Appendix:Ancient Greek third declension

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The Ancient Greek third declension (also known as the consonant declension) comprises the most diverse and potentially confusing forms of nominal inflection. The third declension does not have a stem vowel, as the first (α/η) and second (ο) declensions do. Since the stem vowels provide a sort of buffer between the stems and inflectional endings, the third declension is more prone to contractions and other irregularities than the other two.

Etymology[edit]

The third declension is the Ancient Greek reflex of the Proto-Indo-European consonant declension. A dash with nothing following indicates an unmarked inflection, that is, a bare stem.

Case / # Singular Dual Plural
Nominative *-s *-h₁?, -e? *-es
Genitive *-s, -es, -os ? *-om
Dative *-ey ? *-bʰos, -mos
Accusative *-m̥ *-h₁?, -e? *-m̥s
Vocative *- *-h₁?, -e? *-es
Instrumental *-bʰi, -mī ? *-s, -es, -os
Ablative *-s, -es, -os ? *-bʰos, -mos
Locative *-i, - ? *-su
Neuter † *- / *-h₂

† The neuter nominative and accusative in the singular and plural have a different inflection than masculine and feminine.

Basic pattern[edit]

In Ancient Greek the ablative and genitive have merged into a single case, a process already well underway in Proto-Indo-European. The dative, locative, and instrumental cases were all merged into the dative, which generally takes on the inflection of the locative. Consult the Wikipedia article on Indo-European sound laws to aid in understanding some of the Ancient Greek reflexes of PIE sounds, such as the perhaps non-intuitive PIE *m̥ --> Ancient Greek α.

Case / # Singular Dual Plural
Nominative -ες
Genitive -ος -οιν -ων
Dative -ῐ -οιν -σῐ(ν)
Accusative -ᾰ -ᾰς
Vocative - -ες
Neuter - / -ᾰ

Realizations[edit]

Stop consonants[edit]

In nouns which end with a labial (π, β, φ, ψ) or velar (κ, γ, χ, ξ) consonant, the pattern is fairly recognizable, as seen in πτέρυξ (pteruks, wing). Note how the gamma and sigma merge into a ksi in the nominative singular and dative plural.

Case / # Singular Dual Plural
Nominative πτέρυξ πτέρῠγε πτέρῠγες
Genitive πτέρῠγος πτερύγοιν πτερύγων
Dative πτέρῠγῐ πτερύγοιν πτέρυξῐ(ν)
Accusative πτέρῠγᾰ πτέρῠγε πτέρῠγᾰς
Vocative πτέρυξ πτέρῠγε πτέρῠγες

Nouns which end with a dental (τ, δ, θ) show some contractions. Ancient Greek does not allow a δσ, θσ, or τσ combination, and so the dental is generally dropped, often with a lengthening of the stem vowel, which sometimes goes back to PIE itself. Compare the inflection of πούς (pous, foot), stem ποδ- (pod-), with that given for *pṓds

Case / # Singular Dual Plural
Nominative πούς πόδε πόδες
Genitive ποδός ποδοῖν ποδῶν
Dative ποδί ποδοῖν ποσί(ν)
Accusative πόδᾰ πόδε πόδᾰς
Vocative πούς πόδε πόδες

Neuters[edit]

Neuter nouns of the third declension are nearly identical to their masculine and feminine counterparts except for the nominative, accusative, and vocative cases in singular and plural. Since the stem often ends with a sound which an Ancient Greek word cannot end on, the final sound is often dropped or changed in unmarked forms. The simplest and most common third declension neuters are the dental stems, such as ὄνομα (onoma, name), stem ονοματ- (onomat-). Interestingly, the τ in the stem is a common feature of Ancient Greek words derived from PIE neuter n stems, which is not well explained.

Case / # Singular Dual Plural
Nominative ὄνομᾰ ὀνόμᾰτε ὀνόμᾰτᾰ
Genitive ὀνόμᾰτος ὀνομάτοιν ὀνομάτων
Dative ὀνόμᾰτῐ ὀνομάτοιν ὀνομάσῐ(ν)
Accusative ὄνομᾰ ὀνόμᾰτε ὀνόμᾰτᾰ
Vocative ὄνομᾰ ὀνόμᾰτε ὀνόμᾰτᾰ

Contractions[edit]

Nouns with stems ending in ι show an odd admixture of ι and ει stem endings. Homeric Greek shows a more consistent ι ending resulting in εις in the plural. [1] [2] [3]

Case / # Singular Dual Plural
Nominative πόλῐς πόλει πόλεις
Genitive πόλεως πολέοιν πόλεων
Dative πόλει πολέοιν πόλεσῐ(ν)
Accusative πόλῐν πόλει πόλεις
Vocative πόλῐ πόλει πόλεις


Neuter stems ending with a Vσ (where V is a vowel) drop the sigma, and subsequently contract, especially in later Greek. The inflection of τέλος (telos, end), stem τελεσ- (teles-) is as follows:

Case / # Singular Dual Plural
Nominative τέλος τέλεε, τέλει τέλεᾰ, τέλη
Genitive τέλεος, τέλους τελέοιν, τελοῖν τελέων, τελῶν
Dative τέλεϊ, τέλει τελέοιν, τελοῖν τέλεσσῐ(ν), τέλεσῐ(ν)
Accusative τέλος τέλεε, τέλει τέλεᾰ, τέλη
Vocative τέλος τέλεε, τέλει τέλεᾰ, τέλη