Why doesn’t Judeo-Spanish use the letter Ñ?

Clyde Thogmartin is right in his answer that traditionally Judeo-Spanish is written in Hebrew (with the quite icky trigraph <ניי> for [ɲ]). But more to the point, even when it is written in Latin script, people writing it usually make a point of not using Spanish orthography: they are putting distance between their language and Christian Spanish. Thus, per Judaeo-Spanish, writers in Turkey usually spell it like Turkish, while the Israeli Autoridad Nasionala del Ladino spells it phonetically, using <ny> instead of <ñ>. (I would assume Turkish spelling would end up doing the same.)

Something similar occurred with 20th Latin transliteration of Yiddish: it has made a point of not resembling German orthography. (19th century Yiddish text even in Hebrew script, OTOH, was daytshmerish “Germanising”, particularly in retaining double consonants, and bits of that remain in use to this day.)

Exceptionally, Judeo-Spanish texts published in Spain do use Spanish orthography, but that is because they are primarily intended for modern Spanish speakers. There has been a proposal to use 1492 spelling of Spanish for Judeo-Spanish, which would retain <ñ>; but that appears to be marginal.

EDIT: SEE ALSO: Erik Painter’s answer to Why doesn’t Judeo-Spanish use the letter Ñ?

Why are current Greek names long and complicated compared to those we see in ancient history and mythology?

See also Dimitra Triantafyllidou’s answer, which this is complementary to.

First names in Greece are either (mostly revived) Ancient names, Judaeo-Christian names, or Saints’ names (which end up being either of the first two). There are a few later names (though they are less in vogue now), and some of them can be long, like Triantafyllos ‘Rose’; but as Dimitra says, the names that seem long and complicated are the surnames.

The reason why surnames seem longer is that:

  • They almost always include a patronymic suffix: -opoulos, -akis, -ellis, -ides, -atos, -oglou, etc.
  • They often include a prefix: papa-, kara-, hatzi-, deli- etc.
  • They are based on the ancient/archaic form of proper names, where applicable, which adds syllables. John is Yannis in the vernacular, but surnames will always add two syllables by basing it on Ioann-: Ioannidou, Papaioannou, etc.

So Papahatzidimitrakopoulos is a comical exaggeration for surname length, but not by much: both Papadimitrakopoulos and Hatzidimitrakopoulos are real surnames.

Has the pronunciation of Greek changed since the Byzantine Empire’s collapse?

Since 1453? Hm.

It’s hard to pin this down, because Greek at the time was a whole bunch of dialects, whose pronunciation we don’t have a good handle on historically—but which was likely stable. (There aren’t any surprises in the Renaissance Latin alphabet transcriptions of Cretan for example.) For that matter, Standard Modern Greek did not coalesce until the Modern Greek state was established.

The one area where there has been recent pronunciation change in Standard Modern Greek is in the extent of prenasalisation in the compounds <μπ, ντ, γκ>. There is an isogloss separating dialects which pronounce them as [mb, nd, ŋɡ] (e.g. Cyprus) from those pronouncing them as [b, d, ɡ] (e.g. Crete). Within Standard Greek, the shift has been from the former to the latter, and the shift happens with people who are now in their 50s.

The question adds whether Turkish has had much of an impact on pronunciation. As far as I know, noone’s claimed it or expects it: Turkish settlement in the Balkans does not seem to have been substantial enough to have had much impact. The Greek spoken in Cappadocia would presumably have had substantial phonetic impact from Turkish; but Cappadocian was under immense linguistic pressure from Turkish.

Turkish has somewhat complicated the phonology of Cypriot Greek, but not its phonetics. Cypriot Greek already had geminated stops realised as aspirates: potʰe ‘never’, tʰofis ‘Chris’, and it already realised palatalised /s, x/ as [ʃ]: xiros > ʃiros ‘pig’, skillos > ʃtʃilːos > ʃilːos ‘dog’. Turkish stops and <ş> took on the same pronunciations, they just turned up in places where they would be rare to non-existent in Greek: at the start of words (for stops), and at the end of words (for ʃ): kʰele < Turkish kele ‘head’, paʃ < Turkish baş ‘chief’. The and ʃ were already in the dialect, just not in those positions before Turkish contact.

(Hence me staring at εξίκκον σου on Facebook, trying to work out what Ancient Greek phrase lurked behind ‘exikkon to thee’ = it’s not worth the bother”. In fact, this is just /eksikkossu/ (with folk etymology reinterpreting –ossu as the more hellenic –on sou), and [eksikʰosːu] is merely the Turkish eksik olsun “may it be missing”.)

But other than that, no instances of [ɯ] or [ø] (outside of Cappadocia), and no particularly telltale Turkish intonation (outside of Cappadocia). Greek mangles Turkish loanwords to fit its phonetics, and much of the time its morphology; so cacık [dʒadʒɯk] > tzatziki, Karagöz [karagøz] > Karagiozis /karaɡjozis/.

Do any of the regional dialects spoken in Greece today preserve any elements from their Ancient Greek counterparts?

To start with: the default assumption in Greek historical linguistics is that the ancient dialects vanished under the Koine, and that the dialectal diversity of Modern Greek does not owe anything to the dialectal diversity of Ancient Greek.

That means that the null hypothesis is that there was no survival of Ancient Greek dialect; and methodologically, if you can prove a feature of Modern Greek dialect through modern mechanisms, that should be preferred over accounts using ancient dialect. To do so satisfies Occam’s Razor.

Let me take the silliest example I can think of of a proposed Ancient dialectal survival.

  • The Aeolic for ‘name’, normally ónoma, was ónuma.
  • Aeolic was spoken in Thessaly and Lesbos.
  • In Modern Thessaly and Lesbos, ‘name’ is ˈonuma.

… Why yes. Coincidence.

  • In Northern Greek dialects, unstressed /o/ is regularly raised raised to /u/. For example, Standard Greek ˈanθropos ‘human’ is pronounced as ˈaθrupus.
  • Thessaly and Lesbos are Northern Greek dialects
  • Therefore ˈonoma was always going to be pronounced ˈonuma in Thessaly and Lesbos.
  • In fact, it’s pronounced ˈonuma just about everywhere north of Corinth.

This means that not as much Ancient dialect survives Occam’s Razor as enthusiasts might like.

Tsakonian, by any sensible metric, is indeed a separate language. It also has clear survivals of Doric. But it doesn’t have clear survivals because amateurs like Michael Deffner said so. It has clear survivals because the magisterial neogrammarian Hubert Pernot ended up conceding it has Doric survivals, after three decades of scepticism. And in the process, he dispensed with a lot of faulty claims of dialect.

The only other widely known claims of ancient dialectal survival (as opposed to the odd word here and there—on which see Nikolaos Andriotis. Lexikon der Archaismen in neugriecheschen Dialekten) are:

  • Pontic often has /e/ as a reflex of ancient eta, as opposed to the expected /i/. That has been claimed to be Ionic, with Ionic eta more like /æː/ than /ɛː/. I have to admit, I haven’t been convinced.
  • There are Doric survivals in Southern Italy, Crete, and the Dodecanese. Those are at the level of individual words displaying /a/ corresponding to Attic eta, rather than the more systematic survivals in Tsakonian. It’s hard to read anything about Southern Italian Greek, for example, without seeing the word nasiða ‘strip of farmland’ corresponding to Standard Greek nisiða ‘islet’.