Suppletive Middle Voice in Albanian:
Indo-European and Balkan Perspectives

Brian D. Joseph

The Ohio State University

The Albanian verb is noted for various archaic features, including suppletion between present tense and aorist tense for the same lexeme, e.g., ke 'he has' but pati 'he had,' or jep 'he gives but dha 'he gave' (to an extent found also only in Vedic Sanskrit) and the occurrence of an inflected (synthetic) middle (better labeled "nonactive") voice, e.g., la-he-t 'he gets washed' (cf. la 'he washes'), found also among modern Indo-European languages only in Greek.

There is moreover an interesting intersection of these two features in Albanian in that there is suppletion in the form of the middle voice itself. In particular, nonactive voice is realized synthetically through the use of a suffix (-(h)e-) plus special endings in the present, but analytically through the use of a "particle" (generally referred to as a "clitic") in the past together with endings that are identical to the active endings (e.g., u lava).

The use of active endings in such past nonactive forms is found sporadically in inflection in other Indo-European languages (cf., e.g., Vedic aduhat 'he benefitted') but systematically only in Greek, both in Ancient Greek and, in an altered form, in Modern Greek.

In this paper, an interpretation is offered of this nonactive voice suppletion in Albanian both with regard to the occurrence of suppletion itself and with regard to the use of the active endings in the Albanian past nonactive. By tying together some disparate facts, including the etymology of u (from the PIE reflexive *swe), the occurrence of *swe outside the present indicative in Sanskrit, and the use of *swe in nonactive voice forms in Balto-Slavic, it is argued here that this suppletion, together with the use of active endings, represents an archaism within the Albanian verbal system. The transformation of this original suppletive system in both Balto-Slavic and Greek, moreover, is explained as the result of analogical resolution of the suppletion in different directions in these two branches of Indo-European. Finally, the role of contact between Albanian and Greek is explored as a possible basis for the re-constitution of nonactive voice forms in later Greek with a new set of active endings compared with the Ancient Greek paradigm.