers from modern Armenia 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:

  դաշտ / tašd (field) կով / gov (cow)
singular plural singular plural
Nom-Acc (Ուղղական-Հայցական) դաշտ / tašd դաշտեր / tašder կով / gov կովեր / gover
Gen-Dat (Սեռական-Տրական) դաշտի / tašdi դաշտերու / tašderu կովու / govu կովերու / goveru
Abl (Բացառական) դաշտէ / tašde դաշտերէ / tašdere կովէ / gove կովերէ / govere
Instr (Գործիական) դաշտով / tašdov դաշտերով / tašderov կովով / govov կովերով / goverov
  գարուն / karun (Spring) օր / or (day) Քոյր / kuyr (sister)
singular plural singular plural singular plural
Nom-Acc (Ուղղական-Հայցական) գարուն գարուններ օր օրեր քոյր քոյրեր
Gen-Dat (Սեռական-Տրական) գարնան գարուններու օրուայ օրերու քրոջ քոյրերու
Abl (Բացառական) գարունէ գարուններէ օրուընէ օրերէ քրոջմէ քոյրերէ
Instr (Գործիական) գարունով գարուններով օրով օրերով քրոջմով քոյրերով
  հայր / hayr (father) Աստուած / Asdvadz (God) գիտութիւն / kidutiun (science)
singular plural singular plural
Nom-Acc (Ուղղական-Հայցական) հայր հայրեր Աստուած աստուածներ գիտութիւն գիտութիւններ
Gen-Dat (Սեռական-Տրական) հօր հայրերու Աստուծոյ աստուածներու գիտութեան գիտութիւններու
Abl (Բացառական) հօրմէ հայրերէ Աստուծմէ աստուածներէ գիտութենէ գիտութիւններէ
Instr (Գործիական) հօրմով հայրերով Աստուծմով աստուածներով գիտութեամբ/




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

mart mə ('a man', Nom.sg), martu mə ('of a man', Gen.sg)

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:

martə ('the man', Nom.sg)
karin ('the barley' Nom.sg)


Sa martn e ('This is the man')
Parin u charə ('The good and the bad')
Inkn al ('He too')

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):

mart mə ('a man', Nom.sg)


Sa mart mən e ('This is a man')
Mart mən al ('A man as well')


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

agheg martə ('the good man', Nom.sg)
agheg martun ('to the good man', Gen.sg)


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):

(to love)
(to speak)
(to read)
yes (I) sirem xōsim gartam
tun (you.sg) sires xōsis gartas
an (he/she/it) sirē xōsi garta
menk (we) sirenk xōsink gartank
tuk (you.pl) sirēk xōsik gartak
anonk (they) siren xōsin gartan

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:

Yes kirk′ə gə gartam (I am reading the book or I read the book, Pres)
Yes kirk′ə bidi gartam (I will read the book, Fut).

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.

Yes kirk′ə gə gartam gor (I am reading the book)[15]

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

Sing. Pl.
1st Udem
(if I eat etc)
(if we eat)
2nd Udes
(if you eat)
(if you all eat)
3rd Udē
(if it eats)
(if they eat)

Personal Pronouns

Nominative Accusative Genitive Dative Ablative Instrumental
ես 'I' զիս իմ ինծի ինձմէ / ինծմէ ինձմով / ինծմով
դուն 'you' քեզ քու քեզի քեզմէ քեզմով
ինք 'he/she/it' զինք իր իրեն իրմէ իրմով
ան 'he/she/it' զայն անոր անոր անկէ անով
մենք 'we' մեզ մեր մեզի մեզմէ մեզմով
դուք 'you' ձեզ ձեր ձեզի ձեզմէ ձեզմով
իրենք 'they' զիրենք իրենց իրենց իրենցմէ իրենցմով
անոնք 'they' զանոնք անոնց անոնց անոնցմէ անոնցմով

Demonstrative Pronouns

Proximal Medial Distal
Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural
Nominative ասիկա ասոնք ատիկա ատոնք անիկա անոնք
Accusative ասիկա ասոնք ատիկա ատոնք անիկա անոնք
Genitive ասոր ասոնց ատոր ատոնց անոր անոնց
Dative ասոր ասոնց ատոր ատոնց անոր անոնց
Ablative ասկէ ասոնցմէ ատկէ ատոնցմէ անկէ անոնցմէ
Instrumental ասով ասոնցմով ատով ատոնցմով անով անոնցմով

Relative Pronouns

Singular Plural
Nominative որ որոնք
Accusative զոր զորոնք / զորս
Genitive որու(ն) որոնց
Dative որուն որոնց
Ablative որմէ որոնցմէ
Instrumental որ(մ)ով որոնցմով

See also


  1. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Western Armenian". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History. 
  2. ^ Pronounced arevmtahayeren in Eastern Armenian and spelled արևմտահայերեն in the reformed orthography.
  3. ^ Victor A. Friedman (2009). "Sociolinguistics in the Caucasus". In Ball, Martin J. The Routledge Handbook of Sociolinguistics Around the World: A Handbook. Routledge. p. 128. ISBN 978-0415422789. 
  4. ^ Baghdassarian-Thapaltsian, S. H. (1970). Շիրակի դաշտավայրի բարբառային նկարագիրը. Bulletin of Social Sciences (in Armenian) (6): 51-60. Retrieved 24 March 2013. 
  5. ^ Hovannisian, Richard, ed. (2003). Armenian Karin/Erzerum. Costa Mesa, California: Mazda Publ. p. 48. ISBN 9781568591513. Thus, even today the Erzerum dialect is widely spoken in the northernmost districts of the Armenian republic as well as in the Akhalkalak (Javakheti; Javakhk) and Akhaltskha (Akhaltsikh) districts of southern Georgia 
  6. ^ Islam Tekushev (5 January 2016). "An unlikely home". openDemocracy. Retrieved 22 August 2016. 
  7. ^ "Armenian alphabet, language and pronunciation". Omniglot.com. Retrieved 30 December 2017. 
  8. ^ LLC, Helix Consulting. "Turkologist Ruben Melkonyan publishes book "Review of Istanbul's Armenian community history"". Panorama.am. Retrieved 30 December 2017. 
  9. ^ UNESCO Culture Sector, UNESCO Interactive Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger, 2009
  10. ^ "UNESCO: 15 Languages Endangered in Turkey, by T. Korkut, 2009". Bianet.org. Retrieved 30 December 2017. 
  11. ^ a b c d e The choice of Armenian symbol depends on the vowel's context in the word. See the Orthography section below for details.
  12. ^ a b c d e These letters represent the same consonant due to a sound shift in Western Armenian from Classical Armenian. See the Differences in Phonology from Classical and Eastern Armenian section below for details.
  13. ^ a b c d e This letter has undergone a sound shift from Classical Armenian to Western Armenian. See #Differences in Phonology from Classical and Eastern Armenian for details.
  14. ^ Although Western Armenians are taught to pronounce two different rhotics (written ⟨ր⟩ and ⟨ռ⟩), the two have merged in many dialects into a flap.
  15. ^ In vernacular language, the particle gor is added after the verb to indicate present progressive tense. The distinction is not made in literary Armenian.


  • Melkonian, Zareh (1990). Գործնական Քերականութիւն - Արդի Հայերէն Լեզուի (Միջին եւ Բարձրագոյն Դասընթացք) [Practical Grammar - For Modern Armenian (Intermediate and Advanced Course)] (in Armenian) (Fourth ed.). Los Angeles. 
  • Sakayan, Dora (2000). Modern Western Armenian For the English-speaking World: A Contrastive Approach. Montreal: Arod Books. ISBN 0-9699879-2-7. 
  • Samuelian, Thomas J. (1989). A Course in Modern Western Armenian: Dictionary and Linguistic Notes. New York City, New York: Armenian National Education Committee. ISBN 0-9617933-2-5. 

External links

Western Armenian Online Dictionaries