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Although I understand that it is impossible to assign a specific time to any sound change in Greek, I am curious about the spirantization of voiced stops, particularly of beta. I'll present the evidence here that I am aware of. It seems that for beta, most scholars rely on parallel indications that the /au, eu/ diphthongs acquired fricative consonantal status, e.g. Mod. Greek /av, ev/; the graphic evidence for both were confusions of -υ with β, e.g. ῥάυδους for ῥάβδους (2nd c. BCE.) However, I am wondering if anyone has a clue as to which sound change probably occurred first if the evidence for both is the same. Gignac (1976) argues for /b/ > /v/ (or /β/) in the 1st CE and /au, eu/ > /aβ, eβ/ (via /aw, ew/) in the Early Byzantine period (when, he claims, interchanges of -υ with β are most common, but there are earlier examples.) However, I am slightly cautious about the evidence for betacism occurring first––the β transcription of Latin consonantal 'v' (pronounced /w/ > /β/)––as these could just be a close approximation of a foreign sound. I'd be curious to know if anyone is aware of other evidence for either sound change apart from the spelling confusions I mentioned. (I also understand that dialectal variation is a further complication, e.g. Boeotian already has -υ for β in the 3rd BCE.)

  • This might be good to ask at latin.stackexchange.com (which despite the name also covers Ancient Greek). – Draconis Jul 28 '17 at 4:56
  • Aeolic dialects used β for the initial ϝ digamma (which was dropped in other dialects) e.g. βρόδον for ρόδον, βρίζα for ρίζα etc. Unfortunately, I am not sure since when they did so. I have read it could be as early as 6th century BCE, but don't take my word for it before I manage to find the reference for it. – Midas Jul 28 '17 at 19:52

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