Talk:Greek alphabet

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Recent edits about case distinction

Some recent edits to the lead [1][[2]] have changed the description of the history of the uppercase/lowercase distinction, from saying that it developed in the modern era, to saying that it developed "around the third or fourth century". I don't think this is correct. If editors were thinking of the development of minuscule letter forms, those arose much later, in the 9th century or thereabouts. If they were thinking of the use of cursive letter forms that look partly similar to minuscules, those (if I'm not quite mistaken) are even older than the third and fourth century. But neither the medieval minuscule script nor the ancient cursive constitute what that sentence was talking about, a letter case distinction. "Minuscule" and "lower case" are not the same thing. A case distinction exists only when minuscule and majuscule letter forms are used in a functionally complementary way, side by side with each other in the same texts, and the distinction is employed systematically as an orthographical device. What you find in medieval writing is different: you either have texts written entirely in minuscule, or you have a few majuscule letters mixed in for decorative purposes, in titles or marginal initials. But then, these majuscule elements really stand outside the main text; their use is a stylistic decoration but not an orthographical device. Correct me if I'm wrong, but as far as I'm aware, an orthographic case distinction really developed in Greek only after the Renaissance. Fut.Perf. 06:54, 21 March 2013 (UTC)

Combined letter OU missing

In Greece there is also an unofficial letter which is in widespread handwritten usage, it is a letter combining the letters "O" and "U" for the "ou" diphthong, and this letter is usually written in all-capital words. It looks like an omicron ("Ο") with an ypsilon ("Υ") above it. Can we find sources for this Greek letter? Cogiati (talk) 12:51, 22 July 2013 (UTC)

It should be covered under Greek ligatures. Fut.Perf. 13:00, 22 July 2013 (UTC)
Are you sure you do not mean this letter (Ȣ, ȣ)? It is not Greek, but rather Latin: a combination of the Latin letters "O" and "U" (not the Greek "Ο" and "Υ"). — |J~Pæst|  23:30, 23 July 2013 (UTC)
Well, it does exist in Greek, and the Latin usage was inspired by it. There's a bit about its present-day status here [3]. Fut.Perf. 05:42, 24 July 2013 (UTC)

24 or 27 letters

The Greek alphabet consists of three sets of nine letters representing the numbers 1-9, 10-90, and 100-900. So, 27 letters all together (3 X 9 = 27).

As such, omega is not the last letter of the Greek alphabet because it represents the number 800.

Other letters frequently omitted are digamma/ F = (6) and koppa (similar to Q) = 90.

I think Wikipedia should post the 27 letters of the Greek alphabet and their numeric equivalents. (A numeric equivalency chart is available at GreekAlphabeta (talk) 22:02, 14 November 2013 (UTC)GreekAlphabeta

The 27 Letters of the Greek Alphabet and their Numeric Equivalents

Α α Β β Γ γ Δ δ Ε ε Ϝϝ Ζ ζ Η η Θ θ 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9

Ι ι Κ κ Λ λ Μ μ Ν ν Ξ ξ Ο ο Π π Ϙ ϟ 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90

Ρ ρ Σσς Τ τ Υ υ Φ φ Χ χ Ψ ψ Ω ὦ ϡ 100 200 300 400 500 600 700 800 900

GreekAlphabeta (talk) 13:14, 15 November 2013 (UTC)GreekAlphabeta

Uhm, no. What you have here is not the Greek alphabet, but the Greek numeral system. Which is based on the Greek alphabet (i.e. some archaic versions of it), but isn't the alphabet proper. As our article rightly says, and will continue to say based on all reliable sources, the alphabet proper in its classical form has 24 letters. Digamma, Koppa and Sampi are extra-alphabetic signs ("episema"), which are not part of the alphabet itself. The numeral system is of course also treated in this article, quite appropriately, in its own section (Greek alphabet#Use as numerals). Fut.Perf. 13:21, 15 November 2013 (UTC)

Letter name pronunciation

Do you think that I should add a column alongside the names of the letters showing IPA pronunciation of the names (Romanized)? (talk) 22:04, 10 March 2014 (UTC)

That would again open up the old can of worms: which pronunciation? The modern English pronunciation, a reconstructed classical Greek pronunciation, or the modern Greek one? Or all of them together? If you are referring to the summary table in the intro section, then no, we should not overburden it with such things. Fut.Perf. 23:22, 10 March 2014 (UTC)
I would think that the modern English should take priority, as that is the way an English speaker would communicate the letter intended. If you feel that it doesn't belong in the main table (adjacent to the "name" column, I could make a separate table and incorporate all three. Where would you put it? (Basically, one who wants to get a quick feel for the Greek alphabet has to run around to each letter's article and try to memorize the pronunciation then go back to the main list, repeat.) אפונה (talk) 06:53, 11 March 2014 (UTC)
I just found a page devoted to pronunciations, and I've updated all the IPAs to IPAc-en. Perhaps a link could be added to the page (English pronunciation of Greek letters) or the table could be incorporated into this article. אפונה (talk) 22:14, 11 March 2014 (UTC)

Merger Proposal

I suggest merging English pronunciation of Greek letters into this article under a new heading. Other languages have such a subsection too: e.g. Hebrew alphabet. Please comment! — Preceding unsigned comment added by אפונה (talkcontribs) 10:07, 16 March 2014 אפונה (talk) 04:54, 17 March 2014 (UTC)

User:Lfdder completed the merge, and added the information to the History section. I think that it would be more appropriate to have it a separate heading before the History section, especially because the history section is broken up into a few tables. Also, the lead paragraph in the old article had some information now missing (because it doesn't belong in the History section). Admittedly, it may make a long article even longer. אפונה (talk) 04:54, 17 March 2014 (UTC)

I don't think we need yet another table. Are the English pronunciation transcriptions really that important to the encyclopedia? — Lfdder (talk) 08:50, 17 March 2014 (UTC)
I think I'm with Lfdder here. The natural place for the info on name pronunciation is, obviously, the section on "letter names", and the English stuff fits in with the existing tables without problem, as they are now. I don't see how the Hebrew alphabet example points us into any other direction either; it too treats the English pronunciations together with the native ones. Fut.Perf. 09:38, 17 March 2014 (UTC)
@Fut. Perf. - I agree that the English pronunciation belongs with the native one - it just doesn't belong in the "History" section together with the Phoenician origins. That's not where I'd look for them. @Lfdder - I think the transcriptions are very important. If you want to learn about the Greek alphabet, you'd want to know how to pronounce the names properly.
Also the article is still missing the information contained in the "original" lead paragraph - check the edit history to see. It's not *very* important, but it is informative.
All being said, another paragraph would be cumbersome. — Preceding unsigned comment added by אפונה (talkcontribs) 11:45, 18 March 2014 (UTC)

Recent edits

I'm afraid I disagree with many of the recent edits by User:LlywelynII [4], and intend to partially revert them. In particular:

  1. The lede is now making it appear as if the meaning of the term "Greek alphabet", and thus the topic of this article, was only the classical post-Euclidian 24-letter system, excluding the pre-classical forms. This does not match common usage out there. Everywhere, both in technical linguistic and historical terminology and in everyday use, the term "Greek alphabet" comprises all the historical forms including the archaic ones, and consequently so does this article.
  2. There are several elements of quite unnecessary detail introduced in the lede, including the thing about (h)eta, the "Cumaean" variant, the uncial and minuscule script types, and so on. The lede should present just the most crucial overview at a glance.
  3. Some of the new elements of the lede also seem factually wrong. I cannot find confirmation that the development of the "rough breathing" can be attributed to Aristophanes of Byzantium; the digraphs "μπ, ντ, γκ" are certainly not used only for writing foreign words in Modern Greek, and I also doubt their introduction is the single most notable difference between the ancient and the modern orthographies, as it is currently suggested. I'm also not sure what is meant by the "series of simplifications over the course of the 20th century" that are said to have predated the introduction of the monotonic orthography.
  4. I don't like the addition of the "meaning" column to the introductory table. This table was intentionally kept as brief and simple as possible, containing only the absolutely basic skeleton of information about each letter. Everything else is treated in the sections below. The column is also quite confusing, if not outright wrong: the whole point about the original Phoenician-derived names, such as "alpha" and "beta", is that these simply do not have any meaning at all, in Greek (unlike in the Phoenician model, where they did). Phoenician "aleph" is the origin of Greek "alpha", but calling it its "meaning" is seriously misleading. (Not surprisingly, this has in the meantime given rise to further confusion [5], based on the ambiguity between the derivation of the names and the derivation of the letters themselves).
  5. The lede mixes up the concept of using Greek to "transcribe" other languages, with that of the wholesale borrowing and extension of the alphabet to form new derived alphabets for previously unwritten languages, such as Latin or Cyrillic, in a way I find quite confusing. The traditional terminology, describing alphabets as "ancestors" and "descendants" of each other, is far preferable in this kind of overview.
  6. Likewise, the passage on Romanization mixes up the topic of actual Romanization (the rendering of Greek words in Latin, at the time when the Latin alphabet had long become an independent, established alphabet in its own right) with that of the original derivation of the Latin alphabet from the Greek one, in a very confusing way.
  7. As a detail, the sentence about the derivation of Latin also seems to imply a difference between a "Cumaean alphabet" and an "Euboean script" from which it derives. That's wrong: Cumaean and Euboean alphabets are precisely the same thing. The following wording "[w]hen this script was used to write the classical Greek alphabet…", is also wrong, and it is linguistically imprecise to mix up the term "rough breathing" (i.e. the word-initial consonantal phoneme /h/) with the phonological feature of aspiration present in /pʰ, tʰ, kʰ/. I'm also not convinced that the clause "[b]ecause English orthography has changed so much from the original Greek" correctly describes the reason why we have Latin "k" side by side with "c" in modern Romanization of kappa, and so on.
  8. The Romanization section also now downplays the existence of multiple diverging transcription systems for Modern Greek, making it appear as if they had been only a matter of the "19th and 20th centuries". Just because some of the officially codified transliteration systems for international rendering of names have recently converged doesn't mean there isn't still a huge lot of heterogeneity (for example, besides those official systems for names, there is the whole world of actual linguistic, mostly phonologically-based, transcriptions, which are often entirely different.)

Sorry for this whole long list of criticism, but I'm afraid I really feel this needs to be reverted. Fut.Perf. 20:56, 11 October 2014 (UTC)

Thanks for the heads-up link. It's fine that you feel this way, but I'll eventually revert at least some of your reversions and we'll have to let the community see whom they agree with more. Or if we can find some sort of compromise: =)
  1. You are confusing the namespace Greek alphabet with Greek alphabets or script. (They redirect here, which may or may not be a mistake,—for comparison, Roman alphabet redirects to Latin alphabet but Latin script is a separate article,—but that's a separate issue.) It is simply untrue that the WP:COMMON WP:ENGLISH usage of "Greek alphabet" includes digamma, let alone sampi or an H that really means /h/. Fraternity members, e.g., are not spanked if they forget to mention "koppa" during initiation: they are spanked if they include it. A list at the top of this page which included it would simply be wrong.
    Similarly, it is untrue that this article dwells at length on them. We have an entirely different article dealing with pre- and non-Euclidean Greek alphabets and the WP:SCOPE of this article is only the Classical Athenian (i.e., Euclidean) alphabet and the Byzantine and modern Greek alphabets derived from them. The other alphabets are only dealt with in reference to their place in the development of that alphabet.
    Possible compromise: Move this article to Greek alphabets and merge archaic Greek alphabets to it to permit a greater focus on the lesser and non-Euclidean alphabets. [Personally, I think this is a terrible idea.]
    Better solution: What answer do you really think knowledgable (even scholarly) English-speaking people give when asked how many letters are in the "Greek alphabet"? "Indeterminate"? or "24"? If this article is not about the Greek alphabet, what namespace do you really believe is? It's better if you realize you're just overthinking this. This article is (/should/must be) about the classic and modern Greek alphabet; the others deserve some mention, but only in the context of the main and modern one; they are are dealt with elsewhere and should not be unhelpfully over-conflated or confused here.
  2. You're right that the WP:LEADSECTION should present an overview. Some of the more detailed points could be moved to a history section, but I think we just have a good-faith disagreement about what constitutes important. I think it is very important to explain how the Latin script developed out of something that (on its surface) is so obviously different. Similarly, I think it is helpful to link to the discussion about the development of this alphabet over time.
  3. (a) It's very hard to see how this comment is in good faith. Aristophanes of Byzantium's development of the breathing marks is mentioned on his page and on the Greek diacritics page. Two possibilities: you misread and thought I meant he invented the sound (possibly my poor wording) or you have other sources that credit an earlier development of the breathing marks before his development of the tone and punctuation system. Let me know and, if it's the second one, cool. Kindly make the appropriate edits to the linked pages as well as my repetition of it here but do provide some sources (preferably online) when you do. (b) There are internal μπ &c. but a great many of the ones that include them in their new function are foreign words. Wiktionary's Greek coverage is spotty, but of the 30 lemmas they have for word-initial γκ, only 4 are even potentially native terms and all of the rest are words like Γκαμπόν (Gabon), γκαρσονιέρα (servant's quarters, from Fr.), γκρι & γκριζάρω (gray), and γκρέιπφρουτ (grapefruit); further, it is absolutely a major difference that needs attention drawn to it. Uninformed readers do assume that the b-looking letter sounds like "b" and should know (when it turns out it's really "v") what modern Greek does with words like "Bush" and "Blair". Those unwieldy digrams are the principle reason that mandating ELOT 743 was found to violate human rights (see the Greek-language court decisions linked in my edits to romanization of Greek). It's a big, big feature of modern Greek... at least with regard to the alphabet, which is the subject of this article. (c) Exactly what it said. We're in an WP:LEADSECTION and shouldn't be excessively detailed or even overloaded with sourcing, but the adoption of a completely monotonal system in 1982 was the last of a series of simplifications (again all mentioned on Greek diacritics, which is the target page of the redirect at polytonic Greek) which progressively merged the grave accent with the acute and removed the iota subscript and breathing marks over ρs. Some of these were informal and directed by public and academic usage and others (as in the '60s) were official pronouncements.
  4. This one, I can absolutely see where you're coming from. I don't think it was too cluttered and I added them because I really wanted to draw attention to the vowels that people don't realize are named "big O" or "simple U"... but, even though your specific complaints are off, it is a perfectly valid complaint that we shouldn't be needlessly repetitive. As long as the same information is provided somewhere, the only question is which place is the better place to mention it. You're right that the historical development is probably the better choice.
  5. No one is talking about languages that Greek just transcribes. That would be a scholarly project applied by Greeks to every language on Earth and not particularly notable. We're only talking about the wholesale use of Greek alphabets to write other languages for extended periods. That said, if my phrasing seems unhelpful, we can find some other way to get the point across without creating an artificial division between Latin and Cyrillic and the other languages which also employed Greek letters as their native alphabets.
  6. Again, I disagree but concede that if you found the phrasing unhelpful there may be a better way to get the important points across.
  7. First point, you're right and this was a mistake on my part. Second point, you're wrong and I'm not sure what you think the problem could be. Third point, probably an issue of phrasing: "rough breathing" is a precise term that does not apply to /pʰ, tʰ, kʰ/ at all but each of them is simply a letter denoting an aspirated, breathy form of the sounds otherwise written /p, t, k/. Fourth point, again an issue of phrasing. It's valid and important: what most English speakers think they are looking at with "theta" and "phi" in a Classical setting is actually quite far off. You're welcome to rephrase it, though, or include more details or links to how it was connected to changes in Latin, though which these Greek aspects entered English. I was providing a quick gloss, but you're right we don't want to be misleading.
  8. Nope. Not at all. The previous form of this was entirely incorrect and misleading. There is an almost universal agreement of formal official romanization systems with the force of Greek and international law and the continuing existence of a variety of ad hoc and in house systems should not be given WP:UNDUE importance. Even given the Greek court cases, it really is just an issue of the 19th and 20th century and it will take quite a lot to get ELOT, the ISO, the UN, and the US and UK boards on geographic names to go back and change everything now.
Again, thank you for the link and the time that you took to write out your explanations. I think there are some errors on both sides: sorry for mine but good job helping to make this a better article. — LlywelynII 02:40, 12 October 2014 (UTC)

Thanks for the constructive response. I'm afraid I stand by most of my points.

1. Most importantly, the scope of the article, on which I will most certainly not compromise. Of course you are right that if you ask somebody how many letters there are "in the Greek alphabet", they will answer in terms of the classical 24-letter alphabet. That's obvious and just as it should be, because that's the classical and prototypical form of this alphabet, and the article was rightly presenting it as such, right up there in the lede (we earlier had versions of this article that gave quite exaggerated undue weight to the archaic extra letters). But at the same time, when you ask people (including experts in the technical literature) what alphabet the inscription on Nestor's Cup is in, or what alphabet this is, or which alphabet Cadmus was traditionally credited with inventing, or which alphabet was the first to have separate phoneme-level symbols for vowels, they will just as obviously all answer it was the "Greek alphabet". I challenge you to find a single reliable source supporting the claim that "the Greek alphabet" didn't exist before 403 BC, as your version presented it. That really flies in the face of every single source in the field I've ever seen. Nobody out in the literature makes any such terminological distinction as you suggest, between "the alphabet" and "alphabets", or "scripts". There is a single alphabet, the Greek one, which had variants, one of them the classical one, others archaic; that alphabet was invented some time around the 8th century or so, from Phoenician, and this article deals with that whole story, from the beginning (of course giving predominant weight to the most important, classical form). The Archaic Greek alphabets article is a sub-topic of this one.

2. About the amount of detail in the lede: let's again just take the example of the details of the Greek-to-Latin borrowing. A prime example of overblown detail. What the passage in the lede is actually about is just the historical significance of Greek – the fact that it occupies that central position in the history of the transmission of alphabetic writing across Europe. To make that point, all it takes is the bare fact of transmission to Latin etc., not the historical details of what happened to individual letters in the process. If you find the story of Latin "c" or "s" so important in the lede, then why not expend the same amount of space to the details of how individual Cyrillic letters were adapted, or what happened between Phoenician and Greek? All of these things can be, and are, treated further down.

3a. About Aristophanes of Byzantium: The statement in Greek diacritics is unsourced. What Aristophanes is traditionally credited with is the invention of the accent system. While that of the breathings has often been thrown in together with the accents in older treatments, current literature stresses that it quite probably happened independently [6][7].

3b. μπάζω, μπαίνω, μπαλλώνω, μπαμπάς, μπας, μπερδεύω, μπήγω, μπλέκω, μπορώ, μπόχα, μπροστά; ντόπιος, ντρέπομαι, ντροπή, ντύνω; γκαμήλα, γκαρδιακός, γκαστρώνω, γκλίτσα, γκρεμίζω, γκρεμός are all words of purely Greek stock. Innumerable others are of Italian or Turkish etymology but have been in the language for centuries; the correct term for such items is not "foreign words" but "loanwords". – More to the point, if you really insist on explaining the actual differences between the ancient and modern sound-symbol correspondences, then I'd guess the far more immediately noticeable change is that in the vowels (multiple symbols falling together in the sound value /i/. And before you deal with the introduction of <μπ, ντ, γκ>, it would be important to first explain the change that actually triggered this (the fricativization of <β, δ, γ>.

3c. About the pre-history of the introduction of monotonic: again, context. The sole point of mentioning the accents in the lede is to prepare the reader for the fact that there are those two different diacritic styles today. Details are extraneous to that.

6. Again, you are overlooking the fact that the domain for which those official schemes have converged is exclusively that of official transcriptions of personal and geographical names. As you yourself notice, actual (reversible) transliteration schemes remain different (and the differences between the ELOT, UN and ALA-LC columns in that part of your romanization table are by no means "minor"). And you have again overlooked the fact that in addition to either of these domains, there's the whole area of how, for example, a whole sentence of Greek would be transcribed (on a phonological basis) in a language guide for foreigners or a linguistic discussion. I still think the most important point to present here to the reader, up front, is that they have to be prepared to see Greek rendered in many different ways, in different contexts and for different purposes.

Fut.Perf. 10:14, 12 October 2014 (UTC)

I agree with all of FP's edits and comments. The lead should be concise and basic. The coverage of the various forms of the alphabet makes sense as is (and it is bizarre to bring up fraternity hazing as a reference). The digraphs μπ etc. are found in many native words and assimilated borrowings, and should not be described as being used primarily for "foreign words". WP should not confuse official actions with facts on the ground. --Macrakis (talk) 14:19, 12 October 2014 (UTC)

Alphabet vs. abjad issue

I'm afraid I disagree with the recent edit by @Piledhighandeep: [8], introducing the distinction of Greek as a true "alphabet" as opposed to the Phoenician "abjad" in the intro. As far as I am aware, the terminology that wants to restrict the term "alphabet" to those of the Greek (consonant + vowels) type and strictly distinguishes the latter from "abjads" is not a commonly employed one in the literature. While certainly influential, it is essentially just a personal invention of one author, Peter Daniels (in The World's Writing Systems). Most other authors continue to call scripts of the Phoenician type "alphabets" as a matter of course. This terminology should therefore not be allowed to monopolize our treatment like this. The distinction is already present in the article, properly contextualized and hedged, in the "history" section ("According to a definition used by some modern authors, this feature makes Greek the first "alphabet" in the narrow sense,] as distinguished from the purely consonantal alphabets of the Semitic type, which according to this terminology are called "abjads".) That's about as much coverage as we should give it here. Fut.Perf. 09:02, 19 November 2014 (UTC)

What does it mean to represent vowels and consonants equally? This should be put in simpler terms, e.g. the first alphabet with distinct letters for vowels. Also, why was the overview table pushed below the ToC? (talk) 15:26, 20 November 2014 (UTC)

Semi-protected edit request on 7 February 2015

In the table with the heading "Letters" the Greek letter 'M' is named in English as 'mu'. This is incorrect as the second letter 'u' is actually pronounced 'i' in Greek, as the name of the Greek letter 'u' is pronounced 'ipsilon'. Hence the Greek letter 'Y' or 'u' in the table is incorrectly named as 'upsilon'. Think of the letter as an English Y as used in the words tally, rally, funny or sunny, rather than the English letter 'U'. This can be confusing because the upper case ipsilon 'Y' and the lower case ipsilon 'u' represent different sounds in the English language. This also applies to the Greek letter 'N' or 'v'. The correct pronunciation of these letters is therefore 'Mi' and 'Ni' rather than 'Mu' and 'Nu'. Most monosyllabic Greek letters are pronounced with a short 'i' sound such as in the word 'Si', the Italian or Spanish word for 'Yes'. For example: 'M' (Mi), 'N' (Ni), 'Ξ' (Xi) or (Ksi), 'Π' (Pi), 'Φ' (Phi), 'Χ' (Chi) and 'Ψ' (Psi). The exceptions are 'P' (Rho) or (Ro) and 'T', which brings me to my next point. The English pronunciation of the Greek letter 'T' in the table is written as 'Tau'. This is incorrect as the Greek ipsilon (u) is also used to make other sounds when combined with other letters. For example, when it is preceded by an 'o' as in 'ou' it represents the short sound 'oo' as in book, look and took. Greek examples are φρouto, pronounced 'frooto' (fruit) and τou, pronounced 'tu' (his). When preceded by an 'a', as is the case here 'au', the sound it represents is 'aph' or 'af' as in the words 'tough', 'enough' and 'gruff'. Greek examples include 'aυτo', pronounced 'afto' (that) or 'aυτoκιvιτo', pronounsed 'aftokinito' (automobile). Hence the Greek letter 'T' or 'τ' in the table should be pronounced 'taf', exactly like the English word 'tough' not 'tau'. The confusion probably lies in the fact that there are three lettters that make the 'i' sound in the Greek alphabet: 'Η' or 'η', 'Ι' or 'ι' and 'Y' or 'u'. Combinations of 'oι' and 'ει' also make the 'i' sound (confusing even for a Greek, trust me). The pronunciations are correctly labelled in the tables in the section below titled "Letter names" so I thought the inconsistency could be rectified to more accurately reflect the Modern Greek pronunciations. Cheers. Dorothy Dixer (talk) 23:24, 7 February 2015 (UTC)

X mark.svg Not done. These are the names of the letters in English. The letters' pronunciation in Modern Greek is not relevant. Alakzi (talk) 23:34, 7 February 2015 (UTC)