6

When I was learning Ancient Greek, I was taught that most verbs had three basic stems corresponding to the different aspects: imperfective -λυ-, aoristic -λυσ-, and perfective -λελυκ-. Adding an augment made them past-tense, removing it made them non-past.

This was a useful mnemonic. But historically, was there actually any connection between the sigmas in the future λύσ-ω ("non-past aoristic") and the aorist ἔ-λυσ-α ("past aoristic")? I had always assumed so, but then I came across the "S-future" while researching the Latin future perfect.

4

They're almost certainly not related.

The sigmatic aorist occurs in several Indo-European branches and is reconstructed to Proto-Indo-European. The sigmatic future isn't reconstructed to PIE -- in fact, PIE seems to have had no future tense at all. Instead, the sigmatic future is thought to come from a PIE desiderative form (with the meaning "want to [verb]"). In some branches this desiderative underwent a semantic change to become a future tense marker -- just like English will, which used to mean "want to".

As far as I know there's no reason to think that the sigmatic aorist and the desiderative were related in PIE, despite their similarity (which may be partial -- the desiderative suffix may have been not just -s- but -h₁s-, with a laryngeal).

(Btw teaching that there are "three basic stems" in Greek isn't very good pedagogy because lots of verbs form their future and aorist from different stems. And I don't know that the Greek future can be defined as "non-past aoristic" -- it can have non-aoristic/imperfective aspect too.)

  • And in liquid verbs, the aorist and future stems diverge, as they are etymologically distinct: τείνω, future *ten-es-ō > teneō > τενῶ, aorist *e-ten-s-a > etēna ἔτεινα. – Nick Nicholas Aug 15 '18 at 15:24

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.