A Comparison Of The Greek And Latin Verbs -- By: W. D. Whitney

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 007:28 (Oct 1850)
Article: A Comparison Of The Greek And Latin Verbs
Author: W. D. Whitney


A Comparison Of The Greek And Latin Verbs

W. D. Whitney

It is proposed to offer here a specimen of what modern philology has done and is doing to illustrate the structure, development, and relationship of languages, by comparing in its light the Greek and Latin verbs. The analysis of these verbs, as being a subject of high and general interest, has been quite fully elaborated by the teachers of the science, and to their works1 the student is referred for the full details of what can here be only concisely and generally stated.

The Greek and Latin verbs, as they appear in the classical literature of the two languages, offer so many and so striking points of difference as almost overwhelm and cover from view that fundamental resemblance which evidences their original identity. On a general view the two seem constructed upon quite a different plan, and the Latin

verb, without an augment, with traces only of a reduplication, with no dual, no aorist, no optative, a subjunctive independent, in its formation of the indicative, with its meagre array of imperative, infinitive and participles, and with a passive of entirely distinct origin, seems not only vastly poorer than, but thoroughly diverse from, its Hellenic neighbor and sister. We have then to inquire, how much and what is still actually possessed in common by the two; how far the difference between them is owing to a loss by either of what both originally shared, and how far to a separate development by the two of the resources of formation which both enjoyed, for the purpose either of supplying original deficiencies or compensating subsequent losses; and finally how far such further developments have been prompted by a kindred spirit. It will not, it is believed, be necessary to take up each of these points separately; they will be sufficiently illustrated in the course of a general treatment of the subject.

To commence our comparison, then, with the present indicative. This tense is, of the whole series, the earliest in origin, and the simplest as regards the principle of its formation. It is produced by merely appending to the root, in which is contained the idea of the action, the personal endings, which are personal pronouns indicating the actor; and generally by the aid of a union-vowel, which is only a euphonic insertion, intended to facilitate the combination of root and ending. The present, then, we should expect to find most faithfully preserved, and presenting in the two verbs the closest resemblance; and we are not disappointed; the coincidence is very striking. It is in this tense only that the union-vowel and personal ending, being freed from the special influences, the o...

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