Armenian alphabet is the unique treasure of Armenian culture. It helped to save the language, literature and the religion of the nation.
At first it might seem to you that Armenians are kind of too obsessed with their alphabet, but believe us, after knowing the full history and value of Armenian script, you’ll definitely re-appreciate it!
Keep on reading and you’ll know more about Armenian alphabet and uniqueness of each letter. You’ll also find quite a lot less known peculiar and even mysterious facts about Armenian alphabet, you didn’t know before.
What Is Armenian Alphabet?
Armenian alphabet or as Armenians call it, “Hayots Grer” is the whole integrity of letters used in Armenian writing system.
Armenian writing and script is considered one of the oldest writing systems, which is preserved till our days. The creation of Armenian alphabet was a historical event for Armenian culture and Armenians, as there was a high demand for having own script.
The need became obvious especially during that period, when Armenia was under the rule of different empires and very often it fell under different cultural influences.
Though Armenians used to talk in their native language, they didn’t have script to write or read in Armenian as well, so they had to use other languages for that. All folk tales, songs and epics were passed from generation to generation through the oral speech.
If you have a look at Armenian alphabet you’ll definitely notice that it’s not like other alphabets. The reason is that Mesrop Mashtots has created Armenian alphabet as a completely unique masterpiece, delicately working on it.
The creation of Armenian alphabet started a new era in Armenian culture and literature. It’s also essential to state how perfect and suitable is Armenian alphabet with Armenian sound system. One of the proofs of this is that Armenian alphabet has almost not been changed till our days.
Mesrop Mashtots – The Creator of Armenian Alphabet
Mesrop Mashtots was born in Armenian village Hatsekats. He was delicately brought up by a wealthy family. Mesrop Mashtots got a decent education, he knew several languages perfectly.
Besides being a talented linguist, Mesrop Mashtots was also an ecclesiastical leader. He worked as a secretary of king Khosrov IV for several years and then left this work for the service of God. He spent several years of his life in a monastery.
Being a wise man Mesrop Mashtots perfectly realized the importance of creating Armenian alphabet. Of course, taking into the consideration Mashtot’s historical input, there were also other major figures who played great role in the creation of Armenian alphabet.
The king Vramshapuh and catholicos of Armenia Sahak Partev were engaged in the creation of Armenian Alphabet and sponsored Mesrop Mashtots to fulfill it.
Why the Creation of Armenian Alphabet was So Important?
The creation of Armenian alphabet was one of the most essential thing which must have been done as soon as possible. It was created in 405, over 100 years after Armenia officially accepted Christianity as a state religion.
In fact, Christianity was a new religion for Armenians and the roots of this religion were not strong enough yet. Many Armenians were deeply dedicated to pagan culture and were following several pagan traditions, in spite of their newly accepted religion.
One of the major problems why Armenians could not get closer to Christian religion was that the Bible was not available in their native language, as Armenians did not have script for it. So, this was the main motivation for the creation of the Armenian alphabet.
Ancient Armenian script was created under the influence of Greek alphabet. The creation of Armenian alphabet was an exceptional historical event for all Armenians. It brought with itself several positive changes in Armenia.
- First of all, the Holy Bible was translated into Armenian, which strengthened the religious roots among Armenians.
- Second, it started the new era of enlightenment. Lot of educational centers were opened in Armenia.
- The invention of Armenian alphabet was also the beginning of Armenian literature called golden age.
How Many Letters Does the Armenian Alphabet Have, 39 or 36?
The original number of Armenian letters was 36. Later 3 letters were officially added to Armenian alphabet, however it’s essential to know that these letters were not created by Mesrop Mashtots.
The letters were added in only 12th century. Armenian sound system is rather rich in comparison with other sound systems.
Creating suitable script for a language with such a rich sound system was obviously not one of the easiest tasks. Indeed, there are even several sounds in Armenian that very often non-natives have difficulty in pronouncing it.
That’s why the Armenian alphabet, created by Mesrop Mashtots, is very often compared with piece of art.
Fascinating Facts about Armenian Alphabet
Fun Facts about the Creation History
- Many of us know about the history of creation of Armenian alphabet, however fewer of us may know about the prehistory of it. One of the legends connected with Armenian alphabet was the legend about Daniel’s script. Different ancient historians mention this script as the writing system existing before Mashtot’s invention of Armenian alphabet. There were called Daniel’s script because were brought into use by Armenian bishop Daniel. We don’t have much information about this ancient script, but it is said to get out of use because it appeared to be not suitable to rich Armenian sound system.
- The structure of Armenian alphabet is laid out the Christian religion. One of the main reasons was that Mashtots himself was a church servant and wanted to promote the role of Christianity by creating Armenian alphabet. The religious inclinations of Mesrop Mashtots were straightly reflected in the Armenian alphabet as well. So, if we pay attention to Armenian alphabet, we will notice that the fist letter starting from «Ա» stands for “Astvats” which means God, and the last letter in alphabet «Ք» stands for “Christ”.
Fun Facts about the Armenian Letters
- Armenians are really very proud of their alphabet and consider it one of the most valuable cultural treasures. If you ask an Armenian to tell a bit about their culture, they will definitely mention the history of Armenian alphabet as well.
- There is a special park with Armenian letter statues in Aragatsotn province, Armenia. So, you can find the letter of your name and take a selfie with it, as it’s widely accepted among Armenians!
- Each Armenian letter had a corresponding number. So, very often you can see Armenian letters instead of numbers in ancient calculations. The most capturing things are Armenian calendars made by Armenian letters.
- If we put Armenian alphabet into equilateral triangle we will see the following image. The letter of each angle stands for God, Christ and Holy Spirit.
- It’s widely known that Armenian alphabet originally consisted of 36 letters and later 3 letter «և; օ; ֆ» were added. However, few of us may know that in fact the number of added letters was only 2. Those were the letters «օ», «ֆ» and «և» was the only connecting particle which stood for “and”, “&” in English.
- Mesrop Mashtots is known not only for creating Armenian alphabet, but also for creating Georgian and Caucasian alphabets.
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