Re: Architecture of NT Greek

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Tue May 20 1997 - 18:05:37 EDT

At 8:48 AM -0400 5/20/97, Clayton Bartholomew wrote:
>Micheal wrote:
>>You use 'marked' in two different ways in posing your question. Iota stem
>>third declension nouns are marked in the sense that they do not represent
>>the usual way of marking case (they have a different set of forms). They
>>*always* have these forms, however. They do not have them in certain
>>contexts and not have them in others. Augmented verbs are 'marked' in a
>>very different sense. The same verb does appear in some contexts with the
>>augment and in others without it. The augment indicates that something is
>>different from those contexts in which the same verb appears without the
>>augment. For this reason, the grammars must attempt to state what that
>>'difference' is. In the case of iota stem third declension nouns, there is
>>no variation of this sort. Some nouns are iota stem third declension nouns,
>>while others are not, but no verb is a iota stem third declension noun in
>>some contexts and an alpha stem first declension noun in others. For this
>>reason it is not immediately obvious that there should be a specific
>>semantic value attached to iota stem third declension nouns (although there
>>*could* be).

Let me just pause here and note that, although nobody was (I think) misled
by Micheal when he wrote,

>> Some nouns are iota stem third declension nouns,
>>while others are not, but no verb is a iota stem third declension noun in
>>some contexts and an alpha stem first declension noun in others.

it might be safer to say that no verb is a noun (so long as we're not
talking about ininitives and articular participles, at least)!

>Two seconds after e-mailing that question it dawned on me that *marked
>form* was a slippery term that needed clarifying. Micheal has
>clarified it well. I have a further problem in this same area.
>I would suggest that markedness probably can be divided into three
>components or more. There are morphological markings which are a
>physical aspect of the text. There are functional markings which a
>scholar can extract from the morphological markings by studying the
>system of oppositions. This is the kind of analysis that Micheal did
>above. I think that there are also perhaps semantic markings that are
>a third level abstraction from the physical text. The semantic
>markings are discovered by studying the system of oppositions in the
>functional markings. There are doubtless more levels but this is
>enough for the purpose of illustration.
>I think what makes life a little difficult is that these three systems
>are self contained and internally coherent, but the connections
>between the three systems are rather complex and difficult to
>I think a lot of exegetical discussions come to grief precisely
>because these issues are not clear. We jump willy nilly from
>morphology to semantics to function and back again without any clear
>picture of what we are doing.
>A couple of specific, related (perhaps?) questions:
>Elimination of Anachronisms
>The pluperfect generally looses it's augment in NT Greek. Is this
>simply because the pluperfect has adequate morphological marking to
>sustain it without the augment?

It's not really quite true that the pluperfect "generally" loses its
augment in Koine--rather it SOMETIMES loses it. I've suggested on this list
not too long ago that a probable reason for it is that pluperfects tend to
be polysyllabic and omission of the augment (which really does NOT supply
any information not already contained in the unagumented pluperfect) is
economical. Modern Greek does not use the augment on past-tense forms of 3
or more syllables, apparently for this reason. I would think this is
similar to omission of Iota in dative singulars of the first and second
declensions in papyri: the iota was no longer pronounced, hence was often
omitted from the spelling. One wonders whether the syllabic augment was
regularly pronounced even when written. I guess there's no way to know
this. Hmm, it might be worth looking at elision of augments in verse, if
that didn't open up another can of worms.

>Which Kind of Marking
>A few verbs have both first and second aorists. Are these forms always
>distinguished semantically (lexical semantics)? If not, which kind of
>marking according to Micheal's definition would this opposition

This is a more complicated question than first appears, and I'm not sure
that what I am about to state is as clearly the case in Koine as it is in
classical Attic.

(1) In Attic, at any rate, there are concurrent aorists such as EPIQON and
EWPEISA which differ not a whit in meaning, although I think the 2nd aor.
EPIQON is far less common; on the other hand the middle EPIQOMHN ("I gave
heed," "I obeyed") is prevalent, while EPEISAMHN is rare if not unexampled.

(2) There are two or three verbs where there is a very distinct semantic
difference between first and second (what I call "third") aorists: ESTHSA:
"I caused to stand" vs. ESTHN: "I stood"; EBHSA: "I caused to stride" vs.
EBHN: "I stood"--i.e. the first aorist is causative, the second ("third")
aorist is intransitive.

(3) The fact is that the language is in flux, certainly in the NT period if
not at all times from which we have evidence. The historical tendency in
Greek is toward inflection of all past indicative tenses with A-endings and
this tendency is clearly demonstrable in the NT, where both EIPON and EIPA,
EIDON and EIDA may be found, with no demonstrable difference in meaning.
Here the morphological difference has no significance semantically, while
in the case of forms of hISTHMI and BAINW the semantic difference is very

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

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