Greek -> Latin -> English

  • #1
honestrosewater
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From another thread:
Moonbear said:
I have never been able to explain how it is that I can spell a word I've never seen in writing before. There just seem to be basic patterns, that even more irregularly spelled words fit a pattern...something about the meaning or the rest of the word tells me that a ph might be used instead of an f.
My first thought was that most of English's ph words come from Greek. I'll try to find out for myself later, but does anyone already know if that's the case (perhaps it is at least the case in scientific terminology, which I imagine MB would encounter often)?
I saw a Latin alphabet pronunciation list mentioning that ch, ph, and th represented chi, phi, and theta, respectively. So is it that simple? Latin borrowed from Greek and changed the spelling, which survives today, for example, in chronograph?

Actually, should the title be more like Greek -> Latin -> ... -> Modern English?

Oh, and my hunch is that MB is recognizing the morphemes, for example, chrono- and -graph.
 
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  • #2
arildno
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From what I know, the origin of the "ph"-spelling (in Latin?) is that the sound it described wasn't precisely "f", but rather more like the "pf"-sound in German words like "Pfand, Pferd".

This wasn't very relevant, I'm afraid..:blushing:
 
  • #3
honestrosewater
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arildno said:
From what I know, the origin of the "ph"-spelling (in Latin?) is that the sound it described wasn't precisely "f", but rather more like the "pf"-sound in German words like "Pfand, Pferd".

This wasn't very relevant, I'm afraid..:blushing:
The book says that ph is pronounced as the ph in uphill, and similarly for the others (ch = block head; th = hot house). So I guess it's just that the first consonant is aspirated - there's an extra puff of air when you release it - [kh, ph, th]. But I haven't looked up any other examples or transcriptions yet, and there may be more to it, like a very strong aspiration or something.

Oh, or there may be a glottal stop (sort of like a pause, as in uh-oh) between the consonants. I should just look it up, but ugh...

Cool, that was easy: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Latin_phonemes Yeah, they're just aspirated.
 
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  • #4
selfAdjoint
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The Romans spelled phi psi and chi as the were sounded in Greek, but Roman speakers couldn't handle that, and they are the origin of our modern pronunciations f, ps, and k (which the Romans, of course, spelled c).

Also check out the diphthong oe, which represented Greek oi. The oi was pronounced very close to the way we do it in English, boil, for example. But again the Romans couldn't handle it and just pronounced like the ay in say. This is the origin of silly nineteenth century spelling of Greek loan words like "oeconomy", from oikonome, and its current pronunciation with an e.
 
  • #5
Gokul43201
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selfAdjoint said:
This is the origin of silly nineteenth century spelling of Greek loan words like "oeconomy", from oikonome, and its current pronunciation with an e.
Not to forget oesophagus !
 
  • #6
loseyourname
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honestrosewater said:
The book says that ph is pronounced as the ph in uphill, and similarly for the others (ch = block head; th = hot house). So I guess it's just that the first consonant is aspirated - there's an extra puff of air when you release it - [kh, ph, th]. But I haven't looked up any other examples or transcriptions yet, and there may be more to it, like a very strong aspiration or something.
The original Greek aspirated consonants are often described by reference to the modern aspirated consonants in German, but in reality, no one knows exactly what they sounded like (although we do know they were definitely aspirated, and not identical to the digraph sounds we use today).

Psi, however, was a double consonant, like the ks of Xi and the sd of Zeta (mispronounced today as a voiced s). It really is odd the way Latin-speaking people couldn't handle these sounds, and the way they've been lost from modern English. They seem to be pretty common in all other non-Romantic European languages.
 
  • #7
honestrosewater
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Ah, digraph - I was wondering what they were called.

I guess, if this is correct, it wasn't so simple:
-ph-
consonantal digraph, now usually representing "f," originally the combination used by Romans to represent Gk. letter phi (cognate with Skt. -bh-, Gmc. -b-), which at first was an aspirated "p," later the same sound as Ger. -pf-, but by 2c. B.C.E. had become a simple sound made by blowing through the lips (bilabial spirant). Roman "f," like modern Eng. "f," was dentilabial; by c.400, however, the sounds had become identical and in some Romanic languages (It., Sp.), -ph- regularly was replaced by -f-. This tendency took hold in O.Fr. and M.E., but with the revival of classical learning the words subsequently were altered back to -ph- (except fancy and fantastic), and due to zealousness in this some non-Gk. words in -f- began to appear in -ph-, though these forms generally have not survived.
- http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=-ph-
 
  • #8
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honestrosewater said:
So I guess it's just that the first consonant is aspirated - there's an extra puff of air when you release it - [kh, ph, th]. But I haven't looked up any other examples or transcriptions yet, and there may be more to it, like a very strong aspiration or something.

Cool, that was easy: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Latin_phonemes Yeah, they're just aspirated.
It seems that the aspiration extends to other words as well. There is an aspirated ph sound in the word "pair" and "pop". I would have thought that English phenomes would be more directly related to the Germanic language, but English has its own loan words and sounds too.
 
  • #9
honestrosewater
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(Ack, why can I never manage to just read a book from beginning to end?)
My book gives a rule (for English) for the aspiration of voiceless stops (or plosives), /p, t, k/, which is all of them, BTW. Well, it gives the rule for /t/, but it holds for the others.

t -> [+aspirated] / X ___ [+vowel, +stressed] condition: X ≠ /s/

which says that /t/ becomes aspirated when it precedes a stressed vowel and does not follow /s/. The rule for all of them would be

[+stop, -voice] -> [+aspirated] / X ___ [+vowel, +stressed] condition: X ≠ /s/

For example, compare

precedes a stressed vowel and does not follow /s/: pair, retake, akin
precedes a stressed vowel but does follow /s/: spare, steak, skin (notice how the /s/ removes the aspiration?)
does not precede a stressed vowel: taping, actor, breakage (no aspiration again)

It gives elsewhere two reasons that these kinds of patterns* may occur/emerge: 1) they give information about important differences in other parts of the word, or 2) they're just easier to pronounce that way. But perhaps there are other reasons.

*these kinds of patterns are not important (or distinctive) because they are predictable and so cannot be used to distinguish words from each other.
 
  • #11
honestrosewater
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0TheSwerve0 said:
really quick interjection - http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/cache/perscoll_PersInfo.html" a good place to research greek and latin roots. The main page has a lot of history and such as well. I've used this page more than a few times to get greek hmwk done:wink:
Thanks. I know about Perseus, but for some reason I keep forgetting to use it. :rolleyes: Bookmarked. :approve:
 
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