Armenian is the native language of Armenia, a landlocked country
in Transcaucasia bordering Turkey and Iran. It is spoken by the
vast majority of the population, or close to 3½ million people.
There are also about 2000,000 speakers in neighboring Georgia and
sizable communities in Iran, Lebanon, Syria, Turkey, and the United
The Armenians are an ancient people whose history dates back about
2,500 years. The Armenian alphabet was invented by Mesrop Mashtots,
a missionary, about the year 400 A.D. Originally it consisted of
thirty-six letters, six vowels and thirty consonants, to which two
letters were added in the 12th century.
Armenian constitutes a separate and independent branch of the Indo-European
family. The Armenians call their country Hayastan and their language
Hayaren. During many centuries of Persian domination so many Iranian
words entered the language that even in the 19th century many linguists
thought it a dialect of Persian. It was not until 1875 that it was
established as an independent language. Much of the Armenian vocabulary
is not to be found in any other Indo-European language. Undoubtedly
many words were derived from languages that are now extinct.