Herbert Weir Smyth [n.d.], A Greek Grammar for Colleges; Machine readable text [info] [word count] [Smyth].
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Vowels and Diphthongs 4

There are seven vowels: α, ε, η, ι, ο, υ, ω. Of these ε and ο are always short, and take about half the time to pronounce as η and ω, which are always long; α, ι, υ are short in some syllables, long in others. In this Grammar, when α, ι, υ are not marked as long (α_, ι_, υ_) they are understood to be short. All vowels with the circumflex ( cross149) are long. On length by position, see cross144.

a. Vowels are said to be open or close according as the mouth is more open

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or less open in pronouncing them, the tongue and lips assuming different positions in the case of each.


A diphthong (δίφθογγος having two sounds) combines two vowels in one syllable. The second vowel is ι or υ. The diphthongs are: αι, ει, οι, α_, ῃ, ῳ; αυ, ευ, ου, ηυ, and υι. The ι of the so-called improper diphthongs, α_, ῃ, ῳ, is written below the line and is called iota subscript. But with capital letters, ι is written on the line (adscript), as ΤΗΙ ΩΙΔΗΙ τῇ ᾠδῇ or Ὠιδῇ to the song. All diphthongs are long.

a. In ᾳ, ῃ, ῳ the ι ceased to be written about 100 B.C. The custom of writing ι under the line is as late as about the eleventh century.


A diphthong ωυ occurs in New Ionic (ὡυτός the same from ὁ αὐτός 68 D., ἐμωυτοῦ of myself = ἐμαυτοῦ 329 D., θωῦμα θαῦμα wonder). Ionic has ηυ for Attic αυ in some words (Hom. νηῦς ship).


ει, ου are either genuine or spurious (apparent) diphthongs ( cross25). Genuine ει, ου are a combination of ε ι, ο υ, as in λείπω I leave (cp. λέλοιπα I have left, 35 a), γένει to a race ( cross49), ἀκόλουθος follower (cp. κέλευθος way). Spurious ει, ου arise from contraction ( cross50) or compensatory lengthening ( cross37). Thus, ἐφίλει he loved, from ἐφίλεε, θείς placing from θεντ-ς; ἐφίλουν they loved from ἐφίλεον, πλοῦς voyage from πλόος, δούς giving from δοντ-ς.


The figure of a triangle represents the relations of the vowels and spurious diphthongs to one another.

[unresolved image link]

From α_ to ι and from α to ου the elevation of the tongue gradually increases. ω, ο, ου, υ are accompanied by rounding of the lips.


Diaeresis.—A double dot, the mark of diaeresis (διαίρεσις separation), may be written over ι or υ when these do not form a diphthong with the preceding vowel: προΐστημι I set before, νηΐ to a ship.


In poetry and in certain dialects vowels are often written apart which later formed diphthongs: πάις (or πάϊς) boy or girl, Πηλεΐδης son of Peleus, ἐύ (or ἐΰ) well, Ἀίδης (or Ἀΐδης) Hades, γένεϊ to a race.

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Herbert Weir Smyth [n.d.], A Greek Grammar for Colleges; Machine readable text [info] [word count] [Smyth].
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