In linguistics, the augment is a syllable added to the beginning of the word in certain Indo-European languages, most notably Greek, Armenian, and the Indo-Iranian languages such as Sanskrit, to form the past tenses.
Historical linguists are uncertain whether the augment is a feature that was added to these branches of Indo-European, or whether the augment was present in the parent language and lost by all other branches (see also Proto-Greek).
In Ancient Greek, the verb λέγω légo “I say” has the aorist ἔλεξα élexa “I said”. The initial ε e is the augment. When this comes before a consonant, it is called the "syllabic augment", because it adds a syllable. Sometimes the syllabic augment appears before a vowel, because the initial consonant of the verbal root (usually digamma) was lost:
- *έ-ϝιδον → (loss of digamma) *ἔιδον → (synaeresis) εἶδον
When the augment is added before a vowel, the augment and the vowel are contracted, and the vowel becomes long: akoúō "I hear", ḗkousa "I heard". This is sometimes called the "temporal augment", because it increases the time needed to pronounce the vowel.
- ὣς φάτο — ὣς ἔφατο
hṑs pháto — hṑs éphato
"so he/she said"
- ἦμος δ᾿ ἠριγένεια φάνη ῥοδοδάκτυλος Ἠώς,
êmos d' ērigéneia phánē rhododáktulos Ēṓs,
"And when rose-fingered Dawn appeared, early-born,"
Unaccented syllabic augment disappeared during the Byzantine period as a result of the loss of unstressed initial syllables. However, accented syllabic augments remained in place So Ancient ἔλυσα, ἐλύσαμεν "I loosened, we loosened" corresponds to Modern έλυσα, λύσαμε.  Temporal augment has not survived in the vernacular, which leaves the initial vowel unaltered: Ancient ἀγαπῶ, ἠγάπησα "I love, I loved", Modern αγαπώ, αγάπησα.
|ध / dhã||दधति / dadhãti||अधत् / adhãt||अदधत् / adadhãt||put|
|गम् / gam||गच्छति / gacchati||अगमत् / agamat||अगच्छत् / agacchat||go|
- Phrygian seems to have had an augment.
- Classical Armenian had an augment, in the form of e-.
- Yaghnobi, an East Iranian language spoken in Tajikistan, has an augment.
The term has also been extended to describe similar features in non-Indo-European languages.
In Nahuatl, the perfect ō- prefix is called an augment.
In certain Bantu languages such as Zulu, the term "augment" refers to the initial vowel of a noun class prefix, such as (in Zulu) umu-, ama-. This vowel can be present or absent according to grammatical rules.
- Herbert Weir Smyth. Greek Grammar. par. 429: syllabic augment.
- Smyth. par. 435: temporal augment.
- Browning, Robert (1983). Medieval and Modern Greek (p58)
- Sophroniou, S.A. Modern Greek. Teach Yourself Books, 1962, Sevenoaks, p79
- Coulson, Michael. Teach yourself Sanskrit. p. 244. Hodder and Stoughton, 1976, Sevenoaks.
- Clackson, James. 1994. The Linguistic Relationship Between Armenian and Greek. London: Publications of the Philological Society, No 30. (and Oxford: Blackwell Publishing)