Part forty-two 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).

We now turn to the middle aorist endings.

Recall that the imperfect middle endings were:

  • -μην
  • -σο (often with loss of sigma and subsequent contraction)
  • -το
  • -μεθα
  • -σθε
  • -ντο

Adding -σθαι for the infinitive, we unsurpisingly get the following distinguishers for the middles for alpha and thematic aorists:

INF Xασθαι Xέσθαι
1SG Xάμην Xόμην
2SG Xου
3SG Xατο Xετο
1PL Xάμεθα Xόμεθα
2PL Xασθε Xεσθε
3PL Xαντο Xοντο

Notice that in the 2SG, ασο > αο > ω and εσο > εο > ου (although not all dialects do this).

For reasons we may touch on later, the root aorists don’t generally appear in the middle but δίδωμι, τίθημι, and ἵημι (with stems δο-, θε-, and ἑ- respectively) have aorist middle forms that essentially act like root aorists (just as the aorist active plurals do in Classical Greek):

INF δόσθαι θέσθαι ἕσθαι
1SG ἐδόμην ἐθέμην εἵμην
2SG ἔδου ἔθου εἷσο
3SG ἔδοτο ἔθετο εἷτο
1PL ἐδόμεθα ἐθέμεθα εἵμεθα
2PL ἔδοσθε ἔθεσθε εἷσθε
3PL ἔδοντο ἔθεντο εἷντο

Again notice in the 2SG we get a loss of sigma in the case of δίδωμι and τίθημι and οσο > οο > ου and εσο > εο > ου although this time the contraction is with the root vowel, not a (alpha-)thematic vowel. Presumably εἷσο resists sigma loss and contraction because it’s disyllabic.

The ambiguities are straightforward to deal with:

  • in the 3SG, 2PL, INF, there is an ambiguity between the thematic and τίθημι
  • in the 1SG, 1PL, 3PL, there is an ambiguity between the thematic and δίδωμι
  • in the 2SG, there is an ambiguity between the thematic, τίθημι, and δίδωμι

As we’ve seen before, this all comes down to whether the ε or ο is from the root vowel or theme vowel.

In the next couple of posts, we’ll look at the frequency distributions of the aorist classes. We’ll then start to explore in more detail the relationship between the perfective (aorist) and imperfective (present and imperfect) stems.