Part thirty-seven 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).

For our exploration of the aorist forms, we’re going to start with the aorist active infinitive and indicatives of βαίνω:

  • βῆναι
  • ἔβην
  • ἔβης
  • ἔβη
  • ἔβημεν
  • ἔβητε
  • ἔβησαν

This may seem a little unusual (don’t worry, we’ll get to the aorist forms of λύω soon enough) but it will turn out to lay a better foundation, I think.

Here are a few more paradigms of the same type:

  γι(γ)νώσκω βαίνω ἵστημι
INF γνῶναι* βῆναι (διαβῆναι*) στῆναι*
1SG ἔγνων* ἔβην (ἀνέβην*) ἔστην (ἀντέστην*)
2SG ἔγνως* ἔβης ἔστης
3SG ἔγνω* ἔβη (ἀνέβη*) ἔστη*
1PL ἔγνωμεν (ἐπέγνωμεν*) ἔβημεν (ἐνέβημεν*) ἔστημεν (ἐξέστημεν*)
2PL ἔγνωτε (ἐπέγνωτε*) ἔβητε ἔστητε
3PL ἔγνωσαν* ἔβησαν (ἀνέβησαν*) ἔστησαν*

* indicates that the form appears in SBLGNT. Where the base form does not appear but a compound with a preverb does, I’ve included that in parentheses.

Note the following:

  • the INF does not have an augment but the indicatives do
  • the INF is always a properispomenon. In other words, it has a circumflex on the penultimate syllable. This could be explained in the above cases by the ending being -εναι with contraction taking place (although we’d want other evidence to be sure)
  • the consistent, lexeme-specific part of the form within a paradigm is a consonant or consontant cluster followed by a long vowel: γνω, βη, στη
  • the present/imperfect stem and aorist stem are not the same and, in fact, the relationship between the present/imperfect stem and aorist stem appears to be different for each lexeme so far!
  • the regular recessive accent means the indicative forms always end up having an acute on the augment
  • there is no thematic vowel (i.e. no ablauting ε/o at the end of the stem)
  • there is no vowel length alternation between the singular and plural
  • the 3PL ending is -σαν like the athematic imperfects
  • the rest of the endings are like all the IA from IA-1 through IA-9
  • the fact the endings are like the IA would lead to lack of distinction between the imperfect and aorist if not for the stem differences!

To summarise, our distinguishers (augment aside) are:

INF -ναι
3SG -
1PL -μεν
2PL -τε
3PL -σαν

Because the endings go directly on the verbal root with no thematic vowel and with no other morphological changes, these aorists are often called root aorists. They’re not normally introduced first (they aren’t common by number of distinct lexemes, although are reasonably so by token count) but I’ve chosen to start with them in this tour because they lay a good foundation for comparing and contrasting other types of aorist.

In the next post of this tour, we’ll introduce another of these types: aorists that do have a thematic vowel.