H. W. Smyth

Greek Grammar (First Edition)

Part 1 1-26


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LETTERS, SOUNDS, SYLLABLES, ACCENT


THE ALPHABET


1. The Greek alphabet has twenty-four letters.

 

Form

Name

Equivalents

Sound as in

Α

α

ἄλφα

alpha

a

a: aha; a: father

Β

β

βῆτα

beta

b

beg

Γ

β

γάμμα

gamma

g

go

Δ

δ

δέλτα

delta

d

dig

Ε

ε

εἴ, ἐ(ἒ ψιλόν)

pslon

met

Ζ

ζ

ζῆτα

zeta

z

daze

Η

η

ἦτα

eta

e

Fr. fte

Θ

θ

θῆτα

theta

th

thin

Ι

ι

ἰῶτα

ita

i

e: me teor; i:  police

Κ

κ

κάππα

kappa

c, k

kin

Λ

λ

λάμβδα

lambda

l

let

Μ

μ

μῦ

mu

m

met

Ν

ν

νῦ

nu

n

net

Ξ

ξ

ξεῖ (ξῖ)

xi

x

lax

Ο

ο

οὔ, ὄ 
(ὂ μικρόν)

omicron

o

obey

Π

π

πεῖ (πῖ)

pi

p

pet

Ρ

ρ

ῥῶ

rho

r

run

Σ

σ, ς

σίγμα

sigma

s

such

Τ

τ

ταῦ

tau

t

tar

Υ

υ

(ὒ ψιλόν)

upsilon

(u) y

: Fr. tu; u: sr

Φ

φ

φεῖ (φῖ)

phi

ph

graphic

Χ

χ

χεῖ (χῖ)

chi

ch

Germ.  machen

Ψ

ψ

ψεῖ (ψῖ)

psi

ps

gypsum

Ω

ω

ὦ (ὦ μέγα)

mga

note

 

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2. The Greek alphabet as given above originated in Ionia, and was adopted at Athens in 403 B.C. The letters from Α to Τ are derived from Phoenician and have Semitic names. The signs Υ to Ω were invented by the Greeks. From the Greek alphabet are derived the alphabets of most European countries. The ancients used only the large letters, called majuscules (capitals as Ε, uncials as ε); the small letters (minuscules), which were used as a literary hand in the ninth century, are cursive forms of the uncials.

 

a. Before 403 B.C. in the official Attic alphabet Ε stood for ε, η, spurious ει (6), Ο for ο, ω, spurious ου (6), Η for the rough breathing, ΧΣ for Ξ, ΦΣ for Ψ, Λ was written for γ, and for λ.  Thus:

ΕΔΟΧΣΕΝΤΕΙΒΟ ϞϚ ΕΙΚΑΙΤΟΙΔΕΜΟΙ ἐδοξεν τῇ βουλῇ καὶ τῷ δήμῳ.
ΧΣΥΛΛΡΑΦΕΣΧΣΥΝΕΛΡΑΦΣΑΝ ξυγγραφῆς ξυνέγραψαν.
ΕΓΙΤΕΔΕΙΟΝΕΝΑΙΑΓΟΤΟΑΡΥΡΙΟ ἐπιτήδειον εἶναι ἀπὸ τοῦ ἀργυρίου.

3. In the older period there were two other letters: (1) Ϝ: Ϝαῦ, vau, called digamma (i.e. double-gamma) from its shape. It stood after ε and was pronounced like ω.  Ϝ was written in Boeotian as late as 200 B.C. (2) Ϟ:  κόππα, koppa, which stood after π.  Another s called san, is found in the sign  Ϡ, called sampi, i.e. san + pi. On these signs as numerals, see 348.

 

VOWELS AND DIPHTHONGS


4. There are seven vowels: α, ε, η, ι, ο, υ, ω.  Of these ε and ο are always short, and take about half the time to pronounce as η and ω, which are always long; α, ι, υ are short in some syllables, long in others. In this Grammar, when α, ι, υ are not marked as long (ᾱ, ῑ, ῡ  ) they are understood to be short. All vowels with the circumflex (149) are long. On length by position, see 144.

a. Vowels are said to be  open or close according as the mouth is more open 

 

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or less open in pronouncing them, the tongue and lips assuming different positions in the case of each.

5. A diphthong (δίφθογγος having two sounds) combines two vowels in one syllable. The second vowel is ι or υ.  The diphthongs are:  αι, ει, οι, ᾱͅ, ῃ, ῳ; αυ, ευ, ου, ηυ, and υι.  The ι of the so-called improper diphthongs, ᾱͅ, ῃ, ῳ, is written below the line and is called iota subscript. But with capital letters, ι is written on the line (adscript), as ΤΗΙ ΩΙΔΗΙ = τῇ ᾠδῇ or Ὠιδῇ to the song. All diphthongs are long.

a. In ᾳ, ῃ, ῳ the ι ceased to be written about 100 B.C. The custom of writing ι under the line is as late as about the eleventh century.

6. ει, ου are either genuine or spurious (apparent) diphthongs (25). Genuine ει, ου are a combination of ε, ι, ο, υ, as in λείπω I leave (cp. λέλοιπα I have left, 35 a), γένει to a race (49), ἀκόλουθος follower (cp. κέλευθος way). Spurious ει, ου arise from contraction  (50) or compensatory lengthening (37). Thus, φίλει he loved, from φίλεε, θείς placing from θεντ-ς; εφίλουν they loved from ἐφίλεον, πλοῦς voyage from πλόος, δούς giving from δοντ-ς.

7. The figure of a triangle represents the relations of the vowels and spurious diphthongs to one another.

 

open

From α to ι and from α to ου the elevation of the tongue gradually increases. ω, ο, ου, υ are accom-panied by rounding of the lips.

 

η

ω

ε, ει

ο

ῐ, ϊ

ου

υ, ῦ (i.e., Germ. )

close

8. Diaeresis. A double dot, the mark of diaeresis (διαίρεσις separation), may be written over ι or υ when these do not form a diphthong with the preceding vowel: προΐτημι I set before, νηΐ to a ship.

9. Every initial vowel or diphthong has either the rough () or the smooth () breathing. The rough breathing (spiritus asper) is pronounced as h, which is sounded before the vowel; the smooth

 

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breathing (spiritus lenis) is not sounded. Thus, ὅρος hros boundary, ὄρος ros mountain.

10. Initial υ (ῡ) always has the rough breathing.

11. Diphthongs take the breathing, as the accent (152), over the second vowel: ἁιρέω hairo I seize, ἄιρω aro I lift. But ᾳ, ῃ, ῳ take both the breathing and the accent on the first vowel, even when ι is written in the line (5):  ᾄδω = Ἄιδω I sing, ᾅδης = Ἅιδης Hades, but Αἰνείᾱς Aeneas. The writing ἀίδηλος (Ἀίδηλος) destroying shows that αι does not here form a diphthong; and hence is sometimes written αϊ (8).

12. In compound words (as in προορᾶν to foresee, from πρό + ὁρᾶν) the rough breathing is not written, though it must often have been pronounced: cp. ἐξέδρᾱ a hall with seats, Lat. exhedra, exedra, πολυίτωρ very learned, Lat. polyhistor. On Attic inscriptions in the old alphabet (2 a) we find ΕΥΗΟΡΚΟΝ εὐὅκον faithful to one's oath.

13. Every initial ρ has the rough breathing: ῥήτωρ orator (Lat. rhetor). Medial ρρ is written ῤῥ in some texts: Πυῤῥος Pyrrhus.

14. The sign for the rough breathing is derived from Η , which in the Old Attic alphabet (2 a) was used to denote h. Thus, ΗΟ ὁ the. After Η was used to denote j , one half (|_) was used for h (about 300 B.C.), and, later, the other half (_|) for the smooth breathing. From |_ and _| come the forms and  .

 

CONSONANTS


 

15. The seventeen consonants are divided into stops (or mutes), spirants, liquids, nasals, and double consonants. They may be arranged according to the degree of tension or slackness of the vocal chords in sounding them, as follows:

a. Voiced (sonant, i.e. sounding) consonants are produced when the vocal chords vibrate. The sounds are represented by the letters b, d, g (stops), λ, ρ (liquids), β, δ, γ- nasal (19 a) (nasals), and ζ.  (All the vowels are voiced.) ρ with the rough breathing is voiceless.

b. Voiceless (surd, i.e. hushed) consonants require no exertion of the vocal chords. These are π, τ, κ, θ, χ (stops), σ (spirant or sibilant), and ψ and ξ.

c. Arranged according to the increasing degree of noise, nearest to the vowels are the nasals, in sounding which the air escapes without friction through the nose; next come the semivowels υ̭ and (20 a), the liquids, and the spirant σ, in 

 

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sounding which the air escapes with friction through the cavity of the mouth; next come the stops, which are produced by a removal of an obstruction; and finally the double consonants.

16. Stops (or mutes). Stopped consonants are so called because in sounding them the breath passage is for a moment completely closed. The stops are divided into three classes (according to the part of the mouth chiefly active in sounding them) and into three orders (according to the degree of force in the expiratory effort).

Classes

Orders

Labial (lip sounds)

π

β

φ

Smooth

π

τ

κ

Dental (teeth sounds)

τ

δ

θ

Middle

β

δ

γ

Palatal (palate sounds)

κ

γ

χ

Rough

φ

θ

χ

a. The dentals are sometimes called linguals. The rough stops are also called aspirates (lit. breathed sounds) because they were sounded with a strong emission of breath (26). The smooth stops are thus distinguished from the rough stops by the absence of breathing. (h) is also an aspirate. The middle stops owe their name to their position in the above grouping, which is that of the Greek grammarians.

17. Spirants. There is one spirant:  σ (also called a sibilant).

a. A spirant is heard when the breath passage of the oral cavity is so narrowed that a rubbing noise is produced by an expiration.

18. Liquids. There are two liquids:  λ and ρ.  Initial ρ always has the rough breathing (13).

19. Nasals. There are three nasals: μ (labial), ν (dental), and γ- nasal (palatal).

a. Gamma before κ, γ, χ, ξ is called γ-nasal. It had the sound of n in think, and was represented by n in Latin. Thus, ἄγκῡρα (Lat. ancora) anchor, ἄγγελος (Lat. angelus) messenger, σφίγξ sphinx.

b. The name liquids is often used to include both liquids and nasals.

20. Semivowels. ι, υ, the liquids, nasals, and the spirant ς are often called semivowels. ( ι ̭ becoming ζ, and Ϝ are also called spirants.)

a. When ι and υ correspond to y and w (cp. minion, persuade) they are said to be unsyllabic; and, with a following vowel, make one syllable out of two. Semivocalic ι and υ are written ι ̭and υ̭.  Initial ι ̭passed into (h), as in ἧπαρ liver, Lat. jecur; and into ζ in ζυγόν yoke, Lat. jugum (here it is often called the spirant yod). Initial υ̭ was written Ϝ (3). Medial ι ̭, υ̭ before vowels were often lost, as in τῑμά-(ι ̭)ω I honour, βο(υ̭)-ς, gen. of βοῦ-ς ox, cow (43).

b. The form of many words is due to the fact that the liquids, nasals, and ς may fulfil the office of a vowel to form syllables (cp. bridle, even, pst). This is expressed by λ̥ο̥, μ̥ο̥, ν̥ο̥, ρ̥ο̥, σ̥ο̥, to be read 'syllabic  λ,' etc., or 'sonant  λ' (see 35 b, c).

21. Double Consonants. These are ζ, ξ, and ψ, ζ is a combination of σδ (or δς) or δι (26).  ξ is written for κς, γτ, χτ; ψ for πς, βς, φς.

 

12

 

22.

table of consonant sounds



DIVISIONS

Physiological Differences

Labial

Dental Palatal
Nasals

Voiced

μ

ν

γ- nasal (19 a)

Semivowels

Voiced

υ̭(Ϝ)

ι ̭ (y)

Liquids

Voiced

 

λ, ρ*

Spirants


{


Voiced

 

σ

Voiceless

σ, ς

Stops

{

Voiced

β (middle)

δ (middle)

γ (middle)

Voiceless

π (smooth)

τ (smooth)

κ (smooth)

Voiceless Aspirate

φ  (rough)

θ (rough)

χ (rough)

Double consonants

{

Voiced

a

ζ

Voiceless

ψ

ξ



 

ANCIENT GREEK PRONUNCIATION


23. The pronunciation of Ancient Greek varied much according to time and place, and differed in many important respects from that of the modern language. While in general Greek of the classical period was a phonetic language, i.e. its letters represented the sounds, and no heard sound was unexpressed in writing (but see 108), in course of time many words were retained in their old form though their pronunciation had changed. The tendency of the language was thus to become more and more unphonetic. Our current pronunciation of Ancient Greek is only in part even approximately correct for the period from the death of Pericles (429 B.C.) to that of Demosthenes (322); and in the case of several sounds, e.g. ζ, φ, χ, θ, it is certainly erroneous for that period. But ignorance of the exact pronunciation, as well as long-established usage, must render any reform pedantical, if not impossible. In addition to, and in further qualification of, the list of sound equivalents in 1 we may note the following:

24. Vowels. Short α, ι, υ differed in sound from the corresponding long voweis only in being less prolonged; ε and ο probably differed from η and ω also in being less open, a difference that is impossible to parallel in English as our short vowels are more open than the long vowels. ă: as a in Germ. hat. There is no true ă in accented syllables in English; the a of idea, aha is a neutral vowel. ε: as in bont; somewhat similar is a in bakery. j : as in fte, or 

 

13

 

nearly as e in where. : nearly as the first e in meteor, eternal. ο: as o in Fr. mot, somewhat like unaccented o in obey or phonetic (as often sounded). ω: as o in Fr. encore. Eng. ο̆  is prevailingly diphthongal (ou). υ was originally sounded as u in prune, but by the fifth century had become like that of Fr. tu, Germ. thr. It never had in Attic the sound of u in mute. After υ had become like Germ. , the only means to represent the sound of the old υ (oo in moon) was ou (25). Observe, however, that, in diphthongs, final υ retained the old υ sound.

25. Diphthongs. The diphthongs were sounded nearly as follows:

αι as in Cairo

αυ as ou in out

ηυ as eh'-oo

ει as in vein

ευ as e (met) + oo (moon)

ωυ as h'-oo

οι as in soil

ου as in ourang

υι as in Fr. huit

In ᾳ, ῃ, ῳ the long open vowels had completely overpowered the i by 100 B.C., so that ι ceased to be written (5 a). The ι is now generally neglected in pronunciation though it may have still been sounded to some extent in the fourth century B.C. The genuine diphthongs ει and ου (6) were originally distinct double sounds (ĕh'-i, ŏh'-oo), and as such were written ΕΙ, ΟΥ in the Old Attic alphabet (2 a): ΕΠΕΙΔΕ ἐπειδή, ΤΟΥΤΟΝ τούτον.  The spurious diphthongs ει and ου (6) are digraphs representing the long sounds of simple ε (French ) and original υ.  By 400 B.C. genuine ει and ου had become simple single sounds pronounced as ei in vein and ou in ourang; and spurious ει and ου, which had been written Ε and Ο (2 a), were now often written ΕΙ and ΟΥ.  After 300 B.C. ει gradually acquired the sound of ei in seize. ευ was sounded like eh'-oo, ηυ and ωυ like eh'-oo, h'-oo, pronounced rapidly but smoothly. υι is now commonly sounded as ui in quit. It occurred only before vowels, and the loss of the ι in υἱός son (43) shows that the diphthongal sound was disliked

26. Consonants. Most of the consonants were sounded as in English (1). Before ι, κ, γ, τ, σ never had a sh (or zh) sound heard in Lycia (Λυκίᾱ). Asia (Ἀσίᾱ).  σ was usually like our sharp s; but before voiced consonants (15 a) it probably was soft, like z; thus we find both κόζμος and κόσμος on inscriptions. ζ was probably = zd, whether it arose from an original σδ (as in Ἀθηναζε, from Ἀθηνα(ν)σ-δε Athens-wards), or from dz, developed from dy (as in ζυγόν, from (d)yυγόν, cp. jugum). The z in zd gradually extinguished the d, until in the Hellenistic period (p. 4) ζ sank to z (as in zeal), which is the sound in Modern Greek. The aspirates φ, θ, χ were voiceless stops (15 b, 16 a) followed by a strong expiration: πh, τh, κh as in upheaval, hothouse, backhand (though here h is in a different syllable from the stop). Thus, φεύγω was πἑύγω, θέλω was τἑλω, ἔχω was ἔ-κὡ.  Cp. φᾧ, for π(ὶ)ᾧ, etc. Probably only one h was heard when two aspirates came together, as in ἐχθρός ἐκτῥός).  After 300 A.D. (probably) φ, θ, and χ became spirants, φ being sounded as f (as in Φίλιππος Philip), θ as th in theatre, χ as ch in German ich or loch. The stage between aspirates and spirants is sometimes represented by the writing πφ (= pf), τθ, κχ, 

 

14

 

which are affricata. The neglect of the h in Latin representations of φ, θ, χ possibly shows that these sounds consisted of a stop + h. Thus, Pilipus = Φίλιππος, tus = θύος, Aciles = Ἀχιλλευς.  Modern Greek has the spirantic sounds, and these, though at variance with classical pronunciation, are now usually adopted. See also 108.

 

 

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