09 January 2016, 18:16
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Eternal Alphabet: Ch (č‘a) - Չ (չա)

The origin of the graphic form of letter Չ is not clear. There is a letter indicating this sound in the Iranian alphabets, but in Armenian it is usually transcribed by letter Ճ [tsh]. The lack of matching letters in the languages of the neighboring nations has prompted the scientists to suppose that Չ was formed from one of the Armenian letters. But even here opinions vary. Thus, Isahak Haroutyunyan believes that Չ derives from Զ [z] or Շ [sh], while Hrachya Acharyan supposes that its origin is letter Ջ [j].



Small letter (չ) is significantly different in structure from the capital letter. According to one version, a variety of this չ was used by the creators of the Slavonic alphabet as the prototype of Cyrillic letter Ч (compared with the earlier samples of this letter, the similarity is more obvious). However, whatever the prototype of the Armenian Չ and Slavonic Ч is, the authors of both alphabets have displayed a deep sense of the native language, creating special graphemes for this sound. For centuries, dozens of alphabets based on Latin have designated this sound with the help of other letters, with special signs or a combination of two, three or even four letters: с (Italian), ç (Turkish), ch (English, Spanish., Swedish), cz (Polish), cs (Hungarian), tch (French), tsch (German), etc. It is believed that the name of this letter – "cha" – lies in the basis of the Armenianname of the inverted commas – չակերտ [chakert]. Probably, this was due to the similarity of the old form of Armenian inverted commas ‹ with the upper element of letter չ. In the Armenian language, Չ is a prefix of negation. Joining words, it “denies everything”:գիտեմ ([gitem] – I know) – չգիտեմ ([chgidem] – I don’t know), ասեմ ([asem] I’ll say) – չասեմ ([chasem] – I won’t say). There is a curious word չաստված [chastvats], formed by joining Չ to the word Աստված ([Astvats] – God). It means "false god", "idol", "pagan god". Besides, Չ is contained in both forms of the particle “not” – the literary “ոչ” [voch] and the informal “չէ” [che]. Andrey Bitov, a writer who traveled in Armenia, has mentioned in his book “Lessons of Armenia”: “I do not know why, but everywhere – on the streets, in shops and buses – I hear the word “che” more often than the word "ayo" (yes ). Che, che, che”.


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


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