Re: kappa aorists

From: Ward Powers (
Date: Sun Oct 19 1997 - 10:24:51 EDT

At 13:20 97/10/18 -0500, Carl wrote:

>At 9:34 AM -0500 10/18/97, Ward Powers wrote:


>>There are however three verbs in NT Greek which are kappa aorists - that
>>is, in these verbs the aorist morph is KA instead of the standard SA. Thus
>>we are talking here of aorist FORMS, not of aorist MEANINGS. This KA is
>>simply an allomorphic variant of SA, and these verbs conjugate their aorist
>>exactly like a verb with SA aorist morph.

>My only point of qualification here would be with the assertion that the
>"KA is an allomorphic variant of SA." It was originally a distinct
>(archaic) type of aorist formation more akin to the athematic types with
>alternating long and short vowels in the singular and plural--and yet it
>tends to be irregular, as one may find --even in the classical period -- a
>3rd plural EQESAN or EQHKAN (where the singular mode of conjugation has
>been carried over to the plural, and likewise alternative forms of DIDWMI:

Carl, thank you for your historical comments. But "allomorph" (from ALLOS
and MORFH) is a linguistic term meaning "another form of a morph with the
same meaning".

I have come across the term "morpheme", in some writings about Greek, used
in the sense of "a unit of information in a word". This is an incorrect use
of this linguistic term. "A unit of information in a word" is a morph., not
a morpheme. The suffix "-eme" means the category comprising differing
elements of the item to which the suffix has been added, all having the
same meaning.

Thus "phone" is the linguistic term for a (language) sound, and "phoneme"
for the various sounds which may occur in a language having the same
meaning. Thus there are various ways in which in English we pronounce any
given letter (there are, for example, several different ways in which each
of us pronounces the phoneme "p" in English, differing in the words "pot",
"spot", and "top"); but when these varied sounds do not differentiate
meaning (that is, distinguish one word from another), they are all phones -
allophones - of the one phoneme.

Similarly, a "morpheme" is comprised of allomorphs, that is, of morphs all
having the same meaning. In English, "a" and "an" are allomorphs of the
English indefinite article morpheme. There are more than a dozen ways in
which we form English plurals - the regular ways are to add an "s" or "es"
to the singular, according to statable rules; and then there are
word-specific plurals as in oxen, men, women, children, and so forth, and
even what are called "zero morph" plurals which are the same as the
singular, as in "sheep". Each of these ways of forming the plural is an
allomorph, and together they comprise the English plural morpheme.

These same linguistic categories apply to Greek. Thus the syllabic augment
and the temporal augment are allomorphs of the Greek past time morpheme.
And the morphs which indicate that a word form is aorist are allomorphs of
the Greek aorist morpheme. These aorist allomorphs are:

SA in most words;
KA in kappa aorists;
I.A (where the dot indicates an intervening liquid phone) in words with
liquid roots where the vowel before the liquid is epsilon, as in EMEINA,
from MENW (the iota before the nu and the alpha after it together indicate
"aorist", and are termed a "discontinuous morph"); and
A on its own in other liquid verbs and, irregularly, in the digamma verb
CEW (e.g. ESURA, from SURW; EKRINA, from KRINW; ECEW, from CEW).

For those with access to my "Learn To Read the Greek NT", I refer you to
sections 4.57 and 4.59, page 56, and E4.77, page 301.


>While it may well be true that the second aorist form HNEGKON antedated
>historically the form HNEGKA, the fact is that both are found in Homer, as
>is also at least one other aorist conjugated in -A, namely ECEA (from CEW,
>I think that a simpler statement about the facts of alpha conjugation is
>that (a) it is already found in a couple aorists in Homer that also have
>thematic "second" aorist conjugations; (b) it is already being used in
>Homer with the Sigma aorist marker to constitute what is traditionally
>called the "first aorist"; (c) it is used as early as Homer with the Kappa
>aorist marker, although consistently only in the singular of DIDWMI,
>TIQHMI, and -hIHMI;

If I may say so, I would question the validity (certainly, from a
linguistic perspective) of speaking of sigma as an aorist marker, and then
referring to an alpha conjugation. The term "conjugation" means "pattern of
conjugating", and this refers to the differences in the pattern when the
verb forms for a tense are laid out in a table (a paradigm) for
singular/plural, and first/second/third persons. On this basis, there are
exactly three conjugations in NT Greek, First Conjugation (those taking the
first aorist active set of endings), Second Conjugation (those taking the
second aorist active set of endings), and Third Conjugation (MI verbs and
the four other verbs taking the third aorist set of endings). Formation
factors affecting the *stem* to which a set of endings is added do not
actually affect the way a verb is conjugated, and thus have no connection
with the conjugation of a verb.

If one compares forms which differ only in tense such as
feature which identifies the aorist form and differentiates it from the
others is the presence of SA (in Slot 7, the aspect slot, of the verb's
nine morph slots). This identification is a simple application of a
principle of linguistic analysis to the forms of a verb, and enables SA to
be recognized as the morph which carries the information, "aorist form",
and thus to be identified as the aorist morph.

Further examination of other aorist forms of a verb enables us to refine
this to say that the alpha of the aorist morph elides before a following
vowel, as in such forms as ELUSE(N), LUSON, LUSAI, and the subjunctive forms.


>>In any case, hHKW is not a kappa aorist - its aorist is hHXA.
>Is this form hHXA (X = KS?) actually attested?

Yes. hHXA occurs in the NT in Rev 2:25, in the form hHXW, 1p. aorist
subjunctive after AN. This is cited in BAGD on hHKW, together with a ref.
to its occurrence in POxy.933.13.

>>Please tell me - is anyone out there interested in this kind of info?
>Well, Ward, there is at least One!

Thank you. If there are others who confirm also (either on-list or
off-list), I will continue to post similar occasional comments, when

Rev Dr B. Ward Powers Phone (International): 61-2-9799-7501
10 Grosvenor Crescent Phone (Australia): (02) 9799-7501
SUMMER HILL NSW 2130 email:

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