question concerning dictionary entries
porson at ix.netcom.com
Sun Mar 10 19:25:45 EST 2002
Steven Baxley wrote:
>Can anyone tell me why in Greek dictionaries, verbs seem to be listed =
>their 1st person singular form, rather than their infinitive forms? For
>example, if I look at Vine's or Strong's for the word "baptein", I find =
>listed as "bapto" rather than "baptein". Is this a standard convention =
>dealing with Greek verbs, or am I mistaking the infinitive form? Or am =
>making some other kind of error in understanding?
>For example, if I speak of the Greek word "bapto" meaning "to dip". =
>I say a or b?
>a] "The Greek word "bapto" means "to dip".
>b] "The Greek word "baptein" means "to dip."
Well, I'll take a stab at it.
Inflection of a verbal stem yields distinctions of person, number, voice,
tense, and mood. These distinctions are appropriate to what convention
has termed the finite verb. Besides what tradition and convention have
termed the finite verb, we encounter verbal forms of a nominal nature: in
Greek these are infinitive and participle, in Latin infinitive,
participle, supine an gerund, and gerundive. The active infinitive and
the supine are probably nominal in origin and/or function, presumably
representing an earlier dative or locative use.In Latin the supine
manifests an ablative and accusative form. These extra forms also
manifest themselves to varying degrees in languages such as Sanskrit
which exhibit larger chunks of the older IE inflectional system. The
nominal character of the infinitive is exemplified in a language such as
Greek by its use with a definite article. We may also consider uses such
as infinitives as the subject of a sentence (common in both Latin and
I'd like to quote Leonard Palmer on the Greek infinitives:
These are, in origin, cases of verbal nouns which in IE had no systematic
connection with the verbal conjugation. The underlying noun stems
contained a general reference to the verbal event, but there was no
connection with any 'tense'. The systematic development of present,
future, aorist and perfect infinitives was a Greek innovation, as was the
distinction of voice, for the verbal nouns were neutral in this respect.
(The Greek Language, U. of Oklahoma, 1996, p. 314)
Here's a quote from the opening of Aristotle's ANALUTIKON PROTERON:
PRWTON EIPEIN PERI TI KAI TINOS ESTIN hH SKEYIS...EITA DIORISAI TI ESTI
Again at the beginning of the Rhetoric we read:
...AMFOTERAI GAR PERI TOIOUTWN TINWN EISIN hA KOINA TROPON TINA hAPANTWN
ESTI GNWRIZEIN KAI OUDEMIAS EPISTHMHS AFWRISMENHS...
In a nutshell then, it seems that if we were to ascribe a reason to
lexical convention in this regard, most likely it would be that
infinitives historically were nouns with some verbal force rather than
verbs with some nominal force.
I don't know how illuminating this has been, but that's my drachma's
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