A Tour of Greek Morphology: Part 4

Part four 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 previous part we saw that more than half of the verb lexemes in the NT appearing in the present indicative follow the exact pattern of λύω, i.e. PA-1 in the active and PM-1 in the middle. In the next few parts to this series, we’re going to look at some of the verbs that do NOT.

Here’s our first example, placed alongside λύω for comparison (a paradigm of paradigms again):


Look closely at each pair on a row and notice a few things:

  • in the infinitive, in all singulars, and in the third plural, the distinguishers are identical EXCEPT for accent
  • in the first and second plurals, the only other difference is ου vs ο and ει vs ε
  • whereas λύω never has the accent on the distinguisher, the seven forms of ποιῶ above ALWAYS do and it is always a circumflex
  • the accent is not strictly recessive the way it is in λύω and PA-1 verbs in general

We are going to call this new pattern PA-2.

There are many other verbs that follow the PA-2 pattern and yet others that are quite similar but with small differences.

Here are some examples placed side-by-side with λύω and ποιῶ:


It will be clearer to see the similarities and differences by just showing the distinguishers.


I’ve given each of these patterns a label: PA-3, PA-4, PA-5.

(I’ve also shaded some of the cells but I don’t think that will come through if you’re just reading this via the email subscription.)

All four of the new patterns have circumflex accents on the distinguisher in every cell. For this reason we will call these verbs circumflex verbs.

Notice that in 1SG, the distinguisher is identical across all the circumflex verbs (-ῶ). What that means is, given just the 1SG form of a circumflex verb, you can’t tell exactly which of the patterns will be followed overall. Xῶ could be PA-2, PA-3, PA-4 OR PA-5. You CAN tell, however, that it’s not a PA-1 verb (because of the circumflex).

In contrast to 1SG, if you know ANY of the INF, the 2SG, the 3SG, or the 2PL, you can tell exactly which pattern is being followed.

That leaves the interesting case of the 1PL and 3PL. An ου in either cell distinguisher means we have a PA-2 or PA-3 but don’t know which. An ω in either cell distinguisher means we have a PA-4 or PA-5 but don’t know which.

Put another way: presented with a 1PL ending in -οῦμεν, we can tell (at least given what we’ve see up until this point) what the 1SG and 3PL must be but we’re left with two possibilities for all the other cells. The moment we know just one of those OTHER cells, though, we can tell what every cell must be.

We’ll continue to explore these new patterns (and their corresponding middle patterns) over the next few posts.

Comments on “A Tour of Greek Morphology: Part 4”