Taming the wild verb: a synthetic / morphemic approach?

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Jonathan Robie
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Taming the wild verb: a synthetic / morphemic approach?

Post by Jonathan Robie » June 21st, 2011, 5:45 pm

I've been following posts from Carl Conrad, Randall Buth, and Barry Hofstetter on verbs and language learning, and thinking that there must be a good way to help people master the verb based on the meaning of morphemes. I suspect that would be a more natural approach than the traditional analytical approach.

Getting lots of experience with the language is good, but you have to get past the blooming buzzing confusion of the Greek verb, and I'm not convinced that most adults will do it the same way that a child acquires language. But I do think that meaning-based approaches that involve lots of language experience are best.

I'd like to see a field guide to the verb based on morphemes.

Funk's KEY FOR IDENTIFYING THE VERB comes close. Mounce's Eight Verb Rules also comes close. I have found both very helpful, and throwing these rules into a flashcard application has improved my fluency. I suspect we could take these and Carl's articles on the Greek verb as a starting point to create a set of guidelines that could be very helpful.

For instance, I'd like to say things like:
  • ε- indicates past time
  • The present stem indicates ongoing action, the aorist stem indicates simple action
  • Reduplication indicates completed action
  • -θη- indicates middle-passive (can this be said in everday language?)
I suspect native speakers have internalized these rules.

I don't think most native Greek speakers know the Greek words for aorist and imperfective, but they did understand what verbs meant when used in sentences, and they knew what ε- contributes to the meaning of a verb.

Some English speakers may not know the word plural, but they know the difference between 'child' and 'children' is that 'children' is more than one.

In other words, I'm looking for a meaning based, synthetic approach to recognizing Greek verbs, rather than the traditional analytical one.

Is this a realistic thing to pursue? Can the experts here on the forum help with this?

My goal would be to come up with something about the same length and complexity as what Funk and Mounce wrote, and examples of how to apply it to the verbs in a real text along the lines of what Funk gives.

Jonathan
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ἐξίσταντο δὲ πάντες καὶ διηποροῦντο, ἄλλος πρὸς ἄλλον λέγοντες, τί θέλει τοῦτο εἶναι;
http://jonathanrobie.biblicalhumanities.org/

Jonathan Robie
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Re: Taming the wild verb: a synthetic / morphemic approach?

Post by Jonathan Robie » June 21st, 2011, 7:18 pm

Part of this is really a reorganization of things I see in the guides I point to. Instead of saying, for instance, that ε- + aorist stem + -θη- indicates an aorist middle passive, and then explaining that an aorist middle passive implies simple action and past time, it goes the other way:

ε- indicates past time, aorist stem indicates simple action, -θη- implies middle-passive.

We call this combination the aorist middle passive.
0 x
ἐξίσταντο δὲ πάντες καὶ διηποροῦντο, ἄλλος πρὸς ἄλλον λέγοντες, τί θέλει τοῦτο εἶναι;
http://jonathanrobie.biblicalhumanities.org/

cwconrad
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Re: Taming the wild verb: a synthetic / morphemic approach?

Post by cwconrad » June 22nd, 2011, 9:58 am

(Warning: this will be long)

HOW TO ANALYZE VERB FORMS IN THE COURSE OF READING A TEXT: THE MCMINN PROCEDURE

Jonathan has been seeking what might best be called an “algorithm” -- a systematic procedure -- for analyzing verb forms and discerning the constituent elements that signal (I guess the linguists would say “encode”) specific items of information about the aggregate of elements within the morpheme. This is the information that a parsing guide or parsing software or an interlinear text will give a reader, but I honestly believe that by the end of a year of formal study of ancient Greek -- or upon completion of a good standard ancient Greek textbook -- a student ought to be free of any dependency upon such crutches, and really ought to be able to eye any verb form, discern its constituent elements and make an intelligent guess at how to find the verb’s lemma in a lexicon.

How to do that? What is the algorithm?

In the first place, you can’t perform the analysis unless you already understand all the elements that can conceivably be employed in any inflected form of an ancient Greek verb. That is to say, you have to know how to discern the personal endings -- both primary and secondary (and know which tense-aspect forms take which set of endings) --, the common prefixes and the way their final vowels elide before an augment; you have to be able to recognize both the “syllabic” augment (ε) and the “temporal” augment (α or ε lengthened as η, ο lengthened as ω); you have to be able to recognize the tense-aspect stem (from memorized irregular verb lists or from knowing the way those stems form by combining tense-markers with root forms (e.g. λυ + σ, σα, κα, πειθ + σ, σα), all the variant forms of reduplication employed in perfect stems; you have to know how the thematic vowel (ο/ε) links to tense-aspect stems (including where it contracts, as in “contract” verbs in εω, αω, οω) and where endings are added directly to tense-aspect stems without an intervening thematic vowel (athematic forms (e.g. ἐ-λυ-θη); you have to know and discern the different forms of the active and middle-passive personal endings. In sum, there’s a hell of a lot that the student needs to learn in the course of the first year, and at least 75% of that involves the verbs and their usage.

What follows is an illustration of the methodology which I learned as a Freshman at Tulane University way back in 1952-3 under the tutelage of my teacher of blessed memory, Joe Billy McMinn (not the least of our greatest benefactors have been our great teachers). Billy McMinn was a grad student in Philosophy at Tulane at that time, but he’d already graduated from Louisville Baptist Seminary where he’d beeen instilled with the traditions of A. T. Robertson. In that first year of Greek he took us slowly through the gospel of Mark and showed us this procedure for analyzing verb-forms, adding all sorts of information about the phonetic process and the ways it often conceals the way the elements of the inflected forms have coalesced.

I have chosen a paragraph more or less at random and I’ve taken it from Luke, for the reason that Luke’s Greek is perhaps closest to a standard educated narrative Hellenistic prose. I’ve chosen several verses of connected text and highlighted several compound verb-forms for analysis.

I have chosen at random Luke 24:13-27

Luke 24:13 Καὶ ἰδοὺ δύο ἐξ αὐτῶν ἐν αὐτῇ τῇ ἡμέρᾳ ἦσαν πορευόμενοι εἰς κώμην ἀπέχουσαν σταδίους ἑξήκοντα ἀπὸ Ἰερουσαλήμ, ᾗ ὄνομα Ἐμμαοῦς, 14 καὶ αὐτοὶ ὡμίλουν πρὸς ἀλλήλους περὶ πάντων τῶν συμβεβηκότων τούτων. 15 καὶ ἐγένετο ἐν τῷ ὁμιλεῖν αὐτοὺς καὶ συζητεῖν καὶ αὐτὸς Ἰησοῦς ἐγγίσας συνεπορεύετο αὐτοῖς, 16 οἱ δὲ ὀφθαλμοὶ αὐτῶν ἐκρατοῦντο τοῦ μὴ ἐπιγνῶναι αὐτόν. 17 εἶπεν δὲ πρὸς αὐτούς· τίνες οἱ λόγοι οὗτοι οὓς ἀντιβάλλετε πρὸς ἀλλήλους περιπατοῦντες; καὶ ἐστάθησαν σκυθρωποί. 18 ἀποκριθεὶς δὲ εἷς ὀνόματι Κλεοπᾶς εἶπεν πρὸς αὐτόν· σὺ μόνος παροικεῖς Ἰερουσαλὴμ καὶ οὐκ ἔγνως τὰ γενόμενα ἐν αὐτῇ ἐν ταῖς ἡμέραις ταύταις; 19 καὶ εἶπεν αὐτοῖς· ποῖα; οἱ δὲ εἶπαν αὐτῷ· τὰ περὶ Ἰησοῦ τοῦ Ναζαρηνοῦ, ὃς ἐγένετο ἀνὴρ προφήτης δυνατὸς ἐν ἔργῳ καὶ λόγῳ ἐναντίον τοῦ θεοῦ καὶ παντὸς τοῦ λαοῦ, 20 ὅπως τε παρέδωκαν αὐτὸν οἱ ἀρχιερεῖς καὶ οἱ ἄρχοντες ἡμῶν εἰς κρίμα θανάτου καὶ ἐσταύρωσαν αὐτόν. 21 ἡμεῖς δὲ ἠλπίζομεν ὅτι αὐτός ἐστιν ὁ μέλλων λυτροῦσθαι τὸν Ἰσραήλ· ἀλλά γε καὶ σὺν πᾶσιν τούτοις τρίτην ταύτην ἡμέραν ἄγει ἀφ᾿ οὗ ταῦτα ἐγένετο. 22 ἀλλὰ καὶ γυναῖκές τινες ἐξ ἡμῶν ἐξέστησαν ἡμᾶς, γενόμεναι ὀρθριναὶ ἐπὶ τὸ μνημεῖον, 23 καὶ μὴ εὑροῦσαι τὸ σῶμα αὐτοῦ ἦλθον λέγουσαι καὶ ὀπτασίαν ἀγγέλων ἑωρακέναι, οἳ λέγουσιν αὐτὸν ζῆν. 24 καὶ ἀπῆλθόν τινες τῶν σὺν ἡμῖν ἐπὶ τὸ μνημεῖον καὶ εὗρον οὕτως καθὼς καὶ αἱ γυναῖκες εἶπον, αὐτὸν δὲ οὐκ εἶδον. 25 καὶ αὐτὸς εἶπεν πρὸς αὐτούς· ὦ ἀνόητοι καὶ βραδεῖς τῇ καρδίᾳ τοῦ πιστεύειν ἐπὶ πᾶσιν οἷς ἐλάλησαν οἱ προφῆται· 26 οὐχὶ ταῦτα ἔδει παθεῖν τὸν χριστὸν καὶ εἰσελθεῖν εἰς τὴν δόξαν αὐτοῦ; 27 καὶ ἀρξάμενος ἀπὸ Μωϋσέως καὶ ἀπὸ πάντων τῶν προφητῶν διερμήνευσεν αὐτοῖς ἐν πάσαις ταῖς γραφαῖς τὰ περὶ ἑαυτοῦ.

Context wll help establish sense and differentiate between alternative ways of reading the same form. I simply suggest certain elements that seem obvious to me in looking at verb forms.

πορευόμενοι
This is pretty straightforward: each element of meaning is discrete here without any phonetic complications.
πορευ is verb root and also present-tense stem of πορεύομαι;
-ό- thematic vowel (ο/ε, always ο before μ or ν)
-μεν- as an infix marks an MP participle
-οι nom. plural masculine ending
Form pres. ptc. middle nom. pl. masc.


ἀπέχουσαν
Here one needs to recognize the elided final syllable of the prefix and one needs to know that the active participial sign -ντ- links with vowels ο, ε, α, υ and a feminine formative element -ια to become ουσα, εισα, ασα, υσα in accordance with phonetic principles operant in ancient Greek.
ἀπ- verbal prefix ἀπο with ο elided before -εχ-
-έχ- present active stem of ἔχω
-ουσα- combined form of fem. active ptc. (-ο- thematic vowel before μ, -ντ- active ptc. infix, -ια- feminine ending: ο-ντ-ια = ουσα), -ν acc. sg. ending
Form: pres. ptc. act. acc. sg. fem.

ὡμίλουν
Here the ending in ουν really ought to trigger recognition that this is an imperfect 1 sg. or 3 pl. of an ε or ο contract verb.
ω- temporally augmented ο
ομιλουν combined form of 3 pl. impf. act. indic. of ὁμιλῶ (present stem ὁμιλε-. -o- thematic vowel before μ/ν, personal ending -ν {originally -ντ} combined: ὁμιλε-ο-ντ = ὁμίλουν(τ)
Form: impf. act. 3 pl. indicative

συμβεβηκότων
συμ- prefix
βεβηκ- perfect stem of βαίνω, the root of which verb is βα/βη
βε- regular consonantal reduplication of perfect stem beginning with -β
-κ- infix for standard (first) perfect
-οτ- infix for perfect active participle, m. or n. (fem. is -υια-)
-ων gen. pl. ending
Form: gen. pl. m/n perfect active participle of συμβαίνω

συνεπορεύετο
Another straightforward: each element of meaning is discrete here without any phonetic complications.
συν- prefix
-ε- augment
-πορευ- present stem of πορεύομαι
-ε- thematic vowel (ο/ε)
-το 3rd person singular MP secondary-tense ending
Form: Impf. indicative mid. 3 sg.

ἐκρατοῦντο
ε- augment
-κρατου- conracted from κρατε-ο
-κρατε- present stem of κρατῶ/κρατέω (or check κρατοῦμαι/κρατέομαι -- remmber that lexicons list contract verbs in an uncontracted form, although the uncontracted forms aren’t found in ordinary Greek.
-ο- thematic vowel (ο/ε)
-ντο 3rd person plural MP secondary-tense ending
Form: Imperfect indicative 3 pl.

ἐπιγνῶναι
Another simple combination of discrete discernible elements.
ἐπι- prefix
γνω- verb root and aorist stem of γινώσκω (This root has both a long vowel γνω and a short-vowel γνο form that is seen in participles γνόντα, γνοῦσα)
-ναι active infinitive ending
Form: aorist active infinitive

ἐστάθησαν
Another simple combination of discrete discernible elements.
ἐ- augment
-σταθη- aorist passive stem (root στα-, -θη- “passive” infix (note: ἵστημι/ἵσταμαι is an irregular μι verb with long-vowel root στη seen in aor. inf. στῆναι and short-vowel root στα seen in aor. ptc. στάντα
-σαν 3 pl. secondary ending (σα + -ν[τ])
Form: aorist passive indicative 3 pl.

ἀποκριθεὶς
This verb should be recognized from the outset as an irregular verb (ἀποκρίνομαι). With the θε one should recognize that this is a short-vowel form of the aorist-passive marker θη. Anyone who has read much of GNT gospel narrative should have seen this verb-form repeatedly.
ἀπο- prefix
κριθε- short-vowel form of aorist passive tense-stem of ἁποκρίνομαι
Some will be content with memorization of the ending in -εις as the standard resultant form of the nominative masculine particlple of stems in ε; but there’s a phonetic process underlying it: θε + ντ (active participial infix) + ς (m. nom. ending) --> θεις (ν between vowel and ς evanesces, τ combines with ending ς, then ε becomes ει by compensatory lengthening)

παρέδωκαν
παρ- prefix (παρα with -α-elided before -ε-
-ε- augment
-δωκ- aorist active stem of παραδίδωμι (δω/ο root) + κ. Older Greek has δοσ- aorist active stem in the plural, but in Koine the δωκ is found in both sg. and pl.
-αν 3 pl. secondary ending (-α + ν[τ])
Form: aorist active indicative 3 pl.

ἐξέστησαν
ἐξ- prefix
-ε- augment
-στησ(α) aorist active stem (root στη + σ(α)
-αν 3 pl. secondary ending (-α + ν[τ])
Form: aorist active indicative 3 pl.

ἑωρακέναι
One should know the principle parts of ὁράω and discern at once the perfect active stem here.
ἑωρακ- perfect active stem of ὁρῶ (ὁράω) - irregular verb
-εναι perfect active infinitive ending
Form: perfect active infinitive of ὁράω

διερμήνευσεν
There is something extraordinary here, or somewhat extraordinary. We readily recognize the prefix δι- (δια with α elided) and we would normally expect the ε of ερμηνευ to have the temporal augment and so take the form ηρημνευ -- but it doesn’t. There’s an explanation for this, as BDAG notes with reference to BDF §67, note 2) -- omission of temporal augment in compounded verbs. But no student should have difficulty recognizing διερμηνευσ(α) as an aorist stem and then recognizing the standard 3 sg. ending (here just the thematic vowel ε) followed by the movable ν that regularly follows a final ε or ι.
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οὔτοι ἀπ’ ἀρχῆς πάντα θεοὶ θνητοῖς ὑπέδειξαν,
ἀλλὰ χρόνῳ ζητέοντες ἐφευρίσκουσιν ἄμεινον. (Xenophanes, Fragment 16)

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University (Retired)

Jonathan Robie
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Re: Taming the wild verb: a synthetic / morphemic approach?

Post by Jonathan Robie » July 3rd, 2011, 5:20 pm

I've been finding this very helpful. I'm following Refe's advice and first reading through an entire text, then analyzing forms I'm not sure of in the way Carl suggested.
cwconrad wrote: In the first place, you can’t perform the analysis unless you already understand all the elements that can conceivably be employed in any inflected form of an ancient Greek verb. That is to say, you have to know how to discern the personal endings -- both primary and secondary (and know which tense-aspect forms take which set of endings) --, the common prefixes and the way their final vowels elide before an augment; you have to be able to recognize both the “syllabic” augment (ε) and the “temporal” augment (α or ε lengthened as η, ο lengthened as ω); you have to be able to recognize the tense-aspect stem (from memorized irregular verb lists or from knowing the way those stems form by combining tense-markers with root forms (e.g. λυ + σ, σα, κα, πειθ + σ, σα), all the variant forms of reduplication employed in perfect stems; you have to know how the thematic vowel (ο/ε) links to tense-aspect stems (including where it contracts, as in “contract” verbs in εω, αω, οω) and where endings are added directly to tense-aspect stems without an intervening thematic vowel (athematic forms (e.g. ἐ-λυ-θη); you have to know and discern the different forms of the active and middle-passive personal endings. In sum, there’s a hell of a lot that the student needs to learn in the course of the first year, and at least 75% of that involves the verbs and their usage.
True, but even if you can't recognize everything, you can see what you can recognize and what you can't.

If this is your first time through a grammar, and you encounter a form you haven't learned yet, you can simply note that you haven't gotten to it yet and worry about it later. Or you can note the part you understand, and the part you don't understand ("this is an infinitive ... but I'm not sure what the tense is ...").

If you have been through a grammar, but you find you are shaky on some forms (and this is me right now ...), you can flip back to the relevant part of a grammar to relearn what you thought you knew, then find some passages that illustrate the grammar you are reviewing. I'm finding this approach very helpful.
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ἐξίσταντο δὲ πάντες καὶ διηποροῦντο, ἄλλος πρὸς ἄλλον λέγοντες, τί θέλει τοῦτο εἶναι;
http://jonathanrobie.biblicalhumanities.org/

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