Armenian is an Indo-European language with about 6 million speakers mainly in Armenia (Հայաստան [Hayastan]) and Nagorno-Karabakh, a de facto, though unrecognized, independent republic in the Nagorno-Karabakh region of the South Caucasus. There are also Armenian speakers in many other countries, including Russia, Georgia, Lebanon, Iran, Syria, Turkey, Egypt and the USA.
Armenian is the official language of Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh, and has official status as a minority language in Cyprus, Poland and Romania. Until the early 1990s schools in Armenian taught in either Armenian or Russian, however after the collapse of the USSR, Armenian became the main medium of instruction and the Russian-medium schools were closed. In 2010 Russian language education was reintroduced in Armenia
Not much is known about the Armenian language before it was first written in the 5th century AD, though the Armenians are mentioned in inscriptions dating back to the 6th century BC.
In the late 4th century AD, King Vramshapuh (Վռամշապուհ) of Armenia asked Mesrop Mashtots (Մեսրոպ Մաշտոց), one of the officials in his chancellery and a prominent scholar, to create a new alphabet for Armenian. Before then, Armenian had been written with ‘cuneiform’ scripts, which was deemed unsuitable for religious works by the Armenian Church.
Mashtots travelled to Alexandria, where he studied the principles of writing and concluded that the Greek alphabet was the best alphabet in use at that time because there was an almost one-to-one correspondence between sounds and letters. He used this model to come up with a new alphabet, which he presented to the king when he returned to Armenia in 405 AD. The new alphabet was well-received and a new Armenian translation of the bible was published in 405 AD. Other literary works soon followed.
There are two standard forms of Armenian: Eastern Armenian, spoken mainly in Armenia, Nagorno-Karabakh, Georgia and Iran; and Western Armenian, spoken by the Armenian diaspora in many countries. They are more or less mutually intelligible.
Type of writing system: alphabet.
Direction of writing: left to right in horizontal lines.