Accenting η

Are you learning Koine Greek, the Greek of the New Testament and most other post-classical Greek texts? Whatever your level, use this forum to discuss all things Koine, Biblical or otherwise, including grammar, textbook talk, difficult passages, and more.
Post Reply
ProfessorDolan
Textkit Neophyte
Posts: 3
Joined: Sat Sep 03, 2005 3:46 pm
Location: Philadelphia, PA USA

Accenting η

Post by ProfessorDolan »

τὴν γῆν
Since the η is long, why is the article oxytone but the noun perispomenon? I can't figure out the rule behind the apparent surface incongruity.

User avatar
bedwere
Global Moderator
Posts: 4827
Joined: Fri Mar 07, 2008 10:23 pm
Location: Didacopoli in California
Contact:

Re: Accenting η

Post by bedwere »

Because γῆ is a contraction of γαῖα.

ProfessorDolan
Textkit Neophyte
Posts: 3
Joined: Sat Sep 03, 2005 3:46 pm
Location: Philadelphia, PA USA

Re: Accenting η

Post by ProfessorDolan »

Thanks for providing a great explanation of the noun accent! I didn't clearly articulate my question. Why would τὴν not also have a circumflex inasmuch as the syllable is long because of the η?

phalakros
Textkit Fan
Posts: 295
Joined: Sat Nov 16, 2019 9:51 pm

Re: Accenting η

Post by phalakros »

For 1st-declension nouns accented on the ultima (eg φυγή), the regular pattern is for an acute accent in the nom/acc/vocative, but a circumflex in the gen/dat. Eg in the singular: φυγή, φυγῆς, φυγῇ, φυγήν. Note the accents: oxytone in the nom/acc, but perispomenon in the gen/dat. That’s the case most of the time. The feminine definite article follows this pattern too, so gen τῆς perispomenon but acc τήν oxytone.

An exception is contract nouns like γῆ, contracted from γάα/γέα. In these cases, it's perispomenon throughout: γῆ, γῆς, γῇ, γῆν.

Hylander
Textkit Zealot
Posts: 2494
Joined: Mon Aug 17, 2015 1:16 pm

Re: Accenting η

Post by Hylander »

Vowel length, not syllable length, is a determinant of the Greek accent.

Each word is accented independently (or not accented in the case of enclitics and proclitics). The accent of the noun doesn't determine the accent of the article that precedes it. A syllable with a long vowel can bear an acute accent (with certain restrictions), and can be oxytone, and if an oxytone syllable wih a long vowel is followed by another word (other than an enclitic), it becomes barytone and bears a grave accent. In the case of τὴν γῆν, the accent of τήν is treated as oxytone, but when joined with γῆν it becomes barytone, τὴν. Barytone simply means that the pitch doesn't rise as it would if the word weren't joined to the following word, i.e., the grave accent shows that τὴν would otherwise bear an acute accent but loses its accent because it's joined to the following word in speech.

But actually, in the case of the forms of the Greek article that are treated as oxytone, namely, τόν, τήν, τό, τώ, τᾱ́, τά, τούς and τάς, these words are always joined to the following word -- they're really proclitic, just like ὁ, ἡ, οἱ and αἱ. Isn't it just an inconsistent convention that some forms of the article treated as proclitic are unaccented in our texts and other forms of the article are treated as oxytone but always marked with a grave accent indicating that they're unaccented?
Bill Walderman

User avatar
jeidsath
Textkit Zealot
Posts: 4841
Joined: Mon Dec 30, 2013 2:42 pm
Location: Γαλεήπολις, Οὐισκόνσιν

Re: Accenting η

Post by jeidsath »

The only reason that we "know" that ὁ, ἡ, οἱ and αἱ are proclitic is that the manuscripts don't accent them like they do the other forms of the article. There's nothing about it in the grammarians (who actually say the opposite -- Chandler has a long list of sources calling them oxytone). Hermann invented the term proclitic in the 19th century, to match the ancient ἐγκλιτικός (though ἐγκλιτικός doesn't actually specify the direction of word-leaning, as it's not "post-clitic").
"Here stuck the great stupid boys, who for the life of them could never master the accidence..."

Joel Eidsath -- jeidsath@gmail.com

Hylander
Textkit Zealot
Posts: 2494
Joined: Mon Aug 17, 2015 1:16 pm

Re: Accenting η

Post by Hylander »

The "proclitic" forms of the definite article may have been said to be "oxytone," but actually all the forms of the definite article other than those that are perispomenon are never accented because they always lose their accents to the word that follows them. My point is the same as yours, I think: there is an inconsistency in the way the non-perispomenon forms of the definite article are traditionally marked with accents in medieval and modern texts. They should all be marked with grave accents or with none at all -- there's no effective accentual difference.
Bill Walderman

phalakros
Textkit Fan
Posts: 295
Joined: Sat Nov 16, 2019 9:51 pm

Re: Accenting η

Post by phalakros »

Hylander wrote: Fri Nov 11, 2022 3:13 pm Isn't it just an inconsistent convention that some forms of the article treated as proclitic are unaccented in our texts and other forms of the article are treated as oxytone but always marked with a grave accent indicating that they're unaccented?
Yes, just a convention. Non-perispomenon forms of the article were all unaccented, even if conventionally written with a grave/acute. Probably the convention developed as an aid to distinguish cases of ο οι κτλ as article vs pronoun (relative/demonstrative), eg οἱ vs οἵ. At least part of this practice, esp. regarding the Homeric pronouns, probably pre-dates Byzantine scholarship. It’s more debatable whether the perispomena articles (τοῦ τῷ κτλ) are proclitic too.
ProfessorDolan wrote: Thu Nov 10, 2022 6:46 pm why is the article oxytone but the noun perispomenon?
I hope my post above answered your original question. Just to clarify: the further discussion about editorial conventions and proclitics is interesting and worthwhile but not necessary for learning how to write Greek accents.

User avatar
jeidsath
Textkit Zealot
Posts: 4841
Joined: Mon Dec 30, 2013 2:42 pm
Location: Γαλεήπολις, Οὐισκόνσιν

Re: Accenting η

Post by jeidsath »

There are different possibilities. The grave could indicate something other than a dropped (final) accent in speech. They wrote it down after all. There is some musical evidence in D&S (though I reject their statistical methodology, which overstates the case) for this possibility. Or it indicates a no-accent that began to be written down as a useful convention to separate words. There are some fragments that show grave being written on all non-acute syllables.

If you try to ask the question of "what coalesces with the following word" using evidence from metrical caesurae, you pick up both proclitics and other things, including τίς and the perispomena question words, that seem unlikely to ever lose accent.

The convention of not writing an accent to distinguish some forms of the article is possible, but since the argument does not explain non-article proclitics, I personally find it lacking.

To me it would seem unlikely that article perispomena had no accentual pronunciation and that nobody told us. The grammarians seemed distinguished between τῷ and τῳ. But, of course, maybe just as graphical convention?

But I think it's wrong not to start from the possibility that these proclitic things were a real speech phenomenon, and that early Homeric manuscripts are accented to some degree based on this sound pattern. It's the only real reason to follow the ancient accentuation and not impose simpler editorial standards, in my opinion. That is, maybe words like οἰ, etc., where somehow distinguished by speech pattern. For me, that's the most productive null hypothesis, one cuts out many of the castles in the air that otherwise might get built up.
"Here stuck the great stupid boys, who for the life of them could never master the accidence..."

Joel Eidsath -- jeidsath@gmail.com

Post Reply