Getting started on ancient Greek
Getting started on ancient Greek

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Getting started on ancient Greek

2.3 Word shape

Word endings play a central role in inflected languages like Greek. The following endings were introduced in Sessions 4-7:

  • the definite article, ὁ, ἡ, τό
  • the nouns τιμή and λόγος
  • some forms of the adjective καλός, ή, όν
  • -ω and -ει endings of verbs, e.g. διώκω, ‘I chase’ and διώκει, ‘he/she/it chases’
  • some forms of the verb εἰμί, ‘I am’.

The technical term for the study of word endings is morphology, from μορφή (shape) and λόγος (word). ‘Shape’ is the correct term, because words sometimes change in the middle (like English ‘goose/geese’, or ‘run/ran’) or at the beginning (Greek verbs do this to mark a change of tense).

Hints and tips

  • Word endings are a means to an end, the end being to read Greek. For a reader, spotting the endings is a crucial first step, but drawing out their implications is the goal. This is why morphology needs to be studied alongside other areas of language and observed in practice through the reading of Greek.
  • The definite article deserves special attention as it shows the gender, number and case of the noun with which it agrees. It can therefore provide clues about nouns, even if their endings are unfamiliar. There is also a substantial overlap between its endings and those of certain nouns and adjectives, notably τιμή, λόγος, and καλός.

Activity 6 Unfamiliar endings

Timing: Allow about 5 minutes

These activities contain nouns with unfamiliar endings. Use the article to answer the following questions.

  • Vocabulary
  • βασιλέυς, -έως, ὁ   king
  • γέρων, -οντος, ὁ     old man
  • Λητώ, -οῦς, ἡ       Leto (the mother of Apollo and Artemis)
  • ναύτης, -ου, ὁ       sailor
  • νύξ, νυκτός, ἡ       night

Part 1

What is the case of these nouns?

τοῦ βασιλέως

a. 

nominative


b. 

accusative


c. 

genitive


The correct answer is c.

ἡ Λητώ

a. 

nominative


b. 

accusative


c. 

genitive


The correct answer is a.

τὴν νύκτα

a. 

nominative


b. 

accusative


c. 

genitive


The correct answer is b.

Part 2

What is the number of these nouns? Singular or plural?

οἱ γέροντες

a. 

singular


b. 

plural


The correct answer is b.

ὁ ναύτης

a. 

singular


b. 

plural


The correct answer is a.

ἡ νύξ

a. 

singular


b. 

plural


The correct answer is a.

Part 3

What is the gender of these nouns?

ἡ νύξ

a. 

masculine


b. 

feminine


c. 

neuter


The correct answer is b.

τὸν ναύτην

a. 

masculine


b. 

feminine


c. 

neuter


The correct answer is a.

GCG_1

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