Textkit Logo

How do you memorize accents?

Here's where you can discuss all things Ancient Greek. Use this board to ask questions about grammar, discuss learning strategies, get translation help and more!

How do you memorize accents?

Postby Cheiromancer » Sat Mar 15, 2014 1:13 pm

I have been drilling myself in "Ancient Greek basic vocabulary" over at memrise, and I find that my biggest difficulty with learning a word is remembering where the accent is. It's not that hard for me to remember that 'daughter' is θυγατηρ, except that I've had trouble with whether the accent is on the ultima or the penult. (I know it can't be on the antepenult because the ultima is long). I'm just focusing on the basic forms - the dictionary entries. I know that accents frequently change when the word is declined. I'll worry about that later.

I've been trying to find better mnemonics. For instance, if I can remember how "divine" is accented I can think of "divine daughter" θεία θυγάτηρ, both of whom are accented on the penult. (I know it is θεία and not θεῖα because it is a 1st declension noun, and so has a long -α. The circumflex can appear only a long penult if the ultima is short.) I think "divine" is a good choice because "mortal" βροτός is accented on the last syllable.

Now I had thought that Greek words were basically those accented on the last syllable and those that were recessive, but it turns out there are words like αὐτίκα that have a short -α and thus *could* have an accented antepenult, but don't. So I can't quite divide words into "divine" and "mortal" without leaving out some words.

It would be nice to know some more general rules. I've learned that verbs are recessive (the accent is as far forward as possible, which for -ω verbs means the penult), but I'm at a loss for more comprehensive rules. Anyone know of any? Even rules that only work 90% of the time would be fine, since I could then just try to learn the exceptions.
Cheiromancer
Textkit Neophyte
 
Posts: 49
Joined: Sun Feb 19, 2012 2:20 pm

Re: How do you memorize accents?

Postby Qimmik » Sat Mar 15, 2014 3:14 pm

This is an excellent and comprehensive book on Greek accentuation:

http://www.amazon.com/Short-Accentuation-Ancient-Advanced-Language/dp/1853995991/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1394894831&sr=1-1&keywords=probert+greek

New Short Guide to the Accentuation of Ancient Greek by Philomen Probert

This book sets out the rules, which for the most part tend to be scattered throughout grammars such as Smyth.

You can also find a statement of the principal rules in Morwood's Oxford Grammar of Classical Greek, pp. 222-226, which does an excellent job of collecting everything you really need to know about ancient Greek grammar clearly, succinctly--and cheaply:

http://www.amazon.com/Oxford-Grammar-Classical-Greek-Morwood/dp/0195218515/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1394896722&sr=1-1&keywords=morwood+greek

One suggestion: when you're learning an individual word, internalize the accent as a stress accent, so that when you think of the word you hear the stress on the accented syllable in your mind. In most cases, it will be clear whether the accent is acute or circumflex. This is only necessary with words other than verbs, of course, because verbal accents follow their own rules--mostly recessive, with a few exceptions which you can learn. Many nominal suffixes have accents on fixed syllables, which you will internalize over time.

One other suggestion: if your aim is to read real Greek, you could get by without a thorough knowledge of ancient Greek accentuation. After all, in general the diacritical marks weren't added to texts until long after they were originally written--at a time when the tone accents had long ceased to be operative, based on a tradition handed down in schools, and there probably many instances where the accent marks have found their way onto the wrong syllable. In fact by the Roman period there were treatises (such as Herodian) on accentuation to correct errors (and there's really no way to know whether these authorities really knew what they were talking about), which suggests that by this period there was some confusion even among Greek speakers. The diacritical marks were originally developed in the Hellenistic period for texts of Homer, and at first were only placed on obscure and difficult words.

There are some situations where the accents are helpful to resolve ambiguities--aorist optative vs infinitive, for example, but other than that, they are to some extent excess baggage for those who intend only to read, and not to edit, texts. Learners of ancient Greek might do well to consider whether the effort required to learn the accents could better be applied to other activities--especially to reading actual Greek texts.
Qimmik
Textkit Zealot
 
Posts: 1432
Joined: Mon Mar 18, 2013 10:15 pm

Re: How do you memorize accents?

Postby Cheiromancer » Sat Mar 15, 2014 4:24 pm

Thank you for the suggestions for the books. The Oxford Grammar in particular looks like an excellent learning resource; no preview is available of the other one, so I don't really know what is in it. But I think I need to read a few of the books I have purchased lately before I get any more!

Qimmik wrote:One suggestion: when you're learning an individual word, internalize the accent as a stress accent, so that when you think of the word you hear the stress on the accented syllable in your mind. In most cases, it will be clear whether the accent is acute or circumflex.

I try to do that, but it doesn't stick very well. (Vowel quantities don't always stick either: I am always getting my ο's and ω's mixed up, and my ε's and η's.) Would either of the books you mentioned help with the accents of, say, δεσπότης and ἡγεμών? I have noticed ἐργάτης and τεχνίτης fit the pattern of δεσπότης, while words like ἀηδών and χελιδών fit the ἡγεμών pattern. But I don't know if there is a workable rule behind it, or just a coincidental resemblance based on too small a sample size.

edit: The generalizations I noticed seem to be spurious. ποιητής is oxytone, and δαίμων is paroxytone. Oh well.
Cheiromancer
Textkit Neophyte
 
Posts: 49
Joined: Sun Feb 19, 2012 2:20 pm

Re: How do you memorize accents?

Postby Qimmik » Sat Mar 15, 2014 5:27 pm

Probert's book collects patterns such as ἐργάτης, τεχνίτης and δεσπότης, and also notes exceptions--there are always a few annoying exceptions--such as ποιητής.

But, of course, the best advice for anyone who is troubled by exceptions is: avoid ancient Greek.
Qimmik
Textkit Zealot
 
Posts: 1432
Joined: Mon Mar 18, 2013 10:15 pm


Return to Learning Greek

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Yahoo [Bot] and 25 guests