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GSF revisited

From:R A Brown <ray@...>
Date:Sunday, May 6, 2007, 17:06
Philip's recent mails on GSF caused to revisit the GSF thread of Feb.
2006 and got me thinking once again what flexionless Greek might look
like. I note that today (6th may) Philip has written:
"I also think I'm going to embrace the origin of GSF in Modern, rather
than Ancient, Greek, and replace some of the AG words I put in with MG
ones, since they're really only a token attempt to make it more

Re-reading the GSF thread it is apparent to me that one of the problems
that caused the thread to peter out was that we were trying to encompass
both a "ancient Greek without flexions" and a "modern Greek without
flexions," and falling between the two. Philip is far more familiar with
the modern language than I am and I'll leave his "Greek sans flexions"
to him.

What I had been thinking about in the past two or three days was a
strictly _ancient_ Greek without flexions. I feel Philip's statement
leaves the way clear for me, as I do _*NOT*_ want to produce a rival
language to Philip's or to suggest in any way whatever that he's not
doing the thing properly - far from it. As I said, Philip is clearly
more informed about modern Greek than I am and it would be very foolish
of me to make any such criticism of his GSF.

I consider my proposal to be complementary to his, not a rival.

I want to keep "Flexionless Greek" (FG) free from any Byzantine and/or
modern influence. I have in mind a conhistory in which survivors of the
Graeco-Bactrian kingdom move eastwards towards China and that a
Greek-based pidgin is formed and comes to be used in a mixed-race
community; because of the perceived prestige status of Greek, the
vocabulary is almost entirely Greek, but the language becomes
flexionless à la chinoise. The pidgin then becomes the L1 of the
children of this mixed community and thus becomes a creole. These
"flexionless Greeks'" have adopted Buddhism - maybe Benct Philip might
fill out the conhistory for me    :)

As for the language:

The language uses the Greek alphabet. They are too far removed from the
Roman world to have ever known the Roman alphabet. Although their
uppercase letters are the familiar Greek ones, they will have developed
a different cursive script from the Greeks of the west. However, we will
for convenience write with the familiar upper and lower-case Greek letters.

The pronunciation will be based on that of early Hellenistic, i.e. the
end of the first cent BCE, and perhaps the early part of the 1st cent
CE. So:

- by this time eta had become [e:], but vowel length will have been lost
in FG so eta is /e/, while epsilon is /E/. Similar shifts have happened
with omega and omicron. By this date OY is [u:] and EI has become [i:],
but Y is still [y]. This remains the same in FG, except that vowel
length is not phonemic. It means that both EI and I are pronounced the same.
- diphthongs:
AI, OI, AY and EY remain as true diphthongs, namely [aj], [Oj], [aw] and
[Ew] respectively. (The shift of AI and OI to single vowels does not
seem to happened till about 100 CE; we do not know exactly when AY and EY
changed to [av] and [Ev], but it seems to have been late in the
Hellenistic period.)
Of the "long diphthongs", [a:w] and [E:w] merged with [aw] and [ew]
respectively, the latter being written always as EY and never as HY in
FG. The Classical diphthongs [a:j], [E;j], and [O:j] lost the second
element sometime during the 4th or 3rd cent BCE - ancient texts are
normally printed in the Byzantine manner with the iota written beneath
the vowel A, H or Ω ('iota subscript'); in FG these are written without
the iota.
there are eight simple vowels:
/i/ written I, EI	/y/ written Y		/u/ written OY
/e/ written H						     /o/  written Ω
/E/ written E		/a/ written A		/O/ written O

there are four diphthongs:
/aj/ written AI; /Oj/ written as OI; /aw/ written as AY and /Ew/ written
as EY.

Λ M N P shall be as, for example, in Italian /l m n r/ (i.e. Λ is a
dental approximant, N is a dental nasal and P is an apical trill).
Γ (agma) was (and still is) /N/ before a velar; in ancient Greek it was
also clearly /N/ before M (as, indeed, the name _agma_ /aNma/ implies);
but there is no clear evidence how Γ before N was pronounced. However,
in FG, F shall be /N/ before the velars K, Γ (gamma), X and Ξ, and
before the nasals M and N.
(For Γ = gamma, see below)
Σ shall be [s], except before voiced consonants where it is assimilated
to [z].
Ξ and Ψ are /ks/ and /ps/ respectively, and Z is always /z/.

Π, T , K are as /p t k/ in French and the Romance languages, i.e. the
are _unaspirated_ and the T is dental rather than alveolar.
B, Δ, Γ were certainly /b d g/ in the ancient language, but are /v D G/
in modern Greek. We do not know when the shift took place, but it seems
to have been completed by the Byzantine period. It had certainly not
occurred by the period we are considering, but the are some indications
that the process had begun in some areas. I therefore propose to give
these the values of standard Spanish /b d g/, i.e. voiced plosives when
initial or following a nasal, voiced fricative elsewhere.
Φ, Θ, X -these were certainly aspirated, voiceless plosives in the
ancient language /p_h, t_h, k_h/ - but a voiceless fricatives in the
modern, namely /f  T  x/. Evidence from graffiti at Pompeii (which a
Greek, Oscan & Latin speaking inhabitants at the time of its
destruction) shows this shift to have taken place in popular Greek
before the end of the 1st cent CE. So at present I am undecided between:
(a) retaining the ancient pronunciation.
(b) treating rather like B, Δ, Γ, that is the are aspirated voiceless
plosives when initial or after nasals, but voiceless fricatives elsewhere
(Φ of course being a _bilabial_ fricative).
(c) a modification of (b) in which the aspirate has given way to a
fricative, thus giving rise an affricate sound  /pf tT kX/ when initial
or after a nasal, and a simple voiceless fricative elsewhere - in (c) the
fricative pronunciation of  Φ will be [f].
(d) using the Byzantine & modern pronunciation.

1. Aspiration or non-aspiration of initial vowel (or diphthong) was
shown in the Alexandrian spelling by the use of the "rough breathing"
(dasia) and "soft breathing" (psili) diacritics. But even in the ancient
Greek of the 5th century BCE many dialects (e.g. all Ionian dialects,
except that Athens) were psilotic, i.e. they 'dropped their aitches'.
This process gradually extended to all Greek speakers and was probably
the norm, except among the 'learned', by the time of the period we are
considering. As the ancients themselves never actually wrote these
signs, they shall not exist in FG, which will be psilotic.
2. Word pitch accent is traditionally shown on printed ancient Greek
texts with acute, grace and circumflex accents. Again the ancient Greeks
themselves did not use these symbols, they were the invention of
Alexandrian grammarians to aid non-L1 Greek speakers to pronounce the
language properly. During the Koine the pitch accent gave way to a stress
accent. This happened also in FG, and the place of the stress is shown
by a dash above the vowel which we can conveniently represent by the
acute accent.

Peano's idea was to use the noun stem in 'Latino sine flexione.' In this
Latin made things easy for him, you just use the old ablative singular!
To make things even easier, dictionaries give the nominative and
genitive forms for nouns, and the correct ablative ending can always be
derived correctly from the genitive. Ancient Greek does not make things
so easy    :)
At present I am considering using the accusative singular, dropping a
final -N if there is one, for all nouns, whether 1st, 2nd or 3rd
declension and whatever their grammatical gender (FG shall, of course,
have no grammatical gender.

More to come     :)




Philip Newton <philip.newton@...>
And Rosta <and.rosta@...>
T. A. McLeay <conlang@...>
andrew <hobbit@...>
Benct Philip Jonsson <conlang@...>