[B-Greek] Athematic Aorist Subjunctive

Carl W. Conrad cwconrad at artsci.wustl.edu
Fri Oct 5 11:24:24 EDT 2007

On Sep 30, 2007, at 3:12 PM, Stephen Baldwin wrote:

> Brethren:
> No sooner mentioned Smyth and the Morphology of Biblical Greek,  
> than a query has arisen.
> I'm perplexed at Mounce's listings in MBG. In ss44.2c he states  
> that athematic aorists are "Root Aorists" in that the ending is  
> appended directly to the root with no connecting vowel, tense  
> formative etc.

This is a different -- and, it seems to me, infelicitous, use of the  
term "root aorist" from the use with which I am familiar: an aorist  
stem that clearly shows the original verb root without distinctive  
tense-additive forms. EMAQON is a "root aorist" because it shows the  
root MAQ of the verb MANQANW, whereas EMACESAMHN does not show the  
root MAC of the verb MACOMAI.

As for "athematic," that term will ordinarily apply to forms that  
attach verb-endings directly to the verb stem; that will NOT account  
for ALL the forms of any verb whatsoever. Most commonly the term is  
used for -MI verbs in distinction to -W verbs and refers  
fundamentally to the present-tense forms that have no "thematic"  
vowel O/E linking the stem and the personal ending.

> He also states that hISTHMI is the only athematic verb that has  
> both first and second aorist forms.

Perhaps that's true if one limits the database to the GNT. I'm rather  
wary of assertions about what either "all" verbs do or what "only  
one" verb does.

> Clearly in the subj., a connecting vowel is used. However, when he  
> comes to discuss the aorist subjunctive (ss52), he lists *STA, *QE,  
> and *DO as having both first and second aorist forms: Thus: DIDWMI  
> has a 1A-A-Subj form of DWSW and a 2A-A-Subj of DW. (DWSW is  
> identical to the F-A-I form.)

Within the GNT we find "first aorist" forms only 2x among 24 aorists  
of DIDWMI: DWSHi (John 17:2) and DWSWMEN (Rev. 19:7). They are not  
really standard forms.

> So I guess my question is: Are the two forms of athematic aorist  
> subjunctive mentioned in MBG [a] a mistake or [b] badly described  
> (in that he lists them without sufficient explanation) or [c]  
> something else? (I am suspicious because I've found errors in the  
> paradigms at the back of BBG too...)

I'd say "badly described." One thing that needs to be borne in mind  
is that the NT texts were composed by numerous individuals, some more  
schooled (literally) in Greek than others. The Greek of the GNT is  
anything but uniform.

> I did consult my Smyth who did describe  athematic 2A-A-Subj  
> (ss757) but who lists nothing subjunctive under athematic 1A-A/M in  
> ss755. (Of course the information might be hiding elsewhere...)

The "athematic first aorist" seen in the forms cited above (DWSHi and  
DWSWMEN) are really anomalous, although intelligible. I think they  
probably would not have been written by native Greek speakers/writers  
and are not found in Classical Attic texts. They are intelligible  
because one readily discerns the root DW and an S that could be an  
aorist marker. My guess is that these forms are based on analogy from  
the future stem DWS- on the assumption that a future stem in DWS-  
ought to be identical to an aorist stem in DWS- derived from a  
putative EDWSA.

In my opinion a student needs to gain instant recognition of endings,  
know the tense-sign and modal infixes, and have a mastery of the  
principal parts of irregular verbs. One doesn't really need to  
memorize whole paradigms of athematic verbs, although it's worth  
looking at the paradigms that show partial assimilation to thematic  
inflection, as in the imperfect singular of DIDWMI (EDIDOUN <EDIDO- 

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University (Ret)

More information about the B-Greek mailing list