09 January 2016, 14:21
1403 |

Eternal Alphabet: L (liwn) - Լ (լիւն)

In spite of the obvious similarity of the Armenian Լ with the Latin L, these letters are rather “counterparts” than “twins”. At least, the classics of Armenology have never considered probability of Latin origin of letter Լ, though they have expressed various opinions on this matter. Thus, they believe that the Greek lambda (Λ), Phoenician , Armenian letters Ի [i] and even Ղ [gh] were the probable prototypes of lyun. Ex facte, the version about connection between Լ and Ղ seems doubtful, since sound Ղ (intermediate between [g] and [kh]) is utterly different from Լ. But this is true only for the present, while in the V century both letters denoted two varieties of the same sound [l] and only with the lapse of time Ղ was transformed into [gh]. Apparently, it happened by IX century. Therefore, taking into account that formerly Լ and Ղ designated similar sounds, it can be well assumed that graphically they are also interconnected.

 Phonetic similarity explains also interchange of Լ and Ղ in the Old Armenian language. According to the French linguist Antoine Меillеt, each of these letters had definite positions of use. For instance, Լ was basically written in the beginning of a word or before a vowel, and never before a consonant, while Ղ is never used in the beginning of originally Armenian words. Though, in some cases the two letters were alternative in the same position, e.g. the words ջիլ ([jil] – tendon) and ջիղ ([jigh] – nerve), or աղի ([aghi] – salty) and անալի ([anali] – insipid).


The numerical value of lyun is 30. In the acrostic written by Mashtots, it stands for the word Լույս ([luys] – light). Light is the traditional symbol of divinity and sacredness, which originates in the Bible, where “God is light” (John, 11:5). Yeghishe, Armenian historian of V century, wrote: “God is not the sun”, but “the light of the sun of righteousness”,  “invisible pure light of rays of imaginable sun”. In sharakans, the Christ is called the “light that is brighter than sunshine”. One of the hymns written by Nerses Shnorhali is also imbued with the symbolism of light:


Light, the creator of light, the first light,

whose palace is unapproachable light!

Heavenly Father! Praised by the host of

spirits, created from the light!

Illuminate our souls, in the light of dawn,

with the light of your mind.

The coin of Armenian King  Levon II
The coin of Armenian King Levon II



See more at Aram Khachaturians "Armenian Alphabet. History and Symbolism" book

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