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Discussion in 'Ελληνικά (Greek)' started by panettonea, Jun 16, 2013.

  1. panettonea Senior Member

    My book contains the following two examples:

    1) ένα παιδί τριών χρονών

    2) μια αναβολή δύο χρόνων

    The first example seems to use χρόνια, whereas the second one χρόνος. Could these two be swapped and still make sense here?

    And then for another example it has κατά τη μακρά περίοδο τριάντα ετών. Could one of the forms above be used here too? My book doesn't distinguish any nuances in meaning.
    Last edited: Jun 16, 2013
  2. alfie1888

    alfie1888 Senior Member

    Kent, England
    English - England
    This is something I have asked friends before as I had seen only χρονών up until I started reading a particular book whose author preferred χρόνων.

    I don't think there is much difference in meaning, though I could be wrong and you may want to wait for a native speaker.

    I'm not sure about the first using χρόνια and the other χρόνος. Strictly, χρόνια would be the neuter plural (nominative and accusative) of the adjective χρόνιος, so the genitive plural would be χρόνιων. Χρόνων and χρονών might just be katharevousa and demotic forms. We shall see what a native says!

    And I think έτος is interchangeable with these and could be used in your other example. Though that is definitely the more formal, traditional sounding option. Έτος is what you see on forms, etc.

    Then again, I could be wrong! I look forward to seeing what the others say. Anyway, hope I helped and you have been satiated for now!

    Καλή σου μέρα. :)
  3. panettonea Senior Member

    Thanks, alfie1888.

    I was going by this:


    I see.

    Yep, I'm filled up to the max! ;)

    Ευχαριστώ. Και το ίδιο για σένα. (I guess that's the closest equivalent to right back at ya. :D)
  4. Αγγελος Senior Member

    The original sense of χρόνος is, of course, 'time' (cf. 'chronometer'). The usual colloquial word for time is καιρός (which, of course, also means 'weather', like 'temps' in French).
    The more usual sense of χρόνος in modern Greek is 'year". It can also mean 'tense' (of a verb), 'quantity' (of a syllable), 'phase' (of a regular, cyclic process), etc. In addition to its regular declension (του χρόνου, το(ν) χρόνο, χρόνε, οι χρόνοι, των χρόνων, τους χρόνους), it also has two irregular forms:
    - nom. pl. χρόνια, only meaning 'years' and in fact far more frequent in that sense than the regular form χρόνοι;
    - gen. pl. χρονών (sometimes just χρονώ, without the final ν), only used in expressions of age (δώδεκα χρονών = twelve years old) and likewise more frequent than the regular form in that context.
    Thus, ένα παιδί τριών χρονών could also be said to be τριών χρόνων, but in μια αναβολή δύο χρόνων one couldn't use χρονών, as it is duration rather than age that is meant.

    έτος = year is formal, but can be used colloquially in expressions of age (τριών ετών = three years old) and is frequently used to refer to 'years' other than the calendar year (σχολικό έτος = school year, οικονομικό έτος = fiscal year), for which a more colloquial synonym would be χρονιά. ετών would be suitable in both your examples.

    (A personal note: I remember being very surprised as a second-grader, when I walked into an empty sixth-grade classroom and saw a chart on the wall with the formulas for calculating simple interest, labeled in part "χρόνος εις έτη". To me, χρόνος and έτος were synonymous!)

    There is a related adjective χρόνιος, meaning 'chronic', but note that the ι in all its forms (e.g. in χρόνια πάθηση = a chronic condition) is pronounced as a full vowel, whereas in χρόνια = years and in χρονιά it merely signifies a softening of the preceding consonant. This is one of the very few cases where Greek spelling is ambiguous. Similarly, δόλιος pronounced in three syllables means 'malicious', 'intending harm', whereas δόλιος pronounced with a palatalized λ and no middle vowel means 'poor', 'to be pitied'.
    Last edited: Jun 16, 2013
  5. panettonea Senior Member


    Thank you for your very thorough explanations, Αγγελος. So, using χρόνων will probably never get one into trouble. :)

    And what does that mean?

    I find the system of syllabification in Greek to be a mess. To a non-native speaker, half the time it makes no sense: :D

    Oh, this vowel constitutes a syllable. And, er, this other vowel does not. As for this vowel here, well, um...we'll just ask Paris Hilton what she thinks and then decide accordingly.

    Μπα!!!!!! ;)
    Last edited: Jun 17, 2013
  6. velisarius Senior Member

    British English (Sussex)
    <<I find the system of syllabification in Greek to be a mess. To a non-native speaker, half the time it makes no sense>>

    Greek children in elementary school learn the rules for breaking words into syllables; it's English which lacks rules and there's much confusion.
  7. panettonea Senior Member

    That may be true, but in English you don't have this weirdness where vowels whose sound is at least somewhat distinct (as opposed to diphthongs) are frequently blended in with another vowel to form a single syllable. For instance, in English, -ia- would rarely be combined into one syllable. Actually, exactly where are those rules that Greek children learn? I'd like to learn them myself. :)
    Last edited: Jun 17, 2013
  8. velisarius Senior Member

    British English (Sussex)
    "χρόνος εις έτη". Means "time, measured in years".

    I still refer sometimes to "Νεοελληνική Γραμματική" (teacher's book), based on the grammar book of Μανόλη Τριανταφιλλίδη, that my kids used to use. It gives the basic rules for syllabification, and I guess the few tricky points you may come across now and then are no big deal. In the English Only forum there is often much debate on how to separate syllables. There don't seem to be any fixed rules; even dictionaries have different opinions.
  9. panettonea Senior Member


    Thanks. I guess that expression is left over from learned Greek.

    Do you know if there is anything similar online that presents the basic rules of Greek syllabification?

    In English, that problem doesn't seem to matter all that much because we don't normally use accents, and the syllabification of a word would rarely if ever affect its meaning. So, if one is ever unsure about how to properly syllabify an English word, who cares, I guess? ;)
  10. Αγγελος Senior Member

    The only reason we were taught syllabification rules in Greek was to know how to divide words at the end of the line.

    The basic principles are easy enough:
    A single consonant always goes with the following vowel: πα-τέ-ρας, χώ-μα, τέ-λος.
    Two consonants go with the second vowel if their cluster can occur at the beginning of a Greek word: α-πλός (cf. πλέω), ο-κτώ or ο-χτώ (cf. κτυπώ/χτυπώ), but κορ-μός, παλ-τό (no Greek word begins with a ρ or λ followed by a consonant).
    Three consonants go with the second vowel if there is a Greek word that begins with the first two. Thus, πά-στρα (cf. στρατός), ε-χθρός (cf. χθόνιος), but έκ-πτω-ση (no word begins with κπ-!).
    Double consonants are always divided (άλ-λος), since no word begins with a double consonant. Vowel digraphs are never divided, since they represent but one sound (και-ρός, ου-ρά, σκοι-νί).
    The letter υ is considered a vowel even when it is pronounced v/f, and αυ/ευ are never divided: αυ-τός, σταυ-ρός (but α-βρός, because of e.g. βρώμα), Ευ-ρώ-πη, ευ-οί-ω-νος.

    Now come the complications:
    1. Even though the rule officially taught was as given above, the rule actually applied in καθαρεύουσα was much simpler: clusters of two different consonants were divided between syllables only if the first consonant was λ, μ, ν or ρ (except that the cluster μν was NOT divided). Unfortunately, δημοτική actually adopted the rule that was officially taught, so that no one knows for sure how to syllabify words such as τίτλος or αιχμή (do we want to count the ancient word τλήμων or the interjection χμμμ... as evidence for a possible occurrence of τλ or χμ in word-initial position?)
    2. In ancient Greek, the clusters μπ/ντ/γκ were pronounced mp/nt/nk and were naturally divided. In modernGreek, they are often pronounced as b/d/g and are therefore just as indivisible as the digraphs αι or ου. The grammar published under government auspices in 1941 and commonly known as του Τριανταφυλλίδη, after its main drafter, attempted to lay down the rule that μπ/ντ/γκ are divided when they are pronounced as mb/nd/ng (with an audible nasal element): thus εμ-πρός (ancient compound), λάμ-πα (ultimately from λάμπω), but ρό-μπα (from French 'robe'). As many Greeks drop the basal element in such words altogether and most can hardly hear it, even if pointed out to them, the 1941 rule proved unworkable and modern-day school grammars simply advise leaving those clusters undivided (λά-μπα just like ρό-μπα), much to the distaste of old curmudgeons like me who do pronounce and perceive the nasal element.
    3. When the vowel ι (and its homophones) is pronounced not as a vowel but as a fricative consonant, as in παιδιά or κάποιος, or when it is merely an indication that the previous consonant is palatalized, as in πουλιά or μπάνιο, it is of course not to be separated from the following vowel. To the native speaker that comes naturally, but I can see how it could cause problems to the non-native learner, who has no way of knowing that σπά-νι-ο does NOT rhyme with μπά-νιο. (That and the two possible pronunciations of γγ are the only ambiguities in the pronunciation of written Greek.)
    Last edited: Jun 17, 2013
  11. panettonea Senior Member

    I bet another reason was simply to supply some busy work to keep all you little kids from talking. ;)

    Thanks for all the details. It turns out that my book does discuss syllabification--I had read that part a few months ago but didn't really remember the particulars. Your explanations were easier to understand, though.

    My book lists what it considers all the possible groups of consonants used to begin Greek words, but it does imply that there's some ambiguity in the matter.

    My book adds γγ to the old list as well.

    Well, with word processors these days, maybe it's some consolation that hyphenating words has become nearly a thing of the past. :)

    When I said that I thought the Greek syllabification system is a mess, this was the part I actually meant. The other rules you mentioned aren't that hard to follow. But it seems difficult if not impossible for a non-native speaker to determine whether a particular vowel has syllabic value, as in the examples you mentioned above. So there are no "textbook" rules for those cases, I guess? Well, I suppose the best approach for the non-native speaker is simply not to worry too much about the matter then. :)

    Besides "ng," what's the other possible pronunciation?
  12. panettonea Senior Member

    According to these links, σπάνιο has 3 syllables but σπάνιος only 2. Is that really true? If so, then I need a nice warm μπάνιο to help me make sense of that. ;)

  13. Αγγελος Senior Member

    "> Βesides "ng," what's the other possible pronunciation [of γγ]?

    In words with prefixed εν- or συν- + a derivative of γράφω, such as έγγραφο or συγγραφέας, the 'received' pronunciation is enγrafo/sinγraféas, with a velar n (like English ng) and a fricative γ. The pronunciation with ngg can also be heard but is generally considered substandard.
  14. Αγγελος Senior Member

    Nonsense. However, adjacent vowels CAN be pronounced as one syllable most of the time, even across word boundaries. Το ένα, normally pronounced as to-e-na, can very well be pronounced as something very much like twe-na, without the o quite turning into a w; likewise, ουίσκι can be pronounced in three syllables, as u-i-ski. Vowel syllabicity is not really a phonemic feature in Greek. So in σπάνιο(ς), regardless of gender, the iota can be pronounced either as a fully syllabic vowel or as a non-syllabic semivowelish sound. The important thing is not to merge it with the preceding consonant altogether, not to make spaño (rhyming with μπάνιο) out of the whole thing. Likewise τίμιος, normally trisyllabic, can be pronounced in two syllables, as long as it doesn't turn into timños -- which is the normal pronunciation for the name Θύμιος (short for quadrisyllabic Ευ-θύ-μι-ος!)
    Last edited: Jun 21, 2013
  15. panettonea Senior Member

    Thanks. All these terms like "velar" and "fricative" just get so confusing. :)

    I guess those links aren't always trustworthy?

    Do most Greek dictionaries list pronunciation as well?

    How does an "n" sound enter the word when there's no ν?
  16. Αγγελος Senior Member

    A velar consonant is one that is formed with the tongue touching the roof of the mouth. The initial consonants of 'cool' or 'goal' are velar. The final consonant in 'sing' is also velar. The n in 'ink' is velar, the n in the standard pronunciation of 'increase' is NOT.
    In Greek, κ|γ|χ|γκ before α|ο|ου are velar. There is no velar nasal phoneme, but the γ of άγχος or έλεγχος is normally pronounced as a velar nasal.

    A fricative consonant is one whose utterance involves friction. In English, f|v|th|s|z|sh are fricatives. In Greek, we have γ|χ|θ|δ|β|φ|σ|ζ

    Evidently not.

    No. We tend to think that our spelling poses no pronunciation problems -- which is simply not 100% true. I think Babiniotis' dictionary does indicate prnunciation, at least in doubtful cases.

    When what historically was a non-syllabic i completely loses its vocalic nature (e.g. in plurals of neuters in -ι), it is pronounced:
    = as a palatal γ after a vowel (πυρκαϊά, also spelt πυρκαγιά) or after a β|δ|ζ|ρ|μπ|ντ (παιδιά, χέρια, δόντια)
    = as a palatal χ after a φ|θ|σ|π|τ (κούφιος, ίσιος, πιάνω, κουτιά)
    = as a palatal ν (Italian gn) after a μ (μια, καμιά, μοιάζω), owing to the influence of the preceding nasal
    = merely as a mark of palatalization of the preceding consonant, after a κ|γκ|γ|χ|λ|ν (γλυκιά, γκιόνης, γιαγιά, χιόνι, πουλιά, πανιά). Note that κ|γκ|χ|γ are ALWAYS palatalized before syllabic i and e, and that in many Greeks' pronunciation λ and ν are also palatalized before syllabic i. (In my pronunciatio, λιμάνι and καπετάνιοι don"t quite rhyme, but in many, perhaps most of my fellow-countrymen's speech they do.)
  17. panettonea Senior Member

    Thanks--that was helpful.

    A classic case of denial, I guess. ;)

    Glad that one of them does at least. :)

    Thanks for the clarification.

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