Lots of Armenian etymological information on Wiktionary

Monday, November 08, 2010

I noticed a few weeks ago that the information on Armenian vocabulary on Wiktionary is more detailed than that for other languages, and being able to find this information makes remembering vocabulary that much easier. This page for example is the Armenian word for night, which is pronounced gisher (գիշեր). Doesn't look that familiar, does it? But in fact it comes from PIE *wekʷsperos, as do a lot of other words for night. Cognates listed on the page are:

Cognates include Ancient Greek ἕσπερος (hesperos), Latin vesper, Old Church Slavonic вєчєръ (večerŭ) (Russian вечер), Lithuanian vākaras and Latvian vakars.
Apparently it even entered Georgian as a word meaning black amber.

A much more obvious one is the word for woman, kin (կին). Cognate with English queen, Persian zan (زن), and everything else.

The word for dog will be very obvious to you if you know a Baltic language - it's shun (շուն). In Lithuanian dog is šuo and Latvian it's suns. Even knowing just English though it becomes easier to remember if you keep in mind that it's cognate with the word hound (previously hund):

From Proto-Indo-European *ḱwṓn- < *ḱwṓ (“dog”). Cognates include Lithuanian šuo, Ancient Greek κύων (kuōn), Sanskrit श्वन् (śván), Latin canis and Old English hund (English hound).

Armenian difficulty overall: Armenian seems to be just about as difficult to learn as Persian, which is to say that it isn't that hard to learn and use though initial passive recognition is near zero, pretty much the opposite of languages such as French and German where passive recognition is quite good but proper usage can be tricky. Armenian is more phonetic than Persian and only surprises you when two consonants that seem to be joined together actually have an unwritten vowel in between them such as նրանք which is pronounced nəˈɾɑnkʰ even though the ə is unwritten (on the other hand it makes it easier to pronounce), and a few words that are irregular due to being composite words or holdovers from the previous orthography. So overall like Persian it's a language with few surprises, and the biggest problem in learning it is the scarcity of resources. And also choosing whether to learn Eastern or Western Armenian, of course.

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