Greek letter names (was Greek & Latin vowels etc)
|From:||Ray Brown <ray.brown@...>|
|Date:||Thursday, March 4, 2004, 20:15|
On Wednesday, March 3, 2004, at 05:49 PM, jcowan@REUTERSHEALTH.COM wrote:
> Mark J. Reed scripsit:
>> But where the heck did the names Rho and Sigma come from?
> My guess is that rho is an analogy rhyme with o (mikron),
But it doesn't! The Greek name rho is spelled rho-omega. Omega didn't
rhyme with o(micron) in early Greek. In fact the Greek name is derived
from Semitic, see below.
> ..and that sigma comes from mixing up the name of samekh with shin.
I agree - see below.
> The name shin survives as san, an archaic Greek letter.
But the vowel is wrong. 'shin' /Si:n/ would 'sin' (with long 'i') in Greek.
The alpha is probably due to conflation with the name śa:de: - see below.
On Wednesday, March 3, 2004, at 05:23 PM, Mark J. Reed wrote:
> ..... But where the heck did the names Rho and Sigma come from?
> They seem much further from the modern Hebrew names (Resh and S[h]in)
> than the other borrowed names.
But the Greek names were not borrowed from Hebrew. The archaic Greek
alphabet was essentially the Phoenician alphabet; Greek was almost
certainly first written alphabetically in some bilingual trading community,
possibly on Cyprus or, I think more likely, Crete. Indeed, it is not
improbable that the first persons to write Greek this way were Phoenician
Anyway, the names used would be Greek forms of Phoenician names. According
to Th. Nöldeke ("Beiträge zur semitischen Sprachwissenschaft", 1904, pp.
133 sq) the old Semitic name for |r| was *ro:S. The Greek name simply
drops the final /S/.
As for the sibilants, the only straightforward one is (Z) zeta from
Semitic *zai, keeping the same sound as the original.
The other three sibilants were confused by the Greeks, who needed only one:
1. semk (three parallel horozintal lines, with one vertical down their
center) whose sound was /s/.
It is found in some of the archaic alphabets as an alternative way of
writing /z/ [sic].
It was later used in eastern Ionian alphabets to denote /ks/ and called
'ksei' by them; but this usage is not attested in any of the archaic
alphabets nor is it known in the alphabets of the western Greeks.
In the archaic alphabets, /ks/ is always written as two consonants. The
later western Greek alphabet adopted a symbol of unknown origin, namely X,
for this sound (while the eastern Greeks used the same symbol for k_h).
2. śa:de: (similar to modern upper-case M, but the 'valley' in the middle
comes only half-way down) whose sound was probably /s_e/ (X_SAMPA for
velarized or pharyngealized s, i.e. "emphatic s" of Arabic, which in real
IPA is 's' with a tilde through the middle of it). The corresponding
Hebrew letter is pronounced /ts/ in modern Hebrew. This letter was used in
Crete, Thera, Melos, Sikinos, Corinth, Korkyra (Corcyra, Corfu), Sikyon,
Argolis and Lokris to denote Greek /s/. The Doric name for the letter is
'san' which suggests a conflation of the Semitic names śa:de: and ši:n
3. ši:n (written either like an upper-case Greek sigma or the 'lightening
flash S' which IIRC was used doubled by the Nazi SS) which in Phoenician
represented /S/. This was used in Athens, Euboia, Elis, Lakonia and
generally in the later western and eastern Greek alphabets for /s/. Where
ši:n is used, śa:de: generally is not found; but, according to C.D. Buck
(The Greek Dialects, Chicago, 1955, p.349) both letters have been found at
Argolis and Lokris.
The Greek name 'sigma' /siNma/ seems to be a conflation of Semitic semk
and ši:n. The reasons for the confusion of names and distribution of this
and the previous letter are unclear.
I discuss the origin of the archaic Greek alphabet on:
But you'll need a sensible browser that can cope with Unicode :)
"A mind which thinks at its own expense will always
interfere with language." J.G. Hamann, 1760