How different is the modern Greek alphabet from the ancient one? Other than the fact that ancient Greek had only capital letters, does the alphabet also contain letters that modern Greek speakers do not use?

In antiquity, every city had its own variant of the Greek alphabet; they varied not only on shape of letter, but also on which letters they used.

Athens undertook a spelling reform in 403 BC, under the archonship of Eucleides, which adopted the Milesian variant of the Ionian alphabet, including the letters eta and omega. (That alphabet was already widely used in Athens, but it was not the original local variant.)

The Modern Greek alphabet is the Euclidean Athenian alphabet, because the orthography of Modern Greek is historical. There are letters in the Euclidean Athenian alphabet that are redundant in Modern Greek (η υ ω); but it’s only in the USSR of the 30s that any serious attempt was made to write Modern Greek phonetically.

Of the archaic letters, pre 403 BC, only one truly matters: Digamma, ϝ. It was the Ancient Greek /w/. The sound does show up in papyri of Sappho and Alcman. We can also reconstruct it in Homer, though it is missing in our text of Homer. The text we have of Homer was established in 6th century BC Athens; and the sound (and thence the letter) was long extinct in Athens by then.

Of the others: San (letter), ϻ, and Koppa (letter), ϙ, were adopted because Samekh and Qoph are letters of the Phoenician alphabet.

Greeks originally wrote <q> before back vowels and <k> before other vowels; so they wrote Ϙόρινθος <Qorinthos> for Corinth, and in fact the koppa became a symbol of Corinth. Eventually, they worked out that those were just allophones, and they dropped the koppa entirely except for counting (it’s the number 90).

Shin (letter) and Samekh were differentiated in Phoenician, because Phoenician had both /ʃ/ and /s/; Ancient Greek did not, and once people stopped robotically copying the Phoenician alphabet, each town picked one or the other of sigma or san to write /s/ with; no town kept both.

Modern publications of any literary texts that survived via the papyrus tradition went via Athens and its 403 BC spelling reform. Digamma is rare; san and koppa are non-existent, even though Aristophanes refers to san-branded horses. (Just as Qorinth used the koppa as its emblem, Sicyon used the san.) You’ll only ever see them in publication of inscriptions that did use them; and even then you won’t see them often.

In the process of establishing the Unicode repertoire for Greek, I came across a few more archaic letters. In fact, I came up with the name of one: Tsan, the Arcadian variant of San, which apparently was used for /ts/. The variant letters that were phonetically distinct, and which will show up in publication of inscriptions, were Heta, the eta-equivalent used to mean /h/ and not /ɛː/; the Sampi, an Ionic innovation which might have been pronounced /ʃ/ or /sː/; and the Pamphylian digamma, which looked identical to tsan but was likely pronounced /v/, as opposed to the normal digamma’s /w/.

One variant that didn’t make it in the repertoire was the Corinthian single letter for <ei> /eː/. It didn’t make it into Unicode, because the letter for it was in fact <E> (Corinth had a different letterform for epsilon.) No epigraphist has published it as anything but ει or, if they’re being extra careful, <Ε> in a different font. (Google Dweinias for the most important inscription.) Ditto the corresponding Boeotian letter, which looks identical to the tack-shaped heta, <Ͱ>. (…)

I have been responsible for conflating Pamphylian sampi and normal sampi in Unicode, even though they in fact look different, and I have posted my apology for that in Nick Nicholas’ answer to If you were allowed to add a symbol to unicode, what symbol would it be, and what would it mean?

Oh. Sho (letter) is Bactrian for /ʃ/; Bactrian used the Greek alphabet, but I don’t think sho counts here.

Why did the Greeks use to say “Fire, Women, and Sea” (Πῦρ, γυνὴ καὶ θάλασσα)? What’s the history behind this phrase?

As it happens, I’ve already answered this question in the context of another question, a year ago:

Nick Nicholas’ answer to Why do some languages assign a gender to each noun (e.g., table is feminine in French)?

The pioneering work on the kinds of cognitive categories underlying noun classes is George Lakoff’s. His acknowledged classic takes its title from the membership of one of the noun classes of Dyirbal language, an Australian Aboriginal language.

The noun classes of Dyirbal are:

  • I – most animate objects, men
  • II – women, water, fire, violence, and exceptional animals
  • III – edible fruit and vegetables
  • IV – miscellaneous (includes things not classifiable in the first three

Lakoff’s classic was thus titled: Women, Fire, and Dangerous Things.

Mind blown, Dimitra (who A2A’d)?

Greeks’ minds will be blown be the fact that πῦρ, γυνή, καὶ θάλασσα, “fire, woman, and the sea”, have been lumped together in an Ancient Greek maxim. (It has been attributed to Aesop: Πῦρ γυνὴ καὶ θάλασσα, δυνατὰ τρία, “Fire woman and the sea, these are the three strong things.” And Menander: Θάλασσα καὶ πῦρ καὶ γυνὴ τρίτον κακόν “Sea and fire, and woman is the third evil.”)

My mind is blown (though it shouldn’t be) by the fact that Lakoff had no idea about the Greek maxim when he wrote the book.

I’ll add that the only misogynistic thing about the saying is that it is hetero-andro-centric. Intimate partners, male, or female, are a source of emotional risk, just as fire and water are a source of physical risk, which can turn to good or evil. (Hence Aesop’s wording: not ‘evils’, but ‘strong things’.)

And so it has already begun

Excited to partner with @jasonlk on @SaaStrAnnual 2018, helping businesses leverage the Quora platform #Quoraforbusiness

— Puja Ramani (@pramani) July 29, 2017

A hashtag to monitor.

No, it’s fine for an online business to pay the bills.

The risk for conflict of interest, however, is one we need to be vigilant on. No, I don’t trust Quora to be careful about conflict of interest, especially in a knowledge-sharing website (which is meant to include criticism—maybe), because they haven’t been historically:

Richard Henry’s answer to Why are Quora employees allowed to receive knowledge prizes?

I’ll admit that I didn’t spend a lot of time thinking about whether or not this would be perceived to be an issue. The sponsor chooses who should win, and my instinct was that Quora employees shouldn’t use the product differently than anyone else. But Quora employees would be a tiny percentage of prize winners anyway, so we’re going to just exclude them from being considered.

Remain vigilant.

Why do Israelis love Stelios Kazantzidis’ music?

I’ll give Stelios Kazantzidis – Wikipedia’s take, but I’m very interested in hearing from Israelis why Greek Levantine-flavoured music, and his in particular, appear to have had such resonance in Israel.

In Israel, he was a musical icon. Many of his songs were translated into Hebrew and performed by the country’s leading singers. Yaron Enosh, an Israel Radio broadcaster who often plays Greek music on his programs, described the singer’s ability to combine joy with sorrow: “This is the task of music: to touch the entire range of feelings… Kazantzidis could do this; he played on all the strings.” To the Greek Jews who immigrated to Israel, Kazantzidis was “the voice of the world they left behind, for good or for bad.” According to the operator of Radio Agapi, a station that plays Greek music 24 hours a day, “Kazantzidis was the voice of the people, of the weary, the exploited, the betrayed. And the voice of the refugee and the emigre, too.”

I don’t know that Hebrew Wikipedia (סטליוס קזנג’ידיס – ויקיפדיה) has much of an answer…

Rejecting submissions: they just… disappear

My thanks to Ellie Kesselman for provoking this investigation, and to Heather Jedrus for fulfilling the investigation.

If your submission to a Quora blog is rejected, we have recently seen here (You may provide an optional explanation; but we won’t let you), you can’t notify the author why (bug), and possibly they never get to see your notification anyway (bug?)

Something else happens:

When a blog owner rejects a submission on Quora, does the author still have access to what they wrote?

The submission disappears. You don’t have a record of it. You can’t resubmit it elsewhere. It just *poof* vanishes.

Heather says in her answer:

So, my advice for anyone who’s submitting posts to blogs owned by other people, is to copy that content and save it somewhere, in case the post doesn’t get accepted to the blog.

My advice for blog owners is to PM the author their post before rejecting it, so they can reuse it as they see fit.

Bug (and by “bug” I mean “Wholesale Incompetence”, because I have no more reserves of patience for the Quora “Design” team), or feature?

Well, to quote from my previous post on blog submissions.

A feature to illustrate the futility of all things in this Vale of Tears, perhaps, including blog submissions.

Or, maybe, I’m being trapped in Story Thinking, of how I just want to reject a blog submission politely, and Quora Design is trying to nudge me into System Thinking (i.e. seeing the big picture), that blogs are a deprecated part of the Quora Experience, and everyone should just stick to Q&A.

And then again, maybe regression testing is just another thing that gets in the way of Quora Design DEPLOYING EVERYTHING ON THEIR DRIVE TO PRODUCTION IN 8 MINUTES!!!!!111!!11!!!!!eleven!!!

Or, maybe, since they don’t have “Reject” on the button but “Ignore”, it may be that the only alternatives they had in mind when they “designed” the blog submission workflow were

  • Accept: I am happy to include this submission in my blog.
  • Ignore: This is trollery which I want gone from the face of the earth.

But not:

  • Reject: I don’t think this submission is appropriate for my blog, but it might well be useful elsewhere, or the basis of an answer, and I have no intention of it being deleted from Quora servers forever.


That would require… oh, what’s the word…

USER Thinking.

What celebrities are on Quora?

Catrina M. Padilla’s answer is only narrowly correct. A celebrity who has been invited in by Quora to answer 10 questions as clickbait in a session, and never shows up on Quora again, does not count to me as being on Quora in any meaningful sense. Whatever Quora might want you to think (or, more importantly, might want advertisers to think.)

And all Mark Zuckerberg did, 8 years ago, is ask a handful of questions.

Adam Goldberg in her list has at least had some moderate activity, although minimal past 2012.

Dushka Zapata has no Wikipedia entry, although her mum might: Carol Miller (author) – Wikipedia. Quora-famous does not count as famous; by that metric, I’m on Quora too.

I have a soft spot for Pat Cash as a famous person on Quora, simply because he’s an Aussie that has come back to Quora on occasion, outside of being invited through a session.

I’m going through the Answer Wiki, and removing people with 15 answers or less (8–13 answers being what you get on a celebrity session), or people who only wrote answers on only one to three dates (e.g. Uzo Aduba, Scott Aukerman, which points to repeat celebrity sessions, or them getting bored very quickly), and people with no English Wikipedia entry. (An entry for his company, or other mentions on Wikipedia, do not count: Oliver Emberton. Robert Frost, Noam Kaiser, Gayle Laakmann McDowell, Denis Oakley, Mark Rogowsky, Siri, Balaji Viswanathan are out too.) I am putting a very deliberate asterisk against people who are Silicon Valley-famous (or in the case of Vijay Shekhar Sharma, the Indian counterpart).

Honourable mention to Andy Weir. He only spent one day on Quora, but he churned out 100 answers. At least he took his session seriously. And he didn’t have to be interviewed to do it.

I’m also putting up how many answers they have put up, and when their last answer was. Active Quora users, they are not.

You will notice that it is a much smaller list. 128 goes down to 45. If you take out Silicon Valley types, it’s down to 18. If instead you reduce it to people who’ve written 100 answers or more: 14. People who have written an answer this month: 7.

And it’d be an interesting exercise to go through *this* list, and see how many you’ve heard of.

I get 17, but 4 of them only via being on Quora.

(And I did know who Vint Cerf is beforehand.)

Answered 2017-08-18 · Upvoted by

Achilleas Vortselas, Quora admin (2012-14), reviewer (2011), user (since Aug’10)

Are you Greek? And if yes then where in Greece are you from?

A far from straightforward question for those of us in the Greek diaspora.

My dad does not speak a word of Pontic Greek. But this Pontic revival song, sung by Stelios Kazantzidis towards the end of his life, shook him: Πατρίδα μ΄ αραεύω σε

Five houses have I built; unhoused from all.
A refugee from my cradle; God, I’ll go mad.

My motherland, I seek you, like a man accursed.
In exile, I am Greek. In Greece, an exile.

I left houses built between forests and riverbanks.
Wells built of marble, water flowing like tears.

And here now I thirst, and have no water to drink.
I am ashamed to ask for any, to moisten my lip.

And can I say, it’s nice to see Wikipedia Pontic orthography on Youtube. ja > æ in Pontic; the scholarly transliteration is α̈, and the lay translation was ια, assuming you knew this was Pontic and not Standard Greek already. Pontic Wikipedia has decided to use εα instead. Πέντε οσπίτεα έχτισα, Κι ας ολεα ξεσπιτούμαι. But do use ’κ’ for ‘not’. ’κ’ /kʰ/ ‘not’ ~ κʼ /k/ ‘and’ is a pernicious minimal pair.

It’s also nice to see not just Russian Pontians (who arrived from Russia in the 90s) on YouTube echoing the sentiment, but also the Albanians who’d arrived in Greece at the same time. Sometimes, there is value in YouTube comments after all.

And yes, it’s even more complicated for the second generation of that diaspora. (By the fourth generation, of course, it’s ancient history, a splash of colour up the family tree.)

I am in some regards Greek. In some regards, I am nothing of the sort.

And parochialism lives and thrives in Greece, as it does in Italy (Campanilismo). “Where are you from” is still the first question you get asked. I identify as Cretan, though my father is Cypriot. Town of Sitia.

Vitsentzos Kornaros closed off his romance Erotokritos, the pinnacle of Cretan Renaissance literature, with the verses:

I would not hide, and be unrecognised.
I will reveal myself, so all may know.
The poet’s Vincent, and by clan Cornaro;
may he be found unblemished, when Death takes him.
In S’tia was he born, in S’tia bred.
There did he write and labour what you’ve read.
As nature bids, in
Candia was he married.
His end will be wherever God decides.

I was only bred in S’tia for four years, age of 8 to 12. Those are pretty critical years though.

How can we remember and memorialize a user who has died?

We can subscribe to The Quora Memorial, and post our memories of the deceased as comments there. That’s a start.

Dion Shaw’s answer of commemorative blogs is an excellent suggestion.

And in your own content, continue to echo them. Link to their answers, praise their insights, keep their presence on the site evergreen. Don’t expect the site to do so for us.

Do so, not for those who have passed. Do so, for us. Because we do care, when one of our number is no longer among us.

How does Quora decide which deceased members to add the “Remembering” tagline to their profile?

This has come up with regard to Eric Barnes, who passed on in May (from his blog: Death of The Captain, Gaijinass from Beyond the Grave)

The latest information I’ve heard is that this is done only in response to a request from the deceased’s family. I have not had direct communication from Quora staff on this issue yet, and some clarity from the organisation would be welcome. I will update this answer if I hear something further.