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29 Third Declension Nouns: Stems in -ι and -υ

2011.05.0052

Funeral lekythos with relief. Above the seated figure is the inscription: ΠΕΙΘΙΣ. 4th c. B.C. Athenian Agora Excavations.


3rd Declension Nouns Concluded

In this lesson, we conclude our discussion of 3rd Declension nouns. Here we introduce noun stems ending in –ι, and –υ.

 

Stems Ending in –ι

Most nouns preserve this stem vowel only in the NOMINATIVE and ACCUSATIVE SINGULAR. In the other cases and numbers, –ε replaces –ι as the stem vowel (S 268-271). This class of nouns shares a number of other attributes, including:

  • These nouns are usually feminine.
  • The genitive singular ending lengthens from –ος to –ως.
  • Neither the –εως ending of the genitive singular nor the –εων ending of the genitive plural draw the accent off of an antepenult.
  • The accusative singular uses –ν (familiar from the definite article) instead of –α.
  • The nominative and accusative plural both end in –εες, which contracts to –εις.

As with nouns with –ερ stems, these changes in the noun stem and accent patterns require memorization. The good news is that all the –ι stem nouns in the vocabulary share the inflection pattern of ἡ πόλις, πόλεως city (S 268; GPH p. 15):

Singular Plural
Nominative ἡ πόλις αἱ πόλεις
Genitive τῆς πόλεως τῶν πόλεων
Dative τῇ πόλει ταῖς πόλεσι
Accusative τὴν πόλιν τὰς πόλεις

The fact that the –εως and –εων endings do not draw the accent off of an antepenult is striking. This peculiarity is the result of changes in the pronunciation of words like πόλις. The earlier form of πόλεως was πόληος. The η and ο switched their vowel lengths over time (η shortened to ε, and ο lengthened to ω!), in a process called TRANSFERENCE OF QUANTITY (S 34). The accent, however, stayed on the antepenult during this process. The accent of the genitive plural gradually switched to the antepenult to match the genitive singular accent.

Transference of quantity is similar to METATHESIS, in which a vowel and consonant can switch places (S 128). English pronunciation has a number of such switches. For example, a vowel can switch places with an “r” in actual pronunciation for many English speakers: iron is often pronounced iern, and prescription pronounced perscription.

 

 

Stems Ending in –υ, –ευ, –αυ, and –ου

1. As with –ι stem nouns, υ stem nouns preserve the stem vowel only in the NOMINATIVE and ACCUSATIVE SINGULAR. In the other cases and numbers, –ε replaces –υ as the stem vowel (S 268-271). Many –υ stem nouns share a number of other attributes with –ι stem nouns, including:

  • The genitive singular ending lengthens from –ος to –ως.
  • Neither the –εως ending of the genitive singular (due to transference of quantity) nor the –εων ending of the genitive plural draw the accent off of an antepenult.
  • The accusative singular uses –ν instead of –α.
  • The nominative and accusative plural both end in –εες, which contracts to –εις.

Note, for example, the inflection of ὁ πρέσβυς -εως old man:

Singular Plural
Nominative ὁ πρέσβυς οἱ πρέσβεις
Genitive τοῦ πρέσβεως τῶν πρέσβεων
Dative τῷ πρέσβει τοῖς πρέσβεσι
Accusative τὸν πρέσβυν τοὺς πρέσβεις

 

2. Kings, Priests, and Horsemen!

Noun stems ending in –ευ exhibit more irregularities than stems that end in just –υ. The inflection patterns of these nouns must be memorized, though some observations may help. Note the following changes that occur in the inflection of ὁ βασιλεύς -έως “king” (S 275; GPH p. 16):

  • The noun stem –ευ drops the –υ before another vowel, leaving just an –ε for its stem vowel.
  • The genitive singular ending lengthens from –ος to –ως, due to transference of quantity.
  • The accent persists on the stem vowel, –ευ or –ε. Note that for the dative singular, the original form was βασιλέι, the noun stem plus the case ending. These two vowels form a diphthong, and the resulting accent, as expected, forms a circumflex.
  • The nominative plural lengthens the –ε to an –η (-έὲς = ῆς).
  • The endings for the accusative singular and plural do not contract (the α of both endings is long).

Not long after the Classical period, the NOMINATIVE and ACCUSATIVE PLURALS of these –ευ nouns change to –εῖς, in parallel with the endings shared by –ι stem nouns and –υ stem nouns such as ὁ πρέσβυς εως. The rest of the noun inflects as it did in the Classical period.

βασιλεύς -έως ὁ king (post-Classical forms in parentheses)

Singular Plural
Nominative ὁ βασιλεύς οἱ βασιλῆς (βασιλεῖς)
Genitive τοῦ βασιλέως τῶν βασιλέων
Dative τῷ βασιλεῖ τοῖς βασιλεῦσι
Accusative τὸν βασιλέα τοὺς βασιλέας (βασιλεῖς)

Also inflected on this pattern are the following two nouns:

ἱερεύς -έως ὁ priest

ἱππεύς -έως ὁ horseman, charioteer

 

3. Ships!

The noun ἡ ναῦς, νεώς “ship” is a common word in Greek, as might be expected for a people closely associated with seafaring. The stem for this noun ends in –αυ. Like noun stems ending in –ευ, –αυ nouns exhibit more irregularities than stems that end in just –υ. The inflection pattern of ἡ ναῦς, νεώς must be memorized, though some observations may help (S 275; GPH p. 16).

  • The vowel stem –αυ drops the –υ before another vowel, resulting in a vowel stem of either –ε or –η.
  • The genitive singular ending lengthens from –ος to –ως, due to transference of quantity.
  • The accent pattern follows that of a monosyllabic nouns of the 3rd Declension.
  • The accusative singular uses –ν instead of –α.
  • The nominative singular and accusative plural are identical in form.

ναῦς, νεώς ἡ ship

Singular Plural
Nominative ἡ ναῦς αἱ νῆες
Genitive τῆς νεώς τῶν νεῶν
Dative τῇ νηί ταῖς ναυσί
Accusative τὴν ναῦν  τὰς ναῦς

 

4. Bulls!

The noun βοῦς, βοός bull or cow, is also a common word in Greek. These animals were important not only for farming and animal husbandry, but for sacrifices.

The stem for this noun ends in –ου (S 275; GPH p. 17). Like noun stems ending in –ευ and αυ, –ου nouns exhibit irregularities. The inflection pattern of βοῦς, βοός must be memorized, though some observations may help (S 275-278).

  • The vowel stem –ου drops the –υ before another vowel, resulting in a vowel stem of –ο.
  • The genitive singular remains –ος. No transference of quantity can occur, since the stem vowel –ο is short.
  • The accent pattern follows that of a monosyllabic nouns of the 3rd Declension.
  • The genitive singular and nominative plural endings do not contract.
  • The accusative singular uses –ν instead of –α.
  • The nominative singular and accusative plural are identical in form.

βοῦς, βοός ὁ bull, ox; cow

Singular Plural
Nominative ὁ, ἡ βοῦς οἱ, αἱ βόες
Genitive τοῦ, τῆς βοός τῶν, τῶν βοῶν
Dative τῷ, τῇ βοί τοῖς, ταῖς βουσί
Accusative τὸν, τὴν βοῦν τοὺς, τὰς βοῦς

 

Kings, ships, cows, and the digamma

In earlier periods, there were three additional letters in the Greek alphabet: KOPPA (ϙ), SAMPI (ϡ), and DIGAMMA (ϝ). The koppa is a K sound, and remained in use to represent the number 90 in Classical Greek. The sampi is a double-S sound, and remained in use to represent the number 900.

The digamma represents the W sound. Though the sound, and so the letter, eventually dropped from most dialects by the Classical period, its presence and subsequent loss affected a number of Greek words, particularly nouns with stems ending in –ευ, –αυ, and –ου (S 122, 278). For example, forms such as βασιλέωςβασιλεῖ, and βασιλέα ultimately derive from βασιλήϝος, βασιλήϝι, and βασιλήϝα. Gradually, the loss of the digamma, together with transference of quantity, resulted in the forms that we encounter today.

Similarly, forms such as νεώς and βοός derive ultimately from νηϝός and βοϝός. Compare these early forms with the Latin nouns navis and bovis, which preserved the W sound with the Latin letter V. Also of note: Latin preserved the letter koppa in its adaptation of the Greek alphabet, and is the source for the English letter Q.

 

 

– τὸ τέλος –


Key Terms and Concepts

  • STEMS ENDING IN –ι.
  • TRANSFERENCE OF QUANTITY
  • STEMS ENDING IN –υ, –ευ, –αυ, –ου.
  • DIGAMMA

Vocabulary

Stems Ending in –ι

δύναμις -εως ἡ power

πίστις -εως ἡ trust, proof, guarantee

πόλις -εως ἡ city

πρᾶξις -εως ἡ action

τάξις -εως ἡ arrangement, order

φύσις -εως ἡ nature

Note:

χάρις -ιτος ἡ favor, thanks. (Declines like a regular dental stem, except that its accusative singular is χάριν, as though it were an –ι stem).

Stems Ending in –υ, –ευ, –αυ, and –ου

βασιλεύς -έως ὁ king

βοῦς βοός ὁ bull, ox; ἡ cow

ἱερεύς -έως ὁ priest

ἱππεύς -έως ὁ horseman, charioteer

ναῦς, νεώς ἡ ship

πρέσβυς -εως ὁ old man; (pl.) ambassadors

Exercises

I. Memorize the vocabulary.

II. Decline in full the following nouns:

  1.  ἡ πόλις, πόλεως
  2. ἡ ναῦς, νεώς
  3. ὁ βασιλεύς, βασιλέως
  4. ὁ βοῦς, βοός

III. For the following noun forms, 1). Give the proper form of its article(s), and 2). Change to its opposite number (singular to plural, plural to singular).

For example: πόλεως (answer: τῆς /τῶν πόλεων)

  1. τάξιν
  2. πίστεως
  3. ἱερῆς
  4. ἱππεῖς
  5. πρέσβεσι
  6. φύσει
  7. πίστεσι
  8. δυνάμεων
  9. βοῦς
  10. χάριν

License

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Third Declension Nouns: Stems in -ι and -υ by Wilfred E. Major and Michael Laughy is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.