form and meaning (e.g., the augment)

From: Mari Olsen (
Date: Wed Oct 25 1995 - 11:37:42 EDT

Again, I would suggest not attributing the predominant meaning to the
synchronic semantics of a form, e.g. the augment. Morphology (form)
is simply more conservative than semantics--a problem for a strictly
compositional analysis. As I say in a footnote in my thesis (p.
308--not that it's that great--just can't re-think it here with a 10
month old on my lap emptying the drawer of my desk):

The relation of tense and aspect to the Koine morphology is not
straightforward in my analysis (see criticism Fanning's model on this
point as well, Carson and Porter 1993). FOr example, the E- prefix of
"augment", which marked past tense in Ancient Greek (Dahl 1985:83)
characterizes both the tenseless aorist and the past tense imperfect,
but it is absent from the pluperfect by the Koine period. The
divergence of morphology and semantics is characteristic of other
systems as well. For example the perfect in southern, especially
colloquial, German, has lost its perfect meaning and is now synonymous
with the simple past, with the morphology persisting after the
semantic distinctions have been lost.

Mari Broman Olsen
Northwestern University
Department of Linguistics
2016 Sheridan Road
Evanston, IL 60208

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