Re: The suffix -IA

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Sat May 16 1998 - 16:26:06 EDT

At 10:55 AM -0400 5/16/98, wrote:
>Carl W. Conrad wrote:
>> Let me say something general about the -IA suffix; it is one of the most
>> important formative elements, not only for Greek nouns but for making
>> feminine forms of adjectives and participles; and it is not at all
>> RESTRICTED to any relationship to -EUW verbs. It seems particularly
>> functional to create nouns out of stems in -S-, -f- (digamma, the -w-
>> sound, not phi), -Y- (iota consonant, the -y- sound, not upsilon), any many
>> of these nouns are generalizing or abstract
>I have been understanding this construction as the word EI [if] plus A
>[privative] contracted to IA. A quality is an attribution of an
>object, which must be determined to apply or not, hence EI [if], and
>to make the quality a noun, that EI [if] is removed [abstracted]. Is
>this a useful approach?

No, George, that won't do at all; this is something I also tried to point
out when you were endeavoring to capture the -A- of the -SA- aorist as an
alpha privative: it doesn't work that way. Generally you can tell pretty
clearly when two distinct root elements are being combined together, as in
EPEI from EPI + EI, or EPEITA from EPI + EITA; but you really ought to look
at the sections on word-formation in the grammars; there are suffixes and
infixes that DO add particular elements of meaning, like the verb additive
-SIS (originally -TIS) for "process" or the verb additive -MA(T)
(originally -MNT) for result of verbal action--BUT you're not going to find
an "if" element appended to a noun stem immediately preceding a gender/case
ending. I think it can be said with pretty great certainty that a noun in
-EIA in Greek is built upon an original stem in ES-, Ey-, or Ef- to which
the -IA has been added; then the intervocalic -S-, -y- (consonantal I) or
-f- (digamma, consonantal U) evanesces, leaving the resultant combination
of stem + IA as -EIA. But the I here belongs to -IA and the -E- derives
from the noun or verb stem; there was never an -EI- in there that could be
said to be identical with EI = "if."

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University
Summer: 1647 Grindstaff Road/Burnsville, NC 28714/(828) 675-4243

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