From: B. Ward Powers (bwpowers@optusnet.com.au)
Date: Mon Aug 13 2001 - 01:35:51 EDT

At 08:18 AM 010812 -0400, Carl W. Conrad wrote:
>Just a quibble here regarding Ward's explanation of a supposed "elision" of
>A in what he calls an "allomorph" -SA- in formation of the ("first") aorist
>in Greek. As I've noted before, I don't really think elision (in the sense
>of suppression of a vowel originally present in favor of a preceding vowel)
>is at all what is involved in

There is a possibility that Carl and I may have different working
definitions of what is mean by "elision" as it applies in koine Greek. When
a preposition ending in a vowel (other than PRO or PERI) is prefixed to a
verb which commences with a vowel, that last vowel of the preposition
elides before the first vowel of the verb to which it is now attached. And
that is elision. (Are we in agreement thus far, Carl?)

Now what I observe with the neutral morph (the -O- or -E- of ELUOMEN and
ELUETE), and the -SA- punctiliar morph of the aorist active and middle, and
the -KA- perfective morph of the present perfect active, is that they
behave in exactly the same way. That is, in these "aspect morphs", their
vowel remains when they are "form final" (as in LELUKA) or followed by a
consonant, but when they are followed by a vowel in the contiguous next
morph, then that first vowel vanishes from sight. (Compare LELUKA with
LELUKEN.) I therefore describe the observed behaviour of these phonemes as
"elision": when followed by another vowel, these vowels elide.

The alternative explanations often offered involve taking -KE- in LELUKEN
as an alternative morph in this verb form to -KA- in the other verb forms,
which is a deficient explanation because it does not account for the change
of vowel, and also because if the -E- is taken as part of this morph, then
all you have left for the pronoun morph is a movable nu. This is
linguistically unsound as an explanation.

This is how linguistic analysis works: The moment you recognize that the
pronoun ending for the third singular in imperfect, aorist and perfect
tenses is epsilon (with or without movable nu, i.e. you have the
allomorphic forms -E and -EN), then you see that the perfective morph can
be either -KA- or -K-, and similarly the punctiliar morph can be -SA- or
-S-: and the next thing you do is seek to identify the environment in which
it can be the one or the other. And you see that it simply depends upon
whether the next phoneme is a vowel or not. So you suspect this is an
instance of elision. Next you test this "theory" in other environments
(i.e., other tenses of LUW, other paradigms). You see (as I showed in my
previous post) that this explanation holds up in all cases. Finally you
formalize it in the form of a "rule".

>At 5:23 PM +1000 8/12/01, B. Ward Powers wrote:


> >Recognizing this allows us to formulate a second rule:
> >2. The -A- of the punctiliar morph -SA- elides before a following vowel.

[Carl responds:]

>When Ward brought up this explanation (cited directly, I think, from his

Actually, no, Carl. It is indeed true, of course, that in my textbook
"Learn to Read the Greek NT" I present the same conclusions from my
research into linguistics and NT Greek, but what I posted to the b-greek
list was newly written for this purpose. I had in mind to lay out this
explanation before the list to see what helpful comments I could elicit.
(Thank you for yours.) It is my hope, down the track a little, to put
together some of the fruits of my research into the question of linguistics
and Greek (including the question of the -SA- morph) and seek separate
publication for them.

> back in 1979, I protested on historical grounds against this
>explanation. I will grant quite readily that it is the sort of explanation
>which works well enough as a pedagogical device even if it isn't an
>accurate account of how the historical forms came into existence.

I do not claim to be an expert in the historical development of the Greek
language, having just a modest contact with its history while studying
Classical Greek as a subject major in my undergraduate years. I am aware
how much greater than mine is Carl's knowledge in this historical arena.

But for most purposes a reference to the history of the language is not
necessary in teaching or understanding koine Greek. This is not to say that
it can or should be totally ignored: for example, in my Grammar I have
quite a bit to say about the ancient letter digamma and the words it was
in, but this is because knowing this will help us understand the behaviour
of the used-to-be digamma words when we meet them in koine.

For the most part, however, it suffices well if we take a synchronistic
view ("as things are now", i.e., in NT times) rather than needing a
diachronistic approach ("through time", looking at historical development)
for koine Greek. It may possibly be that Carl and I have a different
viewpoint about this point.

> >But even when teaching the aorist in Biblical Greek, one must come to
> >terms sooner or later with the fact that the language does not fit quite
> >so neatly into the slots as one might wish.
> >As the rabbit told Alice, those verbs are "an ornery lot" and one must
> >really struggle with them to master them.

As Carl says (and all of us who work with the language know well how true
it is!), verbs do not always fit neatly into our grammatical slots. And
indeed at times we really do struggle to master them. But there are many
patterns - dozens and dozens of them - which can be discerned by applying
the principles of linguistic analysis to koine Greek.

Up to a point, linguistic analysis involves discerning such patterns, and
then seeking to attach meanings to them in the language. And when I discern
these patterns, I am grateful they are there, and I take advantage of them
for the sake of my own understanding of what is "going on" in the language
- and also for the benefits they can bring to students following behind us,
and also struggling with the language.



Rev Dr B. Ward Powers Phone (International): 61-2-8714-7255
259A Trafalgar Street Phone (Australia): (02) 8714-7255
PETERSHAM NSW 2049 email: bwpowers@optusnet.com.au
AUSTRALIA. Director, Tyndale College

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