divergent aorists

B. Ward Powers bwpowers at optusnet.com.au
Sun May 26 06:04:20 EDT 2002

For those who may be interested, to comment further on the morphology of 

At 08:18 AM 020525 -0400, Carl W. Conrad wrote (in a response to Harry, 
after discussing his own identification of Third Aorists - upon which I 
have commented in a separate posting):

>Unfortunately, even that doesn't fully resolve the confusion or leave the
>aorist "vista" a cloudless and serene picture: there are three other pesky
>aorist verbs in a morphoparadigm all to themselves which are important
>enough that one must know them and be able to recognize them: EDWKA, 
>EQHKA, and -hHKA (usually in compound verbs such as AFHKA. Are we to call 
>these "fourth aorists"? I confess that I haven't had the brazen 
>shamelessness to speak of a "fourth aorist." And to their chagrin students 
>of Koine Greek will eventually run into such aorists as AFHKEN (Mt 8:15) 
>or AFHKAMEN (Mt 6:12) and perhaps strike their foreheads with their firsts 
>and cry out "I could have had a V-8" or something equally helpful(?).

I agree with Carl. We don't want to have a category of "fourth aorists". 
Actually, we won't need to. On the basis of the "Occam's Razor" approach 
(i.e., the simplest possible explanation of phenomena - the approach which 
is most favoured by linguists) the patterns of the Greek verb in the aorist 
can be explained pretty simply.

>It is easy to say, as Ward has said on more than one occasion, that most
>Greek verbs are well-disciplined, well-mannered youngsters who abide by 
>the rules of the grammatical establishment. And I say, as one who spent 
>years teaching classical and Homeric and Koine Greek, "Thank God" for 
>those verbs! BUT we who teach the language had better not ignore those 
>pesky "unruly" verbs that don't follow the simple rules for conjugation of 
>the "first aorist" and "second aorist," but nevertheless are sufficiently
>common in the GNT because they convey recurrent and important senses:
>"betray" (PAREDWKA) and "forgive" (AFHKA). 90% of learning Greek is a
>matter of learning the verbs

So, the simple explanations. But before that, a bit of background setting.

First step: we recognize that the issue has two areas: the endings, and the 
stems, of verb forms.

Three clarifications re linguistic terminology.
1. "In morphological analysis ... one divides or 'cuts' forms of actual 
utterances into minimal segments, or sequences of phonemes, to which it is 
possible to assign meanings. ... such phoneme sequences or form-segments 
are known in current usage as 'morphs'." (F G Lounsbury, "The Method of 
Descriptive Morphology", in M Joos, "Readings in Linguistics", University 
of Chicago Press). "Morph" (not "morpheme") is the correct terms for a 
meaning-segment in a word.
2. "Morph slots" is the term for positions in the framework of a word where 
morphs can be found. There are nine morph slots in the verb in Greek.
3. The term "stem" refers to the whole of a word except the bit that 
changes in a particular paradigm, which is the "ending". The "stem" can be 
described by what it means. Thus in EKLUQHSONTAI (Mark 8:3), EKLUQHSO- is 
the future passive stem, and -NTAI is the ending (third person plural).

Now, re the three -KA verbs that Carl mentions, EDWKA, EQHKA,
and -hHKA:

These forms are in fact stems, to which the endings will be added for the 
different pronouns in the aorist paradigm of each. (The pronoun ending for 
the first person singular form in the aorist active is a nothing, called in 
linguistics "zero morph". There is a "something" as a pronoun ending (Morph 
Slot 9) in each other form of the paradigm.)

These endings which are added are exactly the same as for LUW. So these 
three verbs take First Conjugation endings for their aorist active. The 
problem occurs in a stem slot, Slot 7, the aspect morph slot. In LUW, in
this slot, the aspect morph (identifying the form ELUSA as aorist)
is -SA-. Note: this is -SA-, with the -A- as part of this aspect morph, not
part of the ending.

That's the background stuff. Now, here's the simple explanation of the 
aorist active of all verb forms:

1. There are three conjugations in Greek. In the aorist active, in Slot 7, 
the Aspect slot, Second Aorist verbs have "-o-" or "-e-"  (meaning "no 
change" in their underlying grammatical aspect, which is punctiliar), and 
take the Second Aorist set of endings (e.g. EBALON, from BALLW).

2. Third Aorist verbs (when they are being Third Aorist and not 
assimilating to First Conjugation) have zero in Slot 7, and take the Third 
Aorist set of endings (e.g., ESTHN, from hISTHMI). Note: -N is the ending, 
not -HN;
the -H- is part of the root, STH; similarly in EGNWN the root is GNW and
again the ending is -N.

3. First Conjugation verbs all take identical endings on the pattern of 
variations in the form of the aspect morph in Slot 7, as follows.

4. Three verbs, EDWKA, EQHKA, and -hHKA, have -KA- as their aspect morph 
instead of the usual -SA-.

5. For First Aorist verbs with roots ending in a liquid, the sigma of the 
-SA- aspect morph slides off the liquid, leaving the allomorphic form just 
-A- as the aspect morph for these verbs. Thus EXHRANA, from XHRAINW (the 
iota of the present form is a durative infix). If the phoneme before this 
liquid is epsilon, this becomes -EI- by compensatory lengthening for the 
loss of the stem phoneme sigma. Thus HGGEILA, from AGGELLW (the second 
lambda of the present form is a durative infix); EDEIRA, from DERW; EMEINA, 
from MENW.

6. All aspect morphs are elision morphs. This applies not only to the 
punctiliar -SA-, but also to the -o-/-e- in the present/imperfect and the 
Second Aorist, and the -KA- perfective aspect morph This means that 
wherever the morph that is appended to the aspect morph commences with a 
vowel, the vowel of the aspect morph elides. This occurs in the third 
person singular form (imperfect, aorist and perfect tenses; thus LELUKEN); 
throughout the aorist subjunctive active and middle (e.g., LUSWMEQA), the 
pluperfect active (e.g., ELELUKEIMEN), and some other individual forms 
(e.g., LUSON). I don't see any exceptions.

7. Where this -SA- is added to a labial or a palatal, the sigma amalgamates 
into the corresponding double letter (e.g., EGRAYA, from GRAFW; EDIWXA, 
from DIWKW).

I believe this explains all the aorist forms we find (and a bit more 
besides, because the behaviour of the Greek language is overall pretty 
consistent and regular).

Interesting, isn't it? I find it so.


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