A Look at the Armenian Language

From here.
A look at the Armenian language focusing on how hard it is to learn for an English speaker.
An obscure branch of Indo-European, Armenian, is very hard to learn. Armenian is a difficult language in terms of grammar and phonetics, not to mention the very odd alphabet. The orthography is very regular, however there are some irregularities. For instance:
գրել , written grel but spoken gərel (schwa removed in orthography)
խոսել, written xosel but spoken xosal  (a changed to e in orthography)
However, the alphabet itself presents many problems. Print and cursive can be very different, and upper case and lower case can also be quite different. Here are some pairs of letters in upper and lower case:
Ա ա
Յ յ
Փ փ

All in all, this means you have to memorize as many as four different shapes for each letter. However, the grammar is very regular.
In addition, many letters very closely resemble other letters, which makes it very easy to get them mixed up:
գ and զ
ե
and է
դ
and ղ
ո
and ռ
There are voiced consonants and an alternation between aspirated and unaspirated unvoiced consonants, so some mix up the forms for b, p and , for instance.
There are many things about the grammar that seem odd compared to other IE languages. Part of the problem is that due to its location in the Caucasus, Armenian has absorbed influences from some of the wild nearly Caucasian languages. For instance, an extinct NE Caucasian Nakh language called Tsov is thought to have contributed to the Hurro-Ururtian substratum in Armenian. So in a sense when you learn Armenian, you are also learning a bit of Chechen at the same time.
People who have learned both Arabic and Armenian felt that Armenian was much easier, so Armenian seems to be much easier than Arabic.
Armenian is rated 4, very hard to learn.

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0 thoughts on “A Look at the Armenian Language”

  1. Armenian language is not hard, and it is easy to learn, it has grammar irregularities, such as English and French languages. I don’t from where you’ve rated the Armenian as the 5 hardest language?

  2. Dear mr Robert Lindsay first of all, thank you very much for your important article on Armenian language. I am Armenian born in Arabic speaking convey, I don’t know any Armenians ward,when my went we moved to Lebanon in short period I begin to learn Armenian, now I can read and write in Armenian. If you tell me Arabic language I can tell I have learned the Arabic for tens of year, I feel myself Still weak in Arabic, here you can say Arabic language is difficult to learn

  3. Dear Mr. Lindsay,
    The word “xosel” is spoken “xosal” in (Eastern) Armenian slang, not in literary language. It’s like saying “written don’t know, but spoken dunno.”
    (You completely omitted the fact that Armenian has two branches, Eastern and Western, although they’re mutually intelligible. You just need to be a good speaker of one to be perfectly understood in the other.)
    Armenian has vowel pronunciation similar to, say, Spanish: a [a], e [e], i [i], o [o], u p[oo]. This is one of the reasons it’s additionally hard for an English speaker. Think how hard it is for a Spanish or Armenian speaker to absorb all the nuances of English vowels, short and long…
    An Eastern Armenian speaker, essentially, does not confuse, say, b, p, and p’ in writing. (That may happen with a Western Armenian speaker, where p and p’, t and t’, and k and k’ are pronounced in the same way.)
    Print and cursive can be different, as the print and cursive of the Latin alphabet used to be (people write T as in print, but the cursive T is quite different, the same as the cursive G, for instance…). Some letters look similar; ո and ռ may look similar, the same as “o” and “a,” when you write cursive.
    The very odd alphabet… Is it less odd than the Greek alphabet? But I forget that we have a taste of that oddity when we study mathematics.

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