The overall syntax of Anbirese resembles that of Irish or Biblical Hebrew. Syntax is particularly rich in non-finite subordinate clause constructions, which may be used when English uses subordinate clauses with finite verbs.
- 1 Constituent order
- 2 Noun phrase
- 3 Verb phrase
- 4 Sentence phrase
- 5 Dependent clauses
Anbirese is almost completely head-initial, except for compound words which are head-final. The constituent order is VSO. Background information (usually in the order time-manner-place) and question words may be placed before the verb (unlike in Irish), after the subject, or after the direct object. However, no constituent may come between the verb and the subject.
- Þjeon ael skidneo ljeonneo?
/ɕɔ̀n‿ɛw skìdnə jɔ̀nə/
why love/PRES 2SG-EMPH ACC-1SG-EMPH
Why do *you* love *me*?
Adjectives always follow their head nouns.
- n skradeui flum
- the black spider
Possessive noun phrases
In possessive noun phrases the possessed noun uses the construct form, and the possessor (indefinite or definite) is placed after it. For pronominal possessors, the disjunctive pronoun is used.
Negation and other preverbs
- interrogative: is-N
- negative: θri-L
- prohibitive: ta-L
Similar to the infinitive absolute in Biblical Hebrew, [bare infinitive] + a + [finite verb] + SUBJECT [lit. it is a VERBing that SUBJECT VERBs] is an emphatic construction meaning 'surely/indeed VERBs; VERBs anyway'. The conjunct/imperative form is used for the finite verb instead of the absolute.
- Flis subdeor a subdeoram ljeoz djeo padleo.
- but send.BARE_INF A send-1PL.EXC ACC-it anyway
- But we're going to send it anyway.
The infinitive absolute is much more common in Anbirese than in Skellan, where it is a bit literary.
Circumstantial verbs are formed with djeo + VN:
- Xjerin hu djeo sngima eok moela = 'He entered praising and thanking'
Accusative with infinitive
The accusative particle ljeo can be used to introduce the subject of a dependent clause. The verb of the dependent clause is preceded by the particle e 'to'.
- Na tognig ljeo mród aeb slang aeb Inθár.
- 1SG think-PRES ACC apple-PL INF good to Inθar.
- I think Inθar likes apples.
Anbirese is zero-copula, like Hebrew. A predicate adjective is placed before the subject, and the copula pronoun is used.
When the subject is a definite noun, the pronoun is not mandatory with predicative adjectives:
- Ard hi n ȝámeon.
- /aɾd çi n ɣámən/
- The woman is tall.
- Ard hi.
- /aɾd çi/
- She is tall.
Predicate adjectives are negated by placing θjeor(-L) in front of the adjective:
- Θjeor on na lu xvin θjeor bjoleoct hu.
- /ɕɔɾ un na lü xwin ɕɔɾ bjuwɔkt hü/
The construction lid + subject + djeo + adjective may also be used in literary writing.
On the other hand, a predicate noun has the "logical subject" placed after the preposition djeo + pronoun.
- Sjeoθma dju xeozir.
- A flower is a plant.
- Sjeoθma dju.
- It's a plant. (lit. A plant is in it.)
Predicate nouns are negated by placing djer 'there is no' in front of the predicate noun.
Predicative locatives use the copula lid, which is negated to jeol.
Lid na djeon svar. = 'I'm in the house.'
Lid eo nghéozir aemna. = 'The flowers are mine.'
Existential sentences also use laidh:
- Lid mrót.
- be-PRES.ANA apple
- There's an apple.
(There's an apple there = Lid mrót dju.)
"X has" uses a similar construction to existentials:
- Ljeona sob.
- to-1SG dog
- I have a dog. (lit. To me is a dog.)
- eor + X = "X must/has to" (lit. it is on X)
- oez go + X = "X may"/"it is permissible for X" (lit. it goes through with X)
- kjel + X = "X wants" (lit. it is away from X)
- aeb + X + sjéorn = "X needs" (lit. X has a need)
Who- and what-questions use cleft constructions, using the interrogative in conjunction with a relative clause describing it.
- Θva (n) forχ eo svas? = Who feeds the man? (lit. Who is it that feeds...)
- Θva rjeo vforχ eo svas? = Whom does the man feed?
In the preterite:
- Θva rjeo vforχin um eo svas? = Who fed the man?
- Θva rjeo vforχin u n svas? = Whom did the man feed?
- eok: 'and'
- su: 'or'
- ju = nor
- son: 'but'
- rjeo: 'that (relative clause)'
- rinjeo: negative form of ri
- va: 'that (complement clause)'
- χvin: because
- djer: when
- χvart = then
Answers to yes-no questions
Anbirese does not have a word for 'yes'; instead, the verb is repeated. The word for 'no' is θjeor.
Wishes can be formed by using θumi (< Tigol tuaḃ mít 'who will grant') before a verb in the non-past tense.
Anbirese makes a distinction between restrictive and non-restrictive relative clauses.
The relativizer rjeoN, rjeon (negative rinjeo) is used for restrictive relative clauses. A resumptive pronoun may be used when the head is not the subject of the relative clause, and is mandatory when the head is a prepositional object or a possessor. For clarity, the emphatic clitic -neo may be added to the resumptive pronoun, especially in formal registers.
Verbs in relative clauses may be placed anywhere within the relative clause, subject to the constraint that the verb and (syntactic) subject may not be separated unless the head of the relative clause is the subject. If the head of the relative clause is its subject, then the appropriate participial form of the verb is mutated or inflected like an adjective. Otherwise, the relativizer rjeo-N is used.
- eo ljést n tozneui kvial
- the spirit that endures suffering (lit. the spirit enduring suffering)
- eo ljést rjeo zlaez hi (li(neo))
- the spirit that she shows
- eo ljést rjeo nhrae hi di(neo)
- the spirit she believes in (lit. the spirit that she believes in it)
In the past tense, a participle modifying the head as an adjective puts the head into a patient role in the relative clause (by split ergativity). Hence, agents of a transitive verb must use the preposition u plus a resumptive pronoun.
- Goli n slán (rjeon) éorngin una stang.
- The number I got was 6.
In poetry, verbs in rjeo-clauses may appear in any position after the rjeo.
A non-restrictive relative clause is marked with a pause (rendered as a dash "–") before the relative clause -- no conjunction is used.
Nominalized relative clauses use kvar 'those':
- kvar eo mimó ú
- those who misuse it
There are two ways of forming time clauses.
The first construction is a clause introduced with a time conjunction such as (djer = 'when') and using a finite verb form (i.e. the verb form is used with a subject).
The second construction is a clause introduced with a preposition (such as ar = 'upon') followed by the verbal noun which may take a possessive prefix for the subject. Thus the non-finite time clause marks aspect or tense relative to the tense of the main clause rather than absolute tense. Non-finite time clauses are considered a little more literary than finite time clauses.
An example with djeo 'at':
- djeo h-argjeoran na ar eo lóegu'm
- at keep_watch.IPFV-1SG 1SG on DEF stuff-3SG.M 3SG.M
- when I was keeping watch on his things
In Modern Anbirese, infinitives or verbal nouns go to the end of the clause for common constructions, like modal constructions (e.g. want, need, must, may).
For emphasizing the object, "want/need/etc. an X to Y", a resumptive pronoun can be used after the verbal noun. (Alternatively the emphatic clitic -nna can be used on X.)
- Geilin tánna le cháil ú!
- from-1SG something to eat.VN 3SG.M-DEP
- I want something to eat!
- Tir hairŋín lion ú le áichir.
- I didn't succeed in finding it.
The infinitive-final order arose from constructions corresponding to modal verbs in English: originally the order was something similar to *Aran gnúi enŋ ("on-1SG drink.VN water"), then Aran enŋ le ghnúi (originally "I want water to drink") became more common, eventually to the exclusion of the original construction, which is archaic or high-register today for common modal expressions.
Use 'take' or 'get' + VN
In normal registers, syntactic pivoting (the practice of omitting a subject entirely in a clause when the previous clause has it as a subject, e.g. He will take my gift and go would be translated as Þobtjeo hu eo mid rjeona eok teortjeo hu.) is disallowed for verbs: a pronoun can be used as a subject in the following clause if the previous clause has its antecedent as its subject. However, it is used for adjectives: "Dark am I yet beautiful" can be translated as Moct na, a sumeon.