Re: Definition please: "stem"

Carl W. Conrad (
Sat, 25 Jan 1997 16:57:40 -0600

At 12:17 PM -0600 1/25/97, Jonathan Robie wrote:
>My grammar books each use the term "stem" without defining it precisely. Is
>this a well defined term? If I had to guess, I would say that the stem of a
>verb is whatever is left when you remove any augments or reduplication from
>the front and any endings from the back. Is this accurate?
>I used to use the term "stem" only for the present stem and second aorist
>stem. I just noticed that Machen speaks of a "future stem". Is each of the
>principle parts a stem?

No, but a stem is derived from each of them. The way I've always seen the
term used and used it myself is in reference to the the whole conglomerate
form minus personal or case/number endings. This would include the
distinctive formative element of the particular tense. It's not to be
confused with the ROOT, which is the simplest phoneme expressing a meaning.

=46or example:

=46rom the root LEIP/LOIP/LIP (3 forms with Ablaut/vowel gradation, are deri=

1. from the first principle part LEIPW the present stem LEIP- (I have my
students write it LEIPo/e- to indicate that it has thematic inflect--forms
compounded of thematic verb + personal ending: LEIPW/LEIPEIS/LEIPEI KTL.

2. from the second principle part LEIPSW the future stem LEIPSo/e- yielding

3. from the third principle part ELIPON the aorist stem LIPo/e- yielding
indicatives ELIPON, ELIPES, ELIPE KTL. and participle LIPWN/LIPOMENOS and
infinitve LIPEIN. Note that the augment is not part of the stem--it has to
be added, but only to indicatives.

4. from the fourth principle part LELOIPA the perfect stem LELOIP- yielding
indicatives LELOIPA/LELOIPAS/LELOIPE KTL and the other verbal forms.

And so on.

>P.S., no, I still haven't bought a morphology book...

Naughty, naughty!

I'd recommend you get Smyth: it will give you the best morphology paradigms
AND the best syntactic grammar as well. To be sure, it focuses on Attic,
but it includes Hellenistic forms and its syntax is not so idiosyncratic as
almost all books that deal exclusively with Koine. I'm not saying that the
latter are that bad but that Smyth is that much superior to all others.
Your BDR is certainly good, but I'd get a Smyth before I'd get anything
else limited to Koine.

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University
One Brookings Drive, St. Louis, MO, USA 63130
(314) 935-4018 OR