Re: OT: "Yugoslavia" in Greek
|From:||Haggen Kennedy <haggenkennedy@...>|
|Date:||Saturday, November 10, 2007, 3:11|
> Can anyone here tell me why the Greek name for Yugoslavia (Giougkoslavía)
> starts with a gamma?
Basically because, in Modern Greek, diphthongs starting with "y" and
"w" are heard by the native Greek speaker as a soft palatalization,
which they relate to their Greek gamma. The English sound in "y"
(compare "ear" and "year"), to the Greek ear (no pun intended), is a gamma.
Let me tell you a funny story. The first time I went to Greece, which
was the first time I actually started learning Modern Greek, I was
baffled by the letter gamma. I remember I was hanging out with a bunch
of friends in Glyfada, a suburban area in Athens, and at some point I'm
asking them to teach me how to pronounce that strange sound I had never
heard before (this happened almost a decade ago). Then, seeing me
bewildered by it, one of them says to me: "it's so easy. It's like the
English 'gee' (the letter G) in the word 'welcome' ".
That really threw me off. Now, just what did he mean by that? There's
no "G" in "welcome". What should I do with that piece of information?, I
was asking myself silently, but ultimately I said, out loud, that he was
nuts. There was no G in "welcome" - he was pronouncing "welcome" very
slowly for me to hear. That's when all the Greeks around me laughed hard
and said, "oh, well, to Greeks there is!".
At the time I thought it was inexplicable, but later I understood that
diphthongs like those, starting with "y" and "w" are heard by Greeks as
a gamma. The phoneme is similar, of course. More or less what happens
with B and V, or interdental sounds that are pronounced as /f/ or /v/ by
native speakers who lack the sound in their language (as when the French
say "sink" meaning "think", for example).
That's where you see how words like "iatros" (doctor) in Ancient Greek
became "giatros" in Modern Greek. Examples abound.