Re: Verbal adjectives: how much verbal force?

From: Jonathan Robie (
Date: Mon Mar 10 1997 - 08:03:53 EST

At 08:29 PM 3/9/97 -0800, Micheal Palmer wrote:

>This is a really tough and interesting question. I find any general
>statements about whether whole classes of forms have "lost their verbal
>force" etc. to be somewhat suspect. Words aquire or loose verbal force or
>other features of meaning in ways which can be quite independent of other
>words in their same morphological class. For that reason, SOME of these
>verbal adjectives may have lost most of their verbal force, but that
>certainly does not mean that they all had.

The computer scientist in me keeps looking for general rules, but I
guess I've read enough linguistics now that I should suspect that many
of these things should be specific to the word. Thanks for the reminder!

>Still, it is true that if the specific morphemes -TOS and -TEOS may may be
>said to take on new meaning or loose old meaning IF it can be demonstrated
>that these forms were "live" at the time of the New Testament. That is, how
>free was John, for example, to coin new words by adding the morpheme -TOS
>to the end of an already existing root? If this could be done at will, then
>it makes sense to talk about the posibility of -TOS (not necessarily the
>individual words to which it is attached) loosing verbal force over time.
>Even so, however, some words with -TOS would have probably been used so
>frequently that their verbal implications would remain even if the "live"
>morpheme -TOS was losing its verbal force. That is, these particular words
>may have become what historical linguists sometimes call "frozen"
>forms--forms which remain the same over time even if the morphemes from
>which they are composed undergo significant semantic shift.

Ah, this is why we need people with real linguistics background. I think
this is really helpful--you make my question much more precise and suggest
a test to answer it. Now if I only had a TLG...

>All of this simply means that making blanket statements about changes in
>the meaning of specific morphemes like -TOS may be helpful, but we have to
>remember that there will always be exceptions to such statements, and they
>clearly cannot be applied to all forms which incorporate the morpheme -TOS.

Which seems to be true for most grammatical forms. I assume that the
exceptions depend on the word?

>By the way, a great little tool which is tremendously helpful for this kind
>of discussion in Harold Greenley's _New Testament Greek Morpheme Lexicon_
>which is now out of print. Does anyone know if there are plans to reprint
>it? I value my copy precisely because of discussions like this one.

Never saw it, though I've seen lots of references to it. I'll have to see
if I can find it in a library.



Jonathan Robie
POET Software, 3207 Gibson Road, Durham, N.C., 27703
Ph: 919.598.5728 Fax: 919.598.6728
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