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The Art of the Armenian Alphabet

Celebrating the Art of the Armenian Alphabet

In 405 AD, Mesrob Mashdots, a monk, theologian and linguist (artist and genius!) established the Armenian alphabet, translating the language into written form. What an undertaking it must have been!

The language gave Armenians their cultural and religious identity. It gave them the means to survive as a people, despite efforts to destroy them, again and again.

The art of the Armenian alphabet

My pencil and ink rendering of the alphabet

 

The alphabet originated with 36 letters. Later, in the middle ages, two characters were added. It’s curious that after reciting the first 36, one says, “and,” before finishing up with the last two letters!

I can still recite the alphabet, which I learned as a child. But speaking my own language is becoming increasingly difficult. Older people who speak the language so beautifully, and correctly, are leaving us.

And reading and writing? That’s another story. It’s hard to explain, but for instance, there’s a soft “k” sound, and a hard “k” sound. Same goes for a “t.” So which one do you use? And the complexity doesn’t stop there. There are letters for different sounds and combinations of sounds. Correct spelling seems impossible.

The art of the Armenian alphabet

My name (Ani) in Armenian. And the font name happens to be “Ani” too

A work of art.

This alphabet, an ancient and beautiful work of art, represents the language and the rich, artful, and haunting heritage of the Armenian people.

 

 

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8 thoughts on “The Art of the Armenian Alphabet

  1. Having sung in a group focusing on the music (and dance) of the world for several decades, I love hearing about this. Alphabets and languages are so mysterious. I’m particularly fond of Armenian music and dance and sung one particular Armenian song to my daughter as a lullaby for many years.

    The song was sent to the group on a cassette with a note say, “I’d love to hear Libana sing this”. We loved it too and went about trying to find someone in the closeby Armenian community of Watertown, Ma to translate it for us. We went from dentist to priest to copy shop owner, as each person had the same response. “I’ve heard this song, I love this song, but it’s in a dialect from the eastern part of western Armenia.”

    3 years later we were performing in a small town in Pennsylvania and chatting with our hosts, telling them this story. One of them said, hold on right there and left the room. In a few minutes he was back with a sheet of paper in his hand with the lyrics and translation of the song! It turned out that he was a folk dancer and learned this song in California many years earlier and had remembered it. Armed with our paper, we returned to the Watertown community and had them help us with the pronunciation. It’s called Daroni
    You can here us singing it here http://www.libana.com/listen_to_libana/s/daroni

    1. That is quite a story, Linda! Life is full of coincidences. I never heard that particular song, but there are a couple my father used to sing that I miss hearing. Your recording was lovely! And the music so haunting. Thank you for sharing the link.

  2. Language really is an art form and such a beautiful one at that. From my experience of historical music, mainly medieval and some viking, the sounds and tonality of the music can be mesmerising, the sounds of the words so evocative and rich. Even the letters themselves have such visual beauty and depth as your drawing shows so well.

  3. I love this Ani. I’m obsessed with alphabets and fonts. It’s such a beautiful thing to see the written expression of what matters most to us.

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