09 January 2016, 15:50
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Eternal Alphabet: H (hɔ) -Հ (հո)

Հ is the first letter of the words Հայ – Armenian, Հայաստան – Armenia, Հայրենիք – homeland. Besides, ՀՀ is the abbreviation of the name of the Armenian state, the Republic of Armenia – Հայաստանի Հանրապետություն [(Hayastani Hanrapetutyun]).

And according to “Haykazyan Bararan” – the dictionary of the Old Armenian language – letter Հ was also the acronym of the word “the Armenians, Armenian”. Հ denotes an aspirate unvoiced sound, similar to the English [h]. Back in the year 1903, in his book “Grammar of the Old Armenian Language”, academician Nikolay Marr advised: “when unable to pronounce it, you’d better drop it than give it the sound value of the Russian х [kh] or г [g], as many people do”.

It is believed that the preceding Armenian letter Կ [k] and Pahlavi letter could be the prototype of the grafic form of Հ. There are many variants of writing letter Հ. It is notable that while the options of writing other letters basically differ in style, in case of Հ the forms of some signs could well be used to denote different letters. In several medieval manuscripts, various options of this letter were written on the same page.

 The medieval Armenian miniature used many patters of ornamented initials of Հ. They are often pictured as images of birds. Probably, this is explained by the fact that Հ is the first letter of the word հոգի ([(hogi] – spirit), soul, and the bird is the accepted symbol of the soul. Or it might be much simpler: thereason of so frequent association of Հ with a bird could be the form of the letter itself, since it resembles a bird. There is an interesting pattern of the letter in the form a bird in the “Lectionary” (а manuscript collection of Biblical readings for church service) that dates to year 1360 and was written in the Crimean town Kafa (at present – Feodosia). Here Հ is a part of composition, which illustrate a text on the Nativity of Christ. The first three letters are represented as figures of shepherds: one of them sounds the trumpet, announcing the birth of Christ, another one carries the sacrificial lamb, and the third shepherd is holding an axe in his hand and is going to sacrifice the prey – a bird pictured in the shape of Հ.


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

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