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Greek & Latin vowels (was: CHAT letter names etc)

From:Ray Brown <ray.brown@...>
Date:Wednesday, March 3, 2004, 13:43
On Tuesday, March 2, 2004, at 04:39 PM, Mark J. Reed wrote:

> An interesting tidbit of which I was unaware until yesterday: as in > Latin, what was originally purely a quantitative difference between > short and long vowels developed over time into a quantitative > difference. And, as in Latin, the resulting two vowels for <o> were [o] > and [O].
Yep - the different development of the two vowels in the Romancelangs make that quite clear. In western Romance, short Latin /u/ was [U] and fell together with long /o/, both being pronounce [o]. Similar developments took place with the front vowels.
> However, their rôles in Greek were reversed - short <o> > (mikron) was [o], while long <o> (mega) was [O:].
Probably because, like some rustic English dialects, the long vowels were drawled and laxer than the tense, short vowels. In some (probably now obsolete) southern English dialects, long-o (RP [ou_^]]) had become [o@_^] or [U@_^] and RP [ei_^] was [e@_^] or [I@_^]. Actually in French, altho length is not phonemic, the /E/ in words like 'père', 'terre', 'hêtre' are the low and long [E:], while the high /e/ is always short and tense. Ancient Greek seems to have behaved in a similar way. The qualitative difference between omicron and omega was probably not great in the later period. The evidence with E, EI, and H is much clearer. H (eta) /E:/ resulted in the Ionian dialects from PIE /a:/. A similar phenomenon occurs today in the colloquial English of Newport & Cardiff in south Wales where English /A/ is pronounced [&:] (thats's the CXS [&] = X-SAMPA [{]). Eta also, in all dialects that used the letter, represented the development of PIE /e:/, therefore we assume the Greek sound was between [a:] and [e:], namely [E:]. Those Greeks who used the western varieties of the alphabet used the symbol H for /h/, and represented both /e/ and /E:/ by E. But in early inscriptions from both areas we find E also represented a sound which later Greek became spelled EI and which we know that by the Hellenistic period had become /i:/. There is no evidence that it diphthongized en_route, so to speak. The evidence suggests that by the 5th cent. BCE both earlier /ei_^/ and "native" /e:/, written E in both east & west, had merged to give [e:]. The evidence is that in the Classical period, ancient Greek had two long-e sounds and two long-o sounds, rather like Middle English with low 'ea' and and low 'ee', and low 'oa' ~ high 'oo'. As E was used in early texts for both /e/ and [e:], we assume /e/ was pronounced [e]. Likewise the long sound spelled O in both western and eastern Greek alphabets was later spelled OY. Again it seems that both original [ou_^] and [o:] merged as just plain [o:]. The long-o inherited from PIE was, however, written by the Ionians with a letter they invented which we call omega. That they felt the need to do this suggests not only a quantitative difference but also a qualitative difference, i.e. it was a lower vowel and, on the clearer evidence of E, EI, H, we assume omega was /O:/ (like Middle English 'oa'). Thus it's incorrect, in fact, to say that in (early) Classical Greek, short /o/ and /e/ were high and long /o/ and /e/ were low vowels. The truth is that, like Middle English, the two short mid vowels, /o/ and /e/, each had _two_ contrasting long vowels: one high and one low, thus: Short Long mid-high OY 'oo' mid O mid-low Ω (omega) 'oa' and.. Short Long mid-high EI 'ee' mid E mid-low H (eta) 'ea' There is no evidence that there was any qualitative difference in ancient Greek between long and short vowels at the 'apexes' of the vocalic triangle, i.e. the difference between long and short I, A and Y was essentially one of length only, as in modern French (yes, I know length isn't phonemic in French), cf. short [i] - vite, dit long [i:] - rire, Moïse short [a] - chat, tache, femme long [a:] - rare, noire short [u] - tout, goutte long [u:] - cour, Douvres Thus when length ceased to be phonemic in Greek, the long and short sounds simply fell together which was not the case in Latin except for /a/ ~ /a:/ Latin seems to have a system like modern German where, except for /a/ ~ /a: /, the short sounds were laxer than the tenser long sounds; so when length ceased to be phonemic, the qualitative difference did become phonemic, as we see in the development of the Romancelangs (including Brithenig).
> That just seems very > odd to me. :)
Then natlangs just are odd :) For example, the nice neat arrangement of both the ancient Greek & Middle English mid vowels didn't remain nor did the front & back vowels develop the same way, as might be expected. In Greek, /u/~/u:/ were fronted to /y/~/y/ probably as early as the 5th cent. BCE in Ionia, Attica & Boiotia; and it seems as though OY didn't waste too much time moving right up to take the vacant place, becoming [u: ]. The change is likely to have been completed by the 4th cent BCE. The qualitative difference between /o/ (omicron) & /O:/ (omega) became less pronounced and by the Byzantine period the two sound had fallen together. But with the front vowels, while EI followed the upward movement of its 'sister' OY, and had became /i:/ by Hellenistic period, /E:/ (eta) wasn't going to hang around and make friends with E (epsilon); it got going on its way up. By the Roman period it had become [e:] and by the time of the Byzantine period had moved up and joined long I and EI to have the sound [i:]. It's interesting to note that while in English only 'oo' moved to [u:]~[U] , 'oa' keeping what call an 'o-sound', both 'ee' and 'ea' (with few exceptions) both became [i:] Yep - languages just are odd :) Ray =============================================== (home) (work) =============================================== "A mind which thinks at its own expense will always interfere with language." J.G. Hamann, 1760


Mark J. Reed <markjreed@...>