Re: [tied] classical Greek (and Latin) vowels

From: Miguel Carrasquer
Message: 16624
Date: 2002-11-08

On Fri, 08 Nov 2002 03:04:41 -0000, "Lisa" <eris@...> wrote:

>In the past, I have read and have had people tell me different things
>when it comes to the vowels in Old/Classical Greek (oh, let's say,
>around 2,000+ years ago). I would enjoy a definitive, once-and-for-
>all answer from you here. =) And, if there is any variation among
>dialects when it comes to the vowels, I would be interested to know
>of that as well.
>(Notae: Pretend the Greek below is in standard Symbol font. Also, I
>haven't learned any versions of the IPA 'net translit. yet, but what
>I write shouldn't be terribly confusing.)
>- scenario 1
>Greek had 5 vowels, with the pairs distinguished only by number of
>I = [I] (high front lax)
>I (w/macron) = [I:]

There is no reason to suspect laxness in I /i/ and I: /i:/. The
Modern Greek result is /i/ for both vowels (with loss of the length

>E = [E] (mid front lax)
>H = [E:]

In Attic, EI = /e:/ (mid-high front), the result of merger of
diphthong *ei and *ee < *eCe (e.g. *eye, *ewe, *ese, consonants which
were lost). Long H /E:/ was mid-low front, while short E could
probably vary between mid-low and mid-front (before nasals?). In
Modern Greek, E > /e/, H and EI > /i/, the development having been
first EI /e:/ > /i:/ and H /E:/ > /e:/, then also /e:/ > /i:/ (same as
with English <ee> /e:/ > /i:/ and <ea> /E:/ > /e:/ > /i:/, basically).

>A = [a] (low center)
>A (w/macron) = [a:]

Yes. Both give Modern Greek /a/.

>O = [A] (low back)
>W = [A:] (low back)

For very early Attic, we have the same situation as with E /e/, H
/E:/, EI /e:/, i.e. O = /o/ (short mid-low/mid-high back _rounded_), W
= /O:/ (long mid-low back rounded) and OU = /o:/ (long mid-high back
rounded). In Classical 5th c. Attic OU had already gone to /u:/. In
Modern Greek O and W are /o/ or /O/ (with loss of length distinction),
OU = /u/.

>U = [u] (high back)
>U (w/macron) = [u:]

In Attic U[:] = /y[:]/, a _front_ high rounded vowel. Other Greek
dialects still have the original pronunciation /u[:]/. In Modern
Greek, /y[:]/ > /i/.

Pre-Greek 5th c. Attic

i:i u:u i:i y:y u:
a:a a:a

Pre-Greek -> Attic
u: > y:
u > y
ou, oo > u:
ei, ee > e:

>In Latin, are the vowel/letter correspondences as follows? I'm
>hoping I have it correct, but I just want to verify in case I happen
>to be flat wrong...
>I = [I] (high front lax)
>I = [i] (high front tense)

In Latin, an original short/long distinction became a qualitative
distinction. So /i:/ > /i/ and /i/ > /I/. That short /I/
subsequently merged with /e/ from *e: proves that the process is
better described as lowering rather than laxing.

>E = [E] (mid front lax)
>E = [e] (mid front tense)

Short /e/ as well as /ae/ (*ai) became mid-low /E/, while long /e:/ as
well as /oe/ (*oi) became mid-high /e/, merging with short /I/ (except
in Sardinian, where /i[:]/ > i, and /e[:]/ > /e/).

>A = [^] (schwa)
>A = [a] (low center)

There was no significant distinction in quality between long and short
/a[:]/, and neither was schwa. Length was simply lost, and the result
in Romance is /a/ for both.

>O = [A] (low back)
>O = [o] (mid back)

Long /o:/ became mid-high /o:/, while short /o/ became mid-low /O/.

>U = [^] (schwa)
>U = [u] (high back)

Again, no schwa. Short /u/ was lowered to /U/, then /o/, merging with
long /O:/ > /o/, except in Sardinian and Eastern Romance (Romanian,
Dalmatian), where /u[:]/ > /u/ and /o[:]/ > /o/.

Pre-Latin Class.Latin Sardo West-Rom East-Rom
*a a a a a
*a: a: a a a
*e e e E E
*e: e: e e e
*i i i e e
*i: i: i i i
*o o o O o
*o: o: o o o
*u u u o u
*u: u: u u u
*ai ae e E E
*au au au au au
*ei i: i i i
*eu u: u u u
*oi oe e e e
*ou u: u u u

>While I'm on a roll here, referring back to Old Greek, can someone
>explain to me the "iota subscript"? I'm assuming it's occured
>because of (a) vowel contraction(s). In speech, is this iota
>supposed to be pronounced or ignored?

In principle, they represent long diphthongs, from PIE *a:i, *e:i,
*o:i (with some Greek contractions thrown in after the loss of *w, *y,
*s). In Attic, they became *a: (written A), *E: (written H), *O:
(written W) early on (well, at least 2nd century BC), with reduction
of the 3-moraic diphthongs to 2-moraic long vowels. The iota
subscript was added in Byzantine times as an etymological spelling.

Miguel Carrasquer Vidal