Not happy about the iota subscript

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pster
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Not happy about the iota subscript

Post by pster » Tue May 10, 2011 3:38 pm

Sooo, here is what Mastronarde says about the alpha, eta and omega with iota subscript:

"generally pronounced by present-day students exactly like a plain long [alpha, eta or omega]; a so-called "long diphthong." The practice of writing a small iota under the vowel ("iota subscript") was developed in the Middle Ages and has been followed in most printed texts, although you will also eventually meet texts with the iota written after the long vowel ("iota adscript"), which was the classical practice.....The term "long diphthong" is slightly misleading; all diphthongs are normally long vowels, but the three "long diphthongs".. are formed from the combination of a long vowel and iota. In classical times these were true diphthongs...but between the fourth and second centuries B.C.E the iota weakened to a mere glide...and then was not pronounced at all. Hence the modern pronouciation".

So what the heck is going on? The Athenians wrote αι, ηι, ωι and pronounced them as diphthongs. I don't mind that that the pronunciation has bounced around. But I am not happy with writing the subscripts. For example, learning Attic contractions would be simpler if we avoided this whole subscript business. And the language itself would be easier on the eyes. Aren't there enough "doodads" on the letters already??

Or am I missing something? As far as I can tell, this subscript business tracks nothing of classical practice and just makes learning Attic harder.

I'm really not happy about this.

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Re: Not happy about the iota subscript

Post by NateD26 » Tue May 10, 2011 11:50 pm

I don't know about you, but in our university class we've always pronounced the iota subscript.
Since we learned the Attic dialect, and concentrated on Plato's Apology, we were right to pronounce it,
at least insofar as the evidence tells us that, at that time, it was still being pronounced.

The medieval practice of changing the iota adscript to subscript in texts that were written
in periods where it was still being pronounced is quite baffling then. :?
Nate.

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Lex
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Re: Not happy about the iota subscript

Post by Lex » Wed May 11, 2011 1:33 am

NateD26 wrote:The medieval practice of changing the iota adscript to subscript in texts that were written in periods where it was still being pronounced is quite baffling then. :?
Maybe the medievalists, not having the benefit of modern scholarship, didn't know that the iota was still pronounced in certain periods?

Or maybe it was something as mundane as the fact that the subscript saved on parchment vs. the adscript?
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Re: Not happy about the iota subscript

Post by spiphany » Wed May 11, 2011 4:15 am

Well, one of the pleasant side effects of using iota subscripts is that there's no danger of confusing the dative singular with the nominative plural (among other things...).

I don't know exactly what the justification is for using the subscript in contemporary editions of texts; it's possible that there are other linguistic or historical reasons for doing so besides just the pronunciation, but none that I'm aware of right off hand.

There are a couple of publishers which use the adscript instead of the subscript, so I've used both and it generally did not cause too much difficulty (except the occasional non-recognition of a familiar form such as ζῳον when written as ζωιον). The subscript does make it easier to tell at a glance where the syllable boundaries are.

LSJ alphabetizes without the iota subscript & transliteration of Greek words generally ignores it as well, so it's good to know when one would be used.
IPHIGENIE: Kann uns zum Vaterland die Fremde werden?
ARKAS: Und dir ist fremd das Vaterland geworden.
IPHIGENIE: Das ist's, warum mein blutend Herz nicht heilt.
(Goethe, Iphigenie auf Tauris)

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Re: Not happy about the iota subscript

Post by cb » Wed May 11, 2011 9:59 am

hi pster, i agree with you, but orthography is something that people don't agree on. between will annis and i, I prefer lunate sigma and he doesn't; he thinks the word "tomato" should be spelt with -ough at the end whereas I think this is a mistake (that should provoke a reaction :) ). one positive that comes out of this is that if you make an effort to learn to read grk using all the different types of orthography, you'll find it easier to begin reading inscriptions, papyri, manuscripts, texts printed in the renaissance and later using lots of ligatures, etc. cheers, chad :)

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Re: Not happy about the iota subscript

Post by refe » Wed May 11, 2011 4:22 pm

Greek seems to be subject to this kind of meddling more than most languages, perhaps because of the sheer number of accents, subscripts, morphological changes, etc. I am always a bit skeptical when I read introductory grammars, for instance, because they often present things like the iota subscript with no explanation of the history behind the practice. Is there a resource that discusses these types of changes in detail? I would also be curious about the consonantal iota and other letters that dropped out of use, especially because my Greek background is primarily in Koine where these features where long gone.

Punctuation is another big one that can cause some confusion when studying Greek, and I think it's important to do the work of unraveling that as well, particularly for those interested in translation.

http://www.greekingout.com/2011/05/did- ... nctuation/
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Re: Not happy about the iota subscript

Post by jswilkmd » Sun May 15, 2011 1:37 pm

WELLIFYOUWANTCLASSICALPRACTICEYOUWILLWANTALLTHETEXTSTOBEWRI
TTENINUPPERCASELETTERSWITHOUTPUNCTUATIONOREVENSPACEBETWEEN
THEWORDSIFORONEPREFERMEDIEVALORTHOGRAPHICPRACTICESWHENIREAD
GREEKTEXTSANDTHEIOTASUBSCRIPTHAPPENSTOBEONEOFTHEM.

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Re: Not happy about the iota subscript

Post by pster » Sun May 15, 2011 1:46 pm

IWOULDTAKETHATDEALINAHEARTBEATITWOULDBEGREATTOTHROWACCENTSINTOTHEGARBAGEONCE
ANDFORALL

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Re: Not happy about the iota subscript

Post by antonyclassicallatin » Sun Oct 06, 2013 1:36 am

Best practice is to pronounce it. I always have and always will. I like the comparison TO WRITING IN LARGE CAPITAL LETTERS AND THEN THEYAREPUTTOGETHERSOTHATYOUDONTKNOWONEWORDFROMTHEOTHER. But that is how it was. SO pronounce it, write it. For example: ἐν τῲ δένδρῳ . ΕΝΤΩΙΔΕΝΔΡΩΙ. ΕΝ ΤΩΙ ΔΕΝΔΡΩΙ. NOT: ΕΝ ΤΩ ΔΕΝΔΡΩ. Again, why would they write it that way in 5th century? BECAUSE it was pronounced. The smaller script came later because it was easier for scribes to write, like cursive today. If they had computers, they would have never used subscripts, etc. But I would learn them. It takes years and years of practice, teaching, reading, writing, and speaking.

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Re: Not happy about the iota subscript

Post by daivid » Mon Oct 07, 2013 1:18 am

spiphany wrote:Well, one of the pleasant side effects of using iota subscripts is that there's no danger of confusing the dative singular with the nominative plural (among other things...).
Surely distinguishing χώρα and χώρᾳ is not simply a side effect - it is the point.
λονδον

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