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Help in Greek Morphology

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Help in Greek Morphology

Postby amans » Thu May 19, 2005 8:40 pm

Hi all,

I have a test coming up in my Greek class and part of that test concerns morphology.

I worry a bit about the verbs: I sometimes have a hard time identifying irregular verbs. It is not easy to know for example that [face=spionic]ei)=pon[/face] is the aoristus of [face=spionic]fhmi/[/face] or that [face=spionic]oi)/sw[/face] is the future indicative of [face=spionic]fe/rw[/face]...

Now I have a list of some difficult stems but it doesn't cover many verbs.

Any suggestions in the form of links, books or otherwise?

Thanks.
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Postby calvinist » Fri May 20, 2005 8:19 pm

The Morphology of Biblical Greek by Bill Mounce might be helpful, although I'm not sure how different Homeric or Attic Greek is from Koine. I learned Koine from Mounce's Basics of Biblical Greek Grammar and he makes identifying the "irregular" verbs fairly easy. He shows you that Greek verbs are really not irregular at all, unlike English, and that their formation is very logical. He introduces you to some linguistics and phonology that makes it much easier. I own the Oxford Grammar of Classical Greek and I sat down once and browsed through the section of "irregular" verbs and almost all of the principal parts seemed perfectly regular to me thanks to Mounce. Now when it comes to composition that's a different story, but as far as recognition that book might be helpful.
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Postby calvinist » Fri May 20, 2005 9:25 pm

Since Morphology of Biblical Greek is probably more indepth than you need right now, and so that you don't have to buy any more books, I'll try to give you some of the rules that can help you out. The big thing to understand is that the present stem is NOT the basis for the rest of the stems, rather the verbal root is usually modified in order to form the present stem. So when you look at the principal parts of a verb try to discover what the common verbal root is and then see how it is modified to form the present stem. Here are some of the rules taken almost verbatim from Mounce's Basics of Biblical Greek, I'm not at home and this isn't my computer so I can't download the Spionic font. Here's how I'm representing the Greek (w=omega, v=nu, n=eta, z=zeta, th=theta, x=xi, ch=chi, ph=phi, ps=psi) * represents a verbal root:

1. The present tense is by far the most 'irregular' because the verbal root has often undergone some change in the formation of the present tense stem.
-Single lambda becomes double lambda (*bal>ballw>ebalov)
-Iota is added to form the present tense stem (*ar>ari>air>airw>nra)
(sometimes iota sigma kappa is added, *apothan>apothvnskw with the iota subscripted)

2. Verbs ending in azw and izw have roots ending in a dental. Once you recognize that, the other tense stems are usually regular.
*baptid>baptizw, baptisw, ebaptisa, -, bebaptismai, ebaptisthnv

3. When a verb undergoes ablaut (the stem vowel changes), it is seldom necessary to know what stem vowel will be used in a certain tense. It is most important to use this clue to tell you whether a verbal form is in the present or not. If there has been ablaut, then you know it is not in the present tense, and you can find other clues as to its proper parsing
(apostellw>apesteila>apestalka)

4. It is common for a verb to insert an eta (kalew>eklnthnv) or a sigma (akouw>nkousthnv) before the tense formative in the aorist passive and sometimes before the ending in the perfect middle/passive (ballw>beblnmai; doxazw>dedoxasmai)
This is especially common in -izw and -azw type verbs.

5. The letter before the tense formative in the perfect middle/passive and aorist passive is often changed, especially if the stem ends in a stop (stops will aspirate to match the theta, agw>nchthnv). It is usually not important to predict what the new consonant will be; just get used to seeing an unusual consonant there and look elsewhere for clues to the verb's parsing.

6. Square of stops plus sigma:

Labials (p, b, ph) + s > ps

Velars (k, g, ch) + s > x

Dentals (t, d, th) + s > s (Dentals drop out before sigma)

When I learn a verb I learn the root with it, I memorize the present (baptizw) and the root as well (baptid). Equipped with only this information I can usually recognize all of the principal parts. Some verbs have multiple roots, i.e. legw and horaw. Keep that in mind and memorize the different roots. Some verbs, very few, undergo so much change that it's just easier to memorize the different parts. Basically, when you see a verbal form, look for distinctives to tell you which tense it is (s = future, theta eta = aorist passive, theta eta + s =future passive) and then try to reconstruct the verbal root from what's remaining. Once you get used to looking at verbs this way it becomes fairly easy. For instance, as soon as I see a verb like baptizw that ends in -izw, I instantly know that the root ends in a dental and it will drop out in every tense that uses a sigma. I don't know which dialect of Greek you're learning but I hope this helps. Also I'm assuming you're not having difficulty with noun morphology, but if you are, I can give you the rules that govern them too.
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Postby amans » Sat May 21, 2005 8:36 pm

Hi calvinist,

And thanks very much indeed for your helpful comments... I am an Attic Learner, for the time being at least. I am a relative newbie to Greek and I am doing a course with a limited scope, so I am not sure how far I will get in terms of understanding the historical development of the language and the relations between the dialects.

However, I do need to be able to recognize the verbs and I thank you for your explanations. I will have to look them over a couple of times and look up on my grammar, and then I might be back with questions.

I like the idea of memorizing present and root - the only problem is those verbs with several roots but perhaps they aren't that numerous. Your approach seems intuitive and right and certainly much easier than the one my teacher recommends... she wants me to memorize ballw, balw, ebalon... I just need to get the rules for constructing the different parts up under my skin :)

So far I am fine with nouns, my problem is primarily the verbs. Especially since I am also struggling a bit with learning the syntax related to the verbs.

Thanks again.
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Postby amans » Wed May 25, 2005 3:11 pm

Hello calvinist and others interested in the issue,

I got through my test without any trouble. I had to analyze the morphology of four different words:

[face=spionic]lamba/nein
i(/ppouj
tu/xh|
e)/xontaj[/face]


As you can see that was pretty easy...

But in the meantime I found a book that I wanted to tell you about.

John J. Bodoh: Index of Greek Forms. Georg Olms Verlag: Hildesheim and New York. 1970.

Let me quote from its introduction:

"One of the recurring problems in the study of Greek is the identification of difficult verb forms. The undergraduate may not recognize [face=spionic]la/qei[/face] (Soph Elec 222) or [face=spionic]piou=sa[/face] (Il 24.102). The more advanced student may well puzzle over [face=spionic]kekth=|'[/face] (Plato Leg 742e) and [face=spionic]ptwqe/nta [/face] (Anth 1.109). Even the mature scholar might pause a moment on [face=spionic]i)a/ttai[/face] (Leg Gort 8.47) and [face=spionic]sune/an[/face] (GDI 1149). To provide assistance in the identification of such forms is the purpose of this volume".

Then to give you an idea, here's what an entry would be like.

The first example:

[face=spionic]laq[/face]1, Dor pres [face=spionic]lanqa/nw[/face]
[face=spionic]laq[/face]3, aor2 [face=spionic]lanqa/nw[/face]

The last one:

[face=spionic]sune/an[/face], Elean pres opt, 3 pl [face=spionic]su/neimi[/face] ([face=spionic]eimi/[/face]) in GDI 1149 = SIG (Olympia, vi B.C.) [see Schwyzer, Gr Gr I, p 663, note 9]

I think it can be a very great help indeed in one's studies of Greek, but of course still must all the basics by heart.
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Postby Raya » Fri Jun 17, 2005 3:55 am

Wow! Thanks for this thread, calvinist and amans - and it comes just when I was picking up my Greek again but grumbling about recognising verb forms...

You see, I am aiming to be able to read/think in Greek naturally - to come to a point where I need not translate, even mentally, to get to meaning. And the information you've given here (which is terrific!) helps counter the first problem: how to recognise the root meaning of a verb.

But one frustrating thing that often happens to me is that I'll recognise the root meaning of a word, but then have to grope in the dark for its syntax - and this especially tends to happen to me with verbs/participles!

So I was wondering if you (or anyone else reading this) have any tips on this: once you have the root, how do you associate meaning with the rest of the word? How do you associate e- with past time, -wn with the concept of genitive plural, etc?

It might be that there's no way except to sit down and memorise, but I have to wonder if anyone has discovered something that makes the process simpler...
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Postby Bert » Fri Jun 17, 2005 11:17 pm

Raya wrote:
So I was wondering if you (or anyone else reading this) have any tips on this: once you have the root, how do you associate meaning with the rest of the word? How do you associate e- with past time, -wn with the concept of genitive plural, etc?

It might be that there's no way except to sit down and memorise, but I have to wonder if anyone has discovered something that makes the process simpler...

There might be a simpler way (I doubt it) but I think the best way is to read a lot so that you come across the augment or the endings a lot.
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Postby hyptia » Sat Jun 18, 2005 4:44 am

Raya wrote:So I was wondering if you (or anyone else reading this) have any tips on this: once you have the root, how do you associate meaning with the rest of the word? How do you associate e- with past time, -wn with the concept of genitive plural, etc?

What works for me is to first translate the sentences, then reread them (aloud) in their original form keeping in mind the meaning and grammatical structure of the sentence. That way, the word gets associated directly - instead of, for instance, thinking (and I'm using a noun here as an example because I started out with the easy stuff) "[face=SPIonic]ba/traxoj[/face] means frog; this sentence is about a frog", one learns to think "this sentence is about a [face=SPIonic]ba/traxoj[/face]." One of the stories in the book I'm reading is a simplified Aesop's fable that includes the plural of [face=SPIonic]ba/traxoj[/face] in all the cases except tht vocative; as a result of having memorized this, I need only see a second declension plural and instantly understand its position in the sentence - a type of comprehension that English has no exact equivalent to. :lol: An interesting side effect of this method of learning is when running across a sentence where most of the words are unfamiliar, the ability to comprehend the grammatical sense of the sentence without understanding the words. :shock:
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Postby amans » Sat Jun 18, 2005 9:47 am

Raya wrote:Wow! Thanks for this thread, calvinist and amans - and it comes just when I was picking up my Greek again but grumbling about recognising verb forms...


You're welcome, and welcome back on the forums :D

hyptia wrote:An interesting side effect of this method of learning is when running across a sentence where most of the words are unfamiliar, the ability to comprehend the grammatical sense of the sentence without understanding the words.


I often have this experience, too, - it's so weird to be able to understand a text without really understanding it. Something along the lines of: "He x'es the c, y, and z for w in order to q, unless he t'es the r's, those little u's". :?

What I have done, besides memorizing the hard way, writing out paradigms and such, is to take a text, featuring the problem I want to study, and keep studying it until I can scan through the pages and translate without any help. This way I got to know the texts very well indeed (!) and I got, I hope, some grammar up under my skin... That way I learnt a few poems by heart, - a nice place to keep a poem, one might say :)
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