Re: Upsilon

From: Stephen C Carlson (
Date: Fri Feb 02 1996 - 12:53:30 EST

Carl W. Conrad wrote:
>On 2/1/96, wrote:
>> I would only add that some suggest that Upsilon has an occassional V sound
>> (as in Victory) or W sound (as in Wax). Examples include the name DAUID
>> (David) and EUAGGELION (gospel).
>Interesting point, Tim. I wonder when this took place. We find historians
>writing Greek in the first and later centuries of our era transliterating
>Roman names like Varus and Vergilius as OUAROS and OUERGILIOS, which should
>mean that the OU + vowel was our W sound. But when was the Latin
>EVANGELIUM, representing the Greek EUAGGELION first being pronounced with
>our V sound? Does anyone know?

My source is W. Sidney Allen, VOX LATINA and VOX GRAECA, highly
recommended for those seriously interested in ancient pronunciation
of Latin and Greek.

According to the evidence, the fricative pronunciation of Latin V first
appeared sporadically in the first century A.D., became wide-spread in
the second century, but with a few pockets of the former pronunciation
("w") surviving until the fifth century. The fricative pronunciation
of Greek AU and EU is difficult to date, but it probably happened some
time after the third century according to Jewish inscriptions in Roman

As for DAUID, Greek at the time did not have a 'v' sound, so upsilon
(or beta) would be the closest sound to represent it. This does not
necessarily imply that upsilon had that sound, just that it was the

Stephen Carlson

Stephen C. Carlson, George Mason University School of Law, Patent Track, 4LE              : Poetry speaks of aspirations, and songs     : chant the words.  -- Shujing 2.35

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