Adjective declensions

Semantic Range, Lexicography, and other approaches to word meaning - in general, or for particular words.
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Alan Bunning
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Joined: June 5th, 2011, 7:31 am

Adjective declensions

Post by Alan Bunning » December 15th, 2016, 5:01 pm

For a word like ἀριστερός, BDAG lists the declensions as α, ον but Perseus also contains examples where the feminine follows the η declension. This type of thing occurs a lot and I am trying to figure out what it means. Are these errors in BDAG? If BDAG lists α does it mean it can also include η declensions? Or during the time period the NT was written, did it become limited to α, ον?
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Stephen Carlson
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Re: Adjective declensions

Post by Stephen Carlson » December 15th, 2016, 7:04 pm

It's a question of dialect. Ionic (not but not Attic and mainly Koine) had the -η after ρ.
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Stephen C. Carlson, Ph.D.
Melbourne, Australia

Stephen Hughes
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Re: Adjective declensions

Post by Stephen Hughes » December 15th, 2016, 8:12 pm

It is not only the case with adjectives, but also nouns.

For the LSJ entry of ἀριστερός, Herodotus wrote his "Enquiries (Histories)" in the Ionian dialect that Stephen mentioned.

The Greek of the New Testament is a form of Greek based primarily on the Attic dialect - itself classified as a sub-dialect of the Ionic. Koine Greek (and Attic as it historical predecessor) differ slightly from the Ionic dialect as a whole. Here are a few points about that:
  • following the peculiarity of the Attic dialect, words with stems in ε, ι, ρ undergo declensional lengthening as is characteristic of singular, but have (an historically long) α in all of their singular forms (eg. Ἦν δὲ ἡ ἰδέα αὐτοῦ ὡς ἀστραπή and πόσῳ, δοκεῖτε, χείρονος ἀξιωθήσεται τιμωρίας ὁ τὸν υἱὸν τοῦ θεοῦ καταπατήσας) and in these cases the α remains as a "pure α" ("pure" is a bit of a misnomer) in its decensional lengthened form,
  • words with sibilant stems do not undergo the regular declensional vowel lengthening in the Nominative, Vocative and Accusative singular, and so have (an historically short) α in those forms, but in the dative and genitive the regular declensional lengthening of the α to η happens in the same way that it happens generally in the Ionian dialect. (eg. σεισμὸς μέγας ἐγένετο ἐν τῇ θαλάσσῃ vs. καὶ ἐθεασάμεθα τὴν δόξαν αὐτοῦ),
  • other words follow the regular α becomes η during the process of declensional lengthening, ie. the pattern as in the greater Ionic dialect. (eg. οὐκ ἐν τιμῇ τινὶ πρὸς πλησμονὴν τῆς σαρκός and καὶ αὕτη ἐστὶν ἡ νίκη ἡ νικήσασα τὸν κόσμον, vs. ἔδωκαν αὐτῷ πιεῖν ὄξος μετὰ χολῆς μεμιγμένον· and καὶ διὰ θυρίδος ἐν σαργάνῃ ἐχαλάσθην διὰ τοῦ τείχους
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Γελᾷ δ' ὁ μωρός, κἄν τι μὴ γέλοιον ᾖ
(Menander, Γνῶμαι μονόστιχοι 108)

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