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’.

Why does it seem that the prefixes of compound words end in O?

Ancient Greek used connecting vowels between two stems when forming compounds, unless the second stem started with a vowel (e.g. nost-os ‘homecoming’ + algos ‘pain’ > nost-algia). A vowel was also unnecessary if the first part of the compound was a numeral or preposition, which instead had their own optional vowels: tetr(a)– ‘four’, di(a)– ‘through’, an(a)- ‘on’, etc. So connective vowels really only apply when the first component of a compound is a noun or verb.

(And in the case of –logia, those formants keep their vowels: tetra-logy, dia-logue, ana-logy.)

Verb-initial compounds are rare in Greek, and even rarer in borrowings into English or novel coinages; they can have any of -e-, -o-, or -i- as a connecting vowel. mis-o-gynist ‘hate-women’ has an -o-, but arch-i-tektōn ‘lead builders’ has an -i-.

Almost all Greek compounds borrowed or newly coined in English are noun-initial. The connecting vowel was not always an -o-; however, it was an -o- much more often than not. The original rules are:

  • If the noun is in first declension (ends in -a(s) or -ē(s)), use -: agora ‘market, forum’ > agor-a-phobia
  • If the noun is in second declension (ends in –os or –on), use –o-: Angl-os ‘English’ > Angl-o-sphaira, archaios ‘ancient’ > archai-o-logia.
  • If the noun is in third declension: by default use –o-; you can skip a connective vowel if the stem ends in a vowel. ichthy-bolos ‘fish-catching’ but ichthy-o-pōlēs ‘fishmonger’ (and hence ichthy-o-logy)
    • If the stem ends in –es (or neuter –os), substitute it with –o-: pseudēs ‘false’ > pseudo

So you’re already seeing that most of the time it’s –o-.

o– got generalised even further, already in antiquity: first declension nouns could use –o– instead of –ā-, and that in fact happens with techn-o-logia < technē. I presume that in modern coinages, the –o– became universal with first declension nouns, by analogy. So the study of stones could be either petr-a-logy or petr-o-logy; the former is what you’d expect from Ancient Greek petr-ā, but the latter is more frequent in English, because we expect –ology in all such compounds. The third declensions with a bare stem do turn up: brachy-cephalic; but they are quite rare.

So most Greek and Greek-inspired compounds beginning with a noun use –o-, unless the second word starts in a vowel.

The reason why this rule of Greek has become a rule of technical English is because Greek formed compounds much more readily than Latin; so when a compound needed to be put together for a technical term, Greek was the language we reached for.

Answered 2017-07-29 · Upvoted by

David Maximilian Müller, Master’s degree in linguistics

What’s the meaning of the Greek expression: “We called Him John, but we did not see him yet”?

Contra Konstantinos Konstantinides, I’m assuming the expression intended is Ακόμα δεν τον είδαμε, Γιάννη τονε βγάλαμε “We have not seen him yet, (but) we have named him John.” It refers to jumping to conclusions, making premature moves—just as it would be premature to name a baby before it is actually born (in traditional society, with high mortality at childbirth).

Nikolaos Politis’ monumental catalogue of Greek proverbs remains unpublished past epsilon, but this proverb has made it: https://books.google.com.au/book…. Politis gives this interpretation and associates it with a just-so story. My translation:

Of those who anticipate things and foretell future plans, founded on uncertain and indefinite expectations. A fairy tale (related by Mr K.D. Papaioannidou of Sozopol) underlies this saying, belonging to the class of tales told among both our nation and others of foolish women lamenting future disasters for an as yet unborn child. The story is as follows:

There was once a man with two marriageable girls; and one day a matchmaker came and brought a groom for the eldest daughter. The matchmaker sent her to fetch him wine from the barrel. When she put her jug under the barrel, she pondered her wedding, and thought: I will get married, and I will have a child, and call him John. But then it occurred to her that she might die, and she started lamenting; and the wine kept running. After a long time had passed, the youngest daughter came to see what was going on. When she heard what her sister said, she too started lamenting her dear nephew; and the wine kept running. Then the father went down; and when he learned why they were delayed, he shook his head and said: He haven’t seen him yet, we’ve already called him John, and the wine’s running!

The corresponding ancient proverb seems to come from a similar source: the goat has not yet given birth, and the kid is playing on the roof.

Politis then gives a long list of equivalent proverbs in other languages:

  • Albanian “the child is not yet born, but his cap has been bought”;
  • Italian “he’s not yet born, but he’s been called Nick”; “she’s not yet pregnant but she’s been called a mother”; “she’s not yet born, and she’s being married off already”;
  • Catalan “The father has not yet been born and his son is already jumping on the roof”
  • Spanish “We don’t yet have a son and we’re naming him”; “The goat is not yet born and it’s already suckling the kid”; “The son is about to be born, and they’re already boiling his porridge”; “He’s not yet born and he’s already sneezing”
  • Rumanian “We haven’t seen him but we’ve named him”
  • English “Boil not the pap before the child is born”
  • Norwegian “Don’t write the child down in the book before it is born”
  • Russian “The son is not yet born and has been named”

No, I hadn’t heard of that English proverb either. But here it is: Better master to Call not. W.C. Hazlitt, comp. 1907. English Proverbs and Proverbial Phrases

Translation of the Greek New Testament began early on in the history of Christianity. Apparently no translations were made into Hebrew. Why?

To expand on Kenneth Bakke’s answer: the Jewish Christians who were the original Christian movement appear to have survived into the 5th century. We don’t know that much about them, but we do know that they had their own Gospels (Jewish–Christian gospels). They certainly would not have had any time for the Gospel of John, as the Gospel that most overtly makes a God of Jesus, and they may have been reluctant to take on Matthew or Luke, with their Christology and anti-Jewish sentiment.

That said, of the three known Jewish Christian gospels (as tentatively reconstructed from patristic citations), the Gospel of the Ebionites was a Gospel harmony based on the Synoptic Gospels, written in Greek; and the Gospel of the Nazarenes was based on Matthew and written in Aramaic. (The Gospel of the Hebrews, which explicitly denied the divinity of Jesus and of the crucifixion, and repudiated Paul, appears to have been an original composition in Greek.) That indicates that there was some translating from Greek into Aramaic; it also indicates that many Jewish Christians could read Greek.

Hebrew was by then a liturgical language; if you wanted to reach an audience outside the synagogue, you would use Aramaic or Greek instead of Hebrew anyway.

Why is the ancient Greek tonal pronunciation theory so refuted by Modern Greek speakers?

The right answer to this is Dimitris Almyrantis’, which goes into the motivations and anxieties behind this attitude.

I had passed on answering this, but I’ve just been asked this externally, by a user who pointed out the discrepancy with Chinese and Italian. There are a few linguistic and cultural factors that have made this angry dismissal of reconstructed pronunciation possible.

Greek is in a club of (say) seven “classical” languages, languages with a very longstanding and ongoing literary tradition: Greek, Latin, Persian, Hebrew, Chinese, Sanskrit, Arabic. (YMMV.) Of these, some modern speech communities do not assert an overt linguistic continuity the way Greek now does: Hindi is not Sanskrit, and Italian is not Latin. For that matter, Greek did not always assert its continuity as forcefully: Greeks differentiated between old Hellenic and modern Romeic up until the 19th century.

Some modern speech communities do not have classics from the earliest stages of the language that they venerate in the same ways that Greeks (and, critically, Westerners) venerate theirs, and that they claim privileged access to: the Behistun inscription is not a Thing for Persians, the way the Iliad is for Greeks. Persians have also shifted several scripts in the meantime, and Italians use an orthographic writing system that makes the phonological and morphological shifts obvious.

I think laypeople, when told that scholars think older versions of their language were pronounced differently, still react with some surprise, especially when that older version does not match the current prestige version. Biblical Hebrew was certainly closer to Sephardi than Ashkenazi Modern Hebrew; Middle Chinese is much closer to Cantonese than Mandarin. And of course the reconstruction of Shakespearian English as Canadian Pirate Talk has taken some members of this site by surprise. So the reaction of Greeks is not without parallel.

What exacerbates it is the feelings of resentment that Dimitris already alluded to, and which I’ll restate aphoristically:

  • We used to be mighty
    • We have these texts as our patrimony
      • Those texts are by our ancestors, so we have privileged access to them
  • You Franks are now mighty
    • You too revere those texts
      • You are out to get us and undermine us
      • So by telling us you are pronouncing those texts better than us, you are trying to steal our patrimony from us.

It’s a reaction I can see Indians and possibly Arabs also having. Others won’t have that reaction, because they don’t cling as tightly to the old patrimony; or they don’t feel as put upon from the West; or they are more familiar with internal linguistic diversity (so the notion that the texts originally sounded different won’t come as much of a surprise: I surmise the Chinese would have that reaction).

Quora as Eternal Recurrence: The history of the first iteration of Follow-Up Questions

Why did Quora remove the “Add Follow-Up Question” feature?

We don’t know; there’s only one sarcastic response, and someone has already merged that question with Why did Quora remove the ability to add question details when you add the question (or any other time)? (asked August 2014)

Charlie Cheever’s answer to What were “follow-up questions” on Quora, and how did they work? (2010, with preface in 2012)

Hah! Charlie! The Olde Foundere! Remember him?

Follow up questions were a feature on Quora that existed from the early days of the site until some time in January 2010. Below is a description of how the feature worked. You’ll still sometimes see in question details “This is a follow up question to [some other linked question]” which is a remnant of this feature.

And I wonder how much of the following will be preserved in the new iteration of the feature?

Follow-up questions are the same as any other question on Quora except that, when a follow up question is added to the site, a few things happen to make it more convenient to add a similar question.

These are:

  • The topics from the original question are suggesed for the follow-up question.
  • The question details of the follow-up question start off with the text “This is a follow-up question to <link-to-the-original-question>.”
  • The original question is added as a related question to the follow-up question.
  • Followers of the original question are notified that a new follow-up question has been added.

Once a follow up question is created, it is just the same as any other question on the site.
This means it should be able to stand on its own as a question and, as much as possible, make sense and be clear outside of the context of the original question.
A follow-up question is not a request for clarification on the original question; i.e. “What do you mean by ‘derivative works?'” or similar would not make a good follow-up question since it doesn’t make any sense outside of the context of the original question. The best place for requests for clarification on the original question is in the comments on the original question.

So, some workflowing, but not really follow-ups so much as “this also occurred to me”, since they are meant to be consumed independently of the original.

Also, Achilleas Vortselas’ answer to What is a follow-up question on Quora? (2011)

Follow-Up Questions were a feature of Quora which was removed at some point (see Why did Quora remove the “Add Follow-Up Question” feature? ). You could use a link (similar to the ones that appear below the question details) to add a follow-up question, which automatically included a backlink to the original question. People who liked using that feature are still adding the backlinks to the details section when they ask a follow-up question. It must be also noted that, while nowadays it is easy to create a new question right as you’re typing inside any comment section, by typing @, that functionality was not originally there.

Follow-up questions need to link back to the original question to give the reader some necessary context.

Ahah. So there was more of a point to them back then, because links were harder. (Although I just search paste the link to a question, myself, at-mentions are awkward for questions.)

And what are some unintended and ludicrous potential side-effects of this functionality?

I’m glad you asked:

June Lin’s answer to What is the longest chain of follow-up questions on Quora? (2010)

What does it feel like to be attractive and desired by many?

  1. Why do some people have a deluded sense of their own attractiveness?
  2. What does it feel like to be constantly deceived by your peers?
  3. What does it feel like to be unattractive and desired by none? -> What does it feel like to be stupid? , What does it feel like to be found attractive only by people whom you find terribly unattractive? , Are extremely attractive women flattered or annoyed by the fact that they get stared at all the time?
  4. What does it feel like to be moderately attractive and madly desired by some?
  5. What does it feel like to kill a moose? -> What does a moose burger taste like?
  6. What does it feel like to have multiple personalities?
  7. What does it feel like to be sexually attracted to no one at all? -> What does it feel like to be attracted to no one in particular?
  8. What does it feel like to be attracted to many people at once?
  9. If Sean Kingston and Justin Bieber (musician) were to fight over the same girl, who would win?

There are probably more.

Not to mention:

Neeraj Agrawal’s answer to How do I view the list of follow-up questions of a question that is followed-up? (2011)

… Wha?

Follow up questions are no longer supported as a product feature. See: Why did Quora remove the “Add Follow-Up Question” feature?

The text in question details stating “This is a follow-up question to ….” can be added by any user and is not treated differently than any other text.

So, there is no easy way to view list of follow-up questions of a question.

EDIT: From Comments:

Nancy Jacobsen:

I’m glad to see you’re following up on this!

The jokes, they really do write themselves…

It’s quite possible that this feature is in fact a reincarnation of the old feature that simply showed up because their code got mixed up again. And, you know how features come and go (repeat) according to some unimaginable schedule, perhaps this feature was programmed to reappear now and someone forgot to cancel it.

Nick Nicholas

Hee. So what’s worse:

  • A code feature burbles back up to the surface from 6 years ago, much like a mastodon from beneath the thawing Siberian permafrost, unleashing who knows what extinct germs from the Pliocene back into the ecology.
  • Cheever has planted a time bomb or two into the Quora code, that randomly unleash obsolete features to keep his successors on their toes.
  • The Quora design staff, some of whom may still have been in primary school in 2010, have accidentally reinvented this feature.

Nietzschean Parable