What’s Unique about Greek

Greek is a unique language, you know, just like every other language is.

But seriously, there are things going on in Greek that the majority of languages do not do. What I’m thinking of presently is the the verb morphology of Greek. Its is pretty cool – especially the way inflectional and derivational morphology function.

Inflection morphology changes the stem or root of a word without changing the word itself. For example, the case endings are inflectional morphology: Nominative, Accusative, Dative, and Genitive. Likewise, the verb endings for Person and Number are inflectional as is Tense/Aspect.

Derivational Morphology changes the word into a new word such as the affixation of prepositions to the front of verbs: δίδωμι ‘give’ and παραδιδωμι ‘hand over.’ That’s a derivational change. We have the root and then we add the preposition to create a new stem.

In the majority of languages inflectional morphology always occurs outside the root or stem. But in Greek the past marker actually occurs between the the derivational prefix and the root:

παραδιδωμι

παρ-έ-δωκεν

Now that is really unique. So today, you’ve learned something about language typology – what most languages do. All languages diverge from the norm at some point. And this is one of the special places where Greek does. This the kind of thing that makes a morphologist say, “hmmm, interesting…”

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