Another classical Greek oddity

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Scholiast

Senior Member
Dear all

In classical Greek, adjectives are declined by gender, case and number. So simple adjectives (such as καλός, καλή, καλόν) show distinct forms for masculine, feminine and neuter usage.

Once an adjective is compounded with a prefix of any kind, however (e.g. πάγκαλος), the feminine form is assimilated to the masculine.

If anyone can offer it, I would welcome an explanation for this oddity.

Σ
 
  • This again is usually connected with the opposition Active/Stative mentioned in the previous thread. The feminine gender seems to have arisen later than the deeper-rooted opposition active/inactive > non-neuter/neuter, and the feminine agreement didn't become consistent in all languages.

    For example, in Italic, the adjectives of the 3rd declension don't have separate feminine forms (fortis, amāns, melior [the separate masculine celer, ācer are secondary]; this partly persists in modern Romance: French fort/forte, aimant/aimante, meilleur/meilleure, but Italian forte, amante, migliore). In Celtic, the separate feminine forms are lacking in the i-, u- and some consonantal stems (Old Irish *mhₐtis>maith "good", *pelhₑus>il "many", *senı̯ōs>siniu "older"). In Greek, this is occasionally found in non-compound consonantal stems (ἡδίων, πένης, ἴδρις). In Indic, i-stems lack separate feminine forms (śuciḥ "clear, clean"), and u-stems may lack them as well (tanuḥ "thin").​

    The unusual in the Greek compounds you mention is therefore not the lack of a separate feminine form per se, but its absence in the o/ā-stems. By the way, one may find occasional instances when simple adjectives also lack feminine agreement: e. g. κλυτὸς Ἱπποδάμεια (Homer, Iliad, Book 2, line 734 — 742). That is, too, interpreted as vestiges of the penetration of feminine agreement: the future feminine nouns originally belonged to the non-neuter gender and agreed with the non-neuter forms of the adjective; as the suffix *-hₐ was becoming a marker of feminine nouns, the older *senos gʷenhₐs >> *senos gʷenēhₐ (by Szemerényi's law - Wikipedia) "old woman" started to become *senēhₐ gʷenēhₐ > *senā gʷenā; the majority of lineages are attested at the stage when this process in the o/ā-adjectives had been completed, but Greek retained traces of the older state of affairs.

    P. S. A separate question is what makes the compounds so conservative in this respect. In Indic, a similar phenomenon is found in some kinds of stems, e. g. Burrow T · 2001 · The Sanskrit language: 203:
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    A somehow comparable special treatment of compound adjectives that retain a more archaic structure is found in modern Russian: in this language derived simple adjectives always have a suffix, but compound adjectives often lack it, so that e. g. "four-footed" is четверо·ног·ий/četvʲero·nogʲ·ij, without a suffix, while a non-compound **ногий/nogʲij "footed" is impossible.
     
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    Lusus Naturae

    Senior Member
    Cantonese
    Are feminine forms often coined to be proper nouns and quasi proper nouns?
    e.g., Βαρβάρα, μεσοποταμία, ὑπώρεια
     

    fdb

    Senior Member
    French (France)
    Dear all

    In classical Greek, adjectives are declined by gender, case and number. So simple adjectives (such as καλός, καλή, καλόν) show distinct forms for masculine, feminine and neuter usage.

    Once an adjective is compounded with a prefix of any kind, however (e.g. πάγκαλος), the feminine form is assimilated to the masculine.

    If anyone can offer it, I would welcome an explanation for this oddity.

    Σ
    Are you sure about this? Pape has:

    πάγ-καλος, auch fem. παγκάλη, Plat. (in VLL., bes. bemerkt), ganz, durchaus schön; τάς τε χεῖρας παγκάλους ἔχειν μ' ἔφη, Ar. Plut. 1018; ϑεῖα καὶ πάγκαλα ἀγάλματα, Plat. Conv. 216 e, öfter; παγκάλη ἀνάπαυλα, Legg. IV, 722 c; παιδιά, Phaedr. 276 d; ἵπποι, Hipp. mai. 288 c. – Sp. auch im superlat. παγκάλλιστος. – Adv. παγκάλως, ἔχειν Plat. Phaedr. 230 c, λέγειν Rep. I, 331 e, öfter, wie Sp.

    L&S have: πάγκαλος, η, ον
     
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    I think that πάγκαλος (masc.), παγκάλη (fem.) are more ancient than πάγκαλος (masc.), πάγκαλος (fem.) based on my personal experience studying mediaeval Byzantine literature; eg in Church hymns written in the 8th-9th-10th c. referring to a female saint, the feminine form πάγκαλος is almost exclusively used:
    «Νύμφη (fem.) ἄφθορε, σὺ αὐτῷ παρεστῶσα (fem.) ὡς ὡραία (fem.) καὶ πάγκαλος (fem.)»
     

    Scholiast

    Senior Member
    Thank you all. I seem to have disturbed a hornet's nest here, and in the light of fdb's observation (# 4) and Perseas' (# 5) my example of πάγκαλος may not have been ideally chosen.

    And in Greek (as in Latin) the principle would apply only to 1st-/2nd- declension adjectives anyway. Clearly, as ahvalj implies, from a methodological point of view it is the exceptions (Lat. acer, acris, acre) that require explanation.

    Notwithstanding my admission that this 'rule' is not so hard-and-fast as I had supposed when I wrote # 1, it is a tendency for specifically compound adjectives to retain (if I have understood ahvalj's explanation correctly) the more 'conservative' neuter/non-neuter distinction than for simple adjectives, and I am still wondering why.

    Unfortunately I am temporarily separated from my copy of LSJ (as of Smyth's wonderful Greek Grammar), but I shall seek further precision.

    Σ:)
     
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    sotos

    Senior Member
    Greek
    There is not exactly a "rule" about that. ωραία > παν-ωραία and not παν-ωραίος. Also δούλη > θεο-δούλη. But μακαριστή > παμμακάριστος.
     
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