diachronic explanation of 1st/2nd aorist

B. Ward Powers bwpowers at optusnet.com.au
Thu May 23 01:28:05 EDT 2002

At 07:05 AM 020521 -0400, 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. I
>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.

Actually, Trevor, when koine Greek is assessed from the perspective of and 
by the methods of linguistic analysis, there are three patterns for the 
aorist active (and three Conjugations). They are:

First Aorist (pronoun endings: zero, S, E(N), MEN, TE, N)


Second Aorist (pronoun endings: N, S, E(N), MEN, TE, N)


Third Aorist (pronoun endings: N, S, zero, MEN, TE, SAN)


Similarly, ESTHN (hISTHMI); EBHN (BAINW); and some others, plus all aorist 
passives, where this set of pronoun conjugation endings is simply added to 
the passive morph "QE", which lengthens in this paradigm to "QH". In other 
words, "all verbs have third conjugation endings in the aorist passive".

This third aorist conjugation pattern is also found in the pluperfect 
active, where it was adopted in koine times in place of the very jumbled 
pluperfect pattern of classical Greek.

This is set out in some detail (plus the setting-out of all the points of 
similarity and difference between the First, Second and Third 
Conjugations)  in pages 81, 96-99, 142-145, 213, 235-237 of my Grammar 
"Learn to Read the Greek New Testament" (of which many list members 
obtained a copy when it was offered on-list last year).

The classification (by some grammarians) of such third aorists as "second 
aorists" is linguistically invalid. They are obviously different in 
pattern. (Note the similarities and differences in the sets of prounoun 
endings given above for the three differing aorist active conjugation 

The so-called second aorist passive is not a separate pattern of 
conjugation, but has an identical set of morph endings with the first 
aorist passive. The difference is actually that the passive morph in these 
verbs is just "H", lacking the "Q" of the more usual passive morph "QH". 
This is simply what is known as an allomorphic variation. The pattern of 
pronoun endings is unchanged. Those verbs which contain this allomorph are 
listed on page 239.

>  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.

There is evidence in many verbs of the Second and Third Conjugations that 
they are in the process of transition to First Conjugation forms, either 
fully or partly. Look at the aorists of PIPTW, hAMARTANW, hEURISKW, LEIPW, 
ANAKRAZW, AGW and its compounds, and the suppletive aorists  hEILON/hEILA, 
Third Conjugation (-MI) verbs which have not come to take the -SA aorist 
morph and follow LUW (ELUSA) in their aorists.

Actually, we can notice a similar transition in English right now: in the 
speech of many people, some participles in "n" such as "proven", "shown" 
have become "regularized" ("proved", "showed"); "swollen" has become 
"swelled", and past "dove" from verb "dive" has become "dived". A tendency 
in language to move irregular and unpredictable forms to become "regular".

>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.

There is evidence to indicate that the root of Second and Third Conjugation 
verbs is their aorist. But First Aorists do build up from their present forms.

>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.
>Trevor Peterson

So, herewith a few comments to mull over.



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

More information about the B-Greek mailing list