Part forty-one 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 39, we outlined the distinguisher paradigms for the sigmatic (first), thematic (second), and root aorists in the active indicative and infinitive:

INF Xαι Xεῖν Xναι
1SG Xον
2SG Xας Xες
3SG Xε(ν) Xε(ν) X
1PL Xαμεν Xομεν Xμεν
2PL Xατε Xετε Xτε
3PL Xαν Xον Xσαν

For the sigmatic aorists, I didn’t show the actual sigma because it was consistent across the paradigm (and hence not part of the “distinguisher”). This turned out to be a useful way to think about it for other reasons too.

We’ve already seen (in part 40) that verbs like ἔδωκα and ἔθηκα follow the sigmatic paradigm in the singular (or in both the singular and plural in the Hellenstic period) despite not having a sigma at all.

But there are other verbs that have the alpha endings too but without a sigma either because

(a) the sigma sound is incorporated into the letter ξ or ψ:

INF δεῖξ-αι γράψ-αι
1SG ἔ-δειξ-α ἔ-γραψ-α
2SG ἔ-δειξ-ας ἔ-γραψ-ας
3SG ἔ-δειξ-ε(ν) ἔ-γραψ-ε(ν)
1PL ἐ-δείξ-αμεν ἔ-γραψ-αμεν
2PL ἐ-δείξ-ατε ἐ-γράψ-ατε
3PL ἔ-δειξ-αν ἔ-γραψ-αν


(b) the sigma has dropped out because the previous sound is a resonant (nasal: μ, ν; or liquid: λ, ρ):

INF μεῖν-αι ἀπο-στεῖλ-αι
1SG -ἐ-μειν-α ἀπ-έ-στειλ-α
2SG ἐ-μειν-ας ἀπ-έ-στειλ-ας
3SG ἔ-μειν-ε(ν) ἀπ-έ-στειλ-ε(ν)
1PL ἐ-μείν-αμεν ἀπ-ε-στείλ-αμεν
2PL -ἐ-μείν-ατε ἀπ-ε-στείλ-ατε
3PL ἔ-μειν-αν ἀπ-έ-στειλ-αν

(forms not in SBLGNT in italics)

We’ll discuss this in detail in another post but the loss of sigma in (b) is accompanied by a lengthening of the vowel before the resonant. Hence, for example, ἔμεινα compared with present μένω. These aorists are sometimes called pseudo-sigmatic aorists.

For the purposes of categorising distinguisher paradigms, (a) and (b) still just follow the alpha endings.

And so there are three sets of endings:

  • alpha endings (including the sigmatic, pseudo-sigmatic and kappa)
  • thematic endings
  • root endings

As we shall see later, there are a few other verbs that sometimes take on alpha endings despite not even an underlying sigma. There are also verbs that mix one type of aorist and another (sometimes with a semantic distinction).

We’ll come back to looking at the frequency distribution of the different types of aorist but, before we do that, let’s take a look at the middle aorist endings.