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The official language of the Republic of Artsakh is standard Eastern Armenian, spoken in the next-door Republic of Armenia. But in everyday life, most people speak Artsakhean – a unique local dialect, which is an important part of the world’s intangible cultural heritage. The importance of Artsakhean is in its antiquity: it has a strong connection with Grabar or Classical Armenian – a liturgical language of the 5th Century used today only by the Armenian Apostolic Church.
The Artsakh dialect – or Artsakhean – is an ancient Eastern Armenian dialect with a unique phonetic and syntactic structure spoken mainly in the de-facto independent Republic of Artsakh 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 also spoken by most Armenians living in Soviet Azerbaijan, particularly in the cities of Baku and Kirovabad (Ganja, Gandzak). It is also used in regions outside of the Southern Caucasus with a large number of Artsakhean resettlers: Stavropol Province of Russia and other parts of the Russian region of Northern Caucasus (e.g. Republic of Dagestan), as well as in Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. 
The dialect is considered to be one of the most widely spoken Armenian dialects. No accurate information on the number of its speakers is available but it is speculated that its active speakers may include more than half a million people.
The Artsakhean dialect includes a limited number of loan words from ancient and medieval Persian, Turkoman, and Russian. And some words and expressions in Artsakhean are thought to derive directly from the proto-Indo-European language. For instance, consider the Artsakhean word եշʲիլ, meaning to “to see.” It is in effect the same English word “see” where “s” is substituted with its voiceless equivalent “շʲ” – or “щ” that is used in Polish, Russian, Ukrainian, and other Slavic languages. It is speculated that since Artsakh was one of ancient Armenia’s easternmost provinces, it experienced a stronger Indo-Iranian influence, earlier in history, than the country’s other territories.
The first reference to the unique Artsakhean dialect is attributed to none other than Movses Khorenatsi (c. 410–490s AD) – the author of the History of Armenia, and known as the father of Armenian history. In his volume, Khorenatsi mentions the Artsakhean dialect as one of the peripheral dialects of the country. 
An important reference about the Artsakhean dialect was made in the 8th century by Bishop Stepanos Syunetsi, author of the History of the Land of Sisakan. Syunetsi’s book is dedicated to Armenia’s province of Syunik that borders on Artsakh from the west. In his work called Grammar, he writes about the dialect of զԱրցախային meaning “of-Artsakh.” In order to gain a proper knowledge of the Armenian language, Syunetsi urges his readers to familiarize themselves with dialects of peripheral lands of Armenia. He specifically mentions the dialects of Korchaik, Taik, Khut, Armenia the Fourth, Sper, Syunik, and Artsakh. 
The 14th Century scholar Esai Nchetsi (d. 1338), the rector of the University of Gladzor in Syunik, mentions the Artsakhean dialect in his commentary to Stepanos Syunetsi’s Grammar. Nchetsi stresses that Artsakhean is an Armenian dialect and not a language in its right, contextually highlighting that Artsakhean is a fairly exceptional form of Armenian speech. 
The Karabakh dialect is the only Armenian dialect 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 palatalized consonant.
Interestingly, since palatalization is used in the Russian language, Artsakhean speakers often leave the misleading impression that they speak Armenian with a strong Slavonic or Finnish accent.
There exists a somewhat wild hypothesis that palatalization was brought to Artsakh by Hungarian resettlers in the early Middle Ages, some of which apparently migrated not westward – from their original location near the Urals Mountains – but southward, entering the Caucasus region and assimilating with the local autochthonous population. It is speculated that Artsakhean toponyms such as Varanda or Varangatagh point to the once important Ugric presence in the region.
Unique Artsakhean sounds
The Artsakh dialect features unique vowels and consonants that make it phonetically distinct in comparison with literary Armenian language and the absolute majority of other dialects of Eastern and Western Armenian. 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).
ü: similar to u English words mute or mule. Example: պիւլլիւր (meaning: round, which comes from Classical Armenian).
List of unique consonants, expressed with the help of analogous Latin, Latin-derived and Cyrillic characters:
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 ь. Example: խոխեքʲ (meaning: children).
ɕ: similar to Russian щ. Example: եշʲի or եɕի (meaning: see).
- This article utilized information from Wikipedia; it was composed in Dec 2020.