restricted access Chapter 6: The Greek Language in the Mediterranean Context: Part 2, Morphological and Syntactical Developments

From: Black Athena

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[CH. 6] MORPHOLOGICAL AND SYNTACTICAL DEVELOPMENTS 155 T his chapter is concerned with the middle of the spectrum of changes expected in a language that has experienced substantial , but not overwhelming, influence from one or more other languages. In Chapter 5 we saw how insignificant outside influence was on Greek phonology. From Chapter 7 on, we shall see the massive influx of Afroasiatic words and names into the Greek vocabulary. In this chapter , we shall see a few instances of morphological forms taken from Semitic or Egyptian and rather more syntactical changes often brought about by lexical borrowings. MORPHOLOGY 1. Loss of nominal cases The drastic loss of cases in early Greek has been mentioned. In Armenian the opposite occurred probably because of the high level of inflection in the non–Indo-European languages surrounding its later home. Early Anatolian languages, by contrast, lacked dative-locative cases and the full nominal system found in Indo-European proper.1 Thus, an IndoHittite “pre-Hellenic” substrate might have exerted pressure on Greek to lose cases. Just as likely, however, the influence could have come from Afroasiatic. In fact, this possibility is more likely because during the Second THE GREEK LANGUAGE IN THE MEDITERRANEAN CONTEXT Part 2, Morphological and Syntactical Developments CHAPTER 6 156 BLACK ATHENA Millennium Canaanite, which had started with only three nominal cases, was generally reduced to one. This process seems to have been completed in the construct state by the fourteenth century and some time later in the absolute.2 More likely this change was the result of Egyptian influence. In Egyptian case had no markers, with the possible exception of the nominative, since writing began in the Fourth Millennium. Thus the breakdown of the Greek declension can be attributed to either substrate or areal influences or both. 2. The Greek oblique duals -oiin and -aiin The Oxford linguist L. R. Palmer, in his authoritative The Greek Language, wrote, “The Greek-oiin, has no parallel elsewhere [in Indo-European].”3 Saul Levin easily explains this. He has clearly demonstrated that the genitive and dative dual suffix -oiin, common in Homeric Greek, although not attested in Linear B, came from the Canaanite dual accusative and genitive * -ayim. Although the Ugaritic accusative-genitive suffix was -e–m, the Arabic is -ayni and the Hebrew and presumably Canaanite -ayim, used for all cases, is generally thought to have originated from the oblique ending.4 The difference between the final mimation in Canaanite and the nunation in Greek can be explained in one or two ways. On the one hand, the original form could have been the final -n in the dual. This form is universal in Asiatic Semitic; Canaanite was the only exception . If this were the case, the copying into Greek took place before the change in the Levant.5 On the other hand, perhaps Greek simply did not tolerate final -m. It is striking that not only does the Greek -oiin have no parallels in any other Indo-European language but only one other instance of confusion of the two cases occurs in the family—the singular of nouns, not pronouns, in Armenian. Thus, Professor Levin’s claim would seem to be irrefutable. 3. -qen This proposed borrowing is less secure than the others. In Greek the adverbial suffix-qen denotes motion from a place. Although it is common in Homer, it has no analogy in any other Indo-European language.6 Two possible Egyptian sources exist. The first is the Middle Egyptian interrogative, tn “where?” or “whence?” The second comes from the fact that in the eighth century BCE, both hieroglyphics and Demotic have [CH. 6] MORPHOLOGICAL AND SYNTACTICAL DEVELOPMENTS 157 the forms n tÅy-n “starting from” written later in Coptic as jin Sahidic(S) and isjen Bohairic (B).7 Although the semantic and phonetic fits are excellent , a serious syntactic problem arises in that there seems to be no instance of the word’s having been affixed to a noun. Nevertheless, in the absence on an Indo-European etymology, an Egyptian origin should be entertained as a genuine possibility. 4. -ευς The problem of the origin of the suffix-ευς the one or the man who” is hotly debated. The existence of such words as hippeús “horseman” based on híppos, the Greek word of Indo-European origin, shows that the suffix was active during the Mycenaean period. On the other hand, the classicist Joachim Schindler admits both that there are no direct parallels to it in...


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