Re: alpha privativum: correction

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Tue Mar 16 1999 - 05:48:42 EST

At 5:26 AM -0600 3/15/99, Carl W. Conrad wrote:
>There probably is some bibliography on alpha privative, and if there is
>anything recent and significant, I expect Micheal Palmer could point it
>out. On the other hand, it certainly is a major formative element in Greek,
>just as its cognates are in at least some IE languages. What I was taught
>about it early on was that its PIE form is a vocalic M- (which some
>grammarians mark by putting a dot under the M-, others by putting a small
>convex curve immediately under the M-); in Greek composition it becomes an
>Alpha before a consonant (just as does the -M marking the accusative
>singular become an Alpha following a consonant), and it becomes AN- before
>a vowel or a dental consonant, AM- before a labial consonant, e.g.:

To my chagrin Stephen Carlson has called my attention to the fact that the
PIE antecedent and source of alpha privative is NOT a vocalic *M- but
rather a vocalic *N- (although the marker for acc. sg. of nouns really IS
vocalic *M-); he also gives the reference to Andrew Sihler, New Comparative
Grammar of Greek and Latin, p. 105. A dangerous thing it is to rely upon
memory alone for an item of factual information like this and I'm grateful
to Stephen for his discreet off-list note to me.

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics/Washington University
One Brookings Drive/St. Louis, MO, USA 63130/(314) 935-4018
Home: 7222 Colgate Ave./St. Louis, MO 63130/(314) 726-5649 OR

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