Re: Aorist Morphology (was "Re: On Pulling The Plug")

From: Ward Powers (
Date: Mon Apr 13 1998 - 06:06:56 EDT

At 07:53 98/04/12 -0500, Carl wrote:
>At 12:48 AM -0500 4/12/98, Ward Powers wrote:
>>Fellow b-greekers
>>At 10:40 98/04/08 -0500, Carl wrote:
>>>I want to call a final halt to this thread now

Ward responded:

>>I'd like to re-enter the discussion about aorists (sigmatic/non-sigmatic,
>>etc.) between George Dalmatia and Carl Conrad, but can't spare the time.
>By all means do so. I have tried in vain to convince George that the -S-
>marker of the first aorist is unrelated to the -S- marker of the future and
>that the -A- of the first aorist is NOT an alpha privative. But I think,
>George, you still believe that, don't you?

Thank you, Carl. I have been reading all the posts by you and George (and,
occasionally, others) with something akin to dismay, wondering whether to
contribute again, or leave it alone.

For the sake of others who may have been uncertain whether there is
anything in what George says, I wish to endorse (gently but firmly) what
Carl has said, the central point of which I have quoted above. George, in
almost all you say, you are simply wrong. There is no other way to put it.

The most recent focus of the discussion has been a distinction that George
sees between a sigmatic and non-sigmatic aorist (e.g., George raises the
non-sigmatic aorist of John 1:6, KATELABEN; then on April 11 he puts the
same point of view again in a post headed Re hEURISKEI in Acts 10:27).

George (and others interested): the fact of the matter is that there are
four ways that an aorist form is constructed in Greek. The first two are
closely related:

1a: By adding -SA- (and NOT just -S-, as I pointed out at some length in a
previous post). This is the normal situation, and occurs in some 90% of all
NT Greek verbs.

1b: By adding just -A-. This occurs in a specific situation only: where the
preceding phoneme ("letter" of the alphabet, when writing it) is a liquid.
What has happened here is that the -SA- has been added in the usual way,
and the -S- has not held on the liquid, and has slid off, leaving just the
-A-. When the vowel before the liquid is epsilon, compensatory lengthening
(for the loss of the sigma of the standard -SA-) makes this epsilon become

Thus both of the above are actually variants of the one method of forming
the aorist, and both are "regular" (that is, "predictable in accordance
with the rules"), the difference between them being explicable by a
linguistic rule. This type of aorist has traditionally been called the
"first aorist". NOTE: this term refers to THE METHOD OF CREATING THE AORIST
FORMS. The first aorist
method can be formulated as a rule, thus: "To form the aorist, add -SA- to
the verb's lexical morph. If this morph ends in a liquid phoneme, the -S-
of the -SA- will slide off the liquid and disappear from the verb form. If
the liquid is preceded by -E-, this will lengthen to -EI-."

[For those who have my "Learn To Read the Greek NT", a complete listing of
the liquid verbs of the NT, with their aorist forms, will be found in
paragraph C1.89 (pages 229-230).]

2. By adding -O- or -E- to the verb root. Some grammarians refer to this
-O/E- as the "thematic" vowel; I designate it the neutral morph. The aorist
stem, thus formed, then takes the same set of pronoun endings as the
imperfect (and they are different from the set for the first aorist). Which
verbs will use this method of forming the aorist is unpredictable, and they
have to be noted individually. There are 34 of these second aorist verbs in
the GNT (they are set out in my Grammar on pages 231-233).

3. There is also another pattern: by adding a set of pronoun endings
directly to the verb root. These are sometimes treated as being irregular
second aorists, or referred to as athematic aorists. We should note though
that the set of pronoun endings added is not identical with those of either
the first or second aorists, and from a linguistic perspective this
paradigm is to be identified as a third aorist (i.e., a third method of
forming an aorist, with a third and distinctive set of pronoun endings).
The most commonly-found third aorists are EGNWN (from GINWSKW), EBHN (from
BAINW), and ESTHN (from hISTHMI).

The major point to be noted though is that these are simply three different
ways of forming an aorist, and that all three aorist, howsoever formed, are
identical in meaning.

George's distinction between sigmatic and non-sigmatic aorists is totally

>P.S. I hope you are able to meet with Jonathan this weekend and have a nice
>time. And I wish you a joyous Easter.

Thank you. Yes, indeed we did. I picked Jonathan up from the airport when
he arrived in Sydney yesterday, Sydney time. This morning Jonathan sampled
an Australian Vegemite breakfast with us. Then David McKay of Blaxland
joined us, and we walked across the Sydney Harbour Bridge together, climbed
the Pylon to survey the tremendous view of Sydney and the Harbour, wandered
round old Sydney at the area called The Rocks, visited the Sydney Opera
House, took a ferry around the Harbour to Manly and strolled along this
world-famous beach; and then David and Jonathan jammed together on piano
and flute. And we talked about Greek non-stop. David has just left to
return to Blaxland, and Jonathan, bright as a button, is now on his plane
FAMILY: If you would like to include Sydney on your next overseas itinery,
and if our guest-room does not have other guests in it at the time, you too
are most welcome to stay here with us.



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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