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The Greek diacritics were introduced by Aristophanes of Byzantium, which became standard in the Middle Ages. My question is: Is the accent (tone) system of Ancient Greek which we are using now a result of linguistic reconstruction, or it is mainly based on historical references such as the descriptions of ancient grammarians or other sources? The characteristics of different tones might be described by natural language, but how about the position of these accents ? Are there fixed rules to accent words in ancient Greek ?

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As for the last part of your question: Ancient Greek indeed had some rules of accentuation, despite the fact that the position and type of it was not always possible to be determined on phonetic basis (as in e.g. Vedic Sanskrit and contrary to Latin). Greek had some ground rules concerning accent placement, for example the stress was allowed to be placed only on one of the three last syllables, two syllables if the last vowel was long. There was a two-way accent contour constrast but only on long vowels.If the stressed vowel was long, an the following was short, then accent could be either rising or rising-falling. If the following vowel was also long, the the accent had to be rising. These are just some rules, and there some exceptions. The accentuation on finite verb forms was recessive, i.e. the stress went as far "left" as it could, so it was predictable. The accentuation of non finite verb forms and noun on the other hand was not predictable and lexically defined.

  • Any suggestion for the first question ? – Johannes Feb 12 '17 at 18:08
  • Well I don't remember any reliable sources on that one so don't quote me on that but I would assume the following. Our accentual system would be based primarly on the accounts of the ancients, who, in their times, had copious resources and therefore can more or less be trusted. Secondly some accent position can be reconstructed by comparison with other IE languages, which would also in some way preserve the original PIE stress (such as Vedic Sanksrit or Baltic languages). – czypsu Feb 12 '17 at 18:11
  • I would assume that (it happens to come to my mind) the accentual system we are using is exactly identical to the document preserved continuously in the Byzantine empire, for example, Septuagint used by the Greek orthodox church. So basically, it should be completely historical based. Do you think this is a reasonable assumption? – Johannes Feb 12 '17 at 18:37
  • I suggest looking at Allen's Vox Graeca, which alas I do not have. There is certainly "reconstruction", in the same way that Tiberian Hebrew vocalization is much later than the original texts would have been written. – user6726 Feb 12 '17 at 19:13
  • Thanks for the suggestion, I can get this book from the university I am studying. – Johannes Feb 12 '17 at 19:24
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My question is: Is the accent (tone) system of Ancient Greek which we are using now a result of linguistic reconstruction, or it is mainly based on historical references such as the descriptions of ancient grammarians or other sources?

See the discussion in Vox Graeca (https://www.amazon.com/Vox-Graeca-Pronunciation-Classical-Greek/dp/0521335558; pirated versions are easy to find online). The basics can indeed be recovered from the Roman-era grammarians and the early usage of accents. (We know that grave was neutral pitch, because initially it was used on all unstressed syllables.) Some of the detail—notably the moraic account of pitch contours in https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ancient_Greek_accent—comes from linguistic theory.

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