In general, the morphology (
syntax or linguistic typology) of a language is similar to a road map. Syntax and Linguistic Typology provide the basis of the combinatory behavior of words that are governed to a first approximation by their part of speech (nouns, verbs, adjectives, etc.), a categorization that goes back to the tradition of the Greek grammarian Dionysios of Thrax whose works were already well known in the Armenian highland as of first century BC.

This overview is intended as an introduction in order to underline the particularities of the language and highlight the importance of the inflections in Armenian grammar (declension of the nouns, conjugation of the verbs, etc.).

A. Syntax

In linguistics,
Syntax (Greek, syn, with + taxis, arrangement) is the part of grammar which deals with the order, arrangement, and the relations of the words in a sentence or a phrase.

Although modern linguistic research into natural syntax attempts to systematize descriptive grammar, Armenian syntax defies the many theories (theories that have in time risen or fallen in influence) of
formal syntax. A modern approach to combining accurate descriptions of the grammatical patterns of a language with their function in context is that of systemic functional grammar, an approach originally developed by Michael A.K. Halliday in the 1960s and now pursued actively by linguists on all continents. "Colorless green ideas sleep furiously" is a phrase composed by Noam Chomsky in 1957 as an example of a sentence that is grammatically correct in terms of syntax but whose meaning is nonsensical. However, this phrase was used by Chomsky to demonstrate the inadequacy of the then-popular probabilistic models of grammar, and the need for more structured models.

We can almost state with a certain degree of certitude that Armenian language is not concerned with the grammatical debate on Syntax or the formulation of the different theories on the subject since the well structured inflections of the words in Armenian grammar provide a flexibility that endows the language with a depth of expression that is not restrained by the grammatical rules or principles of syntax and the variations in an Armenian phrase are often a matter of emphasis on one of the elements in a phrase (i.e., the action/verb, the subject of the verb or its object) or style of writing rather than a grammatical imperative.

Although it is tempting to use the phrase by Chomsky "
Colorless green ideas sleep furiously" as an example to underline the flexibility of an Armenian phrase, it may be more appropriate perhaps to use a common and “sensical” phrase:

I want to eat the red apple

Without the addition of any other words to the English language phrase, there is only one grammatically accurate way to express the desire of wanting to eat a red apple. Yet, if one is to assign the task of translating this expression into a grammatically correct Armenian, we may end up having the following choices:


It has to be noted that all the expressions in the Armenian sentences are grammatically accurate and no poetic license is applied in their composition. Obviously, there are perfect grammatical explanations to elucidate the flexibility of the Armenian syntax. To cite just a few:

1- The distinctive ending of each case of the conjugation of the verbs in Armenian allows the separation of the stem of the verb from the subject and the insertion of other parts of the components of the phrase between the subject and the verb. while it is not possible to do so in English.
2- The
Accusative case of the word apple offers the possibility of placing this word almost anywhere in the phrase since the case of the declension clearly defines the role of the word as the object of the verb.
3- It is also possible to reverse the order of
I want to eat (I to eat want) in Armenian since there is no grammatical obstacle to do so. The permutation of the conjugated part of the verbs (I want) and the infinite form (to eat) are not restrained by any rule of syntax or grammar.

B. Typology of Armenian Phrases:

Armenian is considered an SOV type language. In other words,
Subject-Object-Verb (SOV) is the type of languages in which the subject, object, and verb of a sentence appear (usually) in that order:


If English were SOV, then "The swallow nest builds" would be an ordinary sentence. However, there is nothing dogmatic about this rule. It is also accurate to reformulate this sentence and write:


Yet, it is accurate to state that Armenian is SOV type language since this type of languages have also other characteristics that distinguish them from members of other families:

1- SOV languages have a strong tendency to use postpositions rather than prepositions.
2- To place genitive nouns* before the possessed noun:
3- Within Eurasian SOV languages, adjectives are often placed before the nouns they modify:

C. Agglutination:

agglutinative language is a language in which derivative words are formed by joining morphemes together. This term was introduced by W. von Humboldt in 1836 to classify languages from a morphological point of view. The word agglutinative is derived from the Latin verb agglutinare, which means "to glue together."

An agglutinative language is a form of language where each affix (prefix or suffix) typically represents one unit of meaning (such as "diminutive," "past tense," "plural," etc.), and bound morphemes are expressed by affixes (and not by internal changes of the root of the word, or changes in stress or tone). Besides, and most importantly, in an agglutinative language affixes do not become fused with others, and do not change form conditioned by others.

Agglutinative languages tend to have a high rate of affixes/morphemes per word, and to be very regular. For example, Japanese has only three irregular verbs (and not
very irregular), Nahuatl only two. Armenian is an exception; not only because it is highly agglutinative (there can be simultaneously up to 8 morphemes per word), but there are also a significant number of irregular verbs, varying in degrees of irregularity.

An example of an agglutinative word can be the following dialogue:


* * * * * * *

After reviewing some of the morphological basics of Armenian grammar, it is perhaps important to note that none of the characteristics described above bear any hints of influence from Classical Greek or Old Persian grammar. Amazingly, these characteristics reflect many of the features of the extinct languages that were spoken within the region, until recently known as the Armenian Plateau (currently designated as Anatolia) and its immediate surroundings. The
Hurro-Urartian languages (circa 2000-580 BC) were agglutinative languages, but they definitely did not belong to the Semitic or Indo-European language families. Scholars such as I.M. Diakanoff and Segei Starostin see affinities between Hurro-Urartian and the Northern Caucasian languages, yet, there is little evidence for a relationship of Hurro-Urartian to other language families and this view, prudently, is not shared by serious linguists who consider Hurro-Urartian as an independent family at present.

Today, studies demonstrate that there is evidence of a strong Hurrian cultural and linguistic influence on
Hittite in ancient times. Consequently, one can easily conclude that together with Summerian, Elamite, Hattic or Urartian languages, Armenian grammar inherited some its grammatical and lexical elements from the languages that have seen their political and military rise and fall throughout the ages. Astoundingly, Armenian language seems to be the only survivor as well as the only link to these extinct languages and civilizations.