Vardan Z. Petrosyan
Similar to historical-comparative Armenological Studies, the linguistic tradition of other Old Indo-European languages possessing x (kh) (Iranian and German old languages, Hittite, Old Greek, Old Slavonic, Lithuanian, etc.) maintain that the phoneme has developed from the Indo- European aspirated voiceless (*kh) (in our opinion, it derives from *kh, one of the two major positional variants of the IE aspirated voiceless backlingual phoneme K[/h]).
It is worth mentioning that 1) this is one of the few instances when a single IE prototype is restored for a certain phoneme (in this case – x (kh) in Armenian and other languages, 2) Based on the well-accepted “consonant movement” in classical typology, i.e., according to the standard phonemic transitions both in Armenian and in other languages, the phoneme could not have developed into x (kh). Instead, it should have developed into (k’) since the IE category of aspirated voiceless sounds could not have undergone any changes, i.e., no “movement” could have taken place, which we witness in the case of labial and dental phonemes (comp. ph > (p), *th > (t)). However, the fact that the k > x (kh) transition is typical of not only IE languages, but rather is of general linguistic, more precisely, a typological nature (the phonemic transitions from back-lingual voiceless occlusives (q / / / k), fricatives into Armenian (x) in the Armenian borrowings from non IE languages like Semitic and Caucasian can prove the idea stated). This comes to confirm the high probability of the transition from the IE *kh to Armenian (x), on the one hand, and of the original phonetic, rather than phonemic nature of this change, on the other hand.
Following one of the most probable explanations, the transition from the back-lingual voiceless occlusive kh to the back-lingual voiceless fricative (x) could have been possible due to the opening of a narrow passage rather than an explosion of the glottis, which is specific to the pronunciation of occlusives (A. Meillet).
However, we hold the opinion that the explanation could be more complete if we acknowledged the importance of the common and no less important feature necessary for the articulation of all the above mentioned phonemes – their back-lingual position.