Buth and diacritic marks/accents

Re: Buth and diacritic marks/accents

Postby Jesse Goulet » January 31st, 2012, 4:01 am

RandallButh wrote:A couple of clarifications might help the above.

1. The 9th century miniscule revolution in texts did not "maintain" the three accents, but ADDED them. They were not being pronounced in the 9th c..

This is what is confusing though. If they weren't pronouncing the accents....then why were they added??

However, things do not usually disappear neatly without a trace. For example, a word like αὐτὸν 'him' would have no accent in context ("grave" means 'no accent in context, but with a potential high accent at phrase end') and a word like αὐτῶν 'of them' would always have it accent in context. So final-syllable circumflex accents would maintain the circumflex memory, even after it reduced to a high tone

The circumflex reduced to a high tone, you mean it became used the same way as the acute accent? This is the stuff I need clarification on. Did the grave reduce the same way or did it maintain its lower-pitch function or did it come to signify nothing at all (i.e., no accent or stress, just flat tone as if the grave wasn't even there to being with)?
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Re: Buth and diacritic marks/accents

Postby Jesse Goulet » January 31st, 2012, 4:07 am

klriley wrote:I have often pondered whether that was the actual practice for every Greek speaker, or whether that was some 'ideal' and the actual raising varied according to person and situation.

I'm guessing this is the case, since Koine was the spoken language of the Average Mediterranean Joe (whom I like to call Jostokolos). Whatever scribal schools they had back then, I suspect what they taught was only followed closely by the educated elite, while Jostokolos was probably not as smooth of a talker and probably didn't get as many educated babes as a result.
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Re: Buth and diacritic marks/accents

Postby RandallButh » January 31st, 2012, 4:18 am

Jesse Goulet wrote:
RandallButh wrote:A couple of clarifications might help the above.

1. The 9th century miniscule revolution in texts did not "maintain" the three accents, but ADDED them. They were not being pronounced in the 9th c..

This is what is confusing though. If they weren't pronouncing the accents....then why were they added??


For the same reason that we have "knights" (without pronouncing 'k') running around "at night" (without pronouncing 'gh'), but with a vengeance. They wanted to preserve what they were taught about 5th century BCE Greek. By the time the accents were added the Greek language had reduced its vowels to five, and without distinction of long and short phonemes. The NT manuscript tradition becomes a fairly clear record of this, among other evidences.
By the way, while the acute vs. circumflex was only vestigially visible (the circumflex did not drop out to grave), the tone/accent was both phonemic and important to Greek speech. Many practical and common word pairs were only distinguished by stress and to this day modern Greek speakers are very particular about stress. It changes the word and learners of modern Greek are expected to learn it correctly. When the orthography was simplified three decades ago, modern Greek kept and required the tone to be written on all polysyllabic words.

So in effect, at the end of the first millenium Greek scribes decided to record the stress/accent system. They could have recorded the status of their language at the time, or they could impose an artificial grid from an earlier time. Since their spelling system reflected an earlier time and since they held the classical model in the highest esteem, they choose the artificial, earlier grid. It was quite an intellectual achievement.

However, things do not usually disappear neatly without a trace. For example, a word like αὐτὸν 'him' would have no accent in context ("grave" means 'no accent in context, but with a potential high accent at phrase end') and a word like αὐτῶν 'of them' would always have it accent in context. So final-syllable circumflex accents would maintain the circumflex memory, even after it reduced to a high tone

The circumflex reduced to a high tone, you mean it became used the same way as the acute accent? This is the stuff I need clarification on. Did the grave reduce the same way or did it maintain its lower-pitch function or did it come to signify nothing at all (i.e., no accent or stress, just flat tone as if the grave wasn't even there to being with)?


Yes, phonetically the acute and circumflex became the same. And yes, the grave never was different. It marked an absence of acute. It showed where an acute existed 'ideally', but where it was/could be ignored because of context. Think of it as marking an acute that should be ignored because of context.
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Re: Buth and diacritic marks/accents

Postby Jesse Goulet » January 31st, 2012, 5:55 pm

RandallButh wrote:
Jesse Goulet wrote:
RandallButh wrote:A couple of clarifications might help the above.

1. The 9th century miniscule revolution in texts did not "maintain" the three accents, but ADDED them. They were not being pronounced in the 9th c..

This is what is confusing though. If they weren't pronouncing the accents....then why were they added??


For the same reason that we have "knights" (without pronouncing 'k') running around "at night" (without pronouncing 'gh'), but with a vengeance. They wanted to preserve what they were taught about 5th century BCE Greek. By the time the accents were added the Greek language had reduced its vowels to five, and without distinction of long and short phonemes. The NT manuscript tradition becomes a fairly clear record of this, among other evidences.
By the way, while the acute vs. circumflex was only vestigially visible (the circumflex did not drop out to grave), the tone/accent was both phonemic and important to Greek speech. Many practical and common word pairs were only distinguished by stress and to this day modern Greek speakers are very particular about stress. It changes the word and learners of modern Greek are expected to learn it correctly. When the orthography was simplified three decades ago, modern Greek kept and required the tone to be written on all polysyllabic words.

So in effect, at the end of the first millenium Greek scribes decided to record the stress/accent system. They could have recorded the status of their language at the time, or they could impose an artificial grid from an earlier time. Since their spelling system reflected an earlier time and since they held the classical model in the highest esteem, they choose the artificial, earlier grid. It was quite an intellectual achievement.


Ah, now that makes perfect sense. I suspect the same is true for the smooth and rough breathing marks as well.

Yes, phonetically the acute and circumflex became the same. And yes, the grave never was different. It marked an absence of acute. It showed where an acute existed 'ideally', but where it was/could be ignored because of context. Think of it as marking an acute that should be ignored because of context.

I hope so, because pronouncing a Koine sentence is a lot more rhythmic and smoother this way. Did the grave originally indicate a lower pitch or did it always denote the absence of pitch/accent?
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Re: Buth and diacritic marks/accents

Postby cwconrad » January 31st, 2012, 6:27 pm

Jesse Goulet wrote:
RandallButh wrote:
Yes, phonetically the acute and circumflex became the same. And yes, the grave never was different. It marked an absence of acute. It showed where an acute existed 'ideally', but where it was/could be ignored because of context. Think of it as marking an acute that should be ignored because of context.

I hope so, because pronouncing a Koine sentence is a lot more rhythmic and smoother this way. Did the grave originally indicate a lower pitch or did it always denote the absence of pitch/accent?


Perhaps it's six of one and half a dozen of the other: the grave denoted the absence of what might otherwise be expected as a raised tone, and that means it denoted a lower tone. You might think that there's no need to use a pitch-mark on a syllable that's not raised, but ancient Greeks seem to have felt a need to mark both sides of a polarity. You'd think there's no need to mark an unaspirated initial vowel but the Greeks (one of them did it and another followed in course) split the H character into two halves, using one half ( |- ) to mark aspiration on an initial vowel and felt that they couldn't waste the other half ( -| ) so they decided to put it in front of an unaspirated initial vowel.
Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University (Retired)
ὁ ἀναγινώσκων νοείτω
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Re: Buth and diacritic marks/accents

Postby klriley » February 1st, 2012, 3:15 am

I believe Carl introduces one of the truely useful, and almost universal, laws of language learning: the Greeks [insert any other tribal or ethnic name as the situation requires] did what seemed logical to the Greeks. While it seems somewhat rude to do so, they completely ignored the problems this would cause for English speaking students many centuries later. Learning a foreign language becomes somewhat easier when you finally accept that it does not have to make sense according to your logic. We may see not need to let people know of something that is not there - no English speaker has ever felt the need to signal that stops are not aspirated after /s/ even though they are elsewhere, or that elephant has no initial consonant - but Greeks did feel the need to indicate that there was no raised tone, and that there was no /h/ before some vowels. The explanation "this is what we do because this is what our ancestors did" is not only sometimes the only logical explanation for some things, it also has the advantage of being truthful. In that it has the advantage over some grammarians who cannot bring themselves to say "we do not know".
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Re: Buth and diacritic marks/accents

Postby Jesse Goulet » July 31st, 2012, 3:11 am

I need clarification on a couple things:

1) Although the grave accent marked a lower pitch or lack of pitch in earlier Greek, in the Koine period when accents had moved away from pitch to syllable stress, did the grave denote a LACK of stress or did it mark stress just like the acute and circumflex accents? In other words, by the Koine period, did ALL the accents denote stress or was it:
[*]acute = stress
[*]circumflex = stress
[*]grave = no stress?

These question seems important to figure especially when it comes to phrases where you have a bunch of words one by one that have grave accents--it sounds very monotone and awkward. I'm finding that sentence flow seems smoother when the grave accents are stressed.

2) Are words with one syllable such as δέ, καί, τοῦ, τῷ, τῇ, ἤ, etc. stressed in context? After all, the purpose of stressing a syllable is so that particular syllable is highlighted from the rest of the syllables of that word, but obviously this would be redundant if a word has only one syllable.
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Re: Buth and diacritic marks/accents

Postby Stephen Carlson » July 31st, 2012, 8:28 am

Jesse Goulet wrote:1) Although the grave accent marked a lower pitch or lack of pitch in earlier Greek, in the Koine period when accents had moved away from pitch to syllable stress, did the grave denote a LACK of stress or did it mark stress just like the acute and circumflex accents?


The evidence is very indirect for accentuation, but my understanding is that by the Koine period, the pitch accent and the stress accent coincided (much like English now), while earlier in the classical period they did not necessarily coincide.

Jesse Goulet wrote:In other words, by the Koine period, did ALL the accents denote stress or was it:
[*]acute = stress
[*]circumflex = stress
[*]grave = no stress?

These question seems important to figure especially when it comes to phrases where you have a bunch of words one by one that have grave accents--it sounds very monotone and awkward. I'm finding that sentence flow seems smoother when the grave accents are stressed.


It depends. The grave accent marks one of two things. It can mark a lowered acute accent in oxytone words (generally nouns and adjectives) or it can mark no accent at all, especially on monosyllabic function words. This is due to an orthographic convention that every word must bear a graphic accent, even though some lack it in the spoken language.

Jesse Goulet wrote:2) Are words with one syllable such as δέ, καί, τοῦ, τῷ, τῇ, ἤ, etc. stressed in context? After all, the purpose of stressing a syllable is so that particular syllable is highlighted from the rest of the syllables of that word, but obviously this would be redundant if a word has only one syllable.


Generally, none of these monosyllabic words were stressed, but rather they merged with a neighboring lexical word to form a prosodic word (or clitic group). For example, Acts 3:2 τὶς ἀνὴρ χωλὸς ἐκ κοιλίας μητρὸς αὐτοῦ ὑπάρχων ἐβαστάζετο, ὃν ἐτίθουν καθ' ἡμέραν πρὸς τὴν θύραν τοῦ ἱεροῦ would have been pronounced as if it read τισανὴρ χωλὸς ἐκκοιλίας μητρὸς αὐτοῦ ὑπάρχων ἐβαστάζετο ὃν ἐτίθουν καθημέραν προστηνθύραν τουϊερου.

The separation and independent graphic accentuation of these functional words and particles is a later orthographic development.
Stephen C. Carlson, Ph.D. (Duke, New Testament)
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