The Alphabet

1. The Greek alphabet has twenty-four letters.

as in
Ααἄλφαalphaaă: aha; ā: father
Εεεἶ, ( ψι_λόνĕpsīlonĕmet
ΗηἦταētaēFr. fête
Θθ, υθῆταthētaththin
Ιιἰῶταiōtaiĕ: meteor; ī: police
Κκκάππαkappac, kkin
Ξξξεῖ (ξῖxixlax
Οοοὖ, ( μι_κρόνŏmīcronŏobey
Πππεῖ (πῖpippet
Σς, ςσίγμαsigmassuch
Υυ ( ψι_λόνüpsīlonu) yŭ: Fr. tu; ū: Fr. sûr
Φφφεῖ (φῖphiphgraphic
Χχχεῖ (χῖchichGerm. machen
Ψψψεῖ (ψῖpsipsgypsum
Ωω ( μέγαōmĕgaōnote

a. Sigma (not capital) at the end of a word is written ς, elsewhere ς1. Thus, σεισμός earthquake.

b. The names in parentheses, from which are derived those in current use, were given at a late period, some as late as the Middle Ages. Thus, epsilon means ‘simple e,’ upsilonsimple u,’ to distinguish these letters from αι, οι, which were sounded like ε and υ.

c. Labda is a better attested ancient name than lambda.

2. The Greek alphabet as given above originated in Ionia, and was adopted at Athens in 403 B.C. The letters from A to T are derived from Phoenician and have Semitic names. The signs Υ to Ω were invented by the Greeks. From the Greek alphabet are derived the alphabets of most European countries. The ancients used only the large letters, called majuscules (capitals as Ε, uncials as [Eunc ]); the small letters (minuscules), which were used as a literary hand in the ninth century, are cursive forms of the uncials.

a. Before 403 B.C. in the official Attic alphabet E stood for ε, η, spurious ει (6), O for ο, ω, spurious ου (6), H for the rough breathing, ΧΣ for Ξ, ΦΣ for Ψ. Λ was written for γ, and [lins ] for λ. Thus:

ΕΔΟΧΣΕΝΤΕΙΒΟ[lins ]ΕΙΚΑΙΤΟΙΔΕΜΟΙἔδοξεν τῇ βουλῇ καὶ τῷ δήμῳ.
ΕΓΙΤΕΔΕΙΟΝΕΝΑΙΑΓΟΤΟΑΡΛΥΡΙΟἐπιτήδειον εἶναι ἀπὸ τοῦ ἀργυρίου.

3. In the older period there were two other letters: (1) Ϝ: ϝαῦ, uau, called digamma (i.e. double-gamma) from its shape. It stood after ε and was pronounced like ω. ϝ was written in Boeotian as late as 200 B.C. (2) ϟ: κόππα, koppa, which stood after π. Another ς, called san, is found in the sign [sampi ], called sampi, i.e. san + pi. On these signs as numerals, see 348.

3 D. Vau was in use as a genuine sound at the time the Homeric poems were composed, though it is found in no Mss. of Homer. Many apparent irregularities of epic verse (such as hiatus, 47 D.) can be explained only by supposing that ϝ was actually sounded. Examples of words containing ϝ are: ἄστυ town, ἄναξ lord, ἁνδάνω please, εἴκω give way (cp. weak), εἴκοσι twenty (cp. viginti), ἕκαστος each, ἑκών willing, ἔλπομαι hope (cp. voluptas), ἔοικα am like, ἕο, οἷ, him, ἕξ six, ἔπος word, εἶπον said, ἔργον, ἔρδω work, ἕννυ_μι clothe, fr. ϝεσ-νυ_μι (cp. vestis), ἐρέω will say (cp. verbum), ἕσπερος evening (cp. vesper), ἴον violet (cp. viola), ἔτος year (cp. vetus), ἡδύς sweet (cp. suavis), ἰδεῖν (οἶδα) know (cp. videre, wit), ἴ_ς strength (cp. vis), ἰ_τέα willow (cp. vitis, withy), οἶκος house (cp. vicus), οἶνος wine (cp. vinum), ὅς his (123), ὄχος carriage (cp. veho, wain). Vau was lost first before ο-sounds (ὁράω see, cp. be-ware). ϝ occurred also in the middle of words: κλέϝος glory, αἰϝεί always, ὄϝις sheep (cp. ovis), κληϝίς key (Dor. κλα_ΐς, cp. clavis), ξένϝος stranger, Διϝί to Zeus, καλϝός beautiful. Cp. 20, 31, 37 D., 122, 123.

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