Notes on Syriac Grammar

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Notes on Syriac Grammar

Syriac grammar seems to be rather simpler than for Latin. (Add more when I learn more). These notes merely reflect some casual reading in the grammars. I have found that you need at least three, since all of them drop into gibberish on one point or another; but the real answer may be found in one of the others.


Nouns and Adjectives do not decline. They change by number (singular and plural), gender (masculine or feminine), and 'state' (emphatic, absolute, and construct).

Number and gender are as in Latin.

'State' is peculiar to Aramaic. 'Emphatic' has no connection with emphasis.

In Aramaic, the nouns have two forms, depending on whether they indicate (e.g.) "the dog" or "a dog". These forms are given the jargon-terms 'emphatic' ("the dog") and 'absolute' ("dog" / "a dog"). But in Syriac this use of the absolute has been abandoned, and the emphatic includes both. The absolute form is therefore only a relic, used only in two residual cases:
  1. With numbers, or adjectives indicating a quantity: "six dogs", "every dog", "no dog".
  2. To indicate "the king is good" as different to "the good king". In the former case the adjective is in the absolute, and comes before the noun (in the latter both are in the emphatic, and the adjective comes after the noun).
The difference between the absolute form and the emphatic is often only a trailing alaph.
The construct form is used like a genetive, when one noun in construct precedes another in emphatic (like romanorum imperator - GEN+NOM). But genetive is normally handled by prefixing the noun with a dalat (d-).

(How do they do direct object/indirect object?)


The terminology applied to bits of verbs in Syriac uses the same words found in Latin, and applies them to different things. (One can only presume that some early Syriacologist was dropped on the head as a child).

Tenses are the same idea as in Latin, but named funny, and only a few of them.

Voices in Syriac (active, passive, etc) are called 'conjugations' (what a stupid, stupid idea). They're different to those in Latin and English.

The type of verb (which would be called a conjugation in Latin) has no name, but is named after various example verbs.


Verbs have only perfect tense and imperfect tense, plus a rash of participles and infinitives.

'perfect' tense = actually any 'past' tense.
'imperfect' tense = actually a 'future' tense. (Which drongo thought that one up?)

If you need to say something in the present tense, use a participle. (how?)

'Conjugations' (=voices)

What the grammar calls a 'conjugation' is actually a voice. There are 6 of them, including the active and passive. (list them: stuff on ethpeal, etc, and REAL transcription of them)

Types of verb (which would be called conjugations in Latin)

...several of these, strong and weak ...