Re: Upsilon

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Fri Feb 02 1996 - 15:26:17 EST

I think Stephen's response to my earlier response to him might be of some
interest to the list. I will append one comment just ahead of his reply.

>Subject: Re: Upsilon
>To: (Carl W. Conrad)
>Date: Fri, 2 Feb 1996 15:13:47 -0500 (EST)
>From: "Stephen C Carlson" <>
>Mime-Version: 1.0
>Carl W. Conrad wrote:
>>Thanks, Stephen, for this last clarification. Of course, I have Allen's
>>book over on my shelf and could have picked it off and looked at it before
>>spewing forth, but at least what I spewed forth was based on my reading of
>>some papyri from the last century BCE or first century CE. I suppose that
>>Allen's indication of the U sound as so late means the time by which the
>>change was complete.
>>I do think Allen's a good book, but I'm not inclined to take everything he
>>says as "gospel." For instance, I think there's not enough extant evidence
>>for some of the sounds. He says that -TT- and -SS- (as in Attic and Ionic
>>spellings of the verb PRATTW/PRASSW) were pronounced as doubled-T and
>>doubled-S respectively; I am really inclined to think that they were
>>pronouns like -tch- in MATCH and like -sh- in MASH respectively. But I
>>can't prove it either.

Additional note added by CWC: My reasoning for this view of -TT- and -SS-
is the comparable case in Latin of -tia/-tio words which are spelled in
Latin vulgar Latin as -cia/-cio (e.g. the verb NUNTIO = NUNCIO, the noun
PATIENTIA = PACIENCIA --> Italian "pazienzia" pronounced
"pot-see-ent-see-a" and French "patience" pronounced "pa-see-once"). My
difficulty has always been figuring out how PRATTW or KHRUTTW with a
double-T sound could derive from an original PRAX-YW OR KHRUK-YW; but it
could well happen in the same way that these -tia/-tio forms alter, or so I
surmise. I add yet once again, however, that I certainly can't prove this.

>Allen argues that if it were the case one would see -TS- in the
>inscriptional evidence. It is an argument from silence, true enough,
>but it does have some cogency, given the prevalence of other
>non-standard spellings. Allen's case, however, would only apply in
>Attic-speaking areas. There is no way that those dialects with -SS-
>would ever write -TS- for the sound even by mistake.
>Diachronically, the affricate pronunciation of -TT- and -SS- makes a
>great deal of sense. Further, I have often pondered the connection
>between ASSURIA and Ashur, with the double sigma for shin. Finally, at
>one point I was entertaining the idea that doubled consonants tended to
>show some palatalization (esp. -LL-, cf. Spanish -ll-, Ital. -gli-).
>It explained some verb forms, but I'm no longer sure it is tenable.
>I know that not everything that Allen says is to be taken as "gospel"
>because I found out from the Indoeuropean list that Allen's dismissal
>of Buck's suggestion for the source of the rough breathing over an
>initial upsilon is not persuasive (see VG, 3d ed. p.68 n.15).
>P.S. You may forward to B-Greek, if you wish.
>Stephen C. Carlson, George Mason University School of Law, Patent Track, 4LE
> : Poetry speaks of aspirations, and songs
> : chant the words. -- Shujing 2.35

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

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