nasal pres / root aor

Jens Elmegaard Rasmussen jer at
Thu Aug 26 23:34:27 UTC 1999

On Fri, 13 Aug 1999, petegray wrote:

> [...] I want to
> ask a quick question.  You give examples of nasal present + root aorist from
> Tocharian, Baltic, and Hittite.

> The options for PIE aorists appear to have been root, -s- or the rare
> reduplicated aorist.    Leaving aside the reduplicated aorist, because it
> scarcely counts, that leaves root or -s- for most verbs.

> Now Baltic has no -s- aorist, and I believe that Hittite doesn't either.
> Doesn't this mean the evidence from those languages is meaningless?

Sorry to take so long in answering a quick - and good - question. It is
true that Baltic had little choice the way it shaped its verbal system;
but the older choices that underlie the system fit the nasal present +
root aorist pattern very well. But I admit it could be used also to
support a PIE combination of sk^-prs. and root aor. which does not seem to
have been a pervading companionship. In Lith. & Latv. there is a
complemenatry distribution between nasal present and st-present (IE
*sk^-prs. unless you want to create unnecessary trouble), while Slavic has
only the nasal type in ingressives, and in Slavic the corresponding aorist
is also the morphemeless continuant of the root aorist. So, with some
sophistery, one could say that the only prs. and aor. combination pointed
to by Baltic and Slavic together is n-prs. + root-aor. However, that is
not a cogent argument, and I would not accept its weight if I did not like
it for independent reasons.
   Hittite of course has no aorist, nor for that matter present stems: It
only has verbal stems, meaning that for each verbal lexeme all forms are
derived from the same stem. Still, the derivative status of the nasal type
links it to the corresponding verb with the nasal with which it has a
paradigmatic connection in the other languages. Again, Strunk has pointed
out a possible relic pair in Hittite as well: hunik-zi/hunink-anzi 'wound'
vs. huek-zi 'stab, kill' which look like n-prs. + root aor. of the same
verb (note the 'unfinished business' implied by the old present stem as
opposed to the terminal aorist). It is therefore certainly a fair
possibility that the Hittite verb has developed from a system like the one
seen in the rest of IE.


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