09 January 2016, 17:47
1696 |

Eternal Alphabet: N (nu) - Ն (նու)

The prototype of the graphic form of the Armenian letter Ն is the Greek “nu” – not the classical N, but one of its varieties. But it is not possible to determine, which variant exactly was used by Mashtots, because there were numerous variations of Ն in the IV–V centuries. It can be assumed that the prototype was , which was used in the “Introduction to Greek and Latin Palaeography”, a book written by the English paleographer Edward Thompson.

In particular, this version is corroborated by the fact that some early examples of Armenian letter nu, for example , had this horseshoe-shaped form. The outline of Ն is the mirror reflection of another Armenian letter – Մ [m]. And the connection between them becomes more apparent in small letters – ն and մ – which can hardly be considered as accidental, since they denote similar sounds. Incidentally, the letters denoting the sounds [n] and [m], in varying degrees, are similar in several other alphabets.

As to the name of letter Ն, in the opinion of Hrachia Acharyan, the famous researcher of the history of the Armenian language, it “might be derived from the Greek “nu” or the Semitic “nun”, with the removal of the last letter”. Interesting examples of ornamented Ն can be found in an ancient Armenian manuscript – a Gospel dated 1604, from Khizan, illustrated by miniaturist and scribe Sargis Khizantsi. In one of the first words of the Gospel (Գիրք ծննդեա [girq tsnndyan]), there where two letters ն standing one next to the other, both painted as musicians. The first letter ն represents a musician who plays the tambourine, and the second – a musician playing the duduk. Besides, according to Hrant Khachikyan, researcher of medieval Armenian manuscripts, the artist has painted blue flowers on the musician’s head and the heel of his left foot, to make the contours of the musician fully conforming to the graphic form of the letter.


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

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