nasal pres / root aorist II
petegray at btinternet.com
Tue Aug 3 16:22:40 UTC 1999
Do nasal presents very regularly show root aorists, either in the same
language or others?
To save bored readers from wading through the details, here's the conclusion
I reach at the end:
So for PIE we need to crunch numbers and get a proper statistical analysis,
and for individual languages only Greek and Sanksrit have a hope of showing
a genuine correlation, but for both it is, if anything, nothing more than a
general tendency. It certainly can't support the original claim that since
Sanskrit shows the form tundate, it must once have had a root aorist to go
Here's the details:
****A: in PIE
I was pleased to have a good look through Rix's Lexicon (thank you for the
reference, Jens). A proper study needs to be done - as I have said
before - to see which present formations statistically go with which
aorists. Neither Strunk nor Rix provide this. Some clue comes, however
from the variety available. Rix suggests that there were three original
aorist forms, root, sigmatic, and reduplicated. He says that in PIE there
are 265 certain examples of root aorists, 79 sigmatic, and 5 reduplicated
(or of total suggested forms, 392 root, 174 sigmatic, 14 reduplicated). So
of the 349 aorist forms he thinks certain, 76% are root aorists; of the
total 580 aorists suggested, 68% are root aorists.
Therefore in PIE 68-76% of verbs which have an aorist, show a root aorist
somewhere. We should therefore not be surprised if in PIE 68-76% of the
verbs with any given present formation, which have an aorist, show a root
aorist somewhere. This would be a meaningless random result.
Now not all verbs show an aorist, but the claim is that verbs with a nasal
infix present go with a root aorist. (Does this mean all nasal infix
verbs, or only those that have an aorist?)
I checked a random sample of 16 verbs with nasal presents. Nine of them
had no aorist; the other 7 all had root aorists somewhere in PIE. A
miniscule sample, but suggestive. I'm sure you will be pleased by it,
Jens. In any case, it is clear that there is a need for Strunk's claim to
be based on a proper statistical analysis, not just on a theoretical
assertion supported by his ridiculously small group of 8 selected examples.
****B: in an individual languages
Strunk and Jens do not make the claim that nasal presents are associated
with root aorists within a particular langauge (which would be a much more
significant claim), but it is worth testing nonetheless.
Strunk says (p128) "[This system] appears precisely in Indo-Iranian and
Greek" He says that this proves the archaic character of these two
>> (a) In Greek it is largely true, but there are exceptions; so a bald
>> statement would need qualification.
>> (b) In Latin it is largely untrue, since the aorists are either sigmatic or
>> the rare reduplicative aorist (tango tetigi, claimed by some as an aorist
>> on the basis of Homer tetago:n, or the lengthened vowel: pango pe:gi (~
>> perfect pepigi). I can only find cumbo cubui which supports the claim in
> You might also have thought of cerno:/cre:vi:, fundo:/fu:di:,
> linquo:/li:qui:, rumpo:/ru:pi:, sino:/si:vi:, sperno:/spre:vi:,
> sterno:/stra:vi:, vinco:/vi:ci:.
li:qui and vi:ci probably have the same origin as vi:di (which you
significantly did not include, because its origin is known), that is to say
in an -o- grade perfect. (*-oi- > *-ei- after v, or between /l/ and labial
or labiovelar, then *-ei- > i: as normal)
fu:di and ru:pi could equally be from o grade perfects (we know that iu:vi
is). In any case, If they are aorists, they would have to be full grade,
and I excluded them because I thought that "root" meant "root", not full
grade - though I see the Strunk uses "root" to mean full grade, too.
cre:vi, spre:vi, si:ve, stra:vi are clearly -vi formation (Latin) perfects,
on a laryngeal base. The origin of these -v-forms is still unknown. In
what sense do you make them either a root form, or an aorist? I note that
elsewhere in your posting you claim that the Greek sigmatic aorists can be
counted as root forms. This means you count zero grade, full grade, Greek
sigmatic, and Latin -vi formations all as root aorists for the purposes of
(a) The wider the definition of "root aorist" the less meaningful your claim
(b) You would need to show that there is indeed a proper root aorist
underlying these forms. But (i) this cannot be done in Latin - the best we
can do is show a zero grade form (as in many Latin perfects); (ii) how would
you distinguish a sigmatic aorist in Greek from a root aorist?
For Sanskrit, I gave examples which contradicted the claim, and Jens gave
some which supported it. Neither of us had (or has ?) complete accurate
figures. In my sample I took random instances, so I restricted myself to
just one Skt class. Jens said:
>why ignore those of class nine (too good?) - ?
That was a petty jibe, Jens, and unworthy of you. In fact the figures for
class nine are not good. Of those Whitney lists as "older", 7 show no
aorist, 10 do not show a root aorist, and 13 do. You get 13 / 30, about
43% - not bad, but not totally convincing, either.
So for PIE we need someone to crunch numbers and get a proper statistical
analysis, and for individual languages only Greek and Sanskrit have a hope
of showing a genuine correlation, but for both it is, if anything, nothing
more than a general tendency. It certainly can't support the original
claim that since Sanskrit shows the form tundate, it must once have had a
root aorist to go with it.
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