Which consonant is more marked, /θ/ or /ð/?

I’ll answer this question for English, rather than cross-linguistically; I’ve A2A’d users who are more across the right typological databases.

Markedness (the linguistic notion of what is the default value between two alternatives) is a confluence of several factors, and in all of them, voiceless wins.

Refer Is there a rule for pronouncing “th” at the beginning of a word? and Pronunciation of English ⟨th⟩ – Wikipedia.

  • In frequency within the lexicon (frequency of types), θ is by far more frequent. ð is very frequent in tokens, because of its prevalence at the start of very common function words; but if you pick a random word of English with a <th>, it will almost always be voiceless.
  • If you look at the synchronic rules for how <th> is pronounced, in both the Stack Exchange and Wikipedia links, the “else” rule is the voiceless. That makes the voiceless the default value in speakers’ internalised rule system.
  • For what it’s worth, θ diachronically was also the unmarked value: ð was restricted to occurring between vowels.
  • This means that in peoples’ intuitions of English, θ is the unmarked reading of <th>. If they are confronted with a new random word with <th> in it, θ is how they will pronounce it by default.
  • In collaboration of that, look at how Modern Greek δ is transliterated into English. You will occasionally see the spelling dolmathes for ντολμάδες, but you almost always see the spelling dolmades instead. And there is a straightforward reason for that: because ð is so marked in English, no one would assume it is the pronunciation of a novel loanword with a <th> in it.
Updated 2017-05-06 · Upvoted by

Steve Rapaport, Linguistics PhD candidate at Edinburgh. Has lived in USA, Sweden, Italy, UK.

What was the first answer you wrote on Quora?

Nick Nicholas’ answer to How much writing from ancient Greece is preserved? Is it a finite amount that someone could potentially read?, 20 Aug 2015.

A topic I am a world expert on, since I was still working then at the Thesaurus Linguae Graecae (which had digitised all that writing), and I’d written a post about it on my inactive Greek linguistics blog, six years previously.

I’ve got enough arrogance in me that all my posts since have been as confident as that one—though it took me a month to answer another question, and I didn’t become prolific until 2016.

My first answer outside of my core competencies (Byzantium, music, language, Greece, Australia) was Nick Nicholas’ answer to What culture first created books as they exist today, with spines and bound into covers?, 24 Nov 2015.

What are some words shared between Albanian and other Balkan languages?

I answered a related question, and so did Dimitra Triantafyllidou: Do Greek villages near Albania use Albanian words, just like those in Albania use Greek loanwords? The Greek blog article Πενήντα ελληνικές λέξεις αλβανικής προέλευσης lists 50 common Albanian words in Greek; Dimitra being in Northern Greece, she knew most of them, whereas I being from Crete knew half of them:

  • alita-buras ‘thug’ < αλήτης ‘vagabond’ + burrë ‘man’
  • vlamis ‘blood brother’ < vëllam
  • gionisScops owl’ < gjon
  • kalamboki ‘corn’ < kalambok
  • kokoretsigrilled entrails’ < kokoreç
  • kopela, kopeli ‘girl, kid’ < kopil ‘servant’
  • luluði ‘flower’ < lulë
  • mangas ‘tough guy’ < mangë < Turkish manga ‘small troop’
  • marmanga ‘bogeyman’ < merimangë ‘spider’
  • babesis ‘dishonourable’ < pabëse
  • besa ‘honour’ < besë
  • buluki ‘troop’ < buluk < Turkish bölük ‘troop of irregulars’
  • busulao ‘to crawl’ < bishulla ‘on all fours’ or Aromanian buşuledzŭ ‘crawl’
  • pipiza ‘recorder’ < pipëza
  • pliatsiko ‘loot’ < plaçkë ‘thing (of war)’
  • sverkos ‘back of neck’ < zverk
  • triliza ‘tic tac toe’ < Albanian (dialectal trilizë ?) < Italian triglia
  • tsiftis ‘debonair’ < qift ‘hawk’
  • tsupra ‘girl’ < çuprë
  • fara ‘clan’ < farë
  • floɣera ‘flute’ < flojerë

A category of words that has attracted particular attention in Balkan linguistics are the so-called lexical Balkanisms: words whose etymology is uncertain, and which turn up in multiple Balkan languages. They have attracted attention, because of the suspicion that they may represent a substrate language.

The main (if not the only) class of such words are words common to Romanian and Albanian; there has been controversy around them, but they do exist. From http://etd.lsu.edu/docs/availabl… p. 49:

Regardless of the position to which one subscribes, some of the shared words are: Romanian abure, Albanian avull ‘steam’; mînz, mës ‘colt’; scrum, shkrump ‘ash’; vatră, vatrë ‘hearth’; pîrâu, përrua ‘brook’; copil, kopil ‘child (Rom.), bastard (Alb.)’; ghiuj, gjysh ‘old timer (Rom.), grandfather (Alb.)’, etc.

Notice kopil, which also shows up in Greek: kopil is in fact the posterboy of Balkanisms, showing up in Bulgarian, Serbo-Croatian, and Ukrainian (copil – Wiktionary). Unless Wiktionary is right about it being a Slavonic word for ‘digger’.

In English, why does the letter “υ” from Greek loanwords appear in some words as letter “Y,” but as “U” in other words?

The rule really is y, not u, for Greek upsilon. That really *really* surprised me.

I went to the OED, and it didn’t tell me much:

Etymology: First formed as French glucose (Dumas 1838, in Compt. Rend. VII. 109); compare Greek γλυκύς sweet and -ose suffix.

The English Wikipedia didn’t tell me much more.

But you know, there are other Wikipedias, and they often say things the English Wikipedia doesn’t. And since the word was coined in French, I took a chance that it might have said what was on Dumas’ mind. My translations.

Glucose — Wikipédia

En 1838, un comité de l’Académie des sciences composé des chimistes et physiciens français Thénard, Gay-Lussac, Biot et Dumas, décide d’appeler le sucre se trouvant dans le raisin, dans l’amidon, et dans le miel du nom de glucose, en fournissant comme étymologie le grec τὸ γλεῦκος / gleukos, vin doux. Émile Littré ayant donné une autre étymologie, l’adjectif γλυκύς / glukus (« de saveur douce »), la racine habituelle est devenue glyc-(l’upsilon grec donnant un y), comme dans glycémie et glycogène.

“In 1838, a committee of the Academy of Sciences, composed of the French chemists and physicists Thénard, Gay-Lussac, Biot and Dumas, decided to call the sugar found in grapes, starch and honey with the name glucose, providing its etymology as the Greek gleukos ‘sweet new wine’. Émile Littré had provided an alternative etymology, the adjective glykys ‘sweet’, so the usual root in derivations is glyc-, as in glycaemia and glycogen.”

And the French Wikipedia adds a footnote with the actual 1838 article derivation:

Louis Jacques Thénard, Louis Joseph Gay-Lussac, Jean-Baptiste Biot et Jean-Baptiste Dumas, « Rapport sur un mémoire de M. Péligiot, intitulé: Recherches sur la nature et les propriétés chimiques des sucres », Comptes rendus hebdomadaires des séances de l’Académie des sciences,‎ 2 juillet 1838, p. 106-113 (lire en ligne [archive]) :

« Il résulte des comparaisons faites par M. Péligot, que le sucre de raisin, celui d’amidon, celui de diabètes et celui de miel ont parfaitement la même composition et les mêmes propriétés, et constituent un seul corps que nous proposons d’appeler Glucose(γλευϰος, moût, vin doux). »

“From comparisons made by Mr Péligot, it turns out that the sugar in graps, starch, diabetics and honey have the identical composition and properties, and involve a single constituent which we propose to call glucose (γλεῦκος, ‘must, sweet wine’).”

The transliteration of Greek <ευ> as <u> is also irregular; it is conventionally <eu>, as in leucocyte or rheumatism. But there is a tendency to transliterate <ευ> as <u> in French: cf. leucocyte, but rhumatisme.

(Why yes, I have found an error in the OED. I’ve emailed them.)

Btw, noone told the Greeks the word is derived from gleukos; in Greek the word is γλυκόζη glykozē.

EDIT: Thanks, Chad Turner. Some Greek upsilons are spelled in English as <u>; notable instances are kudos and hubris. Per both Merriam-Webster’s Manual for Writers and Editors and The History of English Spelling (9781405190237): Christopher Upward, George Davidson (PDF draft chapter here: http://www.aston.ac.uk/EasysiteW…), the <u> is a 19th–20th century convention, subsequent to the obligatory latinisation of Greek loans. Notice that it’s Hellenising kudos, not Latinising cydus.

Could Koiné be roughly divided into 6 declension types?

I *think* I read this in

  • Signes-Codoñer, J. 2005. The definitions of the Greek middle voice between Apollonius Dyscolus and Constantinus Lascaris. Historiographia Linguistica 32: 1-33.

The Ancient Greek authorities (actually Roman-era) came up with something like 60 declensions for Greek, because they were not trying to do internal reconstruction or look for regularities. (I don’t know much about the Sanskrit grammarians, but what little I know tells me they were centuries ahead of the Greeks.)

The Latin grammarians did do internal reconstruction and looked for regularities. They got the Latin declensions down to five.

When the Greeks rediscovered Latin grammars in the Renaissance, they did a double take. Then, they took another, embarrassed look at their own grammar.

They worked out that with some pushing, they could get it down to ten.

With a lot more linguistics and reconstruction, we now have Greek declensions down to three; and if you’re aware of proto-Greek, the three make a lot of sense.

You can come up with more vowels, splitting off the contracted first and second declensions, and differentiating the third declension with vowel stems, which don’t look close to the consonant stems. If you do that, I’d be getting closer to 10 than 6: I’d want to break up several third declensions that don’t look obviously similar. (See Appendix:Ancient Greek third declension.)

If it makes you happier to think of βασιλεύς, -εως and τέλος, -ους as a completely different declension from πτέρυξ, -γος, because you don’t want to go via proto-Greek and Attic sound rules, well, you can *shrug*. People don’t do that, because Koine grammar teaching derives from Classical Greek grammar teaching: they use the same declensions, and just treat those odd forms as subclasses.

Are the vowels “ι, υ, and α” long by nature within a particular word in Greek poetry?

My command of quantitative metre is non existent, but to my knowledge a particular instance of α, ι, υ in a particular word was almost always either long or short: it was a property of the phonology of the word, and not an artefact of the metre.

The quantity of α, ι, υ in word roots is given in larger Ancient Greek dictionaries such as LSJ or DGE. If you scroll through, you will see entries where​ there are exceptions (hence the “almost” above), where one poet once will have used a different quantity for one of those vowels in the stem. Linguists to my knowledge have not treated that as metrical licence, but as linguistic variation: if a poet used the “wrong” length for a vowel, the assumption is that some speakers really were pronouncing it like that.

Again: that’s my outsider linguist impression. Specialists in metre may know better.