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15. The seventeen consonants are divided into stops (or mutes), spirants, liquids, nasals, and double consonants. They may be arranged according to the degree of tension or slackness of the vocal chords in sounding them, as follows:

a. Voiced (sonant, i.e. sounding) consonants are produced when the vocal chords vibrate. The sounds are represented by the letters β, δ, γ (stops), λ, ρ (liquids), μ, ν, γ-nasal (19 a) (nasals), and ζ. (All the vowels are voiced.) ρ with the rough breathing is voiceless.

b. Voiceless (surd, i.e. hushed) consonants require no exertion of the vocal chords. These are π, τ, κ, φ, θ, χ (stops), ς (spirant or sibilant), and ψ and ξ.

c. Arranged according to the increasing degree of noise, nearest to the vowels are the nasals, in sounding which the air escapes without friction through the nose; next come the semivowels [υγλιδε] and [ιγλιδε] (20 a), the liquids, and the spirant ς, in sounding which the air escapes with friction through the cavity of the mouth; next come the stops, which are produced by a removal of an obstruction; and finally the double consonants.

16. Stops (or mutes). Stopped consonants are so called because in sounding them the breath passage is for a moment completely closed. The stops are divided into three classes (according to the part of the mouth chiefly active in sounding them) and into three orders (according to the degree of force in the expiratory effort).

Labial (lip sounds)πβφ
Dental (teeth sounds)τδθ
Palatal (palate sounds)κγχ

a. The dentals are sometimes called linguals. The rough stops are also called aspirates (lit. breathed sounds) because they were sounded with a strong emission of breath (26). The smooth stops are thus distinguished from the rough stops by the absence of breathing. ( (h) is also an aspirate. The middle stops owe their name to their position in the above grouping, which is that of the Greek grammarians.

17. Spirants.—There is one spirant: ς (also called a sibilant).

a. A spirant is heard when the breath passage of the oral cavity is so narrowed that a rubbing noise is produced by an expiration.

18. Liquids.—There are two liquids: λ and ρ. Initial ρ always has the rough breathing (13).

19. Nasals.—There are three nasals: μ (labial), ν (dental), and γ-nasal (palatal).

a. Gamma before κ, γ, χ, ξ is called γ-nasal. It had the sound of n in think, and was represented by n in Latin. Thus, ἄγκυ_ρα (Lat. ancora) anchor, ἄγγελος (Lat. angelus) messenger, σφίγξ sphinx.

b. The name liquids is often used to include both liquids and nasals.

20. Semivowels.—ι, υ, the liquids, nasals, and the spirant ς are often called semivowels. ([ιγλιδε] becoming ζ, and ϝ are also called spirants.)

a. When ι and υ correspond to y and w (cp. minion, persuade) they are said to be unsyllabic; and, with a following vowel, make one syllable out of two. Semivocalic ι and υ are written [ιγλιδε] and [υγλιδε]. Initial [ιγλιδε] passed into ( (h), as in ἧπαρ liver, Lat. jecur; and into ζ in ζυγόν yoke, Lat. jugum (here it is often called the spirant yod). Initial [υγλιδε] was written ϝ (3). Medial [ιγλιδε], [υγλιδε] before vowels were often lost, as in τι_μά-[ιγλιδε]) ω I honour, βο[υγλιδε]-ός, gen. of βοῦ-ς ox, cow (43).

b. The form of many words is due to the fact that the liquids, nasals, and ς may fulfil the office of a vowel to form syllables (cp. bridle, even, pst). This is expressed by λ̣ο̣, μ̣ο̣, ν̣ο̣, ρ̣ο̣, σ̣ο̣, to be read ‘syllabic λ,’ etc., or ‘sonant λ’ (see 35 b, c).

21. Double Consonants.—These are ζ, ξ, and ψ. ζ is a combination of σδ (or δς) or δι (26). ξ is written for κς, γτ, χτ; ψ for πς, βς, φς.


DIVISIONSPhysiological DifferencesLabialDentalPalatal
NasalsVoicedμνγ-nasal (19 a)
LiquidsVoicedλ ρ1
Spirants (Voicedς2
Voicelessς, ς
Voicedβ (middle)δ (middle)γ (middle)
Stops (Voicelessπ (smooth)τ (smooth)κ (smooth)
Voiceless Aspirateφ (rough)θ (rough)χ (rough)
Double (Voicedζ
consonants (Voicelessψξ

1 * is voiceless.

2ς was voiced only when it had the ζ sound (26).

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