Carl W. Conrad cwconrad at
Sun Aug 12 08:18:30 EDT 2001

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

At 5:23 PM +1000 8/12/01, B. Ward Powers wrote:
>B-greekers all,
 . . .
>But this is not the whole story. In some aorist forms of the LUW paradigm
>the alpha of -SA- is missing. The first of these is the third person
>singular active form, ELUSE(N), with movable nu. This indicates the need
>for further explanation, i.e., a second (or supplementary) rule. When we
>compare the third singular active forms of imperfect, aorist, and perfect
>[ELUE(N), ELUSE(N), LELUKE(N)], we find they have in common -E(N),
>suggesting that in these forms this is the third person singular pronoun
>ending, with the meaning he/she/it. And in each case the vowel preceding
>this ending has elided (respectively -E-, -A-, and -A-). Recognizing this
>allows us to formulate a second rule:
>2. The -A- of the punctiliar morph -SA- elides before a following vowel.
>We test this rule in all the other forms of all the other flexions of the
>LUW paradigm, and we find it holds up without exception. In the subjunctive
>active and middle the punctiliar morph is always followed by the lengthened
>neutral morph, and so elides its -A- in all forms. In the second singular
>imperative active the -A- elides in front of the -ON ending, and before the
>-AI of the second singular imperative middle. So also in front of the -AI
>ending of the infinitive, and in the optative.

When Ward brought up this explanation (cited directly, I think, from his
textbook) 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.

At 5:18 PM -0500 10/20/97, Carl W. Conrad wrote:
>Here again I find a bit of a problem. I frankly doubt that there's any
>elision of an -A- from a -SA- form, and I think one would be hard put to
>demonstrate any such elision. It is easier to suppose that the alpha
>originated in the indicative active and spread as an element additional to
>the aorist -S- marker in several other indicative and non finite forms
>(participles, infinitives, imperatives except for the aorist 2 sg. in -ON,
>subjunctives; it appears in optatives in -SAIMI, SAIS, SAI but not in the
>Attic optative 2nd sg. -SEIAS, 3d sg. -SEIE or 3d pl. SEIAN). That is to
>say, I don't know that one can really say that the A in -SA- is a universal
>aorist marker; I rather think that -S- is for the sigmatic type aorist and
>that the additional -A- is not originally part of it. On the other hand, it
>might be more convenient for pedagogical purposes to speak of "elision" of
>the Alpha before an imperative ending -ON or before subjunctive vowels, so
>long as one doesn't confuse that hypothetical elision with description of
>what is actually involved.
>Let me reiterate here once more, that my concern is probably more with the
>historical development of the aorist forms than with how best to describe
>them for pedagogical purposes. 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.


Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University (Emeritus)
Most months: 1647 Grindstaff Road/Burnsville, NC 28714/(828) 675-4243
cwconrad at OR cwconrad at

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