09 January 2016, 13:56
10607 |

Eternal Alphabet: I (Iini) - Ի (ինի)

The mystic poet Grigor Narekatsi (X century) made letter Ի the symbol of grief and sins. Most of his “Book of Lamentations”, which consists of 95 chapters, is written in free verse. According to Armenologist Gabriel Avetiqyan, number 20 in this verse implies the numerical value of letter Ի, which is the last letter of each line in the Armenian original of the verse.

Narekatsi rhymed with Ի almost all lines of Chapter 26 (except for the first verse). He did not use this device just for fun: it implies a special meaning, veiled symbolism. The poet writes: The special way I have chosen here to mourn transposing my weeping with words, arranged with regularity in the same manner, with the same sound at the end of each verse –with the indivisible, mystical symbol 20.  According to Armenologist Gabriel Avetiqyan, number 20 in this verse implies the numerical value of letter Ի, which is the last letter of each line in the Armenian original of the verse. It is not clear why Narekatsi called it mystical, but experts claim that thereby he wanted to emphasize how great his debts before the Lord were.

 

 

It is believed that the Greek letter I served as prototype for devising Ի. Used as a preposition in the Old Armenian language, letter Ի performed numerous grammatical functions: it helped to denote the accusative, dative, and ablative cases. And though this case does not exist in the present-day Armenian language,

since then many ingrained word combinations with Ի have been used up today. For instance, ի դեպ [I dep] – by the way, ի պատիվ [I pativ] – to the honor, ի սրտե [i srte] – from the bottom of the heart, etc. As a preposition, letter Ի is used at the very beginning of the Old Armenian translation of the Bible:  Ի սկզբանէ արար Աստուած զերկին եւ զերկիր [I skzbane arar Astvats zerkin ev zerkir] – “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth”. Besides Ի is the first letter of the Gospel of John in Grabar. It begins the famous phrase Ի սկզբանէ է՛ր բանն [I skzbane er bann] – “In the Beginning  was the Word”. The brief content of the first lines of the Gospel of John was conveyed “on behalf of letter Ի” in a quatrain written by the Catholicos and poet Nerses Shnorhali (XII century):

Truly, says the letter "ini"

That the world was made of nothing by Word.

Between Father and Spirit – in the middle,

All things were made through Him.

 

See more at Aram Khachaturians "Armenian Alphabet" book

 

By topic