09 January 2016, 17:56
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Eternal Alphabet: Sh (ša) - Շ (շա)

Many researchers believe that the graphic form Շ originates from the Greek ξ [xi]. In addition to the resemblance, they corroborate this viewpoint by the fact that in Greek transcription of Armenian proper names the sound [sh] was usually communicated by [xi]: Ἀρτάξατα [Artaksata] – Արտաշատ [Artashat].

Without denying this version completely, Hrachya Acharyan, however, considered the Pahlavi letter to be more suitable because, unlike the Greek letter, its phonetic value was identical with the Armenian Շ. There was no sound [sh] in the Greek language, therefore sigma Σ was used to communicate the Biblical words and names containing it. Thus, Jeshuah was modified to Jesus, Mosheh to Moses, Shelomoh to Solomon, Jerushalim to Jerusalem, Mashiah to Messiah, etc. The Greek pronunciation penetrated into the majority of the Christian languages. The paradox is that though they had the sound [sh] and a language with much richer phonetics, the Armenians have been uttering the sacred names for about 2000 years in a perverted form. 

 

 

This transcription has become traditional, and it would not be easy to abandon it. The situation is somewhat different in those languages, the alphabets of which are derived from the Latin alphabet. Many of them have the sound [sh] but do not have the sign to denote it; instead, they use a combination of two or three letters. For example, the four-letter name of the ancient fortress town Shushi (Armenian Շուշի) located in Artsakh will be written as Shushi in English, in French – Chouchi, in German – Schuschi, in Polish – Szuszi, and in Swedish – Sjusji.

Talking about letter Շ, we cannot but recall the famous poem by the Armenian poet Vahan Terian “Շշուկ ու շրշյուն” ([shshuk u shrshyun] – "Whisper and Rustle"). Even without knowing the Armenian language, the repeated utterance of the sound [sh] makes you hear the rustle of leaves and steps that create the image of the autumn. The words that denote the sounds of the natureare similar in many languages: the Russian “шуршанье” [shurshanye] and the Armenian “շրշյուն” [shrshyun]; the Russian “шушуканье” [shushukanye], the Armenian շշուկ [shshuk] and the French chuchotage [shushotazh]...

 

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

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