Karabakh dialect

The spread of the Karabakh dialect
  Before the First and Second Nagorno-Karabakh wars[1]           Today
not all areas where the Karabakh dialect was/is spoken had/have Armenian majority

The Karabakh dialect (Armenian: Ղարաբաղի բարբառ, Ġarabaġi barbař), also known as Artsakh dialect (Արցախի բարբառ, Arc'axi barbař) is an ancient Eastern Armenian dialect with a unique phonetic and syntactic structure mainly spoken in the de facto independent Nagorno-Karabakh Republic and partially in the southern and northeastern parts of the Republic of Armenia, i.e. in the provinces of Artsakh, Utik, Syunik and Gugark of historical Armenia.

The dialect was spoken by most Armenians living in Soviet Azerbaijan, particularly in the cities of Baku and Kirovabad (Ganja, Gandzak). As the first Nagorno-Karabakh War escalated, Armenians of Azerbaijan were forced to leave their homes. Today, most of Armenians immigrants and refugees from Azerbaijan live in Armenia and Russia, where along with standard Armenian and Russian, the Karabakh dialect is sometimes spoken.

The dialect is considered to be one of the most widely spoken Armenian dialects.[2][3][4] No accurate information on the number of speakers is available. The population of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic is around 141,400, according to the 2010 data.[5] An estimated 150,000 diaspora Armenians are originally from Karabakh.[6]


According to Strabo (Geographica, Book XI, chapter 4), in the 1st century BC, the population of Armenia, up to Kura River, spoke Armenian.[4]

The 8th century Armenian historian Stepanos Syunetsi was the first one to mention the local dialect of Artsakh.[4] In his «Բառք եղերականք» (Words of Tragedy), he wrote about the dialect of զԱրցախային meaning "of Artsakh", the historical Armenian name of Karabakh.[7] According to the prominent linguist Hrachia Adjarian, Armenian dialects, including the Karabakh dialect started to develop in the 12th century.[citation needed] Adjarian argues that the damping of b, ɡ, d, dz, dʒ (բ, գ, դ, ձ, ջ) and their transformation to p, k, t, ts, tʃ (պ, տ, կ, ծ, ճ) took place before the invasion of Turkic people to the Armenian Highlands.[8] In 1711 Karabakh dialect is mentioned by Johann Joachim Schröder.[9]

Shusha was the main center of Karabakh before the 1920 massacre and expulsion of the local Armenians by the Azerbaijani forces.[10]

In his 1909 book Classification des dialectes arméniens, Adjarian claims that the Karabakh dialect occupied the largest area of the Armenian dialects. According to Adjarian, it was spoken in the cities of Shusha, Elisabethpol (now Ganja), Nukha (now Shaki), Baku, Derbent, Agstafa, Dilijan, Karaklis (now Vanadzor), Kazak, Lori, Karadagh, Lilava quarter of Tabriz (Iran), Burdur and Ödemiş (in Turkey).[11]

Nagorno-Karabakh (nagorno means "mountainous" in Russian, comes from the Soviet-era name of the region, now used by the Western academia for political purposes of neutrality) has been historically populated by Armenians. Since the late Middle Ages, Turkic tribes migrated to the region and by the 19th century it was populated by both Armenians and partially by Azerbaijanis (called "Caucasian Tatars" at the time). After the Russian Revolution of 1917, Karabakh was disputed by independent Armenia and Azerbaijan with none of them completely controlling the claimed area. Karabakh was taken over by the Bolsheviks in 1920 and included in Soviet Azerbaijan in 1923.[12]

Until the late 1980s, most Armenians living in Soviet Azerbaijan spoke the Karabakh dialect.[4] The Karabakh (75% Armenian-populated before the conflict)[12][13] was officially under jurisdiction of Azerbaijan and was known as Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast (NKAO). Besides Karabakh, many Armenians resided in the cities such as Baku, Kirovabad, Sumgait. In the late 1980s, Baku alone had an Armenian population of over 200,000.[14] They were mainly from Karabakh[15] and many of them spoke the dialect,[3][4] although Russian as the main language of multicultural Baku, including Armenians of Baku.[16]

In 1988, with the relaxation of the Soviet Union under Mikhail Gorbachev and his policies of perestroika and glasnost, the Armenians demanded the unification of NKAO with Soviet Armenia. The mass movement started in mid-February 1988 and on February 20, 1988, the regional council issued a request to transfer the region to Soviet Armenia. Few days later the Sumgait pogrom took place, leaving dozens of Armenian civilians dead and thousands being forced to leave. This event is credited with unofficially starting the first Nagorno-Karabakh War. The clashes escalated to a full-scale war by 1992.[13] Most Armenians of Azerbaijan and Azerbaijanis of Armenia were forced to leave. The war ended in May 1994 with the Armenian forces establishing de facto control of Nagorno-Karabakh and several Azerbaijani districts surrounding the former NKAO. Today, the area is de facto under control of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, but is still recognized as de jure part of Azerbaijan by the international community.[13]


Today, almost no Armenians live in Azerbaijan except Nagorno-Karabakh, which is not controlled by the government in Baku, but rather by the local Armenian government of Stepanakert and assisted by the Republic of Armenia. The main area where the Karabakh dialect is spoken in the Armenian-controlled Nagorno-Karabakh Republic. In the Republic of Armenia, the dialect is spoken in Syunik Region by the majority of the population, except the city of Sisian and the surrounding villages, where the Yerevan dialect dominates.[3][17][18][19]

The Karabakh dialect is also spoken in northern and northeastern Armenia, but it has been influenced by the other local dialects of the Armenian. In Lori, it is spoken in the eastern part: the Pambak area.[17] In Tavush, the Karabakh dialect is spoken along with the dominant Yerevan dialect. The Chambarak area of the Gegharkunik province is home to Karabakh dialect speakers, too.[20]

Dialectal features[edit]

The Karabakh dialect is very easy to differentiate from standard Eastern Armenian due to its unique phonetics.[21] Unlike the Yerevan dialect (spoken by the majority of Armenians in the Republic of Armenia), the stress falls earlier in the word. Its speakers are "clearly recognizable."[18] Besides including a great amount of Classical Armenian words,[4][22] many word forms in the Karabakh dialect come directly from the Proto-Indo-European language.[23] The Armenian Highland had been under foreign domination (Arabic, Turkic, Persian, Russian) for centuries and the Karabakh dialect, similar to other Armenian dialects, includes a significant number of foreign words and phrases. Azerbaijani, Persian and Russian had the biggest influence on this dialect.[21][24][25]


The Karabakh dialect is among few Armenian dialects (others being Van and Khoy-urmia) with acute palatalization. Also known as palatization, palatalization refers to a way of pronouncing a consonant, in which part of the tongue is moved close to the hard palate, which softens that consonant. A consonant pronounced this way is called a palatalized consonant.

Unique sounds[edit]

The Karabakh dialect features unique vowels and consonants that make it phonetically distinct in comparison with literary Armenian language and many of other Armenian dialects. These sounds do not have corresponding letters in the Armenian alphabet.

List of unique vowels, expressed with the help of analogous Latin, Latin-derived and Cyrillic characters:

æ (ä): similar to a in English words maps, cap, or gap. Example: կեալ (meaning to come).

œ (ö): similar to oe in the word Goethe in German. Example: քըթէօլ (meaning spoon).

y (ü): similar to u English words mute or mule. Example: պիւլլիւր (meaning round).

List of unique consonants, expressed with the help of analogous Latin, Latin-derived and Cyrillic characters:

ɕ similar to Russian щ. Example: եշʲի (meaning see).

ɡʲ similar to Russian sound г with the Russian soft sign, or sound g in English word go but with the Russian soft sign. Example: կնէգʲ (meaning woman).

kʲʰ similar to Armenian sound ք or English sound q with the Russian soft sign. Example: խոխեքʲ (meaning children).


source: Armenian Wikisource: Հայերեն բարբառներ/Արցախ

Famous speakers[edit]

Kocharyan spoke Russian as a native language, while the Karabakh dialect was the only variation of Armenian he knew before moving to Yerevan in 1997.[26][27]

External media[edit]

  • Հավաքական արժեքներ - Արցախյան բարբառ [Collective Values - Artsakh dialect]. Public Radio Television of Artsakh (in Armenian) – via YouTube.
  • Armenoids - Karabagh. 2007 – via YouTube.
  • Tim De Beatz (Artyom Hakobyan) - Alo, Alo. 2011 – via YouTube.: a pop song in Karabakh dialect that became a hit in Armenia in 2011[28]


  1. ^ Adjarian 1909: the map from Adjarian's book Classification des dialectes arméniens can be seen here
  2. ^ Karapetyan, Samvel; Karapetyan, Bakur (1998). Тайны Гандзака (Кировабада) и Северного Арцаха [Secrets of Gandzak (Kirovabad) and Northern Artsakh]] (in Russian). Detskaya kniga. Из 51 диалекта армянского языка самым распространенным, по мнению лингвистов, является арцахский (карабахский) диалект.
  3. ^ a b c Manasian, Aleksandr (2002). Карабахский конфликт в ключевых понятиях и избранные темы в расширенном формате [The Karabakh conflict in key concepts and selected topics in wider format] (in Russian). p. 45. Карабахский диалект один из самых распрастраненных диалектов армянского языка. На этом диалекте говорят не только жители Нагорного Карабаха, но и большая часть населения Зангезура (Сюника) Республики Армения. Диалект имел большое воздействие на формирование бакинского говора армянского языка.
  4. ^ a b c d e f Maroutian, H. T.; Sargsian, H. G.; Kharatian, Z. V. (1989). "К этнокультурной характеристике Арцаха" [On ethno-cultural characteristic of Artsakh]. Lraber Hasarakakan Gitutyunneri (in Armenian). Yerevan: Armenian National Academy of Sciences. 6: 3–18. ISSN 0320-8117.
  5. ^ "State Power". The Office of the NKR President. Retrieved 28 April 2013. The permanent population of the NKR as of January 1, 2010 constituted 141 4000 people.
  6. ^ Badalyan, Anzhela (7 February 2011). Ղարաբաղյան սփյուռք [Karabakhi diaspora]. Armedia (in Armenian). Archived from the original on 22 March 2013.
  7. ^ Gharibian, A. (1966). Լեռնային Ղարաբաղի բարբառային քարտեզը [Dialectical map of Nagorno-Karabakh]. Patma-Banasirakan Handes (in Armenian). Yerevan: Armenian National Academy of Sciences (4): 273–276.
  8. ^ Jahoukian, G. B. (1991). Արցախահայ (Ղարաբաղի) բարբառի կազմավորման մասին [On the formation of Artsakh (Gharabagh) dialect]. Lraber Hasarakakan Gitutyunneri (in Armenian). Yerevan: Armenian National Academy of Sciences (5): 52–58. ISSN 0320-8117. Retrieved 20 March 2013.
  9. ^ Г. Б. Джаукян. Языкознание в Армении в V—XVIII вв. // История лингвистических учений. Средневековый Восток / Отв. ред. А. В. Десницкая, С. Д. Кацнельсон. — Л.: Наука, 1981. — С. 13.
  10. ^ Saideman, Stephen M.; Ayres, R. William (2008). For Kin or Country: Xenophobia, Nationalism, and War. New York: Columbia University Press. p. 81. ISBN 9780231144780. the newly created Azerbaijani army asserted its control over Karabakh, taking its then-capital city Shusha in March 1920 and killing or expelling that city's entire Armenian population
  11. ^ Adjarian 1909, p. 25.
  12. ^ a b Hannum, Hurst (1996). Autonomy, Sovereignty, and Self-Determination: The Accommodation of Conflicting Rights. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. p. 367. ISBN 9780812215724.
  13. ^ a b c Azerbaijan: Seven years of conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh. Human Rights Watch. 1994. p. xviii-1.
  14. ^
    • Hovannisian, Richard G. (1998). Remembrance and denial: the case of the Armenian genocide. Detroit: Wayne State University Press. p. 191. ISBN 9780814327777. The 200,000 Armenians living in Baku heard reports on television of the events that were transpiring in Sumgait which was only a short distance away.
    • Bolukbasi, Suha (2011). Azerbaijan: A Political History. London: I.B. Tauris. p. 134. ISBN 9781848856202. ...200,000 Armenian inhabitants of Baku...
    • Episkoposov, Grant Levonovich (1993). Armenian Problem in the Past and Today. Public Fund "Revival of Armenia". p. 39. There were no Armenian school for 250-thousand Armenian population of Baku.
  15. ^ Ehteshami, Anoushiravan (1994). From the Gulf to Central Asia: players in the new great game (1. publ. ed.). Exeter: University of Exeter Press. p. 147. ISBN 9780859894517. The Armenian population in Baku was about 250,000, coming originally from Nagorno-Karabakh, where the Armenian population was about 160,000.
  16. ^ Waal, Thomas de (2004). Black garden: Armenia and Azerbaijan through peace and war. New York: New York University Press. p. 16. ISBN 9780814719459. Large and shambling, he speaks with a stammer and, like many Baku Armenians, is more comfortable speaking Russian than Armenian.
  17. ^ a b Wright, John; Schofield, Richard; Goldenberg, Suzanne (1996). Transcaucasian Boundaries. London: Psychology Press. p. 91. ISBN 9780203214473. The spoken language of today shows a gradual change as the villages extend farther from Erevan and the Ararat valleys. The villagers of western Siunik speak the Erevan dialect, that is, standard eastern Armenian, whereas in eastern Siunik, and in parts of Lori and Pambak in northern Armenia, as well as throughout the Artsakh/Karabakh, the dialect of Karabakh is spoken.
  18. ^ a b Ammon, Ulrich (2006). Sociolinguistics. an international handbook of the science of language and society, Soziolinguistik. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter. p. 1901. ISBN 9783110199871. The dialects in the southern part of the Republic (Goris, Kapan, Meghri) and in Karabakh are very divergent from the literary language, and their speakers are clearly recognizable. All dialects now are influenced by the Eastern literary language through the schooling system and mass communications; in this respect Armenian dialects are in the same situation as in any other industrialized country.
  19. ^ Этнополитическая ситуация в России и сопредельных государствах в ... году: ежегодный доклад [Ethno-political situation in Russia and surrounding countries in the year ...: annual report] (in Russian). Ин-т этнологии и антропологии Российской академии наук. 2008. Карабахский диалект армянского языка во многом схож с диалектом армянского языка марза/области Сюник в самой Армении
  20. ^ Mezhunts, Barmik (1985). Շամշադին-Իջևանի խոսվածքի և Արարատյան ու Ղարաբաղի բարբառների փոխհարաբերությունները [The relations of Shamshadin-Ijevan with Ararat-Gharabagh dialects]. Lraber Hasarakakan Gitutyunneri (in Armenian). Yerevan: Armenian National Academy of Sciences. 6: 3–18. ISSN 0320-8117.
  21. ^ a b de Waal, Thomas (2003). Black Garden: Armenia and Azerbaijan Through Peace and War. New York: New York University Press. p. 186. ISBN 9780814719459.
  22. ^ Lavrenti, Hovhannisyan (1979). Բառային հնաբանություններ Ղարաբաղի բարբառում [Lexical archaisms in Karabakh dialect]. Lraber Hasarakakan Gitutyunneri (in Armenian). Yerevan: Armenian National Academy of Sciences. 9: 52–60. ISSN 0320-8117. Բարբառային հնաբանոլթ յոլններին (հատկապես գրաբարում չավանդված) վերջին ժամանակներս զգալի ուշադրություն է դարձվում'ւ Այդպիսիք շատ են Ղարաբաղի բարբառում է: Ղարաբաղի բարբառը հարազատորեն է պահել նաև գրաբարյան շատ երևույթներ:
  23. ^ Hovhannissian, L. Sh. (2000). Ղարաբաղի բարբառի բառապաշարի հնագույն շերտերը [Ancient layers of Karabakh dialect vocabulary]. Lraber Hasarakakan Gitutyunneri (in Armenian). Yerevan: Armenian National Academy of Sciences. 1: 117–122. ISSN 0320-8117. Ղյսրաբաղի բարբառի Հնդեւրոպական տարրերը (գրաբարում Հավանդ- • ված բառեր): կւնելով Հայերենի որպես ՚ Հնդեվրոպական լեզուներից մեկի տարածքային տարբերակը, բարբառն, անշուշտ, պահել է Հ.-ե. ծագումով բազմաթիվ բառեր՝ զգալի մասը ժառանգելով գրաբարից: Ալ. Մարգարյանի Հավաստմամբ Հ.֊ե. ծագում ունեցող 927 բառերի գրեթե կեսը կենդանի ու գործուն է Գորիսի բարբառում*: Բնականաբար, այդ թիվր մեծ կլինի Ղյսրաբաղի բարբառում նկատի առնելով Հենց միայն տարածքային գործոնը:
  24. ^ Krivopuskov, Viktor (2006). Армения, Армения...: 200 вопросов--200 ответов о стране и народе с библейских времен и до наших дней [Armenia, Armenia...: 200 questions-200 answers about the country and the people since biblical times to modern days] (in Russian). Golos-Press. Любопытно, что карабахский диалект армянского языка включает русские слова и даже целые фразы.
  25. ^ Hovhannisyan, L. Sh. (1990). Ղարաբաղի բարաբառում իրանական մի քանի փոխառությունների մասին [On some Iranian borrowings in Karabakh dialect]. Lraber Hasarakakan Gitutyunneri (in Armenian). Yerevan: Armenian National Academy of Sciences: 65–70. ISSN 0320-8117.
  26. ^ Derluguian, Georgi M. (2005). Bourdieu's Secret Admirer in the Caucasus: A World-System Biography. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press. p. 191. ISBN 9780226142821. ....he knew Russian and the Karabagh dialect of Armenian but felt uneasy speaking, let alone writing, in the literary Armenian of Yerevan.
  27. ^ Armenian Forum, Volume 2, Gomidas Institute, 1999 "...Kocharian's first languages are Russian and Gharabagh dialect..."
  28. ^ Musayelyan, Lusine (24 October 2011). Ղարաբաղյան բարբառը ֆեյսբուքյան "սուպեր հիթ" [Karabakh dialect a Facebook super hit] (in Armenian). Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Armenian Service. Archived from the original on 29 October 2013. Retrieved 14 March 2013. video