Re: Augment revisited

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Mon May 05 1997 - 09:02:04 EDT

At 3:17 PM -0500 5/2/97, Edgar M. Krentz wrote:
>Carl wrote in response to Don (omitting a lot of important stuff)
>>Well, what I called it was a "crack in the wall" of regular use of the
>>augment, nothing more. What still hasn't really been demonstrated is that
>>Greek speakers and writers actually deemed the augment A NECESSARY MARKER
>It seems to me the question has shifted a bit. Let me ask it in my own
>manner. Poetic diction makes it clear that the augment, IN CONTEXT, can be
>omitted and the reader will still understand past time [in the indicative].

This is nicely put, Edgar: the poetic evidence suffices to show that the
augment was NOT a NECESSARY MARKER of past time.

>Carl, the question can be asked differently. If the augment is present, is
>it a marker of past time, whether necessary or not?

That's the question, isn't it? There's no question but that the augment is
a regular feature of imperfect and aorist (and pluperfects, with minimal
deviance) in the indicative throughout most of the history of ancient Greek
prose. But the fact that we have a NAME, "temporal" augment for the
lengthening of an initial stem vowel in place of the "syllabic" augment
regularly placed before an initial stem consonant, gives rise to a couple
questions in my mind: (1) How far back in grammatical terminology does the
term "temporal augment" go? and (2) (semi-facetiously) If the "temporal"
augment marked TIME on an indicative past tense, was the function of the
"syllabic" augment ever perceived as marking something OTHER THAN TIME? (I
certainly haven't ever heard of any distinction in function between the two
types of augment. Smyth (#428) does in fact say that "the augment denotes
past time," but I've never seen a reference to any ancient Greek perception
of this function).

In view of recent exchanges on the variant time references that can be
understood with the English present tense (some, at least, if not all,
appear to me to have parallels in ancient Greek), I'm beginning to see why
a Porter may have decided that the "tenses" in Greek represent ONLY aspect
and that they do not have any TEMPORAL reference at all. I'm not sure that
I buy that and in fact I'm rather dubious about it, but the discussions in
this forum and what I've been reading elsewhere as well have served at
least to shift the whole matter of time and aspect in Greek verbs into the
realm that seems to me to be subject to intelligent speculation rather than
certain knowledge.

>Equally interesting is the question about the relation of Volkssprache to
>gelehrte Sprache in linguistics, of papyri to inscriptions, to put it in
>terms of the exchange you two are having.
>I look forward to hearing.

Well, I think that's a very interesting area and one that I'd like to
explore further. Those who don't know about it may be interested to learn
that the Perseus web site has just added a new service: access to the Duke
Database of Papyri. I don't have the URL ready to hand but I may get it and
post it here later today. For the immediately foreseeable future I expect
to be checking in and posting more scarcely as I finish my last paper
grading and make ready for the summer trek to the Blue Ridge before this
week is out.

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

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