[INDOLOGY] Greek accent

Matthew Scarborough matthew.scarborough at cantab.net
Sat Oct 12 08:31:22 EDT 2019

Dear Madhav, 

Normally in Greek the rules of verbal accentuation are different from
Sanskrit, where the prosodic accent is retained, has become recessive,
limited to the final three syllables, and placement conditioned by the
syllabic weight of the two. 

However, there are two verbs that do not obey these rules - εἰμί 'I am'
(= ásmi < *h₁es-) and φημί 'I say' (< *bʰeh₂-) - which are enclitic in
the indicative and *do* behave similarly to Vedic where they loose their
prosodic accent when followed by a non-verb. One exception to this is
that ἐιμί normally bears an accented as ἔστιν 'there is' when
clause-initial and has existential meaning. I think this is the same as
verbal accentuation in Vedic, if I am recalling how verbal accentuation
in Vedic works correctly. 

>From the historical point of view, as far as I recall I think it's
generally regarded that these two enclitic verbs continue an inherited
situation shared with Sanskrit since it seems fairly clear that the law
of limitation - which with a few exceptions normally affects all nominal
as well as (finite) verbal accentual placement - clearly appears to be a
secondary innovation on the part of Greek. 

As a good recent descriptive guide to Greek accentuation, I would
recommend Philomen Probert's _A New Short Guide to the Accentuation of
Ancient Greek_ (Bristol, 2003). 

I hope this helps clarify your question. 

Kind regards, 


Dr. M. J. C. Scarborough
Sessional Lecturer (Classics)

Department of the Humanities
MacEwan University
Room 7-353C, City Centre Campus
10700 104 Ave, Edmonton AB, T5J 4S2 

On 2019-10-12 05:05, Madhav Deshpande via INDOLOGY wrote:

> Someone asked me if Greek verb accent has the prosodic loss of accent, if it comes after a non-verb, like the Sanskrit verb accent [cf. Pāṇini: तिङ् अतिङ:]?  I have only secondary knowledge about Greek, and could not answer this question.  Hope someone can clarify this issue to me.  Best, 
> Madhav M. Deshpande 
> Professor Emeritus, Sanskrit and Linguistics 
> University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA 
> Senior Fellow, Oxford Center for Hindu Studies 
> [Residence: Campbell, California, USA] 
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