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I'm living in an area of Tbilisi Georgia that is traditionally the ethnic Armenian area. I would like to take the opportunity to listen to people in the street to detect whether anybody is speaking Armenian.

From an English speaker's perspective the phonology of Georgian and Armenian are very similar, they both have ejective consonants for instance. Other than some words borrowed from each other or from common sources though, the languages are totally unrelated.

I have been developing a feeling for Georgian as I try to learn it but I'm not at all proficient yet. I also spent a few days in Armenia last year and learned a few words but not enough to have any feeling for the language.

So are there some sounds, morphemes, common words, or intonation clues that I can listen for to know when somebody is speaking Armenian rather than Georgian?

(For instance, I used to have the same problem with Japanese and Korean but now the easiest thing is to listen for lots of "-yo" endings for Korean and lots of "-masu" endings for Japanese.)

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    Clarify question for linguistic bent? Asking about the differences between Georgian and Armenian whole-cloth might be too broad to give you useful answers; otherwise the best I can do is advise you to look up the two languages, learn some common words, and go from there. :)
    – user325
    Dec 17 '11 at 21:08
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    Apart from really wanting to know this, I'm also testing the boundaries of how far this site goes into the territory of questions about language and languages generally, considering what I consider quite a few accepted questions here not seeming linguistic in nature to me, and the worry on meta that we need more questions. Dec 17 '11 at 21:11
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    I think the "linguistic bent" is that I'm looking for acoustic signatures, not say typology or etymology or language family things. Which sounds stand out most as being common in Armenian that are not common or do not exist in Georgian? Where "sound" can be anything from "phone"-"phoneme"-"morpheme"-"intonation". But sounds too alien to English might not help. I'm sure there are objective answers to this if I know what to look for. Dec 17 '11 at 21:15
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The two languages have a similar set of sounds, and both have even intonation. But:

  • Armenian has two r, one of which is soft, Georgian r is always the hard one.

  • Armenian has k and q but no .

  • Georgian words often end in -o, in Armenian it is rare at the end of a word or sentence, other than nicknames.

  • Certain vowel combinations like -au- and -eu- are uncommon in Armenian.

  • Certain stop words, function words and elements like -bili or -uli or -utyun or -akan are specific to Georgian or Armenian.

  • The rhythm is noticeably different.

We can be more specific, but every dialect sounds a bit different, and in Georgia both Eastern and Western dialects are spoken.

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You may distinguish Armenian by two types of R used in a phrase (provided its sound sequence is long enough): there are trilled /r/ ռ = ṙ (similar to Spanish, Swedish or German phoneme) and tapped /ɾ/ ր = r, which is more like English phoneme.

Georgian, on the other hand, uses the rhotic r/რ, which is more like Russian.

The melos of speech also differs in two languages, but I cannot explain it verbally.

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    'melos'? I haven't heard that word before, except as a Greek island; is it English? Apr 7 '13 at 3:28
  • @Gaston Ümlaut may be he means melodicity?
    – Anixx
    Apr 7 '13 at 5:17
  • Maybe "melos" means "prosody"? Apr 7 '13 at 9:07
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    "Similar to .... German"??
    – fdb
    Feb 4 '15 at 14:37
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Armenian (at least Western Armenian) seems to place stress mainly on the final syllable. From the little I've read about Georgian, it seems to prefer penultimate stress. Overall, Armenian sounds much more "lilting" when spoken than the Georgian I've heard in various video clips (and more lilting than standard English, for that matter).

Also, I think that Georgian has far more words that start with consonant clusters (CC-, CCC-) than Armenian does. Armenian tends -- again, based on the Western Armenian I've heard -- to break up initial consonant clusters with a schwa vowel. For example, տխուր "sad" is spelled as if pronounced [dxur], but is actually pronounced [dəxur], and գծել "to draw (a picture, etc.)" looks as though it would be pronounced [kdzel], but is in fact pronounced [kədzel].

One other thing: you will probably hear a lot of words ending in -ner from Armenian speakers, as it is the plural suffix for nouns, perhaps the most common suffix overall.

(I know that the question is over 3 years old, but I thought I would answer anyway.)

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  • Actually I believed Georgian had pretty weak stress but what it does have is on the final syllable if anything. Also if you ask non-native speakers they tend to think there are schwas within consonant clusters in Georgian too though Georgians might not feel there are. To me this seems pretty common in the unfamiliar consonant clusters of unfamiliar languages, I'm picking up on it right now with Khmer. -ner is definitely not a common ending that I can recall in Georgian though. Feb 4 '15 at 15:56
  • Compare this recording of Armenian թխել [təxel] ("to bake") -- forvo.com/word/թխել -- with this recording of Georgian ცხენი [tsxen] ("horse") -- forvo.com/word/ცხენი. There is a very distinct schwa in the first word that is lacking in the second. (Hopefully the Armenian and Georgian characters in those links are displaying properly -- I had a bit of trouble pasting them here.)
    – user8017
    Feb 4 '15 at 16:27
  • The characters are fine but the links are broken ... Feb 4 '15 at 16:30
  • There should be a forward slash "/" before the Armenian and Georgian words in those links, but for some reason the slashes were automatically deleted when I posted.
    – user8017
    Feb 4 '15 at 16:31
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    Thanks, I wasn't sure what you meant by "this" when you said "use this" in your earlier post. :)
    – user8017
    Feb 5 '15 at 1:36
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Well, I am trying to learn Georgian and Armenian also, and I think just some Eastern Armenian dialects have ejective consonants. As far as I know Stardard Eastern Armenian has a three way opposition concerning its plosives and affricates, plain voiceless, aspirated voiceless and voiced.

Maybe you should hear some Armenian audios to get used with the differences, the intonation for example, and the stress in Armenian is on the last syllable. Reading some vocabulary will make you get a "feeling" too.

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  • Oddly, there seems to be disagreement out there on whether Armenian has ejectives or not. They're not in the basic Armenian language articles on Wikipedia but a comment on one of the talk page credibly states standard Yerevan Armenian does have them: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talk%3AEjective_consonant#Armenian Apr 7 '13 at 9:16
  • Georgian also has voiceless, aspirated voiceless and voiced :P
    – shabunc
    Jan 16 at 23:04
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    @hippietrail this claim was always surprising for me (as for someone who does speak Yerevan dialect and have very hard times with pronouncing ejective consonants in whatever language they do actually exist )
    – shabunc
    Jan 16 at 23:06

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