That is when I began to question where and when this phonetic corruption had started. I wish someone would seriously research.
I don't know how much of this is true and accurate, but this is what I have read:
Written Armenian used to be only "Grabar" until very recently, that is, 18th Century, and spoken Armenian was composed of a multitude of local dialects, often unintelligible from one region to the other. Armenians from different regions could not communicate with each other in Armenian, and used either Turkish, Arabic, Farsi or Russian. Some didn't even speak Armenian at all, but the foreign language of their closest neighbors.
When the persecutions against Armenians became more intense, a stronger sense of nationality was awakened and the need for a uniform contemporary language became apparent. People began to work on that in several places.
The Constantinople School (Istanbul) began gathering linguistic materials from the Western areas of Anatolia and systematized something that eventually evolved into what we know today as Western Armenian, hence the name "Turkish-Armenian." This happened approximately in the late 18th and early 19th Centuries.
At the same time similar efforts were carried on in Tiflis (Tbilisi), Georgia, and St. Petersburg (Leningrad), Russia, with the dialects of the Ararat region and surrounding areas. Eventually, the Leningrad School came up with what we know today as Eastern Armenian, hence the name "Russian-Armenian." Since the language spoken in the regions that comprise Armenia was more similar to the Leningrad variety, that was adopted as the official language of the country. The Tbilisi school also made great contributions to the systematics of the Eastern Armenian.
It is interesting that the main impetus behind Modern Armenian was not from Erevan, but from Leningrad and Tbilisi for the Eastern language and from Istanbul for the Western language. That means both languages, Eastern and Western, are somewhat artificial and diasporic.
This is the reason why all the literature in Modern Armenian starts in the 18th Century. Before that, everything was in Grabar.
So to answer your question, on one hand, this phonetic corruption started with the persecution that caused the Armenians to lose their language and a new language was made up afterward, or rather two new languages, Eastern and Western; but on the other hand, the local dialects all over Armenia, Russia, Persia and Turkey were so different from each other, that there was no right and wrong way to pronounce things. Of course, I agree with you in that the original pronunciation was closer to the Greek and Latin, but I don't think there was a way to prevent the local changes of the sounds. My grandmother, who was from a little Armenian-speaking village at only 60 km from Istanbul, used to pronounce many words differently, more in line with the original sounds than with Modern Armenian, and I learned to pronounce them like her when I was little.
I don't know how much we can blame the authors of these changes or corruptions of sounds, because they were some of the greatest writers and poets that existed in the Armenian language, and they gave us a language where there wasn't one. Remember that most people in Istanbul and the whole Western Anatolia didn't speak Armenian, but Turkish, and those who were able to go abroad to study, spoke French, German, Italian and English. It was very difficult for them to start speaking Armenian. And many on the Eastern side didn't speak Armenian either, but Russian, Farsi and Arabic.
I hope I didn't make many factual errors, but as I said earlier, this is what I read. I have no way of proving or disproving the accuracy of this information.
Edited by Sarkis11, 21 June 2010 - 12:32 AM.