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Ellision, Voiced Consonants, and Rough Breathing

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Ellision, Voiced Consonants, and Rough Breathing

Postby pster » Sun Jul 28, 2013 12:33 pm

How do you pronounce δ᾽ ᾧ?

If we have ellision with tau+rough breathing, we change the tau to theta. This seems to indicate that there must be a puff of air. But what about voiced consonants like delta?

Is this pronounced DOI or DE HOI? I assume that it is the former, but then what difference does the rough breathing mark make? If it were smooth breathing over the omega, then it seems it would be DOI also.

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Re: Ellision, Voiced Consonants, and Rough Breathing

Postby Qimmik » Sun Jul 28, 2013 3:10 pm

There is a theory (which Allen, Vox Graeca, p. 52 ff. rejects) that rough breathings on word-initial vowels represented voiceless vowels, not actual glottal fricatives. But the fact is that
attempts to recapture with absolute precision the pronunciation of 5th century Attic Greek are futile. (By the 4th century, significant changes in pronunciation had begun to manifest themselves in epigraphic evidence, but we really can't be sure that the orthographic changes reflected changes in pronunciation that might have occurred even earlier.) We don't have recordings of course and other evidence at our disposal is fragmentary and controversial.

Eventually Greek became psilotic and the aspirated consonants became fricatives. How far these processes had progressed in actual speech by the 5th century is impossible to determine, and it's entirely conceivable that they had already taken place in some sub-dialects of Attic (as they had centuries earlier in Ionic and Aeolic). The breathing marks (and accents and iota subscripts) were added to the orthography when people needed to be reminded of the pronunciation of an era several centuries earlier--according to the opinions of grammarians who were their contemporaries.

As for δ᾽ ᾧ, where a word that in other contexts might have begun with aspiration occurred before a voiced consonant, it strikes me as conceivable that even as early as the 5th century the aspirate might not have been pronounced at all--it's possible that the rough breathing was simply an orthographic convention introduced merely for the sake of consistency at a time when the distinction between rough and smooth breathings had completely vanished. Who knows?
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