Except where otherwise noted, all information and examples are taken from The Neo-Aramaic dialect of the Assyrian Christians of Urmi, Geoffrey Khan, 2016, supplemented by consultation of the Sureth dictionary.
Note that, due to lack of grammatical accounts written in the Syriac script, we cannot guarantee that our spellings of Neo-Aramaic words match the standard. We use Khan's phonetic transcriptions with one exception: he uses k with a caron under it to represent the "post-velar stop," but we omit the caron because he doesn't use plain k for anything else.
Parts of Speech
In Assyrian Neo-Aramaic, the root of a verb consists of three or four consonants. Different inflectional forms of the verb are formed by putting different vowels and consonants in between these root consonants.
The root of 'to cook' consists of three consonants, ܒܫܠ b-š-l. One possible form of this verb is ܒܵܫܹܠ bašəl, 'he cooks.'
ܒܫܠ<vblex><pres><p3><m><sg> ↔ ܒܵܫܹܠ
The root of 'to drag' consists of four consonants, ܓܪܓܫ ɟ-rɟ-š. One possible form of this verb is ܓܵܪܓܹܫܫܝܼ ɟarɟəšši, 'they drag.'
ܓܪܓܫ<vblex><pres><p3><pl> ↔ ܓܵܪܓܹܫܫܝܼ
Assyrian Neo-Aramaic nouns can be divided most broadly between a masculine singular paradigm with an "-a" ending, and a feminine singular paradigm with a "-ta" ending. There is a lot of variation within these two paradigms, but like Assyrian Neo-Aramaic verbs, these nouns basically consist of a series of consonants and a gender-marker ending. Inflection is limited, mainly to number and sometimes gender, while other forms like the genitive are created through annexation with the addition of a suffix (which will be described later in the morphology section).
"-A" paradigm examples
ܒܒܐ<n><m><sg> ↔ ܒܵܒܵܐ
ܒܬܐ<n><m><sg> ↔ ܒܸܬܵܐ
ܙܡܪܐ<n><m><sg> ↔ ܙܵܡܵܪܵܐ
While most nouns of this paradigm are masculine, there are several notable exceptions. These exceptions mostly describe parts of the body, locations, and small animals
ܒܪܟܐ<n><f><sg> ↔ ܒܸܪܟܵܐ
"-Ta" paradigm examples
ܡܬܐ<n><f><sg> ↔ ܡܵܬܵܐ
ܒܬܐ<n><f><sg> ↔ ܼܒܼܬܵܐ
According to Khan (2016), adjectives function similarly to nouns; in fact, most can actually serve as nouns under the right circumstances. Adjectives are inflected for gender and number (but gender is not distinguished in the plural).
The root of the word for 'hot' consists of three consonants, ܫܚܢ š-x-n. One possible surface form of this adjective is ܫܚܝܼܢܵܐ šaxina, which is masculine and singular.
ܫܚܢ<adj><m><sg> ↔ ܫܚܝܼܢܵܐ
The root of 'new' consists of two consonants, ܚܬ x-t. One possible realization of this adjective is ܚܵܬܹܐ xatə, which is marked for plural.
ܚܬ<adj><pl> ↔ ܚܵܬܹܐ
Assyrian Neo-Aramaic has a standard set of pronouns, encompassing independent personal pronouns, demonstrative pronouns, reflexive pronouns, reciprocal pronouns, and interrogative pronouns, as well as some pronominal suffixes and particles. The language distinguishes between masculine and feminine pronouns in the singular but not usually the plural, and divides its demonstrative pronouns by deixis (proximity to speaker/subject). Demonstratives are also divided into nominative demonstratives and oblique demonstratives (where the pronoun is the complement of a noun or a preposition) with the simple addition of a beginning d element. Independent personal pronouns include a polite use of the second plural form and an informal second singular form.
The independent personal pronouns are given as examples below. I did not know how to transcribe Geoffrey Khan's orthography in this case, and left his examples as-is.
Independent personal pronouns
|Second||'át, 'átən||'áxtun, 'axtóxun, 'axnóxun|
|Third||'áv (masc), 'áy (fem)||'áni|
Assyrian Neo-Aramaic does not have a rich set of adverbs, and in fact Khan tells us that there is "no productive adverbial inflectional ending that can be used freely to create adverbs from nouns or adjectives in the spoken language." While some rough trends can be seen in the set of adverbs we do have, there is not enough consistency to make a morphological rule.
Some adverbs found in Assyrian Neo-Aramaic include:
ܼܢܨܵܐ<adv> ↔ ܼܢܨܵܐ
ܼܸܨܪܵܒܐ<adv> ↔ ܼܢܨܵܐ
In general, prepositions can be attached to pronoun suffixes, full nouns, and sometimes adverbs. There are several prepositions that must be inflected with the enclitic ܬ -ət when they are combined with full nouns. On the other hand, there are some prepositions that cannot be directly combined with pronominal suffixes. Those prepositions have to be combined with the "genitive particle" ܝܝܼܝܝ diyy-, which is then inflected with the appropriate pronominal suffix.
The preposition ܐܹܠܬܹܚ ʾəltəx 'underneath' is an example of a preposition that must be inflected with the enclitic ܬ -ət when combined with a full noun.
ܐܹܠܬܹܚ<pr><enc> ↔ ܐܸܠܬܸܚܹܬ
(as in ܐܹܠܬܹܚܹܬ ܒܸܬܵ ʾəltəxət beta 'below the house')
Another example of a preposition that requires support from ܬ is ܐܘܼܠܠܘܼܠ ʾullul 'above.'
̺ܐܘܼܠܠܘܼܠ<pr><enc> ↔ ܐܘܼܠܠܘܼܠܹܬ
(as in ܐܘܼܠܠܘܼܠܹܬ ܒܸܬܵ ʾullulət beta 'below the house')
An example of preposition that must be combined with ܝܝܼܝܝ when attached to a pronoun is ܕܠܵܐ d-la 'without.'
ܕܠܵܐ<pr><gen><p3><f><sg> ↔ ܕܠܵܐ ܕܝܼܝܝܿܐ
d-la diyyo 'without her'
S-suffixes: Default Form
"S-suffixes" is the name that Khan (2016) gives to the set of suffixes that attach to the present tense form of verbs. These suffixes encode the person, gender, and number of the verb's subject. There are two paradigms of S-suffixes. The "default" paradigm discussed in this section is used by all speakers.
The verbal root ܦܬܚ p-t-x 'to open' is inflected in the following ways in the present tense.
ܦܬܚ<vblex><pres><p3><m><sg> ↔ ܦܵܬܹܚ
pátəx 'he opens'
ܦܬܚ<vblex><pres><p3><f><sg> ↔ ܦܵܬܚܵܐ
pátxa 'she opens'
ܦܬܚ<vblex><pres><p3><pl> ↔ ܦܵܬܚܝܼ
pátxi 'they open'
ܦܬܚ<vblex><pres><p2><m><sg> ↔ ܦܵܬܚܹܬ
pátxət 'you (m.) open'
ܦܬܚ<vblex><pres><p2><f><sg> ↔ ܦܵܬܚܵܐ
pátxa 'you (f.) open'
ܦܬܚ<vblex><pres><p2><pl> ↔ ܦܵܬܚܼܬܼܢ
patxítun 'you (pl.) open'
ܦܬܚ<vblex><pres><p1><m><sg> ↔ ܦܵܬܚܹܢ
pátxən 'I (m.) open'
ܦܬܚ<vblex><pres><p1><f><sg> ↔ ܦܵܬܚܵܢ
pátxan 'I (f.) open'
ܦܬܚ<vblex><pres><p1><pl> ↔ ܦܵܬܚܵܚ
pátxax 'we open'
S-suffixes: Long Form
In addition to the "default form" paradigm of S-suffixes described above, there is also a "long form" paradigm used "optionally" by some populations on the Urmi plain and in the Caucasus.
ܦܬܚ<vblex><pres><p3><m><sg> ↔ ܦܵܬܹܚܢܝܼ
ܦܬܚ<vblex><pres><p3><f><sg> ↔ ܦܵܬܚܵܢܝܼ
ܦܬܚ<vblex><pres><p3><pl> ↔ ܦܵܬܚܝܼܢܝܼ
ܦܬܚ<vblex><pres><p2><m><sg> ↔ ܦܵܬܚܝܼܬܹܢ
ܦܬܚ<vblex><pres><p2><f><sg> ↔ ܦܵܬܚܵܬܹܢ
ܦܬܚ<vblex><pres><p2><pl> ↔ ܦܵܬܚܼܬܼܢ
ܦܬܚ<vblex><pres><p1><m><sg> ↔ ܦܵܬܚܝܼܢܵ
ܦܬܚ<vblex><pres><p1><f><sg> ↔ ܦܵܬܚܵܢܢܵ
ܦܬܚ<vblex><pres><p1><pl> ↔ ܦܵܬܚܵܚܹܢ
"L-suffixes" are the set of suffixes that attach to verbs in the past tense form. Like the S-suffixes, they encode the person, gender, and number of the grammatical subject.
ܦܬܚ<vblex><past><p3><m><sg> ↔ ܦܬܹܚܠܹܐ
ptə́x-lə 'he opened'
ܦܬܚ<vblex><past><p3><f><sg> ↔ ܦܬܹܚܠܵܐ
ptə́x-la 'she opened'
ܦܬܚ<vblex><past><p3><pl> ↔ ܦܬܹܚܠܘܼܢ
ptə́x-lun 'they opened'
ܦܬܚ<vblex><past><p2><m><sg> ↔ ܦܬܹܚܠܘܼܚ
ptə́x-lux 'you (m.) opened'
ܦܬܚ<vblex><past><p2><f><sg> ↔ ܦܬܹܚܠܵܚ
ptə́x-lax 'you (f.) opened'
ܦܬܚ<vblex><past><p2><pl> ↔ ܦܬܹܚܠܿܚܘܼܢ
ptə́x-loxun 'you (pl.) opened'
ܦܬܚ<vblex><past><p1><sg> ↔ ܦܬܹܚܠܝܼ
ptə́x-li 'I opened'
ܦܬܚ<vblex><past><p1><pl> ↔ ܦܬܹܚܠܵܢ
ptə́x-lan 'we opened'
The particle ܟܝܼ ci- can be prefixed to inflected verbs of the present tense form (i.e., verbs with the S-suffixes documented above) to describe a habitual action. We will use the tag
<hab> to denote habituality.
ܦܬܚ<vblex><pres><p3><m><sg><hab> ↔ ܟܝܼܦܵܬܹܚ
ci-patəx 'he opens (hab.)'
ܡܕܡܚ<vblex><pres><p3><m><sg> ↔ ܡܵܕܡܹܚ
ci-madməx 'he puts to sleep (hab.)'
ܐܵܬܹܐ<vblex><pres><p3><m><sg> ↔ ܟܝܼܐܵܬܹܐ
ci-ʾatə 'he comes (hab.)' (may be contracted to c-atə in fast speech)
To express future actions, the prefix ܒܹܬ bət- can be added to inflected verbs in the present tense form (historically, this prefix came from the verb "to want").
ܦܬܚ<vblex><fut><p3><m><sg> ↔ ܒܹܬܦܵܬܹܚ
bət-pátəx 'he will open'
ܐܵܬܹܐ<vblex><fut><p3><m><sg> ↔ ܒܹܬܐܵܬܹܐ
bət-ʾátə 'he will come'
ܐܵܬܹܐ<vblex><fut><p3><m><sg> ↔ ܒܹܬܩܵܛܹܠ
bət-kaṱəl 'he will kill'
Plural nouns are most often formed in Assyrian Neo-Aramaic by altering the -a and -ta ending of a noun. Unfortunately, there are too many plural forms to illustrate any one-to-one correspondence between singular inflections and plural inflections, but we've included the most common plural forms and some examples of other plural endings.
Plural ending '-ə'
ܡܠܟܐ<n><m><pl> ↔ ܡܵܠܵܟܸܐܸ
malca 'king' ↔ malcə 'kings'
ܬܪܐ<n><m><pl> ↔ ܬܿܪܸܐܸ
tora 'ox' ↔ torə 'oxen'
ܣܕܐ<n><m><pl> ↔ ܣܵܕܸܐܸ
sada 'witness' ↔ sadə 'witnesses'
ܒܹܥܬܵܐ <n><f><pl> ↔ ܒܸܥܹ̈ܐ
bita 'egg' ↔ biyyə 'eggs'
These endings show a similar pattern to the '-ə' ending, with some intervening consonants. It seems they serve a phonetic purpose but Khan doesn't offer any morphological explanation.