Already in the mid-19th century, the Armenian periodicals and literature are printed in the two varieties of the New Armenian language, which are coined Eastern and Western Armenian literary languages. The backbone of the Eastern Armenian is the Ararat dialect, and the Western Armenian is based on the Constantinople’s dialect. Nevertheless, both have preserved the basic vocabulary and the weight of the grammar and phraseology of the Grabar, as well as Middle Armenian.
Thus, through its written age, starting from the 5th century, Armenian has had four literary languages: the Grabar, Middle Armenian, Western Armenian and Eastern Armenian.

Today, the written Eastern Armenian is the national language of the Republic of Armenia and the Nagorno-Karabagh Republic, and the literary Western Armenian, being deprived of the national language status, is nonetheless being used as schooling, media, literature and general communication medium among Armenians in the Diaspora and in Western Armenia. From their initial stages on, these two literary languages have not had significant differences and have been mutually intelligible by all Armenians. Currently, through intensified interrelationships between the Homeland and Diaspora both literary languages are being merged. The process is being somewhat impeded though by the discrepancy in the spelling.

Both literary languages use the letters created by Mesrop Mashtots. The Armenians of the Diaspora seek to maintain the Grabar spelling, as much as possible. But this is getting harder and harder to do due to differences in the pronunciation patterns of the Diaspora communities. The population in the RA, Nagorno-Karabagh and generally in East Armenia, use the new orthography officially adopted in 1940. The latter was streamlined with the contemporary linguistic requirements to spelling rules, with respect to both traditional forms, and the pronunciation patterns that have evolved from centuries-long phonetic modifications.

Zhanna Mikaelian

Institute of the Language
Armenian National Academy of Sciences