As if aorist isn't confusing and ambiguous enough, what could Prokosh mean in A Comparative Germanic Grammar when referring to "aorist presents"? If anyone has the book, it's on page 66. Here are a couple of examples:

IE wéi(n)k-/wi(n)k'- (L. vīncō): Go. weihan 'fight'--ON vega, vā < *waih, vögom, vegenn; OE wīgan; OHG ubar-wehan 'conquer'; OE OS wīgand, OHG wīgant 'fighter'

IE bhéuk-/bhuk'- (Lith. buklùs 'sly') and bhéug-/bhug'- (L. fugiō): Go. biugan 'bend', ON bogenn (past part.) OE būgan, OS *būgan, OHG biogan, but OHG buhil 'hill'

Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

  • 1
    Do you have an exact quote or scan? Can it be just a typo? Aug 9, 2017 at 22:22
  • @bytebuster. The citation is correct. It is not a typo.
    – fdb
    Aug 10, 2017 at 9:49

2 Answers 2


“Aorist presents” is a term used by many (but not all) Indo-Europeanists to describe verb forms for the present tense with zero-grade ablaut (like the strong aorist). A classic example is Sanskrit tudati “he bumps into”, which forms its present tense from the zero-grade root *tud-, not the full grade *taud-. In this sense it resembles the aorist.

  • So specifically, they're zero-grade root thematic presents? (I'd never seen the term before -- it seems very misleading.)
    – TKR
    Aug 11, 2017 at 16:43
  • @TKR. I would agree that the term is misleading in that it suggests an affinity to IE perfect-presents, which are morphologically perfects (e.g. Greek oida “I know”), while the aorist-presents have a quasi-aoristic stem, but are otherwise morphologicaly presents, not aorists (i.e., they have primary endings).
    – fdb
    Aug 11, 2017 at 16:52

I once heard that some verbs typically called "aorist presents" in Germanic are actually the result of e > u vowel coloring by surrounding velar and labial consonants.

For example, the Germanic "come"-word (Eng. come, Icelandic koma, etc.) is sometimes termed an aorist-present verb because it has apparent zero-grade in the present tense in Old English (ic cume "I come") and elsewhere. However, the root originally contained a labiovelar onset and a labial coda (*gWem-). In some Germanic branches, such as Gothic, the e-grade remains as such (Gothic qiman "to come" < *kWem-).

This explanation doesn't seem to work for Norse/Icelandic vega, though, because the -g- coda implies a different stress pattern (the one typically associated with zero-grade). Thus, this cannot simply be a question of the effect of the surrounding consonants on the vowel.

With OE būgan, there is a labial onset and a velar coda, so this might be a case of vowel coloring rather than actual zero-grade, but maybe the length of the ū vowel conflicts with this explanation.

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