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[h] in Greek (was: A new phonemic distinction in Gzarondan)

From:Ray Brown <ray.brown@...>
Date:Saturday, October 16, 2004, 18:13
I sent this off this morning (Oct 15th) but it got sent only to Philip &
not to the rest of you! So here it is again with a bit extra added at the
end   :)

On Friday, October 15, 2004, at 07:40 , Philip Newton wrote:

> On Thu, 14 Oct 2004 20:25:23 +0200, Philippe Caquant > <herodote92@...> wrote: >> Ancient Greek had apparently an h, since it was >> written above the initial vowel (we call this an >> 'esprit rude' in French). Ex: the article 'ho' (the, >> masc.), written o with this sign on it.
Not all ancient Greek dialects had [h]; and those ancient Greeks who did have [h] did not write any mark over the initial vowel. That was a later tradition.
> *nods* I believe the English name is "rough breathing" (contrast > "smooth breathing"); sometimes, the Latin words "spiritus asper" and > "spiritus lenis" are used.
Correct - the English terms being a translation of the Latin ones which, in turn, were translations of the Greek _pneuma dasy_ and _pneuma psilon_ respectively, being the terms the Alexandrian grammarians applied to the signs they invented.
> However, breathings were lost many hundreds of years ago and are not > even written any more in Modern Greek since the orthography reform of > 1984.
Yep - and the breathings were not written by the ancient Greeks either. They were the invention of Alexandrian grammarians in the 3rd cent CE and were even then used only to distinguish words like _horos_ and _oros_. I don't think they were consistently used before the Byzantine period by which time, ironically, [h] has ceased to be pronounced in spoken Greek.
> For that matter, I believe that eta, the H-shaped glyph, represented > [h] in some dialects of Ancient Greek --
It represented [h] in all versions of the western Greek alphabet, hence its use in the Roman alphabet. But in the eastern alphabets it represented [E:] mainly because there was no [h] in ancient eastern Ionian, Lesbian, Elean & Cyprian dialects. It also represented [E:]in the archaic (8th cent. BCE) alphabets of Crete as the Dorians on Crete (unlike their fellow Dorians on the Greek mainland & southern Italy) also did not pronounce [h] .
> and I've read that the signs > for rough breathing (roughly, "(") and smooth breathing (roughly, ")") > occur from half of the H sign, i.e. something like |-- and --|.
That's right. In 403 BCE the Athenians, who were western Ioanians and had used a variety of the western Greek alphabet, adopted the eastern Ionian alphabet; this subsequently became the alphabet of Koine Greek and remains the uppercase alphabet of modern Greece. As the Ionian alphabet spread across the Greek speaking world, some cities in Magna Graeca (that is, Greek speaking southern Italy), in particular, Tarentum (Taranto), did indeed adopt |-- as the sign for [h]. It was this letter that the Alexandrians later adopted as a superscript. The complementary --| was never used as a separated symbol and was adopted even later to indicate non-aspiration, presumably at a time when [h] was largely silent (4th cent CE) and those who wanted to speak "correctly" were careful to note when [h] should be pronounced and when not. Thus for practically the whole time they were used, the breathings were not pronounced in contemporary Greek but indicated a the pronunciation of Athens in the 5th cent BCE. Yet for a millennium & half they continued to make life interesting for pedants and irksome for schoolkids :) ================================================== On Friday, October 15, 2004, at 08:29 , Andreas Johansson wrote:
> Quoting Philippe Caquant <herodote92@...>: > >> --- Andreas Johansson <andjo@...> skrev:
>>> French, Greek and Russian come to mind; they don't >>> have [h] at all. >> >> I'm not so sure for French. I'm thinking for ex about >> interjections, like: hé! ho ! hep ! Perhaps the h is >> not strong, but it seems to exist, at least for some >> speakers. > > As Mach said, sounds found in interjections doesn´t necessarily belong in > the > language´s phonological system.
Absolutely! Otherwise we're saying that English has click consonants. The dental click (Zulu & Xhosa |c|) occurs in many peoples's pronunciation of the 'tut-tut' exclamation of annoyance and that lateral click (Zulu & Xhosa |q|) is the clucking sound often used to urge on horses. But no one AFAIK has seriously suggested that click consonants are part of the English phonological system.
>> Ancient Greek had apparently an h, since it was >> written above the initial vowel (we call this an >> 'esprit rude' in French). Ex: the article 'ho' (the, >> masc.), written o with this sign on it. > > Indeedy. But, as I think was tolerably obvious, I was refering to Modern > Greek.
One would've thought so.
> A Greek girl I know mentioned [h] as the German consonant it had cost her > the > most trouble to master.
My Greek colleague has not bothered - he just uses [X] instead :) As will be seem from my first reply above, Greek has not had [h] for the last one & half millennia; even before that it was not universal. It had disappeared from several dialects (and there was no standard form at the time) nearly three millennia ago and over the succeeding centuries disappeared from the rest. I should have mentioned that although the aspirated consonants [p_h], [t_h] and [k_h] did remain until the became voiceless fricatives* despite loss of /h/. But that is not remarkable. Today /h/ has disappeared from colloquial English in many parts of Britain, but initial /p/, /t/ and /k/ remain aspirated. * a process that seems to have started in a few dialects as early as the 6th cent BCE, but did not become commonplace till the 1st cent CE and had probably not become universal till the 4th or 5th cent CE. Ray =============================================== =============================================== Anything is possible in the fabulous Celtic twilight, which is not so much a twilight of the gods as of the reason." [JRRT, "English and Welsh" ]