Krapar & Kini

Inflection of Nouns and Adjectives
Խոնարհումն անուանց բայից եւ ածականաց

To facilitate one’s understanding of inflection in Clas­sical Armenian, let us briefly touch upon basic sentence structure in English, and compare it to that in Armenian.

In English, the meaning of a sentence is largely dependent on word order (Subject – Verb – Direct Object), with prepositions that are needed to express relationships between words. English has many prepositions, usually with narrower meanings (i.e., “to” and “from” have very different meanings). For example:

You Give today our everyday Bread to Us.
Subject Verb
(with adv.)
Direct Object
(with poss. pron. & adj.)
prep. Indirect Object

Changing the basic word order of the sentence, from “you give bread” to “bread gives you”, completely changes its meaning. Likewise, “give bread to us” has a very different meaning than “give bread from us”.

In Classical Armenian, the meaning of a sentence is largely independent of word order.1 The words themselves are often sufficient to express relationships with other words, without the need for an actual preposition. In the instances where they are necessary, Armenian prepositions usually have broader meanings (i.e., ի has a number of meanings). Compare the same sentence from the Lord’s Prayer in Armenian:

 Զհաց   մեր  հանապազորդ տո՛ւր  մեզ   այսօր:
Bread our everyday [you] give  to us  today.
Give us this day our daily bread.

Changing the basic word order of the sentence does not change its meaning:

Այսօր տո՛ւր  մեզ    զհաց   մեր  հանապազորդ:
Today [you] give  to us  bread our everyday.
Give us this day our daily bread.

Inflection is a system in which the nouns, pronouns, adjectives and participles are organized in specific categories, called “cases”, that define a word’s specific function within the grammatical structure of a sentence.

Classical Armenian has seven inflected cases:

  • Nominative
  • Accusative
  • Genitive
  • Dative
  • Locative
  • Ablative
  • Instrumental

Inflected cases can be illustrated with the following sentence in English:

The great quarterback of the Giants took the snap from the center in the 4th quarter, and threw the ball with great accuracy to the receiver of his team at the 5-yard line.

the great quarterback Nominative – Subject
of the Giants Genitive – expresses possession or origin – often “of ” – sometimes rendered as a possessive, i.e., “the Giants’ quarterback”
took verb
the snap Accusative – Direct Object
from the center Ablative – expresses separation away from something – often “from”
in the 4th quarter Locative – expresses location in space or time – often “in”, “on”, “at”
and conj.
[he] Nominative – Subject (implied)
threw verb
the ball Accusative – Direct Object
with great accuracy Instrumental – expresses how something happens – often “with”, “by”, “through” – sometimes rendered as an adverb, i.e. “accurately”
to the receiver Dative – Indirect Object – often “to”, “for”
of his team Genitive – possession, i.e., “his team’s receiver”
at the 5-yard line Locative – location

In Classical Armenian, certain inflected cases are designated using a specific suffix type appended to the root word, with singular and plural forms (see example below). Some cases have more than one suffix type, depending on the type of word (i.e., -ով and -եամբ are both instrumental singular). Some suffix types apply to more than one case (i.e., -աց can be genitive, dative or ablative, plural), with the case determined by context or with the use of a preposition.

When pronouns, adjectives or participles are used with a noun, they share the same inflected case as the noun, as well as the same number (singular or plural). For example, each of the following has the word մեծ, “great”, in a different form:

մեծ գնդա­կարկուն the great quarterback Nominative singular
մարդոց մեծաց of the Giants (“great men”) Genitive plural
ճշդութ­եամբ մեծաւ with great accuracy Instrumental singular

Inflection of personal pronouns may be confusing at times, because a pronoun’s genitive case becomes the nominative case of its corresponding possessive pronoun. For example, the nominative pronoun մեք, “we”, has the genitive form մեր, “of us”, which can be used as the possessive pronoun “our”. When մեր is used as “our”, it becomes nominative singular, and has its own inflected forms, such as the instrumental singular մերով, “with our (thing)”, the genitive plural մերոց, “of our (things)”, or the ablative singular ՚ի մերմէ, “from our (thing)”, to name a few. While this may be confusing at first, it becomes easier to understand when one remembers that the case and number of the possessive pronoun matches the case and number of the noun to which it refers.

The following line from the well-known Table Blessing contains five of the seven inflected cases:

Ճաշա­կես­ցուք խաղ­աղութ­եամբ զկեր­ա­կուրս որ պատ­րաստ­եալ2 է մեզ ՚ի Տեառնէ:

Let us eat this meal in peace, which is prepared2 for us by the Lord.

  — [we] Nominative pronoun (implied by verb person & number)
ճաշակեսցուք may eat verb (
խաղաղութեամբ with peace Instrumental noun
զկերակուրս this meal Accusative noun, with deictic “this”
որ which Nominative pronoun, corresponding to “this meal”
պատրաստեալ prepared Accusative participle from the verb պատրաստեմ
է is verb (
մեզ for us Dative of pronoun մեք, “we”
՚ի Տեառնէ from the Lord Ablative noun

It should be noted that the English rendering has three prepositions, but the Armenian has only one actual preposition ), with a meaning that is determined by the case of the following word.

Noun Inflection Example

The following is an example of the inflection of the noun իջավան (also spelled իջեվան, իջաւան, or իջեւան), which is typically rendered “inn”, “hotel” or “lodging”. It is derived from the root words էջ, “descent” or “going down”, and վան(ք), “lodging” or “dwelling” (cf. վանք, “monastery”).

Singular Plural
NOM իջավան իջավանք
ACC իջավան իջավանս
GEN իջավանի իջավանաց
DAT իջավանթի իջավանաց
LOC իջավանի իջավանս
ABL իջավանէ իջավանաց
INS իջավանաւ իջավանաւք(-օք)

It is important to note that applicable case suffixes are dependent upon the particular stem category of the noun, adjective or participle.

1 Notwithstanding word-order independence, in Clas­sical Arme­nian the accusative is often “fronted”, i.e., the accusative (direct object) component of a sentence usually preceeds the verb. In addition, word order in the Armenian Bible often matches that of the Greek Bible, from which it was translated.

2 Alternatively պարգեւեալ, “gifted (to)” or “granted (to)”.