nasal pres / root aor

Carol F. Justus cjustus at
Wed Aug 11 17:03:23 UTC 1999

[ moderator re-formatted ]

I'm sorry to take this our of context, but point concerns Jens' Hittite data:

Jens wrote:
>3. Hittite. Though Anatolian does not distinguish different stems within a
>given verbal lexeme, the nasal-infix stems are opposed to structures
>without the nasal. And in Hittite there is a clearcut opposition of
>function, the nasal structure being causative: hark-zi 'vanishes' :
>hanik-zi 'destroys'. This is of course not the function of the Lith.
>intransitives like minga 'falls asleep', but if we remember and respect
>the probable origin of the Lith. structure in the middle voice, it's okay
>again: then the middle voice of a causative "makes oneself fall asleep" or
>"is being caused to fall asleep" will come full circle and end up meaning
>'fall asleep' just as the base verb did in the first place. And, with an
>adjectival basis, Hitt. tepu-s 'small, inferior' forms tep-n-u-zzi 'makes
>inferior, humiliates' (which was a PIE lexeme, cf. Ved. dabhno'ti
>'damages'). A corresponding Baltic verb would have been based on the
>midle voice and have meant 'become inferior', as the midle voice
>presumably meant already in PIE (or even earlier).

>The productive derivative status of the nasal structure in Hittite is not
>the whole story, however: There are also remains of lexemes that had
>passed through the whole history reflected by th other languages, thus
>notably tamekzi, tamenkanzi 'adhere, stick (vel.sim.)' from *tm.-ne-k-ti =
>Skt. tana'kti 'run thick, coagulate' (root *temk- of Eng. tight) and
>hamekzi, hamenkanzi/hamankanzi 'bind' from *H2m.-ne-g^h-ti (root of Lat.
>ango:, Gk. a'nkho: 'tighten, narrow').

>The full story of the nasal present must be something like this: The
>formation was in origin _factitive_ "make (into) -", "cause to be -". But
>since the verbal root was also an agent noun (vr.tra-ha'n- is a 'killer of
>Vr.tra-', Lat. re:g- is a 'ruler'), the nasal structure made from root
>nouns of agent-noun semantic created simple causatives: 'make a binder' =
>'make bind'. Then, the middle voice of that 'be made a binder, be made
>bind, be caused to bind' was simply an elaborate way of saying 'bind'.
>Thereby the structure widely lost its specifically middle-voice semantics,
>and so it is no great wonder if it turns up with active endings. The whole
>scenario must - at least in large part - have been completed before the
>working of the ablaut, for the new active forms have escaped the accent
>shifts seen in the middle voice: *(H)yew-ne'-g-e 'is made join' replaced
>the middle endings by active ones, 3sg inj. *(H)yew-ne'-g-t, while the
>middle was restructured to *(H)yew-ne-g-to' with accent shift onto the
>syllabic ending, and only then did the ablaut reductions make act.
>*(H)yune'g-t, mid. *(H)yung-to' out of these forms. - Note that the
>presumed earlier middle-voice preform of a nasal prs. like Vedic
>s'r.n.o'ti 'hears' is indeed found in Old Irish ro-cluinethar 'hears'
>which is a deponent verb.

>Despite the retention of productivity in Hittite, the nasal present type
>has plainly become grammaticalized as "just a present" with individual
>verbs in PIE, and it is hard to escape the impression that the
>corresponding aorist (when there was one) was the root-aorist type.


The first Hittite forms have a bit of a typo. The alternation is between
harak(z)i 'perish(es)' and har-nin-k- 'destroy' where the nasal is an
infix. This differs from the tepu- 'small', tep-nu- 'make small, humiliate'
where the more productive nasal is the suffix -nu- (cf. also ar-hi 'I
reach, arrive', ar-nu-mi 'I bring'). The Greek present deik-nu-mi 'I show'
versus -s- aorist edeik-sa 'I showed' has a formally comparable present,
but the aorist still has the causative meaning without the causative
suffix, while Latin nasal of present pa-n-go 'I fasten' beside perfect
pe-pe:gi: 'I have fastened' also doesn't lose its transitive active
character without the nasal. Kronasser's Etymologie der hethitischen
Sprache (with Neu's later index) lists forms.

In Hittite we have two nasal affixes, an infix and a suffix. The Hittite
suffix is productive, the infix not. While there are cognate nasal affixes
elsewhere in IE languages, the individual systems in which we catch them
functioning would seem to have been sufficiently re-worked to call for
explanations as to the nature of the language-specific innovations.

The fact that Hittite -nu- is productive would seem to point to its being
an innovation. Historically, many consider the Wilusa-Alaksandu-Ahhijawa
evidence of the Hittite treaties to argue for a contact with Mycenaean
Achaeans around (W?)Ilium in the early second half of the second millennium
BC. If so, not only are Greek -nu- and Hittite -nu- distinct from the nasal
infix, but also one of many innovations taking place dialectally in
post-PIE times, in this instance probably the Greek form as a result of
contact with Hittite, as the Hittite form is productive in its meaning, the
Greek form less so.

Since we have the data studies of Strunk and others, we would seem to be in
a position now to go on to peal off the layers, distinguishing between
older and more recent features, also features that may be shared between
languages as a result of later contact. The Hittite infixed nasal and
suffixed nasal would seem to be cases in point. These nasals would
certainly not function like the Gothic Weak Class IV and I verbs such as
full-na-n 'fill' (intrs.) and full-ja-n 'fill' (trs.) from fulls 'full',
which show a new system of transitivity alternation. Even if someone wants
to identify Gothic -ja- with an old IE causative form, the Gothic nasal
does not function like an old IE causative, nor is the paradigmatic
alternation inherited.


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