Re: Greek plosives
|From:||R A Brown <ray@...>|
|Date:||Thursday, February 2, 2006, 16:38|
> 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
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)
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.
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