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Greek vowels; was Re: an announcement...

From:Danny Wier <dawier@...>
Date:Friday, September 24, 1999, 18:16
Ed Heil writes:

>Fun Trivia about Greek You Probably Already Know:
Cool, I'm a master at useless trivia.
>Very strangely from a typological perspective, ancient Greek seems to >have *reversed* the quality/quantity values for its E's and O's. That >is, eta (long e) had the quality in English "Ed" (E:) whereas epsilon >(short e) had the quality of "a" in "rake." (e) Similarly, long Omega >had the value of English "saw" (O:) while short omicron had the value >of English "hope" (o). > >[O:] [o] [E:] [e] is very very weird. [O] [o:] [E] [e:] is much more >common.
Correct. But E ~ E: and O ~ O: occurs in many languages. And as a matte= r=20 of fact, modern Indo-Aryan languages, including Hindi-Urdu, have e ~ E: (= <=20 Sanskrit ai) and o ~ O: (< Skt au). But I wonder if epsilon and eta had the same vocal quality except length,= =20 omicron and omega likewise. It does seem more 'natural'. Especially in=20 light of the existence of the 'spurious diphthongs' you mention:
>Occasionally, there *would* be a need to represent [o:] or [e:] >(these sounds were uncommon but existed, mostly as a result of >contraction), and these were written with the so-called "spurious >diphthongs" (digraphs), "ou" and "ei" (omicron-upsilon and >epsilon-iota). This is problematic for those of us who would like to >pronounce ancient Greek correctly, because there also existed genuine >"ou" and "ei" diphthongs, which were written the same way.
Confusing. I actually have a couple Greek fonts that use the characters=20 epsilon-circumflex and omicron-circumflex (circumflex normally is only be= =20 used on long vowels); I wonder if that what they're for...
>Oh, to top it all off, eta represented two different values too. In >addition to [E:] it represented a long version of the "a" sound in >English "hat" [&:] -- this sound arose from a lowering of [a:] in >certain positions, most famously at the ends of words such as in the >first declension ending.
That makes sense; since the feminine ending -e is obviously a shift of PI= E=20 -a: (< -ah, possibly Nostratic link with Semitic -at > -ah?). Umlaut? By the way, German converts Greek ai/Latin ae to a-umlaut, and oi/Latin o= e=20 to o-umlaut. Examples: Ge <=C4gypt> 'Egypt' from Gk <Aigyptos>, and=20 <=F6kumenisch> 'ecumenical' from <oikumene:> 'household'. How did these=20 fronted vowels (especially the latter, the front mid round) come about? (From what I understand, the Western school of Greek and Latin pronunciat= ion=20 came a lot from Erasmus and maybe Luther. Danny ______________________________________________________ Get Your Private, Free Email at