From: Ward Powers (email@example.com)
Date: Fri Oct 24 1997 - 10:13:20 EDT
At 17:18 97/10/20 -0500, Carl Conrad wrote, in relation to a previous
statement of mine:
>>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
>Here again I find a bit of a problem. I frankly doubt that there's any
>elision of an -A- from a -SA- form, and I think one would be hard put to
>demonstrate any such elision.
It is my view that such a demonstration can indeed be given, covering also
the wider question of the nature of the aorist morph - that is, what
exactly is it in aorist forms that tells you they are aorist?
To demonstrate the question of the elision of alpha in the aorist morph, I
will need first of all to show clearly exactly what this morph is, and then
tender the explanation of why it behaves in the way that it does.
So this post sets out my presentation of the nature of the aorist morph,
which means the morph that indicates that a verb form is punctiliar aspect
(to use the term of the standard grammars of this century, which I see no
reason to change). As this is a demonstration rather than just a statement
of the nature of the situation, this requires me to set down the steps of
linguistic analysis to arrive at the particular result.
The languages of the world differ in the extent to which they are
morphologically regular - that is, the extent to which features of a given
language (usually "phones", meaningful sounds) are in a one-to-one
relationship with specific grammatical meaning. Greek is a very
morphologically regular language, much more so that English. That is one
reason why koine Greek is so much easier to learn than English. (If you
managed to learn English, you can certainly handle koine Greek, with a
fraction as much work.)
In applying the tool of linguistic analysis to the grammar of a language,
the first step is to look for a pattern in that language that corresponds
with some area of grammatical meaning in that language. Sometimes two
patterns interact, and affect each other. You aim to identify the nature of
the interaction, and when it occurs. On the basis of all your research you
formulate explanatory rules.
First, then, we need to identify the nature of the aorist (punctiliar)
morph. Then we will be able to proceed to examine how to account for the
way it is affected by the endings which are added to it.
When we examine all the verbs of the language, we find that most aorist
forms contain the phonemes -SA-, some contain only -A-, a few only -S-, and
some have -QH- or -QE-, while others have none of these phonemes. We can
speedily see that those with -SA-, -S-, or -A-, are active or middle,
whereas those with -QH/QE- are the passive voice equivalents of the same
verbs. There are also several verbs (sixty in fact) which do not have -SA-,
-S-, or -A- in their active/middle aorist forms, and which take a slightly
different set of personal pronoun endings. We can see then that these are
verbs of a different conjugation or conjugations, comprising in total just
6% of the 1,000 verb roots in the GNT. We will concentrate our attention at
this stage on the 94%.
The most significant preliminary result to emerge from checking verb forms
with -SA-, -S-, or -A-, is that the verb forms with -SA- or -S- are forms
(in different tenses, moods, person or number) of the SAME verbs, whereas
those with just -A- are different verbs from the first group. Those in this
latter group are 61 in number (6.1% of all NT verb roots), and we will put
them on one side while we continue to look at the great majority. (This is
not the remaining 87.9%, for the reason that there are quite a few NT verbs
which do not use an aorist form at all, and I do not have a count for
these. But those with aorist forms containing -SA- or -S- are still the
vast majority of NT verbs.)
The procedure to follow in identifying the punctiliar morph is: compare
verb forms which are aorist with parallel forms in other tenses which are
identical in every way except that they are not aorist. That is, you hold
all factors constant except one, and you investigate the way in which that
We start by comparing verb forms containing -SA- (the most common aorist
forms) with corresponding non-aorist forms. We find this:
DURATIVE PUNCTILIAR PERFECTIVE
Imperfect Act ELUETE ELUSATE LELUKATE
Mid ELUESQE ELUSASQE LELUSQE
Optative Act LUOITE LUSAITE -
Mid LUOISQE LUSAISQE -
Imperative Act LUETE LUSATE -
Mid LUESQE LUSASQE LELUSQE
Infinitive Mid LUESQAI LUSASQAI LELUSQAI
Participle Act LUONTOS LUSANTOS LELUKOTOS
Mid LUOMENOU LUSAMENOU LELUMENOU
These forms are representative of a great many others.
What we see here is a very clear pattern for durative and punctiliar forms:
that these forms are identical except that where the durative has -E- the
punctiliar has -SA-. We would also note from other forms that at times the
durative has -O- rather than -E-. This sets up a hypothesis that -O/E- is
the indicator of durative forms whereas -SA- is the indicator of punctiliar
forms. Testing of this hypothesis will disclose a problem with the first
part of it: the same -O/E- turns up instead of -SA- in most second aorist
forms, so this part will need refining. (But this is outside the scope of
this present post.) However, the second part holds up: there is a
one-to-one relationship between the presence in the form of -SA- and that
form being punctiliar aspect.
We can therefore make a preliminary identification of -SA- as the
We can also note the parallel with the forms of the perfect active: LELUKA
has -KA- where ELUSA has -SA-, which enables us to postulate -KA- as the
perfect active morph (the -KA- does not occur in the middle/passive forms).
When we look next at the 61 verbs which have -A- without the sigma, we find
that this -A- is what tells us that the form is aorist. We find further
that 56 of these 61 verbs have a liquid in front of the the -A-, whereas no
aorists exist where a liquid precedes -SA- as a punctiliar morph.
All these verbs with -SA- or -A- we can call "first aorist verbs", as
"first aorist" is the designation for this kind of aorist, and that
designation will suffice. Thus we can now formulate our findings as a rule:
"First aorist verbs form their aorist by adding the punctiliar morph -SA-
to the verb root; and if the verb root ends in a liquid (L, R, M, or N) the
signma slides off the liquid and the punctiliar morph in that verb is -A-."
(Please note that in this formulation, "verb root" means the form that the
root of a particular verb takes in its aorist tense. What that form may be
is not the subject of our present enquiry. In some verbs, the verb root has
two or more allomorphs over its various tenses.)
This disinclination to have -S- following a liquid will be found to be a
general rule in this language - it can be observed also for example in what
happens in the forms of Third Declension nouns.
A further refinement of this we can note is that if the vowel preceding the
liquid is epsilon, then that epsilon lengthens to the diphthong -EI- in the
aorist: DERW has the aorist EDEIRA, and MENW has EMEINA. This is an example
of compensatory lengthening, which has occurred here consequent upon the
loss of the sigma of the -SA-. The language does not have any aorists
containing epsilon followed by a liquid and then the -A- punctiliar morph.
You will recall that there remain five verbs taking -A- without -S- in the
aorist. Three of these are the so-called "kappa aorists", DIDWMI (EDWKA),
TIQHMI (EQHKA), and -hIHMI (-hHKA). These three take -KA- throughout the
aorist instead of -SA-, and otherwise behave in exactly the same way as
aorists with -SA-. The fourth and fifth of them are the FERW suppletive
HNEGKA (the -K- here is part of the verb root), and CEW, aorist ECEA. They
behave throughout as if their verb root ended in a liquid.
That is, all these are first aorists in behaviour, and do not need any
further differentiation from the others of the first aorist. There are also
four verbs (all suppletives) which are primarily second aorist but which
are found with some forms containing -A-. I have dealt with these in an
We have now accounted for all aorists which contain -SA- or -A-. We can
state our results thus, describing the words in the group, and then giving
the aorist allomorph:
1. Roots ending in -E- plus a liquid I.A
(as in EMEINA, from MENW - the iota
before the nu and the alpha after it
together indicate "aorist", and are
termed a "discontinuous morph")
2. All other roots ending in a liquid A
(as in ESURA, from SURW; EKRINA from KRINW)
3. In DIDWMI, TIQHMI, and -hIHMI KA
4. In all other first aorist words SA
ECEA (from CEW) and HNEGKA (suppletive aorist of FERW) conjugate as if they
were liquid aorists, and thus function as members of group 2, above.
What about those with -S- in their aorist forms NOT followed by -A-?
It is to be noted that these forms are parts of the conjugation of EXACTLY
all those same verbs we have been talking about above, which usually have
-SA- as their aorist morph, so that what happens to them in the particular
verb forms which do not have the alpha is a function of how those verbs are
The point to note here is that in the aorists of these verbs, when the
aorist -S- is not followed by -A- it is followed by another vowel. That is
to say, the aorist -S- is never form final (the last letter of its word)
and it is never followed by a consonant.
Is this next-following vowel taking the place of the -A- in some forms?
That is, is -S- plus some other vowel an allomorph for -SA- (just as -O-
and -E- are allomorphs in the durative forms of the verb)? Or: Is a
following vowel causing something to happen to the -A- of the -SA-
punctiliar morph? This is the issue which Carl challenged in his post to
the list. What I have said so far has been a necessary preliminary to
answering Carl, because it is essential to know what the punctiliar morph
is before you can discuss what happens to it in conjugating verb forms.
Tune in tomorrow for the next exciting episode in, "Explanations in Aorist
Rev Dr B. Ward Powers Phone (International): 61-2-9799-7501
10 Grosvenor Crescent Phone (Australia): (02) 9799-7501
SUMMER HILL NSW 2130 email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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