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Third Declension (Consonant Declension)

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Third Declension (Consonant Declension)

Postby Aletheia » Fri Mar 12, 2010 6:20 pm

So I am now learning the third declension and am looking for advice about how to best memorize it. Which of these two ways would you recommend? ONE: My current tactic is to memorize the basic endings chart, and have as good a grasp on the various laws of phonetic combination as possible. Is this naive? TWO: Is it better to just memorize the various sub-classes of consonant declension nouns? My book (Mastronarde) suggests that there are six such classes, and they sort of overwhelm me:
1) labial/velar plosive stems
2) dental plosive stems:
a) masculine/feminines with a nominative in -is
b) masculine nouns with stem in -vt-
c) neuter nouns with stem in t
3) suffix -mat-
4) consonant stems ending in liquid (l, r) or nasal (n)
5) irregular stems in r
6) stems in s

Even if you think "TWO" is the way to go, I still really do like knowing the various phonetic laws of combination, but would appreciate reviewing them and knowing which apply to third declension changes.

Obviously, there are vowel contractions. But what of other combinations?
intervocalic sigma (sigma between two vowels often disappears)
is there a name for the times when sigma sucks into consonants to make psi out of pi, etc.? sigmatic elision or some such something?

And if you think "ONE" is the better approach, would you recommend a different way of creating the various sub-classes?
Began half-heartedly learning Greek in 2001. Working diligently to take (for the third time) a translation exam of the Nicomachean Ethics as part of a PhD in ancient philosophy (May 2010). Mama to two little boys.
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Re: Third Declension (Consonant Declension)

Postby Damoetas » Fri Mar 12, 2010 8:28 pm

As with most things, there are various ways of doing it, and what's best may depend on the person.... In this case, I would suggest a combination of the two methods. Start with ONE: learn the basic endings well, and have a good grasp of the phonetic combinations. Focusing on this may keep you from becoming overwhelmed. But just recognize that in the long-term, this probably won't be good enough. If you stop with method ONE, it means that every time you see a word, you'll have to go through a mini-process of logical deduction to figure out what it means, and this will slow down your reading. Also, there's a real chance that you won't recognize the more unusual combinations.

So what I would do is gradually work at mastering each sub-class; and you can take them one at a time to make the task more manageable. It helps to write out each form with the article, because that's your automatic sign of what case it is. Also learn the meaning with it. E.g. learn, τοῦ ἄρχοντος, "of the ruler." Then ask yourself, How would I say, "of the rulers"? τῶν ἀρχόντων. But along with this, memorize the whole paradigm and recite it (with correct accentuation, because that sometimes helps distinguish otherwise similar forms): ὁ ἄρχων, τοῦ ἄρχοντος, τῷ ἄρχοντι, τὸν ἄρχοντα, etc.

As far as how to organize the sub-classes, I think the ones in Mastronarde are probably good. One small tip is that some of them are easier (and more frequently occurring) than others. For instance, neuter nouns with the stem in -ματ- are very common and completely regular. Likewise neuter nouns ending in -εσ-, which becomes -ος in the nominative singular. So what you can do is, pick one sub-class, take your time and master it, and then move on to the next one. Third declension nouns are one chapter that it is really worth taking your time on.

I think you'll find that the π + σ > ψ combinations are not very problematic, because they're actually just a spelling convention. (The same sound could have been written πς.) Saying the words out loud helps to make this clear.
Dic mihi, Damoeta, 'cuium pecus' anne Latinum?
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