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regularity of vowel and consonant shifts?

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regularity of vowel and consonant shifts?

Postby akhnaten » Wed Jul 09, 2014 7:14 am

I am memorizing vowel shifts in imp. ind. tenses (e+stem beginning in vowel), and labial/dental/palatal shifts in future act. and middle ind. Along with the pres. ind. tenses, that's all I know.

From what I can tell, some/all of the spelling changes ease what could otherwise be an awkward pronunciation. I have been memorizing these shifts as if they are (basically) regular for any form that has a e- prefix, or a labial/dental/palatal+s. I have NOT been associating the shifts specifically with these tenses, as much as with the spelling change that's can occur when coupled with the ending. I also understand when a verb has a prefix like apo, there will be different changes.
This is an example of the flashcards I'm making:
FRONT: consonant changes with stem s:
labial stops [pi, b, phi] usually become ___
BACK: consonant changes with stem ___:
labial stops [pi, b, phi] usually become psi


1) Are these shifts particular to -w verbs, or do -mi verbs (usually) show these shifts?
2) Presumably other verb forms will use an e- prefix, or an -s augment. Are these shifts (usually) true for the other verb forms.

Thanks!
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Re: regularity of vowel and consonant shifts?

Postby Qimmik » Wed Jul 09, 2014 12:10 pm

BACK: consonant changes with stem ___:
labial stops [pi, b, phi] usually become psi


This rule is universal in Greek--it applies to third-declension nouns, as well as to verbs (future and sigmatic aorist, but you will learn that not all Greek verbs form their futures and aorists with sigmas). When the final consonant of the stem is π, it's just a spelling rule: ψ = π + σ; when the final consonant is β or φ, a phonological change also occurs: the final consonant is devoiced (in the case of β) or deaspirated (in the case of φ), and then the spelling rule that replaces the devoiced or deaspirated consonant with ψ. (Similar principles come into play with the guttural series of consonants).

It's probably best not to think of the augment that applies to vowel-initial verbs ("temporal augment") as a contract or combination of epsilon with the initial vowel. As you will learn, there are phonological rules for vowel contractions that are different from the rules for temporal augment. And temporal augment doesn't behave consistently for each initial vowel: although there are discernible patterns, there are exceptions. The exceptions are not numerous, but you have to learn them verb by verb.

This is true of much of Greek verbal morphology: you have to learn principal parts for each verb, and although there are patterns, the principal parts of any given verb aren't necessarily predictable. That's what makes learning Greek so much fun. I'm sure you'll be delighted to learn that παύω, the verb that's often used as a paradigm, is just about the only thoroughly regular Greek verb. Even λύω undergoes a shortening of the long υ in certain forms.

You can make some sense of the vast ocean of irregularities that seems to characterize Greek verbs with a little knowledge about the history of the language. That's probably too much for you at this stage, but eventually, I think it's helpful to put Greek verbs in perspective.

The -mi verbs will require learning principal parts verb by verb. Sorry, but there's no way around it. Fortunately there aren't many -mi verbs, though most of them are very common. The only productive classes are those in -υμι, and these verbs are relatively regular once you get past the present/imperfect.
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Re: regularity of vowel and consonant shifts?

Postby Qimmik » Wed Jul 09, 2014 12:16 pm

e- prefix, or an -s augment


I think you have this somewhat reversed. ἐ- affixed to the imperfect or aorist is what is known as "augment," a prefix that marks a past tense. -σ- is a suffix added (in the case of some verbs) to the stem to form the future and/or the aorist.
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Re: regularity of vowel and consonant shifts?

Postby akhnaten » Thu Jul 10, 2014 3:19 am

thanks Qimmick. i appreciate the vocabulary you're using.
i'm not trying to use the shifts for its predictive abilities (not trying to "guess" a future stem), but for recognition purposes. if this makes sense.

When it comes to temporal augment, are the shifts common enough to throw in a flashcard? Or, should I just memorize vowel changes in temporal augment individually (like the principal parts).

when it comes to learning romance languages, learning the historical development of the languages and the sound/spelling shifts that occur does help provide a little structure to hang the language on. more importantly, it helps recognize (generally latin) cognates throughout the languages. in greek, less cognates--but i would think it helps provide a similar appreciation of how the conjugations work, etc.
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Re: regularity of vowel and consonant shifts?

Postby Seirios » Tue Jul 15, 2014 3:06 pm

Actually it's just that some differences are neutralized in certain phonological environments.
Stops of the same place of articulation (e.g. p b ph) are neutralized into a "simple" one before s, the unvoiced unaspirated ("plain"). For labials, it's p, hence ps; for velars, k, hence ks; for dentals, it shifted from a reconstructable *ts to simple s.
Before another stop, similar neutralization happens. Only the distinction of the place of articulation is retained; others are lost. The neutralized sound then assimilates with the following stop, taking its voicedness and aspiration. So you see πτ, κτ, φθ, χθ, but never *φτ, *κθ. (with the exception of ἐκ- of course; you can't blame Greeks for keeping the spelling)
And such pure phonological change is indeed universal in Ancient Greek.
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