A Tour of Greek Morphology: Part 18

Part eighteen 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 Part 13 we summarised the present active endings and in part 15 posed the question “Do these paradigms cover all the forms in the Greek New Testament?”

Now we’re going to answer the same question for the middle endings summarised in part 14.

Again, I’ve written a short Python program that reveals there are 16 forms in 23 instances that do NOT match.

Two of these forms are of κάθημαι: the 1SG itself plus the 3SG κάθηται. The 3SG bears a resemblance to the PM-5 3SG (differing only in accent) but this is not a circumflex verb. The existence of the η in the 1SG rather than an ῶ indicates this is an athematic verb. It is in fact a compound verb κατά+ἧμαι.

We don’t have a paradigm class for ἧμαι OR its compounds so let’s add them now.

INF ἧσθαι Xῆσθαι
1SG ἧμαι Xημαι
2SG ἧσαι Xησαι
3SG ἧται Xηται
1PL ἥμεθα Xήμεθα
2PL ἧσθε Xησθε
3PL ἧνται Xηνται

(we don’t actually need PM-10 for the SBLGNT but I’ve included it for completeness)

Next we have κεῖμαι and ITS compounds which account for 10 more forms. Here again we have an athematic verb with a vowel we haven’t covered before.

INF Xεῖσθαι Xεῖσθαι
1SG Xεῖμαι Xειμαι
2SG Xεῖσαι Xεισαι
3SG Xεῖται Xειται
1PL Xείμεθα Xείμεθα
2PL Xεῖσθε Xεισθε
3PL Xεῖνται Xεινται

Note that INF and 1PL are identical between the two of them (so will be an ambiguity we’ll need to cover, although not for the SBLGNT).

Our next word is οἶμαι which only appears in the SBLGNT in the 1SG. We won’t reconstruct the entire paradigm (we may come back to it later) but will use PM-12 to designate the οἶμαι form.

This leaves us with three forms, all 2SG:

  • καυχᾶσαι
  • ὀδυνᾶσαι
  • κατακαυχᾶσαι

In all cases, this looks a lot like a PM-4 that just hasn’t dropped the sigma in -ᾶσαι to form -ᾷ. In fact, all the PM-4s in the SBLGNT seem to have this behaviour so we probably shouldn’t treat it as a separate paradigm but rather an alternative realisation within the PM-4 2SG cell (similar to Xῃ/Xει in the PM-1). We’ll discuss in a later post why PM-4 might exhibit this when other circumflex middle paradigms don’t seem to.

But with this tweak and the additions of PM-10, PM-10-COMPOUND, PM-11, PM-11-COMPOUND, and PM-12 we now have full coverage of the present middle indicatives and infinitives in the SBLGNT.

You may be wondering whether we could have just identified these paradigms way back when we first laid out the different present middle paradigms. We absolutely could have. But I think the way we’ve discovered them demonstrates an important concept: that of rigorously testing a linguistic model against a corpus.

This whole blog series is, in fact, laying the ground work for a rigorous description of Greek morphology that has been my goal to write for many years.

But coming back to the short term: we still have to explore the disambiguation of assigning inflectional classes to the middle forms, like we did for the actives in part 16. We’ll do that in the next part.

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