I'm reading about the Greek first declension on wikipedia, which mentions that the origin of the first declension originally had long alpha, which then shifted to eta, except when after rho, iota, and epsilon. However, looking at the example declension table, in the accusative plural case it shows the long alpha despite not being among the exceptions. I'm guessing that this is due to loss of n lengthening the vowel. Is this true, and are there other examples/counterexamples?

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    You mean the accusative plural here? That is indeed due to the loss of /n/. It also appears in the accusative (and nominative/vocative) dual, of course, where it has a different origin. Nov 24, 2023 at 10:52

1 Answer 1


Yes, this is due to the loss of a nasal: -ans > -ās. The vowel becoming longer when a following consonant disappears is called "compensatory lengthening" and is especially common in Ancient Greek. (cf *es-mi > ειμί eimí "I am".)

In the Lesbian Aeolic dialect, the result of compensatory lengthening is not ā but ai, which provides a nice way to check this: Lesbian first-declension nouns have -ās in the nominative singular but -ais in the accusative plural.

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    AFAIK the αι reflex is only Lesbian, not general Aeolic, and Aeolic first-declension nouns have -ās in the nominative singular is true only of masculines.
    – TKR
    Nov 24, 2023 at 21:06
  • @vectory would cf εἰμί eimí /e:mí/ < PIE *h₁és-mi satisfy you?
    – Tristan
    Nov 25, 2023 at 20:41
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    @vectory oh, in that case you're just wrong dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/english/cf
    – Tristan
    Nov 26, 2023 at 17:51
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    @vectory I'm really not sure how this has any impact on the answer, but cf is short for confer, the Latin Imperative of conferre "bring together for comparison". I'm instructing the reader to take the changes in *-ans > -ās and set them next to the changes in *esmi > eimi to see the similarity. This is the only meaning of "cf" that makes sense in context.
    – Draconis
    Nov 26, 2023 at 20:59
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    @vectory The starred forms are not Proto-Indo-European but some stage of Proto-Hellenic.
    – Draconis
    Nov 26, 2023 at 21:56

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