Re: Consonantal iota

Carl W. Conrad (
Tue, 21 Jan 1997 09:56:56 -0600

At 2:48 PM -0600 1/20/97, Rod Decker wrote:
>This may be in the provenance of those of you who are classicists as it is
>not a direct feature in b-greek:
>Was consonantal iota ever written as a distinct glyph (if I may use that
>designation somewhat loosely), or is the only distinction morphological/
>contextual (and not orthographical)?

I think that the straightforward answer to this is NO, at least for
antiquity, and I think it is expressed today by the combination of gamma +
iota before a vowel. The fact that our NT Greek forms for Jerusalem and
Jordan are spelled with an iota that has a smooth breathing certainly
points to a theory that this iota was pronounced as a vowel.

>Are there other names for this character that are sometimes or commonly
>used? I assume that the ref. in Smyth (#109ff) to a "semi-vowel" is a
>broader term and not a synonym for consonantal iota?
>Does anyone know of any discussion of consonantal iota in the grammars? I
>find passing mention in Smyth; nothing in BDF, and nothing in Moulton (v.
>1-2). (I may have missed it, but it is not indexed and I didn't find it
>scanning the relevant sections.)

I'd suggest Andrew L. Sihler, _New Comparative Greek and Latin Grammar_,
Oxford University Presss, 1995, pp. 187ff (#191). Consonantal I/Y certainly
did exist and, although it evanesced in the early historical period, its
evanescence has left us the immense headache of the contract verbs and all
the varieties of vowel metathesis in verbs like BAINW from an original
BANyW, etc., etc.

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University
One Brookings Drive, St. Louis, MO, USA 63130
(314) 935-4018 OR