Herbert Weir Smyth [n.d.], A Greek Grammar for Colleges; Machine readable text [info] [word count] [Smyth].
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Quantitative Vowel Gradation.—In the formation and inflection of words a short vowel often interchanges with its corresponding long vowel. Thus

LONG η (α_ after ε, ι, ρ, cross31) ηι_ωυ_
I honourI permitI loveI comeI shownature


Difference in quantity between Attic and Epic words is due chiefly either to (1) metrical lengthening, or to (2) different phonetic treatment, as καλϝός, τινϝω become Epic κα_λός fair, τί_νω I pay ( cross37 D. 1), Attic καλός, τινω.


Metrical lengthening.—Many words, which would otherwise not fit into the verse, show in the Epic ει for ε, ου (rarely οι) for ο, and α_, ι_, υ_ for α, ι, υ. Thus, εἰνάλιος in the sea for ἐνάλιος, εἰαρινός vernal for ἐαρινός, ὑπείροχος eminent for ὑπέροχος, εἰλήλουθα have come for ἐλήλουθα, οὐλόμενος destructive, accursed for ὀλόμενος, οὔρεα mountains from ὄρος, Οὐλύμποιο of Olympus from Ὄλυμπος. ο before a vowel appears as οι in πνοιή breath. Similarly, ἠγάθεος very holy for ἀγάθεος; but ἠνεμόεις windy (from ἄνεμος) has the η of ὑπήνεμος under the wind ( cross29), and τιθήμενος placing (for τιθέμενος) borrows η from τίθημι.

A short syllable under the rhythmic accent (‘ictus’) is lengthened metrically: (1) in words having three or more short syllables: the first of three shorts (οὐλόμενος), the second of four shorts (ὑπείροχος), the third of five shorts (ἀπερείσια boundless); (2) in words in which the short ictus syllable is followed by two longs and a short (Οὐλύμποιο). A short syllable not under the rhythmic accent is lengthened when it is preceded and followed by a long; thus, any vowel preceded by ϝ (πνείω breathe = πνεϝω), ι or υ before a vowel (προθυ_μί_ῃσι zeal).


The initial short vowel of a word forming the second part of a compound is often lengthened: στρατηγός general (στρατός army + ἄγειν to lead 887 d).


Attic η, α_.—Attic has η for original α_ of the earlier period, as φήμη report (Lat. fāma). Ionic also has η for original α_. Doric and Aeolic retain original α_ (φά_μα_).

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a. This is true also of the α_ which is the result of early compensative lengthening, by which -ανς-, -ασλ-, -ασμ-, and -ασν- changed to -α_ς-, -α_λ-, -α_μ-, and -α_ν-. (See cross37 b.) But in a few cases like τά_ς for τάνς, and in πᾶσα for πάνσα ( cross113) where the combination ανς arose at a later period, α_ was not changed to η. ὑφᾶναι for ὑφῆναι to weave follows τετρᾶναι to pierce.

b. Original α_ became η after υ, as φυή growth. In some words, however, we find α_.


Doric and Aeolic retain original α_, as in μᾶλον apple (cp. Lat. mālum, Att. μῆλον), κᾶρυξ herald (Att. κῆρυξ). But Doric and Aeolic have original η when η interchanges with ε, as in τίθημι I place, τίθεμεν we place, μά_τηρ μα_τέρα mother, ποιμήν ποιμένι shepherd.

2. Ionic has η after ε, ι, and ρ. Thus, γενεή, σκιή, ἡμέρη.


In Attic alone this η was changed back to α_:

1. When preceded by a ρ; as ἡμέρα_ day, χώρα_ country. This appears to have taken place even though an ο intervened: as ἀκρόα_μα a musical piece, ἀθρόα_ collected.

EXCEPTIONS: (a) But ρϝη was changed to ρη: as κόρη for κορϝη maiden. (b) Likewise ρη, when the result of contraction of ρεα, remained: as ὄρη from ὄρεα mountains. (c) And ρση was changed to ρρη: as κόρρη for κόρση ( cross79) one of the temples.

2. When preceded by ε or ι: as γενεά_ generation, σκιά_ shadow.

This change takes place even when the η is the result of the contraction of εα: as ὑγιᾶ healthy, ἐνδεᾶ lacking, for ὑγιῆ from ὑγιε (ς) α, ἐνδεῆ from ἐνδεε (ς) α; also, if originally a ϝ intervened, as νέα_ for νεϝα_ young (Lat. nova).

EXCEPTIONS: Some exceptions are due to analogy: ὑγιῆ healthy, εὐφυῆ shapely ( cross292 d) follow σαφῆ clear.


In the choruses of tragedy Doric α_ is often used for η. Thus, μά_τηρ mother, ψυ_χά_ soul, γᾶ earth, δύστα_νος wretched, ἔβα_ν went.


The dialects frequently show vowel sounds that do not occur in the corresponding Attic words.


α for ε: ἱαρός sacred, Ἄρταμις (for Ἄρτεμις), τράπω turn Dor.; ε for α: θέρσος courage Aeol., ἔρσην male, ὁρέω see, τέσσερες four ( = τέτταρες) Ion.; α for ο: δια_κατίοι (for δια_κόσιοι) 200 Dor., ὐπά under Aeol.; ο for α: στρότος (στρατός) army, ὄν (ἀνά) up Aeol., τέτορες (τέτταρες) four Dor.; ε for η: ἕσσων inferior (ἥττων) Ion.; ε for ο: Ἀπέλλων Dor. (also Ἀπόλλων); ε for ει: μέζων greater Ion.; ε for ι: κέρνα_ν mix ( = κιρνάναι for κεραννύναι) Aeol.; ι for ε: ἱστίη hearth Ion., ἱστία_ Dor. (for ἑστία_), χρύ_σιος (χρύ_σεος) golden Aeol., θιός god Boeot., κοσμίω arrange Dor.; υ for α: πίσυρες four (τέτταρες) Hom.; υ for ο: ὄνυμα name Dor., Aeol., ἀπύ from Aeol.; ω for ου: ὦν accordingly Ion., Dor.


Transfer of Quantity.—ηο, ηα often exchange quantities, be coming εω, εα_. Thus, ληός (Epic λα_ός folk) becomes λεώς, as πόληος becomes πόλεως of a city; τεθνηότος τεθνεῶτος dead; βασιλῆα βασιλέα_ king.


Often in Ionic: Ἀτρεΐδεω from earlier Ἀτρεΐδα_ο son of Atreus, ἱκέτεω from ἱκέτα_ο suppliant. This εω generally makes a single syllable in poetry ( cross60). The ηο intermediate between α_ο and εω is rarely found.

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Qualitative Vowel Gradation.—In the same root or suffix we find an interchange among different vowels (and diphthongs) similar to the interchange in sing, sang, sung.

a. This variation appears in strong grades and in a weak grade (including actual expulsion of a vowel—in diphthongs, of the first vowel). Thus, φέρ-ω I carry, φόρ-ο-ς tribute, φώρ thief, φαρ-έ-τρα_ quiver, δί-φ ρ-ο-ς chariot (twocarrier), λείπ-ω I leave, λέ-λοιπ-α I have left, λιπ-εῖν to leave. The interchange is quantitative in φόρ-ο-ς φώρ (cp. cross27).

b. When, by the expulsion of a vowel in the weak grade, an unpronounceable combination of consonants resulted, a vowel sound was developed to render pronunciation possible. Thus, ρα or αρ was developed from ρ between consonants, as in πα-τρά-σι from ατρ-σι ( cross262); and α from ν, as in αὐτό-μα-το-ν for αὐτο-μ-τον automaton (acting of its own will), cp. μέν-ο-ς rage, μέ-μον-α I yearn. So in ὀνομαίνω name for ὀνομ-yω; cp. ὄνομα.

c. A vowel may also take the place of an original liquid or nasal after a consonant; as ἔλυ_σα for ἐλυ_ς. This ρ, λ, μ, ν in b and c is called sonant liquid or sonant nasal.


Strong GradesWeak Grade
1. 2.
a. ε: ο—or α
b. ει: οιι
c. ευ: ουυ
1. 2.
d. α_: ωα
e. η: ωε or α
f. ωο

a. ( ἐ-γεν-ό-μην I became: γέ-γον-α I am bornγί-γ ν-ο-μαι I become
( τρέπω I turn: τροπ-ή routἐ-τράπ-ην I was put to flight
b. πείθ-ω I persuade: πέ-ποιθ-α I trust ( cross568) πιθ-ανός persuasive
c. ἐλεύ (θ) ς-ο-μαι I shall go: ἐλ-ήλουθ-α I have goneἤλυθ-ο-ν I went (Epic)
d. φα_-μί (Dor., cross30) I say: φω-νή speechφα-μέν we speak
e. ( τί-θη-μι I place: θω-μό-ς heapθε-τό-ς placed, adopted
( ῥήγ-νυ_-μι I break: ἔ-ρρωγ-α I have brokenἐ-ρράγ-η it was broken
f.δί-δω-μι I giveδί-δο-μεν we give

N. 1.—Relatively few words show examples of all the above series of grades. Some have five grades, as πα-τήρ, πα-τέρ-α, εὐ-πά-τωρ, εὐ-πά-τορ-α, πα-τ ρ-ός.

N. 2.—ε and ι vary in πετάννυ_μι πίτνημι spread out.

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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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