[B-Greek] Orthography of consonantal iota

Carl W. Conrad cwconrad at artsci.wustl.edu
Thu Oct 25 06:06:41 EDT 2007

On Oct 24, 2007, at 7:36 PM, Kevin Riley wrote:

> Sydney Allen in his book Vox Graeca also has a somewhat fuller  
> answer that
> those who like details may enjoy.  The consonantal /j/ was  
> represented in
> Mycenaean Greek, and in virtually all the places it was surmised to  
> have
> existed before the translation of Linear B texts.  It has always  
> puzzled me
> why the Greeks did not represent /j/ consistently by I, and the only
> explanation that makes sense is that it had been lost at the  
> beginning of
> words before the adoption of the alphabet, and elsewhere its  
> existence was
> obvious and did not need to be represented.

Kevin, I'm wondering just WHERE in the extant ancient Greek texts the  
existence of consonantal iota "may have been obvious and did not need  
to be represented." It is my understanding that consonantal iota did  
indeed evanesce sometime before the emergence of alphabetic writing  
in the Phoenician-derived characters. The consonantal iota is  
certainly a key element in linguistic reconstructions of the pre- 
history of the language: I suppose most students of Greek are  
familiar with the importance of consonantal iota in the formation of  
a great number of omega-type verbs (e.g. BAINW < BAN-yW, where it's  
assumed that the "y" vocalized and then metathesized so that BAN-yW  
became BAINW); the -yW (or perhaps more accurately -yO/E- infix) is  
said to have played an underlying role in the formation of the  
numerous -TT- or -SS- verbs (Attic -TT-, Ionic and Koine -SS-, as  
FULATTW/FULASSW) built upon guttural stems (FULAK-yW --> FULASS-W and  
of -PTW verbs (e.g. BLAPTW, NIPTW from BLAB-yW, NIF-yW) built upon  
labial stems.

One very important verb appears to be based upon an iota-consonant  
root, although I don't know if this is a matter of universal  
consensus: hIHMI, more commonly seen in compound verbs (AFIHMI, later  
AFIW) than in the simplex, appears to have been in proto-Greek yIyH- 
MI (perhaps cognate with Latin IACIO/IECI). According to theoretical  
reconstruction, the root was -yH-; the root was reduplicated to  
produce the present stem yIyH-; then at some point in the era between  
Mycenean (Linear B) and alphabetic representation the intervocalic - 
y- between I and H evanesced, while the initial y preceding the I  
shifted over to an aspirate that is represented in historical Greek  
as a rough breathing: hI from yI (that's the same thing that happened  
to initial S -- as in hISTHMI from an original present stem that was  
presumably SI-STH-, the initial S shifting into an aspirate while the  
medial S evanesced.

>   I am now curious as to whether,
> like /w/, it was used in some of the dialects.
> Kevin Riley
> -------Original Message-------
> From: George F Somsel
> Date: 25/10/2007 6:48:16 AM
> Our illustrious leader answered this some years ago.
> http://www.ibiblio.org/bgreek/archives/96-12/0819.html
> George
> Gfsomsel
> ---
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Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University (Ret)

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