For every language there is a tense that is morphologically closest to the root, e.g. English present is more basic than perfect since perfect either adds a suffix -(e)d or has ablaut as tense marker. Is there a language where some verbs (simplistically "verbs with perfective semantics [VPS]") such as find, come, say are unmarked in preterite, the perfective tense, and marked in present, the imperfective tense; whereas other verbs, those "with imperfective semantic tense" (VIS) such as search (for), walk, talk (about) are marked in the preterite and unmarked in present? E. g.

nenden ("walk") > pres. nen, pret. nendud ("walked").

niden ("vanish, go away") > pres. nidun, pret. nid

(I suppose English has monosyllabic preterite forms for VPS such as put, cut for phonological reasons (unchanging ablaut of verbs with stem vowel u) not because the verbs are VPS. Ancient Greek had a very basic past tense in the aorist, arguably more basic with the VPS twin of verb roots such as peithō, cf. epithon (perfective: "persuade") vs. epeisa ("woo").)

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    What language are nenden and niden? – fdb Jul 9 '18 at 16:28
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    I think “put” and “cut” are weak verbs with irregular coalescence of the dental suffix with the stem-final dental consonant – brass tacks Jul 9 '18 at 19:02
  • @sumelic yes, probably. – Abas Jul 9 '18 at 21:08
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    There are 22 verbs in the Zero-suffix monosyllabic dental-final class: bet bid burst cast cost cut fit hit hurt let put quit rid set shed shit shut slit spit split spread thrust. – jlawler Jul 9 '18 at 22:29
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    But they have nothing in common semantically, and they don't deal with sound, so it's strange to call them onomatopoetic. – jlawler Jul 13 '18 at 2:39

This is true for many old Indo-European languages because the present stem was often extended with infixed -e- (see the answer from @fdb with Greek peith-o, e-pith-o-n, pe-poith-a), but sometimes even with infix -n-, e.g. Latin linqu-o ("I leave") with the past liqu-i ("I left") or Vedic present yunaj-m-i ("I join") vs past a-yuj-a-t ("He joined").


To stick with your Greek example: present πείθω, strong aorist ἔπῐθον, perfect πέποιθα reflect the stems peith, pith, poith. I do not see that any of these is unmarked or that any other of them is marked. This is regular ablaut gradation with e, o, and zero grades.

  • This opposes prototype theory and the theory of language acquisition and entrechment. We learn verbs by becoming acquainted with its most salient forms first and foremost. peith, pith and poith are not equal in respect of "basicness" nor saliency. One of these three stems must have been learned first and used more often than the other ones. Thus either peith and poith are extensions of pith or pith is a derivation/inflection of either peith or poith by reduction. Or otherwise peith produced poith and pith, being basic tense stem. – Abas Jul 12 '18 at 22:14
  • Your question was about "marked" and "unmarked", not about language acquisition. – fdb Jul 12 '18 at 22:37
  • Ablaut gradation is a form of marking. – Abas Jul 13 '18 at 17:30
  • So what is the unmarked form in the paradigm of πείθω? – fdb Jul 13 '18 at 17:35
  • Hard to say. Eleshar has offered an answer. Here is a paper that offers models of unidirectionality for ablaut gradation: link. If you were to ask which stem is closest to the root I would say pith, if you were to ask which stem comes first in Ancient Greek ablaut I do not know. Certainly peith precedes poith. I find it hard to believe that ablaut grades are equally primary considering that to be able to tell which grade refers to which tense one needs to know where to start – Abas Jul 13 '18 at 18:14

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