A Tour of Greek Morphology: Part 10

Part ten 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 previous posts we’ve explored five distinct active and middle paradigms in the present indicative and infinitive.

There are still a number of inflectional classes in the present we haven’t covered yet and we’ll introduce a few more active forms in this post.

INF δεικνύναιτιθέναι διδόναι -ιστάναι †
1SG δείκνυμι τίθημι δίδωμι -ίστημι
2SG δείκνυςτίθης -δίδως ἵστης
3SG δείκνυσι(ν) τίθησι(ν) δίδωσι(ν) -ίστησι(ν)
1PL δείκνυμεν -τίθεμεν δίδομεν ἵσταμεν
2PL δείκνυτε τίθετε δίδοτε ἵστατε
3PL δεικνύασι(ν) τιθέασι(ν) διδόασι(ν) ἱστᾶσι(ν)

In the above table, italics indicates the form does not appear in the NT but the cell is filled from elsewhere; a preceding hyphen indicates the NT only contains the form with a preverb; and † indicates the NT has another form from one of the inflectionals classes we’ve already seen (more on that later).

It is worth noting that there are very few verbs that follow these paradigms but they are very common. In a future post, we’ll look at the frequencies in more detail.

Let’s start with the distinguishers (removing the common elements in each column):

INF Xναι Xέναι Xόναι Xάναι
1SG Xμι Xημι Xωμι Xημι
2SG Xης Xως Xης
3SG Xσι(ν) Xησι(ν) Xωσι(ν) Xησι(ν)
1PL Xμεν Xεμεν Xομεν Xαμεν
2PL Xτε Xετε Xοτε Xατε
3PL Xασι(ν) Xέασι(ν) Xόασι(ν) Xᾶσι(ν)

At this point, the relationship between PA-6 and each of PA-7, PA-8, PA-9 seem to mirror that between PA-1 and each of PA-2, PA-3, PA-4 respectively. This is especially evident in the infinitive and plurals where (-, ε, ο, α) is to (PA-1, PA-2, PA-3, PA-4) is to (PA-6, PA-7, PA-8, PA-9).

If we isolate just the common endings (recurring horizontally) and place them alongside the endings we reconstructed in part 9, we get:

INF -ναι ε εν
1SG -μι ω -
2SG ε ις
3SG -σι(ν) ε ι
1PL -μεν ο μεν
2PL -τε ε τε
3PL -ασι(ν) ο ντι > ουσι(ν)

Notice that:

  • thematic vowels seem to be entirely missing
  • the 3PL has an alpha, though
  • some endings seem identical except for the lack of thematic vowel (1PL and 2PL)
  • some are close (2SG and 3PL)
  • some are not so close (INF and 3SG)
  • but now the 3SG and 3PL are almost identical to each other in these new paradigms
  • the 1SG seems completely unrelated

Because of the lack of thematic vowels (seen most strikingly in the 1PL and 2PL forms), these types of verbs are often called athematic verbs. Because of the completely different ending μι in the 1SG, they are also often called μι verbs. They could be called ναι verbs, but I’m not aware of anyone who does that. Those three things are the most obvious contrasts, though.

When we look back at the full forms, we also notice:

  • the vowel preceding the endings is different in the singular and the plural
  • ἱστᾶσι(ν) is accented in a way that suggests a contraction, probably from αα which makes sense given the other plural forms.
  • έα and όα haven’t contracted in the 3PL (and note if they did, they would be identical to the 3SG in PA-7 and PA-8)

It is as if the stems are τιθη, διδω, and ἱστη in the singular and τιθε, διδο, and ἱστα in the infinitive and plural. This is noteworthy for at least three reasons.

Firstly, it’s the first time we’ve seen a contrast that only indicates number and not person.

Secondly, it’s not (just) a different ending indicating the number but a change in the vowel.

And thirdly, it’s redundant as the ending alone still conveys number.

On the surface, it appears that δεικνυ keeps its vowel the same although length is not clear yet.

It is important to note that, unlike the circumflex verbs PA-2 through PA-5 which, as we have shown, all have the same endings (as each other and as PA-1), PA-6 through PA-9 have a new set of common endings distinct from those of PA-1 thru PA-5 (with some overlap). The paradigms cannot be explained merely as stems interacting differently with the same endings.

We will pick up this point again soon, but first (in the next post), we’ll look at the middle forms of our new verbs.

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