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Re: Greek plosives

From:R A Brown <ray@...>
Date:Thursday, February 2, 2006, 16:38
veritosproject@GMAIL.COM wrote:
> I was studying Greek's orthography a bit, and I realised that although > it seems to have the letters for voiced stops (beta, gamma, delta) it > seems to be using the combination (nasal+unvoiced plosive), as in "nt" > for "d". Why is it doing this, or is it just for transliterated > words?
To answer the last question: "No, it is not". But there is a clearly confusion in the above. It is _modern Greek_ that uses |nt| to transcribe [d] in borrows words, and in modern Greek beta, gamma and delta are *not* voiced plosives, they are voiced fricatives. In ancient Greek, when beta, gamma and delta were voiced plosives; then foreign [d] was indeed written with just plain ol' delta. So the Latin _denarius_ [de:narIUs] becomes δηνάριος (denarios), and in the Septuagint the Hebrew name David becomes Δαυΐδ (Dauid) with delta at the beginning and end. Interestingly, however, in the New Testament David's name gets written as Δαβίδ (Dabid) which suggests the shift of beta from /b/ --> /v/ was already underway. Certainly by the 4th cent CE, the shift of the voiced plosives to voiced fricatives seems to have become general. (The NT transcription also seems to me to suggest that the change of Hebrew vau from [w] to the modern [v] was also underway - but I leave that to others more knowledgeable than I about Hebrew to comment on if they wish ;) The Classical Greek alphabet (actually the Ionian alphabet as adopted at Athens in the 5th cent BCE) had symbols for _three_ series of plosive consonants: aspirated voiceless, unaspirated voiceless, (unaspirated) voiced. During the Hellenistic period, the aspirated voiceless plosives were shifting to voiceless fricatives, while the voiced plosives (as I have said above) were shifting to voiced fricatives. These changes seem to have become general by the 4th cent CE and were certainly the Byzantine pronunciation and remain the modern pronunciation. Modern Greek has only _one_ plosive series, represented by tau, pi and kappa. They are normally voiceless, but are non-phonemically voiced after nasals. Thus "the father" is [opa'tera] if nominative, but [to(m)ba'tera] if accusative. The dialects vary in the treatment of mu-pi, some say [mb] others just [b]. For that reason, the convention is to use mu-pi to transcribe [b] in words of foreign origin. A useful thing for tourists to recognize is ΜΠΑΡ (mpar) = 'bar' :) The _modern_ (not ancient) convention is to transcribe foreign [d] as _nt_, [b] and _mp_ and [g] as _gk_ (remembering that gamma before a velar denotes /N/ in both the ancient & modern spellings). Finally, it might be added that the phonemic status of [d], [b] and [g] in modern Greek is controversial. I hope this helps. -- Ray ================================== ================================== MAKE POVERTY HISTORY


Peter Bleackley <peter.bleackley@...>
Philip Newton <philip.newton@...>