09 January 2016, 18:28
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Eternal Alphabet: P (pē) - Պ (պէ)

In Grabar and Eastern Armenian language, letter Պ denotes the sound that corresponds to sound [p]. In Middle Armenian and Western Armenian, it began to sound like [b], though the traditional way of writing was mostly preserved Պետրոս ([Petros], [Bedros] – Petros), պարտեզ ([partez], [bardez] – garden), etc. There are very few originally Armenian words that begin with this letter: Պ in them originates in the Indo-European [b], which was rarely used in the initial position of the parent language. The pre- Indo-European [p] was changed beyond recognition in the Armenian language: *pәter was transformed into հայր ([hayr] – father), *penke – into հինգ ([hing] – five), etc. Still, there are many words in the Armenian language beginning with letter Պ: many loanwords from the Greek, Iranian etc. have covered the gap.


A similar situation is observed in the Germanic languages – English, German, etc. Thus, in the Old English there was almost no word beginning with P, while in presentday English letter P is on the third position, after S and C, ranked according to the number of words beginning with it. This was the result of intensive penetration of Greek and Latin words with their very productive prefixes that begin with P (per-, post-, pre-, pro-, etc.). In the Russian language also, the prefixes that begin with П have played a significant role. The majority of researchers are of the opinion that the graphic form of the Armenian Պ is derived from the Greek Π (pi), which had different shapes. The prototype for the Armenian letter, apparently was the small letter π, or one of its variants.

An interesting example of ornamented Պ is found in the Gospel from Yeghegis (Syunik) dated 1306. Artist Sargis painted the letter in the form of a bird holding a fish in its beak. The key to the interpretation of this initial are the words of Jesus addressed to Peter and Andrew who, as as it is generally known, were fishermen: "Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men" (Mt. 4, 19). Besides, in the medieval Armenian texts letter Պ, in particular, stood for the abbreviation of the name Պետրոս.

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

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