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Γολγοθάς: pronunciation

Discussion in 'Ελληνικά (Greek)' started by Christo Tamarin, Jan 3, 2012.

  1. Christo Tamarin

    Christo Tamarin Senior Member


    I have a question about the pronunciation of that word.

    I have some clues which make me think that the two occurrences of the letter Gamma in the word Γολγοθάς were simetimes (e.g. in the 9th-10th centuries) pronounced as plosives instead of fricatives. I.e. the letter Gamma in that word could sometimes be pronounced in a weird way.

    Could this be true?
  2. apmoy70 Senior Member

    You have evidence that the occuring gammas were pronounced as voiced velars /g/ in the 9th-10th centuries?
    Could you provide your clues? Because we know that the fricative pronunciation of γ at least in vulgar Attic (the mother tongue of Hellenistic Koine, the language of the Gospels) begins as early as the 4th c. BC. By the 9th-10th century AD, the pronunciation of gamma as a voiced velar fricative was the norm.
  3. Christo Tamarin

    Christo Tamarin Senior Member

    Hello, apmoy70.

    As you know, all the 6 sounds Β,Φ,Δ,Θ,Γ,Χ were plosives in classical. Later, the voiceless Φ,Θ,Χ became fricative completely.

    However, the voiced Β,Δ,Γ split into two versions: a plosive and a fricative, actually. In the beginning, there were a plosive and a fricative allophone of the same phoneme. Now, in the modern Greek, the plosive and the fricative versions of Β,Δ,Γ are considered separate phonemes. Anyway, the plosive versions of Β,Δ,Γ have never disappeared in Greek.

    In modern Greek, the plosive phonemes are marked with digraphs: ΜΠ, ΝΤ, ΓΚ (ΓΓ). However, I suppose those digraphs were not used in the Middle Ages (except ΓΓ, a stable special case).

    E.g. there is a loanword γκρίζος/γκρί (grey) with a plosive gamma. Perhaps, such loanwords always existed. Perhaps, such a word was Γολγοθάς.

    Does somebody know when the digraphs ΜΠ, ΝΤ, ΓΚ were introduced?

    Does somebody know if the plosiveness of Β,Δ,Γ was marked in some way in the Middle ages (besides ΓΓ)?
  4. apmoy70 Senior Member

    Hi Christo, agreed
    You mean there was a time in history when Greek speakers would pronounce «Γ» as both a plosive [g] and a fricative [ɣ]? At the same time?
    Do you have a source to prove your claim?
    I'm afraid I have difficulties understanding your thesis.
    The digraph «μπ» exists in Greek since...forever, as the Classical feminine noun «λαμπάς» (in Old Church Slavonic лампа́да) and the Classical masculine adjective «λαμπρός» (bright) testify. The pronunciation between the foreign loan words, written with «μπ» in Greek (e.g. «καμπαρέ» from the French cabaret) and the original Greek words with «μπ», is identical in Modern Greek (labiodental nasal [ɱ] + voiced bilabial plosive in the middle of the word, or voiced bilabial plosive at i) the begining of the word, ii) when they appear twice, ad seriatim within a word). The difference is that the digraphs «μπ» and «ντ» in Greek do not appear at the begining of the word - except in a few cases where the omission of the initial unstressed vowel is followed by external sandhi--> «ντύνομαι» /'dinome/ from the ancient «ἐνδύομαι» > «νδύομαι» > «ντύνομαι» (Ι'm dressed up), «μπαίνω» /'beno/ from the ancient «ἐμβαίνω» > «μβαίνω» > «μπαίνω» (I enter).
    The same for «ντ».
    Τhe digraph «γκ» is the result of internal sandhi, i.e. «ἐν» + «κύκλος» --> «ἐγκύκλιος (encyclical, instruction, regulation) pronounced as a combination of the palatal nasal [ɲ] + voiced palatal plosive [ɟ]
  5. Christo Tamarin

    Christo Tamarin Senior Member


    Hi, apmoy70. Sorry for returning to this thread.

    Perhaps, I shall give more explainations about my thesis related to the name Γολγοθάς.

    Now, I need the answer about the digraph μπ. I know that it has always existed in Greek. In Classical Greek, it just denoted the μπ(MP) consonant cluster. Later, this cluster changed to MB and thus the digraph μπ began to denote the MB consonant cluster. As you showed, the same consonant cluster, MB, could originate from Classical Greek, remaining unchanged, as in "(ἐ)μβαίνω".

    So, my first question is: When did it become possible the word "μβαίνω" to be written also as "μπαίνω"? When did the modern spelling of that word appear? When did it become possible the letter π to be used in a new position (please disregard «λαμπάς») for a voiced consonant in order to denote plosiveness? (Also, please note that the archaic spelling "μβαίνω" is now wrong in modern Greek despite of the fact that the consonst cluster did not actually change.)

    My 2nd question is about loanwords and foreign names containing the plosive consonant B. Let us consider the French word cabaret with the modern French pronuciation (disregarding the pecularity of R). If that word had been loaned into Classical Greek, it would be written down as KABAРЕ (or KABAРH). When did the spelling KAMПAРЕ become possible? Was another spelling, KAMBAРЕ, ever possible?

    Both these my questions are related to the Greek graphics, not to phonetics. In brief, did the modern usage of the digraph μπ appear before the 10th century AD or after that time? What about the 15th century?

    Last edited: Jun 20, 2013
  6. apmoy70 Senior Member

    Hi Christo, no need for apologies, our discussion is very interesting.
    I can't say when was the word "μβαίνω" replaced by "μπαίνω" or when did the modern spelling of that word appear. What I can definetely say is that in the 9th c. AD the beta is fricative, and we know it from the then recently invented Cyrillic alphabet, which was based mainly on Greek: the letter В was used for the phoneme [v], while a new letter was invented, the Б, for the phoneme .
  7. Christo Tamarin

    Christo Tamarin Senior Member

    Thanks, apmoy70.

    Then, I have another question. When did the pronunciation of the underlined letters as voiced consonants instead of voiceless ones in words such as λαμπάδα/άγκυρα/άρχοντα appear?

    I suppose, before that event, the digraphs μπ/γκ/ντ could not be used to denote a voiced consonant.

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