On the PIE Desiderative & the Greek Future


Natural logic and the Greek moods
Natural logic and the Greek moods

I came across an interesting quote from David Lightfoot in  Natural Logic and the Greek Moods:

Greek has desiderative stems (as opposed to the σείω system) which serve as presents and are bases for conjugations: ἀλέξω, νίσομαι. Equally, Latin has desiderative presents: quaeso against quaero, viso against video. However, it is generally supposed that the role of the desiderative in Greek is essentially to form the future. One sees the original desiderative value of the future in ἧλθε . . . λυσόμενος . . .  θύγατρα (Iliad I, 12) and then 17 lines later τὴν δ’ἐγὼ οὐ λύσω. Many old futures have ε vocalism and these take middle endings, which might itself point to a desiderative value: πείσομαι: πασχω, χείσομαι:  χανδάνω. . . .

. . .

If our interpretation is correct, it would make no sense to posit a desiderative source for the form of what we are calling the existential future. Indeed there is not much evidence for this traditional view, although I have nothing better to suggest. However, given that the future indicative and the aorist subjunctive forms are so often interchangeable, I should want to relate the sigma of the future to that of the aorist, but I can find no convincing evidence for this hypothesis either.

The future is a bit of a sticking point for the ongoing debates about aspect in New Testament circles. In that context, this is an interesting bit of historical linguistic commentary.

2 thoughts on “On the PIE Desiderative & the Greek Future

Add yours

  1. Sounds interesting. I’ve always wondered about the source(s) of the Greek future. Recently, I’ve been leaning to some sort of a messy merger of different sources (desiderative stems and short-vowel aorist subjunctives) that eventually coincided. I don’t know whether that’s more an admission of defeat than an explanation, however. It may be a while before I can get a hold of this book, so feel free (after SBL!) to post more thoughts and observations about this book.

    1. Unfortunately…I’m not reading it right now,so I don’t think I’ll be picking it up again any time soon. I found this post in my draft folder from 2011 and thought it was worth putting up.

      For what it’s worth though, I think Lightfoot’s quote is about as much admitting defeat as anyone else.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Powered by WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: