diachronic explanation of 1st/2nd aorist

Carl W. Conrad cwconrad at artsci.wustl.edu
Tue May 21 09:47:07 EDT 2002

At 7:05 AM -0400 5/21/02, Trevor Peterson wrote:
>This is probably something I could go to the library and look up if I were
>feeling ambitious enough, but at this point it's mainly just a curiosity.

This is precisely when you SHOULD go to the library and do some exploring;
at least, it's when my curiosity is piqued by questions like this that I
want to see what those who have explored the question previously say about

>think in every discussion I've seen of 1st and 2nd aorist, it's been presented
>that there are just two different ways to form the aorist. But what is the
>diachronic explanation for how the two paradigms originated? Specifically, it
>seems to me that the sequence would somehow have gone 2nd aorist, then
>present, then 1st aorist, then imperfect, or maybe with the last two reversed.
>After all, I would think you'd have to have the present stem in existence
>before forms like 1st aorist and imperfect could build off of it. But this is
>just speculation, of course. As I say, I could probably find some answers by
>looking myself, but if someone likes this sort of topic and feels inclined to
>provide a brief explanation, I'd appreciate it.

It seems to me that you're asking more than one question here, one about
tense stems and a second one about the historical sequence of emergence of
morphoparadigms. The situation is, I think, more complex than can be
resolved in a quick response, but I'm not going to attempt anything more
than that here--and it may well be that what I offer here is not at all
what you're looking for.

Tense-stems don't uniformly derive from any one form of the root, even if
it is true that the "second aorist" form of the root (so-called "root"
aorist often displays the simplest form of a verb's root (LIP for LEIPW,
PIQ for PEIQW, GEN for GI(G)NOMAI, MAQ for MANQANW, etc.), a
present-tense-stem may derive from a different root all together (e.g.
TREC- for aor. EDRAMON, hORA- for aor. EIDON). One really ought to think of
the athematic (MI) and thematic (W) verbs as two different types, each with
their own characteristic type of aorists (e.g. W: ELIPON, -MI: ESTHN--and I
think we ought to see those two types as equally old. The "first" or -SA
aorist is not the oldest but a later-emerging form of the aorist and it
does generally build upon a present stem (e.g. LEG-, aor. ELEXA), and, of
course, it became increasingly the normal aorist morphoparadigm, although
originally built upon an IE -S- perfective infix with alpha-endings added

NT grammars don't go into this history of the language but tend to offer
straightforward analytical rules for formation of the morphoparadigms as
they exist in Koine Greek without regard to how these morphoparadigms
developed historically; anomalies--verbs that for one reason or another
don't seem to "obey the rules"--tend to get short shrift in the NT
grammars. The great exception is A.T.Robertson, which really needs to be
read carefully, chapter by chapter, rather than used as a reference to
resolve grammatical problems.

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University (Emeritus)
Most months:: 1647 Grindstaff Road/Burnsville, NC 28714/(828) 675-4243
cwconrad at artsci.wustl.edu OR cwconrad at ioa.com
WWW: http://www.artsci.wustl.edu/~cwconrad/

More information about the B-Greek mailing list