[B-Greek] Last question on Verbal components

Carl W. Conrad cwconrad at artsci.wustl.edu
Fri Feb 20 16:13:18 EST 2004

I've already presented one answer to this, but I want to come back to
something that I think was important in the original question and that I
didn't answer at all well: the matter of VOICE with regard to stem.

At 10:22 AM -0800 2/20/04, Mitch Larramore wrote:
>I am so very sorry for belaboring this point. I
>promise to move on even if I fail to understand this.
>I am having a hard time formulating my question. But
>here is another example that may help me understand
>the idea of STEMS and their relationship to VOICE.
>Mounce lists the LU of this Aorist Active Participle
>as the "unaumented Aorist ACTIVE stem" (my emphasis).
>The SA is the Tense formative, but not the VOICE
>formative if I understand him right. (And of course
>this would only be the tense formatives in the Active
>and Middle, not the Passive.)

I think part of our hang-up with "active" as a descriptive word is that we
tend to think of the active form of the verb as the default form from which
middle and passive forms are somehow deviant; that's a fundamental reason
for referring to verbs that don't have an active form as "deponent," a term
which I have been doing my best to discourage the use of. That problem
becomes glaringly obvious when we see GEN- described as an "aorist active
stem" when the verb GINOMAI simply does not have an active aorist form and
in fact, the only "active" form it has is in the perfect GEGONA, older

We use the term "active" in two distinct ways:

(a) to refer to the form of a transitive verb, the subject of which
performs an action upon an external object or person;

(b) to refer to the default or "unmarked"form of a verb. In Greek it is
true that the form conventionally referred to as "active" is the default
form for most verbs, whether in fact they are active in sense (a) above
(e.g. BLAPTW) or are intransitive (e.g. BAINW) or even may function as
semantic passives (e.g. EKPIPTW "be sent into exile" or PASCW "be made to

I'd refer to the "aorist stem" of EGENOMHN as GEN; I wouldn't call it
aorist "active" because that doesn't make any sense: the verb doesn't have
an active form at all and in fact the default form for this verb is
regularly middle.

I'd speak of several distinct aorist stems:

	(a) SIGMATIC  (first) AORIST stem LUSA-, from which are formed all
moods, active and middle, finite as well as infinitive and participle;

	(b) THEMATIC (second) AORIST stem LAB OR LAB-O/E, from which are
formed all moods, active and middle, finite as well as infinitive and
participle (it's worth noting that in this instance the stem is identical
with the root; traditional grammarians spoke of such second aorists as
"root aorists";

	(c) ATHEMATIC (second or "third") AORIST STEM STH/STA or GNW/GNO or
QH/QE from which are formed all moods, active and middle, finite as well as
infinitive and participle;

	(d) "Passive" AORIST STEM, LUQH/LUQE which conjugates exactly like
the Athematic Aorist stem, taking "active" endings, and yielding verb forms
which may be intransitive aorists of middle-voice verbs (e.g. APOKRINOMAI
-> APEKRIQHN or real passive aorists of active-voice verbs (e.g. STAUROW ->

But I can see no point whatsoever in speaking of an ACTIVE aorist stem
(particularly if a verb has no active forms in the aorist or if the middle
form of the stem is identical with the active form of the stem).

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University (Emeritus)
1989 Grindstaff Road/Burnsville, NC 28714/(828) 675-4243
cwconrad at artsci.wustl.edu
WWW: http://www.ioa.com/~cwconrad/

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