Greek Diphthongs, Diacritics and Punctuation

Here’s the next Greek lesson for those who mastered the alphabet…

1. Greek includes these diphthongs (two vowels that make one sound). Notice that four of them have Upsilon as the second vowel and four of them have Iota as the second vowel:

 αυ     αι

ου οι

ευ ει

ηυ υι

2. Greek has these improper diphthongs (a small iota written under α, η, or ω). We can remember which vowels can have a iota subscript by noticing that it is only the three vowels that have some kind of dent or open area at the bottom of the vowel. All the other vowels have rounded bottoms.

 ᾳ  ῃ  ῳ

3. The Greek letter gamma (γ) is pronounced as /n/ or /ng/ (called a ‘gamma nasal’) when it comes before other velar letters (made with the back of the tongue touching the top of the mouth):

γ is pronounced  /n/  or  /ng/  before κ, χ, ξ, or another γ
αγκα = angka
αγχα = angkha
αγξα = angxa
αγγα = angga

4. Greek includes these other diacritical marks:

 Accents:
ά (acute accent)
ὰ (grave accent)
α` or ᾶ (circumflex accent)

Accents with breathing marks:
smooth rough
acute ἄ ἅ
grave ἂ ἃ
circumflex ἆ ἇ

Apostrophe: ’
(δι’ αὐτοῦ' from διά αὐτοῦ, 'through him')

When a preposition ends with a vowel and the next word begins with a vowel, the final vowel of the first word drops out and is marked with an ’ apostrophe. This is similar to English contractions (I am becomes I’m, and we are becomes we’re )

Diaeresis: αϊ

(two dots over the second vowel to show that this is NOT a diphthong producing a single sound, e.g. Ἠσαϊας, Isaiah)

5. Greek includes some punctuation marks that differ from English:

            Greek  English
Comma: λόγος, word,
Full stop: λόγος. word.
Colon: λόγος• word;
Question: λόγος; word?

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