What is the etymology of “Thisbe”, the name of the famous mythological character?

I looked up Dr. W. PAPE’s Woerterbuch der griechischen Eigennamen. Dritte Auflage neu bearbeitet von Dr. Gustav Eduard BENSELER. Vierter Abdruck. Braunschweig, 1911, the big old Greek dictionary of proper names. The best it had to offer is Suda’s gloss of the noun thisbē as ‘funerary urn’ (σορός): SOL Search.

The Thisbe mentioned by Ovid (Pyramus and Thisbe) was supposed to be from Babylon, which makes one suspect an Eastern origin for the name; but Thisbe was already used in ancient Greek, to refer to a nymph, and a town named after the nymph in Boeotia: Boeotian Naiad Nymph of Greek Mythology (town mentioned in Iliad 2.502). That makes it likelier that something like “urn” was the origin of the town name, and the nymph name was retconned.

Thisbe – Meaning of Thisbe says that the name means “where the dove lives”. This is a misunderstanding of πολυτρήρωνά τε Θίσβην “Thisbe of the many doves”, the description of the town in the Iliad.

Thisbe is the Septuagint transliteration of the town of Tishbe in Israel; a term which in Hebrew means ‘captivity’.

What is the etymology of “Pyramus”, the name of the famous mythological character?

I looked up Dr. W. PAPE’s Woerterbuch der griechischen Eigennamen. Dritte Auflage neu bearbeitet von Dr. Gustav Eduard BENSELER. Vierter Abdruck. Braunschweig, 1911, the big old Greek dictionary of proper names. It brings up the Byzantine authorities’ guesses, and they lean towards ‘wheat’. The Etymologicum Magnum says that the river Pyramus was so called διὰ τὸ πολὺ πυρὸν περιποιεῖν τοῖς ἐν τῇ Κιλικίᾳ οἰκοῦσιν “because it provides those who dwell in Cilicia with much wheat”. Eustathius of Thessalonica interprets it as a variant of πυράμινος ‘wheaten’.

What do the accents (acute/grave/circumflex) of Ancient Greek sound like?

From what we can work out, including the evidence from the ancients, and as consolidated on Ancient Greek accent – Wikipedia:

  • If the syllable was short: an acute meant High pitch, and a grave meant Low pitch. (In reality, it meant neutral pitch.)
  • If the syllable was long, break the syllable up into two Morae. An acute meant Low pitch on the first mora, and High pitch on the second. A circumflex meant High pitch on the first mora, and Low pitch on the second. A grave is still neutral pitch.

When accents were first invented, graves were written on every syllable that was not accented: ἄνθρὼποὶ ántʰrɔ̀ːpoì. That’s the evidence that the grave was in reality a neutral pitch.

Chinese as a tonal language has a tone on every syllable. Greek was a Pitch accent language, the way Serbian and Swedish is now: a polysyllabic word has one accent, but that accent involves different levels of pitch, as well as different levels of loudness. The other syllables in the word are unstressed, and have neutral pitch.

That means that the tone contours of Ancient Greek would not have sounded as up-and-down as Chinese: there’s a lot more neutral syllables than in Chinese. Moreover, a single mora was either high or low; it wasn’t rising or falling. The rises and falls were there on long syllables, but they were spread out over the two morae. Which means that pitch changes were slightly more gradual than in Chinese.

The four tones of Mandarin don’t quite match:

  • Acute, short: High pitch — corresponds to First (high–level) tone.
  • Grave, short or long: Low pitch — corresponds to Neutral tone. Maybe Third (low, dipping) tone, without the dipping.
  • Acute, long: Low-to-High pitch — close to Second (rising) tone, maybe slower rise.
  • Circumflex, long: High-to-Low pitch — not close to Fourth (high–falling) tone, which falls quickly; more like First then Third (low, dipping) tone.

So if I were to transliterate “But welcome, O wise people”:

καλῶς δὲ ἤλθατε, ὦ σοφοὶ ἄνθρωποι
kalɔ̂ːs dè ɛ́ːltʰate, ɔ̂ː sopʰoì ántʰrɔːpoi

into Mandarin, it’d be something like this:

galōǒs dě eéltade, ōǒ sopǒy āntroboy

What are the typical ingredients of a döner/shawarma/gyro in your country?

Per Nick Nicholas’ answer to How is souvlaki prepared differently in different countries?

In Greece, Souvlaki properly is a skewer of meat, typically pork, and often served in pita. Gyros, which involves shaved rotisserie meat (again, typically pork) is distinct from souvlaki. Either are served in small pita bread wraps, with mustard, salad, and fries.


The Australian version diverged early, and it’s a gyros, not a skewer: you will see gyros (or yeeros) as a name as well, but souvlaki is the usual name here. […] The gyros is traditionally lamb, and pork is unheard of. Chicken is the alternative meat in both Greece and Australia. The pita is twice the size. Tzatziki instead of mustard, salad, and no fries.

Döner kebab, as prepared by Turks in Australia, is not as common; it is beef or chicken instead of lamb or chicken. The beef, in my experience, is relatively bland compared to Greek gyros lamb.

What are some good books or stories to read in Esperanto?

The Esperanta antologio: the anthology of Esperanto poetry. Get hold of the first edition, rather than the second; yes, the first edition stops at 1957, but it has commentary, which is very useful, and the 1984 edition inexcusably got rid of it.

Lingvo kaj vivo: 1959 collection of essays by Gaston Waringhien, Esperanto lexicographer and grammarian, with a lot of good insights into the history and structure of the language.

Proverbaro Esperanta: Zamenhof’s collection of multilingual proverbs, complete with earworm rhymes in the Esperanto versions. Instant culture for the language, and lamentably not used much in Esperanto (with the exception of the translation of Asterix the Gaul).

Memkritiko [‘Self-Criticism’] by Victor Sadler: the best poems in the language. Yes, it’s a big call. Very postmodern (especially for 1967) with the “editor” putting down all the poems, in a tense dialogue; exquisite miniatures, that have passed unremarked because people are looking for “greatness” instead of quality. This 2014 review doesn’t quite get it, but it does indicate that there are plenty of copies still available for sale at €2.70.

How is it determined that an ancient language had pitch or stress or tone accent?

In the case of Ancient Greek, it’s actually quite straightforward:

  • We know that words had accents, because the ancients made up signs for accents. Words having accents is the norm in language anyway.
  • We know that normally only one syllable per word had an accent, because that’s how the ancients wrote their accents. At the very beginning of the invention of accent diacritics, a grave would be used for every unaccented syllable; that eventually went away, and it indicates that the grave was a neutral (unaccented) accent marker.
    • The fact that a word normally had only one accent indicates this was an accentual, not a tonal system.
  • We know that pitch was involved, because accent systems in the world’s languages are split between stress-based and pitch-based systems. Stress-based systems are normally only stressed/unstressed; pitch-based systems allow for pitch contours and multiple levels of pitch, both of which are represented in Ancient Greek with its acute/circumflex/grave.
  • Vedic also had clearly high and low pitch in its accentuation, with regular correspondences with Greek accent, which makes it likelier that the related Greek had the same accentual system.
  • For the evidence from Greek writers themselves, I’m going to quote from Allen, W. Sidney. Vox Graeca. the Pronunciation of Classical Greek, Chapter 6:
    • Plato in Cratylus 399a differentiates between ‘sharp’ and ‘heavy’ accent (oxys, barys); if it was a stress-based system, barys would have to mean ‘quiet’. which it does not. Plato in Phaedrus 268d uses the same terms to refer to high and low pitch in music.
    • The Greek word for accent, tonos, means ‘tension’, and is likely related to the tension of a string in an instrument: the more taut the string, the higher its note. The word is of course our tone.
    • The early names for the circumflex were ditonos, oxybarys, symplektos, perispōmenos, “two-toned, high–low, complex, and broken-either-side = circumflex”.
    • Dionysius Thrax says that “of course not every word is spoken with the same pitch-pattern (tasis, another word for ‘tension’), but one on the high (oxys) tone, another on the low (barys), and another on both. Of those which have both, some have the low combined with the high in one syllable, and these we call circumflex; whereas others have each of them on different syllables and mantaining their own quality.”

We know that stress accentuation was in use by the late 4th century AD, since Gregory Nazianzen uses stress-based metres in his poetry, and there are hints of stress-based metre in the early 3rd century AD hymns of Clement of Alexandria. Outside of metre, Allen gives no other evidence, and short of contemporary phonetic description, we would be unlikely to get any.

How can we determine how old a dialect is?

Nick Nicholas’ answer to Which language is older, Persian or Arabic?

There’s no such thing as an older language.

Similarly, there is no such thing as an older dialect. Sure, for example, the English of England has been spoken in the same place for 1500 years. But the English of America retains a bunch of features that have died out in the English of England; the subjunctive, for instance, or faucet, or gotten.

So what is your metric for archaism? Linguists usually aren’t bothered much, for languages or dialects, so they just make the occasional impressionistic judgement, mostly based on phonological conservatism.

If you’re going to be more rigorous about it, you formulate as rules the major phonological shifts from the common ancestor to each of the two dialects, and you count the rules up; and you do the same with morphological shifts, syntactic shifts, and lexicon (somehow—believe me, there’s a lot more to count). But noone bothers to: the impressionistic judgement is good enough most of the time.

The one time someone did go to the bother of counting up all the phonological shifts from Middle Chinese to Cantonese and Mandarin respectively, and modelling them as two different state machines, http://www.aclweb.org/anthology/…, they came up with the conclusion that Cantonese is phonologically more archaic than Mandarin. Mandarin has half the tones and none of the final oral stops of Cantonese; I could have told you that impressionistically, based on those two factors alone.

How can I connect between the phonetic and the words meaning?

It’s a pillar of semiotics that you can’t: Ferdinand de Saussure’s renowned Arbitrariness of the Sign (Arbitraire du Signe).

Sound symbolism is an exception to the Arbitrariness of the Sign, and it’s an exception that Saussure was aware of, and addressed (see http://personal.bgsu.edu/~dcalle… quoting his Course): it’s a marginal exception, and as signs become conventional in a language, they become more and more arbitrary. (Pipe used to sound like peep, and be a sound that birds make. That sound connection is now broken.)

So some words’ sounds, like onomatopoeias, have an overt iconic connection to word meaning, and some clusters of word sounds have greater than average correlation with particular attributes (the vowels in words for big and small, for example, or Phonesthemes). But the correlation is language-specific, mutable, and not very reliable.

Do you agree with Quora’s decision to disallow all anonymous comments, including comments from the askers or writers themselves? Why?

Blocking anonymous comments other than OP? I mildly approve of.

Blocking anonymous comments by OP themselves? Ludicrous, and likely done because it’s been too hard to implement a better alternative. If a writer is allowed to write, they should be allowed to further their argument and negotiate clarification with readers through comments. If the OP’s comments is taken to be a cesspool, then so is the OP’s original writing: a distinction between the two is artificial. Removing the ability to follow up on your writing is a disincentive to writing anonymously at all. (Something I’m sure Quora didn’t mind.)

For those who say “Yeah, and that’s a good thing”, I can only say, well, why not remove anonymous answers too?

And for those who say “Yeah, how about we do!!!”, I say, there but for the grace of God go you.

Removing anonymous comments were not the real issue to be fixed; comments are a secondary part of people’s experience of Quora anyway. The real issue to be fixed was the careful vetting of anonymous content we were promised by Riley Patterson’s announcement, which clearly has not materialised. Quora should be careful about making public undertakings they can’t follow through on.