Prog Imperfective Drift in Ancient Greek? Reconsidering Eimi‘Be’ with Present Participle


  •  I would like to thank Wolfgang de Melo, Mark Janse and three anonymous referees of Transactions of the Philological Society for their insightful comments. My work was funded by the Special Research Fund of Ghent University (grant No. 01D23409).

Department of Linguistics (Greek section)
Ghent University
Blandijnberg 2, 9000 Ghent


In this article, I reconsider the diachrony of the Ancient Greek periphrastic construction of eimi‘I am’ with present participle by means of Bertinetto’s recently proposed model for the development of progressive grammatical morphemes (grams) (a process called ‘prog imperfective drift’). While Bertinetto’s proposal sheds new light on the diachronic development of the construction, at the same time the evidence from Ancient Greek brings to light the need for modification and further refinement of the model (most importantly with regard to the role of what I call the ‘stative’ aspectual function, next to the diachronic source(s) of the construction). I furthermore show that eimi‘I am’ with present participle never fully developed a (focalised) progressive function, which can be explained in terms of ‘constructional competition.’