Historically, there were many forms of Armenian language; Classical Armenian or Old Armenian from 405 (Grabar), Middle Armenian or Cilician Armenian from 12-th century to 18-th century, and Modern Armenian (Ashkharhabar) from 18-th century till now. As any other language, Armenian language existed long before writing. There could be much more forms because people count these forms from the Armenian alphabet invention, not from the language origins.
There are two main branches of Modern Armenian language; Eastern and Western. Though it seems the same for a person who doesn’t know Armenian, both forms are different. It is not easy for a person who knows Eastern Armenian to understand Western Armenian in an oral or written form and vice versa. Though Eastern Armenian is more modern than Western Armenian and is the official language of Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, Western Armenian is also widespread because of Armenians who migrated to other countries before and during the Armenian Genocide in 1915. Though people who came back to Armenia from diaspora (many Syrian Armenians have come back during the war in Syria) quickly learn Eastern Armenian as it is used in every area in Armenia.
Armenian language also has many regional dialects, for example, Gyumri’s dialect. Like main dialects, regional dialects also can be very different from Yerevan’s dialect (that is the original dialect of Eastern Armenian). There are some dialects that a person, who doesn’t know that dialect, can’t understand what is spoken or can understand only a part of it.
There would be no Armenian language without alphabet. The alphabet that is used now was created by Mesrop Mashtots in 405-406. Originally it had 36 letters, but later 3 letters were added to it. There are few letters in the alphabet that can be a little familiar to one who knows Georgian and/or Greek. The rest of the alphabet letters are unique. Punctuation characters are also different. Exclamation and question marks are unique; one wouldn’t see them in other languages.
There were another 2 writing systems in ancient time that Armenians have used; Cuneiform scripts (Sepagir) and Hieroglyph writings (Mehenagir).
It was necessary for Armenians to have a written language because of 2 reasons.
There were no Armenian materials for preaching Christianity, and priests were using Greek and Assyrian books. That was a difficult task and the absence of Christian literature in Armenian was an issue. That’s one of the reasons.
Besides that, Armenia was separated between Byzantine Empire and Persia (Iran) in 387. Armenia recognized Christianity as a national religion in 301 and Byzantine Empire adopted Christianity in 380, but Persia didn’t adopt Christianity. Armenians in Persia occasionally were forced to change their religion and marry Persians. Eventually there would be no Armenians as the children and grandchildren from international marriages were reading, speaking and writing in Persian, living among other Persians and having another religion, thus losing their Armenian identity. That’s the second and most important reason on why it was vital for Armenians to have a writing language.
If you need professional translation for Armenian<>English language pair, please contact us today for a no-obligation consultation.