A Tour of Greek Morphology: Part 3

Part three of a tour through Greek inflectional morphology to help get students thinking more systematically about the word forms they see (and maybe teach a bit of general linguistics along the way).

In the first two parts (part one and part two), we looked at the present indicative forms of λύω.

I want to now add the infinitives, λύειν (for the active) and λύεσθαι (for the middle).

So we now have:

2SGλύειςλύῃ or λύει

Adding the infinitives does make certain commonalities jump out even more: all the ‘ει’ in the active and both the ‘αι’ and ‘(σ)θ’ in the middle.

But one of the big questions to address next is: does any of this have anything to do with the present indicative (and infinitive) forms of any other words besides λύω?

Fortunately (otherwise it might not have been the best of starting places) it does. In the MorphGNT, there are 645 distinct lexemes appearing in the present indicative and 383 of them follow exactly the same pattern as λύω above including the accentuation.

In the present active indicative, there are 10 verbs that exhibit all six cells in the paradigm: θέλω, ἀκούω, λέγω, μένω, λαμβάνω, γινώσκω, πιστεύω, μέλλω, ἔχω, βλέπω (note that λύω is not, in fact, among them).

In the middle, there are no words filling all six cells in the MorphGNT but there are five verbs that fill five of the cells: βούλομαι, λογίζομαι, ἔρχομαι, ἐργάζομαι, προσεύχομαι.

But allowing for the missing cells, 271 lexemes follow this active pattern in the present indicative and 160 lexemes follow this middle pattern (with overlap in the case of lexemes that have both active and middle forms):

2SGXειςXῃ or Xει

The accent is recessive in every case so will be an acute on the right-most syllable of X in every case but Xόμεθα where the law of limitation means the accent can’t go back as far as X. I could skip accents altogether but they’ll turn out to be very important in the next few posts so it’s actually helpful to include them in this template where they fall on the distinguisher (the part other than the X that varies from cell to cell). And note that if the distinguisher doesn’t have an accent in the template it’s because it doesn’t have the accent in the full form.

I’m going to call the active and middle pattern above PA-1 and PM-1 respectively.

We must avoid the temptation to talk of stems at this point. Even though X above does correspond to what’s normally thought of as the stem, we will encounter many paradigm templates (including in the next few posts in this series) where that is not the case and it’s better to be precise and avoid confusion from the start.

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