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36 votes
Accepted

Why isn't there a letter for /b/ sound in Greek alphabet while they have the sound?

The last time the Greek alphabet was truly overhauled was millennia ago, when a version tuned for the Ionian dialect (known as the "Euclidean alphabet" after the archon who championed it) ...
Draconis's user avatar
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31 votes

Why can "autarchy" be spelled with an "k" while other words not?

Actually, “autarky” and “autarchy” are two different words. The former means “self-sufficiency” and comes from the Greek arkein “to suffice”. The latter means “absolute rule” and comes from Greek ...
fdb's user avatar
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27 votes
Accepted

How did Ancient Greek 'πυρ' become English 'fire?'

As jlawer says, English "fire" doesn't actually come from Greek pŷr. "Pyre" does, but that's a borrowing (via Latin), and it's pretty clear how it happened. Instead, English and Greek share a common ...
Draconis's user avatar
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25 votes
Accepted

Why did some Hebrew words beginning with Yod become transliterated into Latin as "hi?"

Greek had the /h/ phoneme only at the beginning of a word, and it was marked with a diacritic (rough breathing sign) rather than with a letter. Koine Greek lost the /h/ phoneme and early manuscripts (...
b a's user avatar
  • 2,785
25 votes

How did Ancient Greek 'πυρ' become English 'fire?'

English fire is not derived from Greek πυρ. Both fire and πυρ come originally from the Proto-Indo-European root *paəwr̥. Greek simplified the *aəw vowel sequence to /ū/, but kept the consonants. Proto-...
jlawler's user avatar
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23 votes

Pronunciation of P in Latin, versus Ph in Greek

I'm going to take a slightly different approach than Jk's answer, which does a good job coming at this from a Greco-Roman perspective. Instead, I'm going to focus on the Punic situation because it's a ...
Tristan's user avatar
  • 8,857
21 votes
Accepted

How did Greek loanwords with 'ae' come to be pronounced [i] in modern English?

Greek αι (/aj/) was regularly borrowed into Latin as ae (/aj/*). In Latin, ae eventually monophthongized into /ɛː/; in Vulgar Latin/Proto-Romance, vowel length was lost and this eventually merged with ...
Draconis's user avatar
  • 67.1k
19 votes

Are syllable initial consonant clusters pronounced in Ancient Greek?

There is very little doubt they were pronounced: they are still pronounced in many languages other than English where they were loaned, and crucially in modern Greek; they were also spelled with those ...
LjL's user avatar
  • 1,847
18 votes
Accepted

Did Eureka lose its H?

Indeed, the Ancient Greek word εὕρηκα would be transcribed heurēka, with an H. The mark that looks like an apostrophe (the "rough breathing" or "spiritus asper") indicates the H ...
Draconis's user avatar
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17 votes
Accepted

Why is "Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani" transliterated with a Chi in Matthew and Mark?

The Aramaic word שבקתני would probably have been pronounced /ʃabaqtani/. Usually, as you note, the /q/ of Aramaic is transliterated as κ, so σαβακθανι /sabaktʰani/ would be expected. However, in Greek,...
b a's user avatar
  • 2,785
16 votes
Accepted

Why did the consonant clusters /ks/ and /ps/ merit their own designated letters in Ancient Greek?

There are multiple possible reasons. Synchronically, /ks/ & /ps/ are the only clusters that commonly occur word or syllable-finally and they also frequently occur as a result of inflection. Other ...
Tristan's user avatar
  • 8,857
15 votes

Pronunciation of P in Latin, versus Ph in Greek

At some time in the history of the Greek languages, the letters Phi, Theta, and Chi represented aspirated consonants /ph/, /th/ and /kh/. The Romans felt that they were different enough from their ...
Sir Cornflakes's user avatar
14 votes

Are There Ancient Greek Words Descended From Sumerian?

Yes, a few: https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/Category:Ancient_Greek_terms_derived_from_Sumerian They were mostly borrowed via Akkadian, and into other major classical languages of the Eastern ...
Adam Bittlingmayer's user avatar
13 votes
Accepted

Why does Greek "ναι" mean "yes" while it comes from a PIE root meaning "no"?

Lat. nē 'really, true' and Tocharian B nai 'indeed, surely' seem to be the IE-parallels. The IE demonstrative *(h1e-)no- 'he there, that one' seems to be the root according to Beekes (with a ...
Midas's user avatar
  • 2,562
13 votes

Why did Greek never develop into other languages like Latin?

Ancient Greek did develop into other languages. It's just that they did not end up as widespread as many of the descendants of Latin did. As happens to many (if not most?) languages, its descendants ...
Mark Beadles's user avatar
  • 6,860
13 votes

What make Latin and ancient Greek into different subgroups in the Indo-European family of languages?

Latin and Greek are similar enough to clearly be related languages, but they really aren't that similar. Just a few incompatible divergences that must have happened very early in their development: ...
Cairnarvon's user avatar
  • 2,212
12 votes

Are syllable initial consonant clusters pronounced in Ancient Greek?

I'll assume you're a native English speaker. Since English doesn't have these clusters, it's difficult for an English speaker to hear or produce them correctly. But it is not impossible, and there is ...
brass tacks's user avatar
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12 votes
Accepted

Which came first in Greek: λήθη, or Λήθη the proper noun?

Unfortunately we have no hard evidence one way or another, because Homer uses both, and that's the oldest Greek we have. (Mycenaean inscriptions sometimes help us go farther back, but they're no help ...
Draconis's user avatar
  • 67.1k
12 votes
Accepted

Why does πεντάμορφη mean "beautiful"?

In Classical Greek, πεντάμορφος is a perfectly straightforward compound adjective made up of πεντά- ‘five-, penta-’ and μορφή ‘shape’. Its meaning is also transparent, ‘having five shapes’, and it is ...
Janus Bahs Jacquet's user avatar
11 votes
Accepted

from ekwos to ippo : transition from kw to p in greek

The key is, there was never a digamma in hippos in the first place! (At least, not as far back as we have evidence for: there may have been one earlier than that.) Early Greek, like Latin, had a set ...
Draconis's user avatar
  • 67.1k
10 votes

What did the Greeks and Romans believe about language relationships?

As I've posted in The Other Place, there was indeed a notion of Latin being a dialect of Greek, which a recent paper has described as "Aeolism". The locus classicus for it is Dionysius of ...
Nick Nicholas's user avatar
10 votes
Accepted

Turkish kalem: from Anc. Greek or Tocharian?

The Greek word kalamos “reed, reed pen, stylus” has a good Indo-European etymology (cognate with, for example, German Halm “reed”). It was borrowed not only in Arabic, as qalam, but also into Sanskrit ...
fdb's user avatar
  • 24.3k
10 votes

Gemination in languages not supposed to have gemination? (especially Greek)

The statement that Greek "doesn't have" gemination is really just a shorter way of saying that gemination is not phonemic in Greek. Phonemic status of a feature in a language is an indication of ...
LjL's user avatar
  • 1,847
10 votes

Etymology of "Talo" (Finnish for "house"). Can it be a cognate of Thalamus?

The problem is that both Greek words are probably not of Indogermanic origin. The case of θάλασσα is pretty clear-cut, the -σσ- cannot be inherited directly from Proto-Indogermanic and must be ...
Sir Cornflakes's user avatar
10 votes

Is it reasonable to connect the Old Persian/Avestan word for "garden" with the Greek word?

It doesn’t seem like there’s any connection. Persian is not my speciality, but going by etymologies given on Wiktionary, their similarity is completely coincidental. Greek Greek βοτάνη contains the ...
Janus Bahs Jacquet's user avatar
9 votes
Accepted

How did the Greek aspirates become fricatives?

Well this sound change took place at different times in different dialects/regions. Some claim that fricativisation already started in the late 6th/early 5th century BC, but that is controversial (see ...
Midas's user avatar
  • 2,562
9 votes

Where did the Greek consonant cluster "ps" come from

It's important to note that whilst Greek does spell /ps/ with a single letter, it does not represent a single phoneme, but a sequence of two. In native vocabulary, Greek /ps/ continues the Proto-Indo-...
Tristan's user avatar
  • 8,857
8 votes

How does the initial consonant in "Jupiter" and "Zeus" come from the "d" in PIE "*dyew-"?

The Proto-Indo-European form behind Zeus is reconstructed as *dyēw-s, with the oblique stem *diw- used for all forms except nominative, accusative, and vocative. This sort of alternation between *yē ...
Draconis's user avatar
  • 67.1k
8 votes
Accepted

Reverse-etymology resources

Wiktionary is a great free resource for inflection, meaning, pronounciation, etymology and other information on a large amount of words from many languages, and provides a "Descendants" section ...
Natalie Clarius's user avatar
8 votes
Accepted

Why "agoraphobia" not "agorophobia"?

The connecting vowel in Ancient Greek compounds depends on the declension of the first noun: http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.04.0007%3Apart%3D3%3Achapter%3D24 If ...
Nick Nicholas's user avatar

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