Proto-Armenian is the earlier, unattested stage of the Armenian language which has been reconstructed by linguists. As Armenian is the only known language of its branch of the Indo-European languages, the comparative method cannot be used to reconstruct its earlier stages. Instead, a combination of internal and external reconstruction, by reconstructions of Proto-Indo-European and other branches, has allowed linguists to piece together the earlier history of Armenian.
Proto-Armenian, as the common ancestor of only one language, has no clear definition of the term. It is generally held to include a variety of ancestral stages of Armenian between Proto-Indo-European and the earliest attestations of Classical Armenian.
The earliest testimony of Armenian is the 5th-century Bible translation of Mesrop Mashtots. The earlier history of the language is unclear and the subject of much speculation. It is clear that Armenian is an Indo-European language, but its development is opaque.
In any case, Armenian has many layers of loanwords and shows traces of long language contact with Indo-Aryan Mitanni, Anatolian languages such as Luwian and Hittite, Semitic languages such as Akkadian and Aramaic, and the Hurrio-Urartian languages.
Phonological Development of Proto-ArmenianEdit
The Proto-Armenian sound changes are varied and eccentric (such as *dw- yielding erk-) and, in many cases, uncertain. That prevented Armenian from being immediately recognized as an Indo-European branch in its own right, and it was assumed to be simply a very divergent Iranian language until Heinrich Hübschmann established its independent character in 1874.
Many modern scholars have rejected the Graeco-Armenian hypothesis, arguing that the linguistic proximity between the two languages has been overstated. Clackson (2008) asserts that the Armenian language is as close to Indo-Iranian languages as it is to Greek and Phrygian. Ronald I. Kim has noted unique morphological developments connecting Armenian to Balto-Slavic languages.
In certain contexts, the aspirated stops are further reduced to w, h or zero in Armenian: Proto-Indo-European (accusative) *pódm̥ "foot" > Armenian otn vs. Greek (accusative) póda, Proto-Indo-European *tréyes "three" > Armenian erekʿ vs. Greek treis.
The Armenians according to Diakonoff, are then an amalgam of the Hurrians (and Urartians), Luvians and the Mushki. After arriving in its historical territory, Proto-Armenian would appear to have undergone massive influence on part the languages it eventually replaced. Armenian phonology, for instance, appears to have been greatly affected by Urartian, which may suggest a long period of bilingualism.
|*p||h||Ø, w, pʿ|
|*ḱ||s||š ( PIE *ḱw>Arm.š), Ø|
|*k||kʿ||x, g, čʿ|
|*kʷ||kʿ||x, g, čʿ|
|*s||h||s, Ø, *kʿ|
Diakonoff (1985) and Greppin (1991) etymologize several Old Armenian words as having a possible Hurro-Urartian origin:
- agarak "field" from Hurrian awari "field";
- ałaxin "slave girl" from Hurrian al(l)a(e)ḫḫenne;
- arciw "eagle" from Urartian Arṣiba, a proper name with a presumed meaning of "eagle";
- art "field" from Hurrian arde "town" (rejected by Diakonoff and Fournet);
- astem "to reveal one's ancestry" from Hurrian ašti "woman, wife";
- caṙ "tree" from Urartian ṣârə "garden";
- cov "sea" from Urartian ṣûǝ "(inland) sea";
- kut "grain" from Hurrian kade "barley" (rejected by Diakonoff; closer to Greek kodomeýs "barley-roaster");
- maxr ~ marx "pine" from Hurrian māḫri "fir, juniper";
- pełem "dig, excavate" from Urartian pile "canal", Hurrian pilli (rejected by Diakonoff);
- salor ~ šlor "plum" from Hurrian *s̄all-orə or Urartian *šaluri (cf. Akkadian šallūru "plum");
- san "kettle" from Urartian sane "kettle, pot";
- sur "sword", from Urartian šure "sword", Hurrian šawri "weapon, spear" (considered doubtful by Diakonoff);
- tarma-ǰur "spring water" from Hurrian tarman(l)i "spring";
- ułt "camel" from Hurrian uḷtu "camel";
- xarxarel "to destroy" from Urartian harhar-š- "to destroy";
- xnjor "apple" from Hurrian ḫinzuri "apple" (itself from Akkadian hašhūru, šahšūru).
Arnaud Fournet proposes additional borrowed words.
- Karl Brugmann, Grundriss der vergleichenden Grammatik der indogermanischen Sprachen (1897) Das Armenische (II), früher fälschlicherweise für iranisch ausgegeben, von H. Hübschmann KZ. 23, 5 ff. 400 ff. als ein selbständiges Glied der idg. Sprachfamilie erwiesen
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- Clackson James P.T. (2008). "Classical Armenian". The Ancient Languages of Asia Minor. New York: Cambridge University Press. p. 124.
- Kim, Ronald (2018). "Greco-Armenian: The persistence of a myth". Indogermanische Forschungen. The University of British Columbia Library. Retrieved 9 June 2019.
- “Armenians” in Encyclopedia of Indo-European Culture, edited by J. P. Mallory and Douglas Q. Adams, Fitzroy Dearborn, 1997.
- Matasovic, Ranko (2009). A Grammatical Sketch Of Classical Armenian. Zagreb. pp. 10–15.
- Archív Orientalni. 2013. About the vocalic system of Armenian words of substratic origin. (81.2:207–22) by Arnaud Fournet
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- Werner Winter, Problems of Armenian Phonology I, Language 30, No. 2 (Apr., 1954), pp. 197–201
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