Notes on Greek Accentuation (In Progress)

The Law of Limitation

The starting point is the law of limitation which I’ve previously summarised using this chart:

You can watch a video about this here:

Basic Greek Accentuation from James Tauber on Vimeo.

1st and 2nd Declension Nouns

An intuition for the L̃S ~ ĹL alternation (the σωτῆρα rule) is very important.

Here are some exemplars for all this (all in GNT):

1st decl:

2nd decl:

The oblique case perispomenon (XL̃) is only possible because all oblique case endings are long.

A base form perispomenon (XL̃) is quite rare (and I think, at least in the NT, only ever the result of contraction). In fact, I suspect all base form circumflexes are either the result of contraction (μνᾶ) or the σωτῆρα rule (γλῶσσα).

Incidentally, this means the underlying historical accentuation didn’t need an acute/circumflex distinction (i.e. was not mora-based) to explain the results we see. This is consistent with reconstructed PIE accentuation. In brief: the key accentuation property of the underlying lexical item is merely whether the accent is on the stem or the ending, not what it is.

The need for a paroxytone -> properispomenon (ĹL -> L̃S) change is quite rare because the ĹL pattern in the base form is rare (obviously in 2nd declension but even in 1st).

A Concise Summary of Verb Accentuation in the Greek New Testament

WORK IN PROGRESS

Note this is just gleaned from the SBLGNT forms although grammars were checked post facto. Once I’ve finished the aorist and present active participles, I plan to extend this document with historical explanations to the extent possible. I also obviously plan to extend all this to nominals.

The long term intention has always been to (1) codify these descriptions rigorously enough that they can be automatically tested against the SBLGNT text (although, in reality, I’m already pretty close to that for verbs in the accentuation code necessary for greek-inflexion); (2) develop a web interface where any form in the text can be selected and the accentuation explained. This also means adding the rules for clitics, etc (for which see my existing work in the gnt-accentuation repository).

Eventually other dialects can be covered too.

Aorist

Indicative

Always recessive in all voices.

But note, accent can’t (in any form) extend beyond augment e.g. ἀπῆλθα.

Infinitive

In active, -αι (sigmatic and root) infinitives always have accent on penult and it’s circumflex if long, acute if short. Sigmatic aorists have both e.g. δῆσαι, θάψαι, βιῶσαι, γράψαι. Root aorists always have long vowel e.g. γνῶναι, καταβῆναι, παραθεῖναι, δοῦναι, θεῖναι.

In active, -εῖν (thematic/second) infinitives have a perispomenon accent e.g. βαλεῖν, λαβεῖν, φαγεῖν, ἰδεῖν

In middle, sigmatic aorists always have recessive accent. Thematic/second and root always accent the penult (with a circumflex if the vowel is long; acute if short).

In passive, the accent is perispomenon -ῆναι.

Imperative

Recessive except for a couple of exceptions in 2SG active and all thematic/second aorists in 2SG middle.

Three active 2SG (in the SBLGNT) are oxytone: εἰπέ, εἰπόν, ἐλθέ

Thematic/second middles are always perispomenon with -οῦ.

Subjunctive

In active, root aorists have fixed circumflex on the lengthened mood formant: -ῶ; -ῷς, -ῇς; -ῷ, -ῇ, -οῖ; -ῶμεν; -ῶτε, -ῆτε; -ῶσι.

All other actives are recessive.

All middles are recessive.

All passives have fixed circumflex on the lengthened mood formant: -ῶ; -ῇς; -ῇ; -ῶμεν; -ῆτε; -ῶσι.

Optative

Always recessive BUT final -αι and -οι are considered LONG e.g. εὕροιεν, ποιήσαιεν, φάγοι, BUT NOTE πλεονάσαι, κατευθύναι.

Participle

@@@ ACTIVE TO DO

Middle is always recessive.

Passive always accents the epsilon vowel formant: -έντ-, -έν, -εῖσ-, -είσ- (if long vowel ending), -είς in NSM). Except GPF is -εισῶν.

Future

Indicative

Contracts are, in principle, recessive but the accent is placed BEFORE contraction, often resulting in a circumflex e.g. μενῶ, ἐκτενεῖς, βαλεῖ, ἐροῦμεν, ἐρεῖτε, βαλοῦσι.

All other indicatives are recessive.

Infinitive

Always recessive in all voices.

Participle

Always recessive in all voices.

Imperfect

Indicative

Contracts are, in principle, recessive but the accent is placed BEFORE contraction, often resulting in a circumflex e.g. ἐζητοῦμεν (cf ἐπλέομεν) in active; ἠκαιρεῖσθε, ᾐτοῦντο in middle.

All other indicatives are recessive.

Note, the accent can’t (in any form) extend beyond the augment e.g. ὑπῆγον, παρῆσαν, συνῆσαν.

Present

Indicative

Contracts are, in principle, recessive but the accent is placed BEFORE contraction, often resulting in circumflex e.g. δοκοῦμεν, διψῶ, νοεῖτε in active; ἀγαπῶμαι, φοβῇ, καλεῖται in middle.

All other indicatives are recessive EXCEPT for a couple of enclitics: εἰμί, ἐστί, ἐσμέν, ἐστέ, εἰσί; φημί, φησί, φασί.

There is also the fossilised χρή.

@@@ Still need to explain: συνιᾶσι.

Infinitive

In active, contract verbs are, in principle, recessive but the accent is placed BEFORE contraction, resulting in a perispomenon -εῖν, -οῦν, -ᾶν, -ῆν.

The athematic presents are paroxytone (-έναι, -όναι, -άναι, -ύναι) or, in case of εἰμί and compounds, properispomenon (εἶναι/-εῖναι).

All other actives are recessive e.g. λέγειν.

In middle, contract verbs are, in principle, recessive but the accent is placed BEFORE contraction, resulting in a properispomenon -εῖσθαι, -οῦσθαι, -ᾶσθαι, -ῆσθαι, -εῖσθαι.

All other middles, athematic or thematic, are recessive.

Imperative

In the active 2SG, contract verbs are little subtle because there’s rarely a circumflex but they’re not quite recessive on the surface. This is simply because the accentuation pattern of short+short ending is not quite the same as long ending e.g. ζήτει, νίκα, κοίνου (note acutes not circumflexes).

All other active 2SG are recessive e.g. λέγε, νῆφε, ζήλευε, ἑτοίμαζε.

In the middle 2SG, contract verbs are perispomenon -οῦ, -ῶ and everything else is recessive.

In the 2PL (active or middle), contract verbs contract after recessive accent placement, resulting in the usual properispomenon accent (-εῖτε, -οῦτε, -ᾶτε in the active; -εῖσθε, -οῦσθε, -ᾶσθε in the middle).

All other 2PL (active or middle) are recessive.

In the third person, the contract verbs end up working like surface recessives due to the endings forcing an acute on the contracted vowel -είτω, -άτω in the active singular; -είτωσαν, -άτωσαν in the active plural; -είσθω, -άσθω in the middle singular; -είσθωσαν, -ούσθωσαν in the middle plural.

All other third person imperatives are recessive (-έσθω, -έσθωσαν in the middle).

Subjunctive

Contract verbs (active and middle) contract after recessive accent placement, resulting in a circumflex. All other thematics (active and middle) are recessive.

In the active, athematic verbs have a circumflex on the lengthened mood formant. In the middle, they are simply recessive.

Optative

Accent is always recessive but remember that final -οι is considered long.

Participle

@@@ ACTIVE TO DO

In the middle, accent is always recessive.

Perfect

Indicative

Always recessive in both active and middle although ἡττῶνται is contracted.

Infinitive

The active is always a paroxytone -έναι, -άναι (athematic).

The middle always has the accent on the penult, a circumflex if long and an acute if short.

[Carson (1985:111) claims the middle is also always paroxytone but our text has γεγενῆσθαι, πεφανερῶσθαι, συντετρῖφθαι, οἰκοδομῆσθαι]

Imperative

@@@ is ἴστε a recessive 2PL?

Middle imperatives are always recessive.

Subjunctive

In the active, there is a fixed circumflex on the lengthened mood formant -ῶ, -ῶμεν, -ῇς, -ῆτε.

Participle

In the active, there is a fixed accent (acute or circumflex according to the law of limitation) on the formant vowel (-ότ-, -ῶτ-, -ώτ-, -ός, -όσ-, -ῶσ-, -ώς in M/N; -υῖ-, -υί-, -ῶσ- in F).

In the middle, there is a fixed accent on the -μέν- formant.

Pluperfect

Indicative

Recessive across active and middle.