Lesson 3: Sight and Sound


070. Elision is the dropping of a short final vowel before a word beginning with a vowel; an apostrophe marks the omission: ἀλλ' ἕξει, (Jn 8:12, for ἀλλὰ ἕξει); ἀπ' ἐμαυτοῦ (Jn 8:28, for από ἐμαυτοῦ).

Elision is common in prepositions, conjunctions, adverbs. The prepositions περί and πρό are not elided. Cf. §918.

071. Crasis is the contraction of a final vowel or diphthong with an initial vowel or diphthong; a coronis (᾽ = apostrophe in form) is placed over the contracted syllable: κἂν (Jn 8:14, for καὶ ἂν); κἀγὼ (Jn 1:31, 33, for καὶ ἐγώ). Cf. you're (for you are).

Crasis is not common in the New Testament. Other examples: τοὔνομα (for τὸ ὄνομα); κἀκεῖ (for καὶ ἐκεῖ). Cf. §919.

072. Accent. Most Greek words are written with accents. The accents are the acute ( ), the grave ( ), and the circumflex ( ῀ ). Thus, λαμβάνει τὸν δοῦλον; ἀκούω τῆς φωνῆς. The accent stands over the vowel of the accented syllable, and in a diphthong over the second vowel.

072.1 In English accent means a stress of the voice. Also to the native Greeks of today it means simply stress of voice. Originally, however, accents indicated the tone or pitch of the voice in pronouncing syllables.

072.2 The last syllable of a word is called the ultima; the next to the last, the penult; and the one before the penult, the antepenult. Only the last three syllables of a word may take an accent.

0720. Accentuation is governed by certain rules:

0720.1 The acute ( ) may stand on any one of the last three syllables of a word; the circumflex ( ῀ ) on either of the last two syllables; the grave ( ) only on the ultima.

0720.2 The circumflex may stand only on a long vowel or diphthong.

0720.3 An accented antepenult must therefore take the acute: ἄνθρωπος. But the antepenult may not be accented if the ultima is long.

0720.4 An accented penult takes the circumflex if it is long and the ultima is short: ἦλθεν. Otherwise it takes the acute: κόσμῳ.

0720.5 An accented ultima must take the acute if it is short; if it is long it may take either the acute or the circumflex: θεός; ἀρχῇ; ζωή.

0720.6 The grave ( ) may stand only on the ultima. An acute accent falling on the ultima, when an enclitic (s. §074) or mark of punctuation does not follow, is changed to grave: πρὸς τὸν θεόν.

073. Proclitics are monosyllabic words which are linked with the following word in pronunciation, with the result that they have no accent of their own.

074. Enclitics are words (dissyllabic at most) which are joined with the preceding word in pronunciation, with the result that they may lose their own accent. If permitted, the accent is thrown back on the preceding word; some words, consequently, may have two accents.

075. As indicated in §072.1, accents no longer assist in pronunciation (except in the arbitrary indication of stress), so that the chief function of the accent in modern texts is to assist in distinguishing between words (e.g. τίς who?, τὶς anyone) . Accents, of course, are determined by modern editors (accents were not regularly employed in texts until after the fifth century A.D.). The proficient student of Greek will want to learn to handle accent correctly, but the beginner need not concern himself beyond the observation of accent in placing stress and in those instances where accent is a clue to identification. Accent will be treated where relevant in the lessons.

076. Punctuation. Greek manuscripts of the New Testament books were written for the most part without benefit of punctuation or even separation of words (s. Bl-D §16). The system of punctuation (along with accents and breathing) is provided by modern editors. However, some peculiarities of punctuation are old. The period, comma, dash and parenthesis are employed as in English. The semicolon and colon are indicated by a point above the line ( · ), the mark of interrogation by ( ; ) (= our semicolon).

077. In reading Greek, the attempt should be made to connect words in phrases. Accent and punctuation may serve as guides. Examples of shorter phrases:

(Jn 8:12)       ἐγώ εἰμι
  τὸ ϕῶς τοῦ κόσμου
  ὁ ἀκολουθῶν μοι
  οὐ μὴ περιπατήσῃ
  ἐν τῇ σκοτίᾳ
(8:13)       ἡ μαρτυρία σου
  οὐκ ἔστιν
(8:14)       κἂν ἐγὼ μαρτυρῶ
  περὶ ἐμαυτοῦ
(8:15)       κατὰ τὴν σάρκα
  ἐγὼ οὐ κρίνω

When some facility with shorter phrasing has been achieved, shorter word groups may be linked together in longer phrases or clauses (utilizing the punctuation marks):

(8:12)       ἐγὼ είμι τὸ φῶς τοῦ κόσμου·
ὁ ἀκολουθῶν μοι οὐ μὴ περιπατήσῃ ἐν τῇ
σκοτίᾳ, αλλ' ἔξει τὸ ϕῶς τῆς ζωῆς.
(8:13)          σὺ περὶ σεαυτοῦ μαρτυρεῖς.
ἡ μαρτυρία σου οὐκ ἔστιν ἀληθής·

The 'Lord's Prayer' divides up readily:

(Matt 6:9)       Πάτερ ἡμῶν ὁ ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς
Ἁγιασθήτω τὸ ὄνομά σου·
(6:10)       ἐλθάτω ἡ βασιλεία σου·
γενηθήτω τὸ θέλημά σου,
     ὡς ἐν οὐρανῷ καὶ ἐπὶ γῆς.
κτλ. (=καὶ τὰ λοιπά)