The grave accent in Homeric and Classical Greek

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jeidsath
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The grave accent in Homeric and Classical Greek

Post by jeidsath » Sun May 14, 2017 12:36 am

I have been playing around with West's The Singing of Homer and the Modes of Early Greek Music. Transposing the notes (which are only relative, not absolute), I turned my guitar into a tetrachord harp with open strings 1-3 and a capo F# on the 4th. This is the reverse string order of the harp West describes, where the thumb strikes the high notes, but that can't be fixed on the guitar. I've also been following Stefan Hagel's modifications in Homer-Singen, Wiener Humanistische Blätter (1995), 5-20., trying to learn out how to improvise the melody as I recite/sing.

All this led me to a careful look at something that West had to say about the grave accent:
Oxytone words, be it noted, did not at this period (or indeed in the classical period) lose their acute within the phrase.

Footnote: See Gnomon xlviii (1976) 5.
The reference is to West's Review of Allen's Accent and Rhythm. On page 5:
And in classical Greek, indeed down to the beginning of our era, the evidence indicates that oxytone words retained their accent within the sentence as well as at the end of it.

Footnote: Plato Crat. 399ab; Demetrius Byz. ap. Philod. de poem. (JbPhil Suppl. 17, 1889, 247 fr. 18); Dion Hal. comp. 63; and the musical inscriptions.
Here is Cratylus from Perseus:
πρῶτον μὲν γὰρ τὸ τοιόνδε δεῖ ἐννοῆσαι περὶ ὀνομάτων, ὅτι πολλάκις ἐπεμβάλλομεν γράμματα, τὰ δ’ ἐξαιροῦμεν, παρ’ ὃ βουλόμεθα ὀνομάζοντες, καὶ τὰς ὀξύτητας μεταβάλλομεν. οἷον “Διὶ φίλος” —τοῦτο ἵνα ἀντὶ ῥήματος ὄνομα ἡμῖν γένηται, τό τε ἕτερον αὐτόθεν ἰῶτα ἐξείλομεν καὶ ἀντὶ ὀξείας τῆς μέσης συλλαβῆς βαρεῖαν ἐφθεγξάμεθα. ἄλλων δὲ τοὐναντίον ἐμβάλλομεν γράμματα, τὰ δὲ βαρύτερα <ὀξύτερα> φθεγγόμεθα.
He is talking about Διὶ φίλος -> Δίφιλος. Socrates mentions one of the iotas going away from Διὶ (notice that he doesn't appear to distinguish between them). And Plato says that the high-pitched middle syllable becomes low-pitched. Does West take his silence about the accent of Διὶ as evidence that it was high-pitched in both Διὶ and Δί-?

339c is the only other mention of pitch, and there Socrates says that ἀναθρῶν ἃ ὄπωπε becomes ἄνθρωπος through "ἑνὸς γράμματος τοῦ ἄλφα ἐξαιρεθέντος καὶ βαρυτέρας τῆς τελευτῆς γενομένης."

In this example Socrates doesn't mention which syllable takes the high pitch either.
I don't have access to the Demetrius of Byzantium fragment. Maybe someone else does?

Dionysius of Halicarnassus is on Perseus:
http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/tex ... apter%3D11
ἐν γὰρ δὴ τούτοις τὸ ‘σίγα σίγα λευκὸν’ ἐφ᾽ ἑνὸς φθόγγου μελῳδεῖται, καίτοι τῶν τριῶν λέξεων ἑκάστη βαρείας τε τάσεις ἔχει καὶ ὀξείας.
West has lengthier discussion of the Dionysius passage in his Documents of Ancient Greek Music pg. 10, though it doesn't touch on the grave directly. Certainly the statement about λευκὸν not being monotone is suggestive of a differently pitched grave.

For musical evidence, I've looked through DoAGM, noting the pieces where music follows accent, and I can't make a convincing case either way about the grave. The Delphic Paeans come closest to proving. But even there, the musical notation often seems to ignore the grave. Seiklos' music seems to contradict the grave while following other accents.

Allen has a discussion about the grave accent in VG 124ff and A&R 244ff, which covers the standard graphical and linguistic arguments that I'm familiar with.

Sommerstein (160f) had an argument that I hadn't seen before:
The strongest evidence for believing that the grave accent-mark means precisely what it seems to say is that it is regularly put on proclitics where these appear graphically as separate words. There is overwhelming evidence that proclitics were unaccented; and especially seeing that most prepositions were not oxytone when they were accented independently, the ancient grammarians would never have regarded proclitics as oxytone if there had not been something in the behaviour of real oxytones to mislead them. The only thing likely to do that would be for the real oxytones also to be sometimes unaccented. The principle on which the traditional graphic practice was based is a reasonable one. A mark is put on the structurally accented syllable, as usual; but it is the grave and not the acute, to show that the accent has in this case no phonetic value.

Footnote: Another language with a system of tonal accent, Japanese, also has, according to McCawley (1968, 134), 'a number of environments in which a final-accented noun is made unaccented' (emphasis mine: AHS), e.g., under certain conditions, before the enclitic no. (See further McCawley 1968, 140-1 and 177-9). The syllable which would have been accented is in such cases pronounced exactly as if it had never been accented. This shows that we need not be afraid of concluding that in Greek oxytone words frequently had no accent, phonetically speaking, at all.
Joel Eidsath -- jeidsath@gmail.com

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Re: The grave accent in Homeric and Classical Greek

Post by cb » Sun May 14, 2017 2:39 am

Hi, see Devine & Stephens pigs 180-183 on the pitch implications of the grave accent. They consider all the musical and other evidence (including the Delphic hymns) and conclude that e.g. the grave has a higher relative pitch than the syllable preceding it in the same word (pg 182) but a lower relative pitch than the first syllable of the next word (pgs 182-3).

And so the easiest way to think about it at a general level (putting it together with other evidence that pitch rises progressively syllable by syllable up to the pitch peak, and then drops from there) is that you have continual (relative) step-ups of pitch, right through proclitics and grave-accented words, all the way up to the pitch peak in an acute/circumflex, with a steep drop immediately after that pitch peak (i.e. the second half of the circumflex, or the next syllable after the acute, is relatively significantly lower in pitch than the pitch peak), followed by further step-downs (but less than the big pitch drop) through remaining syllables of the word plus any enclitics, and then you start all over again.

And so for instance in Iliad A.3, in πολλὰς δ᾽ ἰφθίμους you'd have the pitch progressively stepping up through the first four syllables (i.e. right through the grave), with a steep drop on the fifth syllable. To give arbitrary pitch levels for these five syllables, where 1 is the highest and 7 is the lowest, you could represent this as e.g. (πολλὰς) 4 3 (δ᾽ ἰφθίμους) 2 1 3, just to show relative pitches.

The only other complications is that the musical evidence shows differences depending on other factors as well across the whole phrase, e.g. whether the word is lexical or non-lexical makes a difference, and you get a higher absolute pitch peak if there's a grave preceding or in proper names, and you get a gradual lowering of the absolute pitch peaks across multiple acutes etc (so that e.g. in Iliad A.1, the pitch peak of ἄειδε would be lower absolutely than that of μῆνιν), etc - once again, to use arbitrary relative pitches, you could represent μῆνιν ἄειδε as e.g. (μῆνιν) 2 5 6 (ἄειδε) 3 5 6 (note that μῆ- would start on 2 and end on 5 - the pitch peak is in the first half of the syllable).

This is all pretty approximate of course given the nature of the evidence, but when you put it all together a general pattern does emerge. Cheers, Chad

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Re: The grave accent in Homeric and Classical Greek

Post by mwh » Sun May 14, 2017 2:47 am

What Chad said, with reservations.

Googling Philodemus On Poems will lead you to much important recent work on that treatise, and no doubt you can find the Demetrius there.

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Re: The grave accent in Homeric and Classical Greek

Post by jeidsath » Sun May 14, 2017 4:33 am

@mwh -- Thank you for the suggestion. However, the prices on those (Oxford University Press) are probably too astronomical for me to read them any time in the near future. And though this is obviously a major effort, I notice that the BMCR review says that the project was paid for by "very generous funding" from American taxpayers.

--

@cb

Having just gone through the Delphic Paeans for this post, I'm not convinced that the Devine and Stephens statistics (based on the same) mean anything. Here is my count of grave accents in the paeans.

Limenios:
monotone: 12
rise: 9
fall: 1

Athenaios:
monotone: 7
rise: 6

Maybe there's something there, but maybe not. For example, any musical tendency away from plonking the same note over and over would be enough to explain an irregular pitch change at the end of words that are constant-pitch in speech. Besides that, I noticed that the only serious pitch rises on grave occurred just before a following acute -- ie., the same thing that you see within words. That's enough to mean that the statistical test that they use, the Jonckheere trend test (what they call Jonckheere–Terpstra), will give garbage output.

If I were going to do any statistics here, I'd ditch the magnitude data for pitch changes and simply use the Student T-test on my counts above. But it won't tell you anything that eyeballing won't.

In contrast, acute and circumflex are very clear throughout the paeans.

The rest of their argument in that section seems to be that speakers of Carrier have a lowered word-final accent, and the Japanese don't.

D&S certainly contradict West. They claim a 1/3rd tone rise for grave compared to a full tone rise for acute, while West sees it as identical to acute. Going by only the paeans data would seem to rule that out, at least.
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Re: The grave accent in Homeric and Classical Greek

Post by cb » Sun May 14, 2017 7:36 am

Hi, agreed the data are extremely limited and so there's only so much you can conclude from them.

Just to understand, in say πολλὰς δ᾽ ἰφθίμους, my takeaway from D&S was that the first three syllables would step up successively in pitch (I make no call on the intervals, and so if different authors disagree on that, it's not important to me because I think the intervals would change in different contexts anyway) -- can you please let me know your view on this? (I can't tell from your data above whether they relate to, say, the difference between the first and second syllables or between the second and third syllables in πολλὰς δ᾽ ἰφθίμους). Also, D&S noted different pitch contours in lexical vs non-lexical words (latter have flatter pitch contours), I'd like to hear your view on that as well.

I'm definitely willing to update my practice and read new studies on this if the D&S conclusions can be improved upon -- I haven't looked at this in over a decade, time for a refresh I think, many thanks.

Cheers, Chad

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Re: The grave accent in Homeric and Classical Greek

Post by jeidsath » Sun May 14, 2017 5:38 pm

First, are you talking about singing or speaking? The theory is that (non-strophic) melody was (at composition) an improvisation based on the pitch patterns (prosody) of speech. While not every feature would have been copied over to the melody, it seems that actual contradictions of prosody are avoided.

West's and Hagel's papers are about creating melodies for singing. D&S are talking about recovering prosody.

In the Delphic hymns there are examples of what you are talking about for πολλὰς δ᾽ ἰφθίμους, with an oxytone followed by a barytone. There are a number of examples of it happening within a single word, as pitch rises and then peaks on the accent. There are also a number of counterexamples with monotone throughout the oxytone word. There don't seem to be examples of pitch falling on the grave. One feature that I notice is that there is not a pitch level reset between words -- often there is a continued climb or fall. Hagel talks about this in Homer-Singen.

I'm not sure what the phrase level features were in Greek prosody, but at this point I fell that the grave accent was not an acute, and that it was usually a null value, as argued by Sommerstein and Allen. There were certainly phrase-level rules that changed this (it becomes acute at sentence-end). Were there others, and can they be recovered from our 3-4 Greek musical documents of sufficient length?
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Re: The grave accent in Homeric and Classical Greek

Post by idoneus1957 » Thu Jun 08, 2017 3:23 pm

As soon as I learned that the accent marks were not invented until the 3rd century b.c., so that the original texts of Homer, Aeschylus, etc., had no accent marks, I stopped trying to learn the rules of accent, except the ones that help me tell if a vowel is long or short.
Besides, I read in some footnote or somewhere that the medieval copyists are so unreliable when it comes to the accents and breathings that a modern Greek scholar basically tries to figure out the meaning of the text and put in appropriate accents and breathings.

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Re: The grave accent in Homeric and Classical Greek

Post by Hylander » Thu Jun 08, 2017 8:38 pm

Although there are plenty of controversies on individual points, there's reason to believe that the diacritics in the medieval manuscript tradition and the ancient treatises on accentuation are in the main an accurate reflection of ancient Greek pronunciation.

Of course it's true that there are many errors in the manuscripts (and modern printed texts have errors, too), but Greek accentuation is worth knowing.

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